I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’ve been patient during the past couple of weeks, while I got ready for Cookbook-2 of our Three Ingredients Serial.
The first set of “ingredients” for Cookbook-2 came from Evelyne Holingue. I guess they’re leftovers, because I’ve been hanging onto them. Evelyne sent them just before the first Three Ingredients Serial concluded. Thank you, Evelyne for being patient while I got around to using them.
The first time I visited Evelyne’s blog I was amazed by how much I feel she has accomplished. The blog is charming and includes posts in English and French. There are also links to some National Public Radio (NPR) recordings of her lovely voice as she reads her stories. (Yes, Americans are always charmed by accents, but hers really is lovely.) You will also find information about her books, including Trapped in Paris.
I can’t promise to dive right in for immediate shenanigans and chaos. Sometimes it
takes a bit of writing for the ingredients to lead the story, but I hope to entertain you just the same.
The cupboards are bare — so leave a comment with your three food-related ingredients.
As before, I’m determined to let your “ingredients” drive the story. I considered moving this story several years forward… but that was just what I wanted to do. When I sat down with the ingredients, “Marsala” had other ideas. So Cookbook-2 picks up about a month after the previous story. It also brings back an old friend from The Three Things serial. (And watch out for that Marsala. Wink.)
1. Cherries, Mascarpone, Marsala
The pile of pits grew steadily as I worked. My thoughts were a million miles away so I did the task absently. But I wasn’t so preoccupied that I didn’t pop one of the dark ripe cherries into my mouth now and then.
It had been a month since the spirit of Daisy, the dainty dish, asked me for help. She wanted me to find out who killed her. However, I was no closer to solving that mystery than I had been the night she made the request. Daisy helped me get incriminating evidence against the murderous gangsters, but she asked for my assistance in return.
I sighed and ate another cherry.
I had not seen Daisy again since that night. Despite her claim that both Granny Fanny and I could see spirits, I hadn’t seen her or any other ghost. I was actually relieved about that part. However, I was very frustrated at not finding any new information about Daisy or her death. I didn’t see how I was going to be able to do anything helpful. The idea of not keeping the promise I made to her irked me.
Occasionally I looked up at the clock on the counter. I didn’t want to be late. I wondered where my grandmother had gotten that unusual clock. It was set into a hand carved wooden owl. It took a while for the clock to grow on me, but I decided that I liked it. When the owl chimed fifteen minutes past the hour, I got up and washed my hands, popping one last cherry into my mouth.
As if on cue, Granny came into the kitchen. She began mixing milk, coffee, and mascarpone cheese, humming an old song as she worked.
“If the train is on time, you and your friend are welcome to have a snack with us. Arabella’s cousin might come with her, but I expect it will just be Arabella and me,” Granny said.
Arabella Wong’s family came to the United States from England. (It was many generations since that branch of their family had been in Hong Kong.) So tea was customary with the Wongs. It was something Granny enjoyed too.
Ever the generous and flexible hostess, Granny wouldn’t mind if I brought half the people on the train, or if Arabella brought her family and everybody who worked at Wong’s Chinese, for that matter. The friendship between Granny and Arabella Wong
had grown since the night of the big shindig Granny catered. The two women, without guns or knives, fought back Queenie Wetson’s henchmen long enough for Detective Daniels and the mysterious Mr. Farceur to move into action.
“Is it okay if I play that by ear, Granny?” I asked.
“Of course, Sweet Pea. I know you young people have a lot of catching up to do,” she said amiably.
Excited yapping preceded the sound of a knock at the front door. Granny didn’t seem surprised, but I wasn’t expecting to hear a dog. I followed her to the door and greeted Arabella. She had brought a little pug dog. Its curled tail wagged merrily.
“Where did you come from?” I said as I stooped to scratch the dog’s back.
Granny laughed. “I can see how he got his name. It’s too bad he didn’t get to be in the pet parade,” she said, referring to part of the aforementioned party.
“Oh no, he gets into things. You know how puppies are, and Wriggles is only six months old. There’s no telling what trouble he would have caused at a posh party like that,” she said, but then she put her hand to her mouth and giggled.
