Dear readers, I’m finally back to following my own rules — working “three ingredients” into the serial episode, and treating you to recipes or videos, and some factual information along the way.
Ingredients for this episode are from my very talented friend Ishita. To be fair — no, Ishita didn’t give us an unappetizing sounding ingredient like “fungus.” She originally said Quorn, but I thought that was not invented during the timeline of our serial. So after looking it up, I settled on fungus, which relates to Quorn.
With The Three Ingredients serial our story items are not always about recipe ingredients. They may be utensils, preparation methods, or any food-related thing. I’m going a step further in that direction with the gluten free “quinoa” (pronounced KEEN-wah) ingredient today and giving you an informative video. However, I am not leaving you without a recipe this weekend, because Ishita recently blogged a delicious recipe, Quinoa, the Mexican Way! (Thank you, Ishita, for making this easier for me, by sharing your recipe.)
And now, I hope you’ll enjoy the Kooky ingredients of Episode-18. Bon appétit!
18. Fungus, Quiche, Quinoa
Time seemed to freeze. I stood in a field of grass that swayed in a gentle breeze. My head hurt and my stomach was upset. I stared at the playing card Alastair Wong handed me. How had it come to be in my pocket? I felt like there was some significance to the King of Clubs card. I delved my sluggish thoughts, but it was like swimming in mud. I couldn’t remember what I should know about the card. While I looked at it additional questions flooded my consciousness. Why was I standing in the middle of a large herb garden? Most of all, why had I been in a root cellar?
I wrapped my arms around myself, suddenly cold. I noticed a tear in the sleeve of my dress and a scrape on my elbow. Taking my fingers away from the spot I saw blood, dirt, and some kind of fungus. Who knew what might grow in the darkness of a cellar. The wound was dirty; it needed to be washed, I thought distractedly.
Then my exploring hands felt a gritty coating on my back and shoulders. Alastair must have thought I was trying to dust myself off, but I was really just trying to figure out what had happened to me. Why couldn’t I remember?
He gently started to dust off my shoulders. “Pip, you’re a mess,” he pretended to chide me. I was sure he could tell I was distraught and wanted to lighten my mood. “You have dirt on your face, and… what’s this all over your back?” the young owner of the local Chinese restaurant added.
Alastair removed his hand from my shoulder and looked at his fingers. His eyebrows knitted in a perplexed way. I looked at the substance I felt on my own hands. I sort of remembered landing on bags of something that broke my fall, like a cushion. “Is it wheat or maybe some kind of seeds?” I muttered, still groggy.
“Fat hen!” he exclaimed.
“What did you call me?” I demanded, thinking my ears surely deceived me.
“No,” Alastair said. “Goosefoot.”
“That isn’t any better!” I cried. How dare he?
“No, Pip. I mean the grain. Jeepers, what’s the real name—? They call it fat hen, sometimes goosefoot… Quinoa, that’s it! I haven’t seen much of this around here. I think it’s quinoa. That’s a high protein grain crop,” he said, showing off his knowledge of foodstuffs. I was sure he was just as educated as any big restaurateur.
A sudden blast of sound startled me. Alastair loudly blew a whistle. Then he blew it two more times. I covered my ears against the eardrum splitting noise. Applesauce! As if I didn’t already have a headache. You’d think he could have warned me. Why did he blow a whistle in the first place?
I felt really woozy, and it must have showed. Alastair stepped closer to me and took my elbow. I didn’t realize until then that I stood dangerously close to the trapdoor type opening of that cellar. He guided me a few steps away from it, but his eyes narrowed suspiciously as he looked down. Alastair bent to inspect the hatch. It was covered with sod. My mind was still muddled, but I realized the covering of dirt and grass explained why the door was so heavy and difficult when I shouldered it open.
“Somebody wanted to keep that cellar hidden,” Alastair said as he looked curiously into the dark maw of the vault. “You don’t remember how you got here, huh?” he asked.
I shook my head then wished I had not moved it.
