A truly remarkable friend in Albuquerque supplied the “ingredients” for this episode. Clever of her to think of juniper berries and how they relate to the 1920’s and prohibition! That’s how you drive the story.
I’m delighted to have all of you readers behind the wheel, steering this mystery with the ingredients you send. And they’re coming from all over. When Episode-7 comes around, the food-related things will be from the UK. So stay tuned for that one.
Remember all the previous episodes live at the serial’s homepage. And now, Episode-6…
6. Turnips, Parsnips, Juniper Berries
I found Granny Fanny at the far end of her back yard. The lot was a long fenced-in rectangle. What looked like ordinary bushes at that time of year would blossom to reveal azaleas and forsythia in warmer months. Granny and Cinnamon Bun were gathering turnip greens and some turnips. I think she mostly took the turnips the huge rabbit dug up. He was clearly enjoying himself.
“Now Cinnamon Bun, you’d better eat the next turnip you dig up,” she happily chided the bunny. “And I don’t mean just nibble at it. I don’t think you really like eating them, but you’re having a grand old time digging them up!”
She stood when she saw me. “Pip, you’re a sight in those boy’s clothes!” The good natured scolding switched focus to me for the Levis and flannel shirt I wore. “And muddy taboot,” she added.
Then she smiled fondly. “So how was the little foal? Did you have a nice time with Doc and Missus Vale?” she asked. “It’s a good clip out to that farm. Did you and Veronica get to chat much?”
I nodded and smiled. Did we ever! It had been Granny’s idea that I go with the veterinarian and his wife when he called to check up on the foal he delivered. It was born the day Detective Daniels and I found the parrot, Cracker, in the dead man’s room, so the vet wasn’t available to take the bird. Granny wanted me to get to know the veterinarian’s wife. She said that if I was bound to be an independent woman, then I should get to know the real deal.
Veronica told me that for many years she worked at the South London Hospital for Women and Children. Of course it was in England, but even more interesting, it had an all-woman staff. Then Veronica retired and went back home to Savannah. She met the widowed Vincent and partnered with him in his veterinary practice, doing what she called “lab work” with microscopes and other scientific things that I had never been around. I had only touched a microscope one time. I thought doing that kind of work must be the cat’s meow.
In turn I told the Vales about the man who turned up dead at the local premier of the movie “Night of the Killer Clam.” I told them how strange I thought it was for him to have cilantro bits all over his shoes. Doc Vale shrugged and looked puzzled. Veronica seemed more interested as he drove. “They still don’t know what killed the man?” she asked as the car puttered along.
I shook my head, and Mrs. Doctor Vale… or Doctor Mrs. Vale… Oh applesauce! I didn’t know what title to give the woman. She told me to call her Veronica, so I did. Anyhow she looked at me conspiratorially and said she’d talk to Detective Daniels and see if she could get any samples to look at under her microscope.
“I’m glad you had a good time,” Granny said, bringing me back to the present moment. She looked pleased. “Dabney Daniels is coming by to get some of these greens. We’ve got more than we can use. People who want catering don’t seem to eat turnip greens,” she added.
With a shooing motion she sent me inside to change clothes. Granny didn’t think it was proper for a young woman to go around in trousers unless it was for a specific labor-related purpose. They were acceptable for the “barn call” to see the new foal, but not if a visitor was coming to the house.
Detective Daniels arrived just as I put on a headband I had bought at a boutique in downtown Savannah. It was a little plain (I wanted one with rhinestones) but it was pretty. I noticed a little flower arrangement Granny had set on the drop-leaf table in the parlor. It had Cherokee roses and several stems of juniper. I broke off a sprig with berries and tucked it into my headband to jazz it up.
“What’s that in your hair?” Daniels greeted me when I opened the door.
“Hello to you too,” I said.
“What are those,” he repeated. The man was like a bulldog; single minded. “Juniper berries?” he asked then chuckled. “You’ll have me thinking Granny Fanny has gotten into bootlegging,” he commented and I looked a question at him. “Don’t tell me you don’t know… Okay, playing innocent, I see.”
I crossed my arms and raised one eyebrow at him. “Detective Daniels, whatever are you talking about?”
He sighed and muttered that maybe I really didn’t know. “Juniper berries are used in making gin,” he informed me.
Then a mischievous twinkle lit his eyes. I had not seen that playful side of the policeman, and I rather liked it. “Do I need to check the bathtub to make sure this establishment is not turning into a speakeasy?” he joked. “Is there bathtub gin on the premises?”
“What do you mean, making gin?” Granny said as she walked into the room.
I could have sworn there was a guilty blush on her face. I wondered if Granny really did have a stash of hooch somewhere. She cleared her throat and deftly changed the subject. “Dabney, Pip and I are about to sit down to some lamb and parsnip stew. And I have some greens and cornbread to go with it. Won’t you join us?”
The detective licked his lips just as his stomach growled. I knew the answer to that question without having to hear it.
Lamb & Parsnip Stew
Credit: The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Yield: Makes 4 servings.
2 pounds cubed lamb
2 medium onions, quartered
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large carrots, scraped and sliced
8 small parsnips, scraped and sliced
1 bay leaf
Brown lamb in a large stewpot, then add onions and sauté. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for up to 2 hours. Remove bay leaf before serving. Juices can be thickened with flour or mashed potato to make gravy, if desired.
Tune in again next week. Same flapper time, same flapper channel.
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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