Arabella was right. The pet parade had turned into utter chaos, so we all laughed. “But I suppose he would have fit right in with the other pets,” she added. “Anyway, there wasn’t anyone at home today, and I didn’t want to leave him alone. So thank you Fanny, for letting me bring him with me.”
A moment later I was on my way to Union Station. To my delight, Granny let me use her yellow automobile. It was as old as the hills, but she kept it in pristine condition.
When I reached the station I realized the train arrived early. I looked all around for a familiar face. Finally I saw a man standing at the courtesy desk, talking animatedly on the telephone. I’d know him anywhere. I moved up behind him and stayed quiet while he finished his conversation. He hadn’t heard me sneak up on him. After a moment he hung up the phone.
“Andy, look at you puttin’ on the Ritz!” I said, causing him to jump and turn around.
“Pip! You’re the cat’s pajamas for picking me up. It’s great to see you,” Andy Avis exclaimed.
Back where I lived in the same building with my group of friends in Florida, I had nicknamed Andy the Astronaute-man because he wrote science fiction type stories. You know, like H. G. Wells or Jules Verne. Thanks to John Ringling, Andy made connections out in Hollywood, California and sold one of his screenplays. He had been living out there ever since. Based on the nice suit of clothes he wore, Andy was doing pretty well for himself in Hollywood.
“Mona wrote to say she was going to Hollywood for that short film thing you got started back at Ca’d’Zan. So I was surprised you would leave,” I said, trying not to let speculation show on my face.
My shy little Astronaute-man had always carried a torch for our beautiful friend Mona, but she didn’t return his feelings. I knew he took it hard when she developed a really serious interest in our other friend, Boris. Andy blushed and looked down. I figured he was still hurting from that.
“Actually, that was one reason why I took this trip. It kind of smarts to see Mona. But she was looking great, as always. Said to give you a big hug for her,” he said and followed Mona’s instruction.
Andy wasn’t much taller than me, so he had to bend back some to get my feet off the ground in a big bear hug. We both laughed. It was the bee’s knees to see Andy again. Yes, I had been missing my little group of friends. But I didn’t realize just how terribly I missed them until that moment. I brushed a tear away while Andy wasn’t looking.
“One of the executives at the studio, Manny Mayer, he knows I’m from Florida, and he figured that wasn’t much different from Savannah,” Andy said and rolled his eyes. “The guy needs to brush up on his geography… But I remembered you were here. So anyway, I’m here for a couple of reasons,” he chattered away.
I chuckled to myself about the executive. From then on, I’d think of him as Manny Mayer the Movie Maker. After all, it went along with the other nicknames I’d given folks, Andy the Astronaute-man, Boris the Ballerina, and Frankie the Fireman. Frankie — I didn’t want to think about him any more than Andy wanted to think about Mona. Wishing my thoughts had not gone there, I turned my full attention back to Andy.
“So Manny asked if I could look at an abandoned factory he’s thinking of buying here. He even gave me power of attorney to buy it, if I think it’s decent. So I’m hoping we
can go take a look at it,” he said with an imploring expression.
“Sure thing,” I told him. “Want to go check it out right now?” I asked and he agreed wholeheartedly.
“But here’s the fun part,” Andy said in a conspiratorial tone and wriggled his eyebrows playfully. “The building predates the Civil War. I looked into it before I ever left Hollywood. It was a stop, a sort of hideout for blockade runners back then!” Andy said excitedly. “There’s no telling what kind of stuff we might find in there — Naturally I told Manny about all that. I wouldn’t swindle anybody. He laughed and told me if I found anything I wanted that it was mine.”
I got caught up in Andy’s enthusiasm and grinned at him. “That was a long time ago,” I said gently, not wanting to disappoint him. “It’s probably been ransacked of anything good years ago.”
“Maybe not…” he said in a meaningful tone. “It’s supposed to be haunted!
Well, I can tell you… that was one spooky old building. There was no wonder it had a reputation for being haunted. With all the cobwebs and the thick coat of dust that covered everything, it was hard to tell much about what was inside the old factory.
So Andy set about business first, and went over the big old place from top to bottom, making sure it was still solid, at least for the most part. He said that it fit within the guidelines Manny Mayer gave him, so afterward went into town and took care of the paperwork. Mr. Mayer was the proud owner of an abandoned Civil War era factory.