“Somebody must have pushed you into that cellar. I’ll bet you landed on a bag of this quinoa,” he pondered looking at his dusty fingers. “Then whomever it was closed the door and left you there. Did you see anything else down there?”
“I felt bags of potatoes and rutabagas,” I replied. “There was only a crack of light coming from the hatch. I made out the shape of a ladder and used it to climb out. I couldn’t see what else might be in there.”
The pink light that heralded sunset deepened. The clouds turned orange and red in prediction of a fair night. Alastair looked up expectantly toward the horizon. He must have heard something I had not noticed, but then my ears were still ringing a bit. A moment later I caught a faint shrill sound. He smiled.
“We’ve been looking for you nearly all day, Pip,” Alastair told me, seeming amused at my puzzled expression. “What in the devil were you doing out here?”
I confessed that I had no idea how I got there. I couldn’t remember. “Tofu,” I muttered. “I remember something about tofu and Granny.”
He smiled at that and looked a little relieved. “You had me worried. I expect everything will come back to you,” Alastair told me as he led me away from the cellar. “You were supposed to come to the restaurant to pick up some tofu. Miss Fanny seemed intent on forcing it down her patient.”
Patient? “Wha—?” I began, but my brain wouldn’t finish digging for the information.
“It’s okay, Pip. Marshal Myrick? The doctors Vale did surgery on him at their place? After he was ambushed? Do you remember any of that? It sounds awfully exciting! It’s okay,” he said in answer to my pleading look. “It will come back to you. Anyhow, when you didn’t show up I thought Miss Fanny’s Model-T must have broken down, so I headed out to meet you. I got all the way to the Vales’ animal hospital and still hadn’t seen the car or you,” Alastair explained.
Applesauce! Had something happened to Granny’s Model-T? She’d kill me!
Alastair’s voice intruded on my panicked thoughts. “Everybody was trying to guess where else you might have gone. When you called, I remembered you saying something about cilantro, but you didn’t explain. I figured if you had made a detour to get cilantro, then the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm was the only place that was between the Vale’s place and Wong’s.
“We found the Model-T hours ago, but we couldn’t find you anywhere. The Wetson house and the buildings around it were deserted. But I understand they’re linked to the ambush and the bootleggers somehow?” he said.
Slowly I nodded. I wasn’t sure why, but what Alastair said seemed right. I had a half-formed memory of something like that… I remembered being in the Model-T with Granny driving that cherished car like a bat out of hell. Then I remembered all the blood at the scene of the ambush. There were dead bodies. I remembered that very clearly, even the coppery smell of the blood. I turned away from Alastair and wretched, but there was nothing left in my stomach. Thank goodness.
“Come on,” he said gently. “My truck is right over here. You can rest there. The others will be here in a minute.”
“Others?” I asked groggily.
“Yeah. That’s why I blew the whistle — to let them know I’d found you,” he said and motioned toward his truck.
Then I saw the truck, not too far away. I thought I could walk that far. The truck was painted with the name, Wong’s Chinese. I noticed Alastair had added his new slogan below the restaurant name, “You’re always right with Wong’s,” and I thought it was strange that I could remember him telling me that silly slogan, but I couldn’t remember what had happened to me that day. When we reached the truck I saw a crate of eggs in the back. Half the eggs were broken. I gave Alastair what must have been an odd look.
“I didn’t exactly drive carefully once we figured out something was wrong, that you’d gone missing,” he said and he blushed a little. “When I said I was going to meet up with you, in case you’d broken down, Momma had me take some eggs. She said Doctor Veronica likes to make quiche… Then I forgot to give them to her. I hit a lot of bumps on the way out here. Not so good for eggs… Maybe Doctor Ronnie can salvage some of them.”
He was saved from further explanation by the sound of yapping. High pitched barking grew closer. Something white bounded through the tall grass. For a second I didn’t know what it was, but my mind started filling in blanks. It was a little poodle. Cotton, the name came to me; Veronica Vale’s dog. Just as those thoughts fell into place the poodle pounced into my arms.
As the sky grew increasingly red with sunset, the field became more populated. Veronica Vale puttered up in their slow moving jalopy. She jumped out of the car and hugged me while I held the dog. Cotton then struggled to get down. “Cotton, you naughty girl,” Veronica chided the dog. “You know you’re supposed to come when I call you.” The dog only wagged her tail in answer, totally unrepentant.
Then a familiar automobile drove up, but I couldn’t say why I felt I knew it. I recognized the car, but that was as far as memory would take me.
Veronica noticed my odd expression when a tall attractive man with deep blue eyes got out of the car. He had a severe expression on his face, and an official bearing that made me feel like a kid in trouble. He looked angry and I reflexively drew back.
Mrs. Vale seemed to think she was explaining the man’s presence when she spoke. “We made Hank stay behind with Moses. Mind you it was a task, because he was already out the door to go looking for you before Alastair even finished saying that he didn’t see you on the road anywhere. However, Hank really should be resting from that head wound, and we couldn’t leave the marshal alone. So I made him stay behind to mind the patient. But the rest of us have been searching high and low for you,” she said then paused and looked expectantly at my blank expression. “Hank radioed Dabney. He left off investigating the bootleggers and joined our search for you.”
Who was Hank? I wondered silently. A kind face hovered in my mind. I associated him with a uniform and a radio. That’s it! Hank was the youngest policeman on Savannah’s force, and he was a wizard with radio equipment. But who was this angry looking man?
“I whistled to the others, when I heard your signal,” Veronica added with a nod to Alastair. “Vincent and your grandmother should be here shortly.”
“I’m sorry,” I began, “but who is that? He looks like a copper.” I said that quietly so as not to offend the man who was only a few feet away by then. He looked like he was already annoyed enough.
When I spoke, Veronica looked at me intently. She stepped closer and got all doctor-like. She checked my eyes and felt around on my head, despite me trying to push her hands away. “Pip…” she said warningly, and I was reminded that, well she was a doctor. She asked what was wrong.
“She can’t remember anything that happened today,” Alastair supplied while I struggled to form the right words. “And apparently there are some other things she can’t remember too,” he added with his voice dipping in a worried tone.
Doctor Vale looked suspiciously at me and felt my head again. By then the man had walked over to us. “You do have a little bump on your head, but…” she began, but her words trailed away. “You know Dabney Daniels, don’t you? The police detective?” she asked.
I said nothing, but I spared a timid glance at the detective. He looked from Doctor Vale to me and back to her again. His posture became stiffer, if that was possible. His face reddened. Was he angry with me, I wondered. Had I done something I couldn’t remember? Broken some law? Surely not.
Then Veronica leaned toward me and sniffed. The awful sickly sweet smell still clung to my hair. Right then, I would have given just about anything to wash that odor out of my hair. It nauseated me every time I breathed.
Her eyes grew large. “You’ve been drugged, Pip!” she said with surprise. “Do you remember anything? Anything about somebody frightening you, or doing something to you?” she asked, but I shook my head.
The detective’s hands clinched to fists. Veronica put her fingers to a smear on my face, and then smelled of her hand and nodded knowingly. “Someone probably grabbed you from behind. Do you remember anything like that?”
Suddenly I remembered the air whooshing from my lungs as someone roughly caught me around my middle. Yes, they had been behind me and I had not seen who it was. Then I remembered everything going black.
“Show him the card, Pip,” Alastair said somewhat hesitantly and motioned to the detective.
I was sort of relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt awkward around the man. I couldn’t blame Alastair. This detective was a fierce looking customer. I took out the King of Clubs card and extended it toward the man without speaking. Was I really supposed to be acquainted with this man?
“That card fell out of her pocket after she climbed out of the cellar,” Alastair supplied for me.