We decided to come back with flashlights the next day, so we could get a better look at things. However, there was one storeroom where part of the floor above it had fallen in. Under the debris we spotted some old crates that turned out to be filled with bottles of Italian wine. The crates were heavy, but the two of us managed to get them to Granny’s automobile.
I told Andy that he could store them at Granny’s for the time being. Granny Fanny also offered the guest room to him. So we headed back to the cottage.
When we got there I found a note from my grandmother saying that she would be spending the evening with her ladies group. She also left fried chicken, hush puppies, and coleslaw. “Incase Andy decided to stay,” the note said. Based on the amount of food, she must have been pretty sure he would stick around. Andy’s expression when he saw all that home-cooked food was enough to confirm he was at least going to stay for dinner.
We had left the crates of wine on the cottage’s wraparound porch, beside the kitchen door. All the crates looked old, but one of them was even older than the rest. We had to move it very carefully because it was about to fall apart. Andy opened the crate and pulled out a remarkably ornate bottle.
“Marsala! I guess we should have white wine with chicken, but I won’t stand on formality. Will you?” he asked with a wink. Then looking more serious he warned, “It might be spoiled. I can’t make out the date, but this must be plenty old.”
Andy dusted off the label. We could make out a vineyard name, and Italy, and other words that told us it was in fact wine, but the date was not readable. The bottle was so dirty that I insisted on washing it before we opened it. I took a damp cloth and carefully cleaned every curve and crevice of the lovely old bottle. Some of the designs were amazingly intricate. This was going to be a very special bottle of wine, I was absolutely certain!
I didn’t realize that I was humming as I worked until Andy asked me what I as singing. Suddenly puzzled, I stopped because I had no idea what the song was. It was a tune I wasn’t even aware of knowing. I hummed it louder for Andy, but he didn’t recognize it either. I shrugged it off. Obviously I must have heard the tune somewhere.
Turning the bottle this way and that, I admired my handiwork, as well as the beautiful design. Only then did I notice that the top of the bottle’s neck was shaped like a skull with two swords beneath it. I made a face and showed Andy.
“You don’t think that means it’s poison do you?” he asked. “I’m sure the label doesn’t say that. And the seal hasn’t been broken.”
I had really been excited about that gorgeous bottle of wine. I didn’t want to think it was anything other than what the label said.
“Wait. For poison they use a skull and crossbones. Those things look like swords — not bones. Isn’t that the pirate symbol?” I commented and Andy nodded and grinned.
“Maybe that means it really is a pirate’s bottle!” he offered. “This wine could have been made before the Civil War. Or even before that. It could date back to the American Revolution — or who knows how far!”
I handed Andy the corkscrew and told him to do the honors. However, the cork was stubborn. Finally I held the bottle with both hands, while he removed the cork. It came loose with a reverberating pop, which I felt inside my teeth and eardrums. The harmonic sound shifted into the melody I was humming a moment before.
“Holy Hannah,” Andy commented quietly.
For a moment I thought the bottle must have been mislabeled. I thought it must contain Champagne rather than marsala. A sort of fizzy purple vapor filled the air, expanding wider and taller. I started waving a napkin, trying to clear the air. Then I sneezed. It was a big bend your neck, eye-squinting, bless-you-and-everybody-around-you sneeze. Like I said, the vapor was weirdly fizzy.
I was about to make a smart-alecky remark to Andy about the fact that he didn’t say “Bless you.” But as I raised my head and opened my eyes I saw a man standing where the vapors had been. He wore a white apron, but his clothes were from an era long past. When I looked closely, I realized that he wasn’t particularly… well… solid.
He bowed quite formally. “At your service, Signorina,” the ghost said.
Recipe: Coffee Milk Mascarpone
Recipe and Photo Credit: Purewow.com
Yields: 1 cup
Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes (includes chilling time)
½ cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup strong espresso
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Ladyfingers or shortbread cookies, for serving
Cinnamon, for garnish (optional)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cheese with the espresso, condensed milk and salt on medium speed until medium-stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Remove the coffee milk mascarpone from the refrigerator and let warm until just slightly chilled. Garnish with the cinnamon, if desired, and serve immediately with desired accompaniments.
All images from Pinterest unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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