Ordinarily it would have annoyed me to have someone try and do the talking for me. After all, I was a flapper — a modern woman! However, Alastair simply picked up on how fuzzy my brain was and helped fill in while I was tongue-tied, so I was actually grateful.
The detective took the King of Clubs card from my hand. His face turned from red to white, and then even redder than it was before. A vein in his temple started to throb. Reflexively I took a step backward. That was one angry copper. My stomach churned violently, and the unpleasant smell in my hair was inescapable. The pain in my skull had grown from an ordinary headache to a horrible vice-grip that made me feel like it would explode.
“Pip,” the copper spoke my name as if he had used it many times. “Do you understand what this means? The most notorious gangster this side of the Mississippi River grabbed you, drugged you, and threw you down into a cellar! Then he left his calling card in your pocket! Was it a warning? Or was it a bizarre clue? Or what?” he said in a demanding voice.
Flinching away from him I took another step backward. How could I know the answers to those questions? I felt my knees giving way. The ground beneath my feet seemed to heave and spin, fit for the trapeze act my friend Mona was learning down in Sarasota, Florida. Mona? Yes, I suddenly remembered Mona and Andy, and Frankie. Frankie who betrayed us all.
Then large black spots filled my vision. I saw the tall detective take a big step toward me, just before the black spots crowded out all the orange light of sunset. I felt him catch me with one arm and lift me up from the approaching ground. Consciousness was escaping quickly, but I knew he sat me in Alastair’s truck.
I awoke to something warm and wet against my face. “Cotton, leave her alone. Come here girl,” I heard Veronica tell the poodle. Alastair Wong held me tightly. I was still in the truck, but we were not in that field any more. I recognized the lovely white house with a green roof. We were at Veronica’s home.
“Don’t try to move yet, Pip,” Veronica instructed as she hurried from her old car.
I didn’t move, but that was mostly because I was so overwhelmed by all the different noises. The put-put of Veronica’s engine, the louder sound of the truck, the yapping of Cotton. A horse whinnied from the stable, and from inside the house I could hear a bird screech. A parrot. Cracker, I thought with a smile as another memory was retrieved. Then I almost faded out of consciousness again. I took a deep breath and focused on my breathing.
Alastair shut off the truck’s engine and that helped. It seemed to remind Veronica that her car was still running and she rushed back to turn it off. I felt safe and warm, tucked under Alastair’s shoulder with his arm around me. He didn’t flinch and I had no wish to move. However, as Veronica ran back to the truck I knew I couldn’t stay there. I clawed my way toward a more alert state.
A shutter banged against the wall and the parrot flew out of the building that housed the animal hospital. That was also where we sat up a recovery room for the marshal after his surgery. I was pleased that more bits of memory fell into place.
The clever bird could open anything when she set her mind to it. She alighted on the back of the truck seat. The parrot started preening strands of my hair as if it was feathers. “Dainty dish,” the bird chirped as if she meant to comfort me. “Dainty dish, fourandtwenty.”
The roar of a mud-spattered motorcycle startled everyone and caused the parrot to flutter skyward. I turned to see the man who rode it take off a goggled helmet. To my surprise it was Vincent Vale. I must have looked every bit as astonished as I felt because Veronica chuckled softly.
“Didn’t you know Vincent had a motorcycle?” she asked as the parrot settled back onto the truck’s open door.
“We were ready to search the four corners of the earth for you,” Alastair told me as he loosened his arm. “And there weren’t enough cars to go everywhere Detective Daniels said we should look.”
“So Vincent rolled out his pride and joy,” Veronica said. “It hasn’t touched a street in ages — let alone all that mud,” she added with a combination of a wince and a laugh.
Vincent got off the vehicle. That’s when I saw that there was someone sitting behind the veterinarian on the motorcycle. Boots, heavy trousers, and a leather helmet with goggles made for a smaller version of Vincent. Gloved hands removed the helmet. A cascade of hip-length gray hair tumbled from the helmet.
“Granny!” I cried incredulously.
Video: Quinoa 101
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Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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