Today’s “ingredients” come to you from the Land of Enchantment (that’s New Mexico) via RC, my inspiring friend. RC can always come up with “things” or ingredients that are uniquely able to send my imagination into vivid stories. She sent ice, squash, and goat’s milk. Then I went to “the jar of spooky things” and drew phosphorescent, our ghostly ingredient of the week.
Everyone is welcome to send ingredients for the Cookbook-2 “cupboard.” Next week our shopping list consists of “apricots, eggs, and wheat-flour” as sent by Siobhan Daiko. After we cook up an episode with those, the cupboards will be bare — so make sure you keep driving the story by sending ingredients.
Remember, you can do catch up reading at the serial’s homepage. At the top of the screen, click on “Cookbook-2 Three Ingredients (Serial Home).”
And now… the fourth episode of Three Ingredients – Cookbook-2. Bon appétit!
4. Ice, Squash, Goat’s Milk
with a side of Phosphorescent
The cottage seemed so still. I was the first one up that morning. I didn’t think I had ever been up before Granny Fanny. It felt strange and a tad lonely. Events of the night before took on a fuzzy dream-like quality. Actually, all my thoughts felt kind of fuzzy, but there had been spirits, and spirits.
I put a pot of coffee on to perk and found the burbling sound cheery. When I went to the refrigerator to get the cream, I remembered Granny pushing the ghost chef into it with her foot firmly planted on his posterior. I couldn’t help laughing.
It was some little while after the ghost was locked in there when one of us (namely me) got up the nerve to open the refrigerator door. The smacking, munching, and belching sounds were replaced by silence and I got concerned about the spirit. When I opened the icebox door, Maestro Martino was nowhere to be seen. In fact, we hadn’t seen the poltergeist since. I wondered a little sadly if he was gone for good.
Several antique wine bottles sat empty on the kitchen table. I supposed it was no wonder Granny was still in bed. She and Andy Avis had matched each other glass for glass the night before. Although, I had to admit seeing a for real ghost — and talking to him was not easy on one’s peace of mind.
The wooden handle of the icepick was smooth in my hand as I started jabbing it into a chunk of ice. I broke it up until I had enough small frozen bits to fill the icepack. Either Granny or Andy was bound to need it. Based on those empty wine bottles, both
of them would have a headache. Too bad there was only one icepack.
Yawning I poured myself a cup of coffee and made a little sandwich from leftover chicken and a biscuit. It hit the spot, so I made some for Andy and Granny too. I wondered if I should wake them, and immediately thought better of it. So I sat down at the table alone, with my chicken biscuit and coffee. Stirring in some cream, I watched the liquid steam and swirl, white and brown.
A sharp clunk startled me out of my sleepy thoughts. A mug of black coffee sloshed nearly over the rim as it wobbled. The beverage steamed before the empty chair across the table from me. A low moan met my ears and the cup rose up from the tabletop. The mug tilted and I heard a slurp before the mug went back to rest on the table again.
“Signorina you are fresh as a daisy. This should be a crime after all the vino last night,” Maestro Martino said as he became semi-visible.
I smiled and let out a pleased breath. Don’t ask me why I was relieved to see the poltergeist — I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I was happy to see the Maestro.
“Mr. Martino, I’m glad to see you again,” I said and as before, he insisted on being called Maestro. “I guess I didn’t have as much wine as the others,” I said. “But I thought you couldn’t eat. I was sure I heard you chowing down on something last night,” I said before I realized that might be an awkward comment.
A belch from the ghost answered my question. “No Signorina, I said there were often consequences,” he corrected me, and suppressed another burp. “As you see. Perdonatemi,” he added. “A flower like you should not have to hear my uncouth noises, but such is the price I pay for the comfort of food and drink.”
As I told the Maestro the tragic story of Daisy, the dainty dish, a range of emotions played across his face. A white linen napkin materialized from somewhere and he wiped tears from his eyes when I finished relating the ghost woman’s history. He sniffled and promised to do his best to help, even though he was completely unfamiliar with Daisy or any spirits from the current era. Then Maestro Martino succumbed to a fit of all out blubbering.
Applesauce! Who’d have thought ghosts could be so emotional?
“Would there be any more of that nice squash casserole from the fantastical icebox?” Maestro asked imploringly between sobs.
Had Granny made her squash casserole? It was one of my favorite dishes. I’d even eat it for breakfast! However, after witnessing the belching, I was reluctant to let the spirit have any more food. Even so, the crying was getting on my nerves. I hurried to the refrigerator. My hopeful eyes found the casserole dish. I sighed.
I plopped the empty casserole dish on the kitchen table. There was barely a crumb of squash left. “Oh Signorina,” Martino said. “Now don’t you be cross with a sensitive old man, perfavore.”
Fortunately, by the time Granny Fanny came into the kitchen the ghost chef had disappeared into the carved wooden owl clock to which he had bound himself after the cursed wine bottle was broken. I had just made a fresh pot of coffee and she took a cup, inhaling the aroma gratefully.
Wriggles, the pug Granny was dog sitting for Arabella Wong, trotted into the room behind her, little toenails clicking against the blue and white tile floor. I put some food in a bowl for the happy little dog and fed him. Wriggles ate almost as noisily as the
ghost. I grinned and scratched his back.
Granny looked at the empty casserole dish on the table and shook her head. “Sweet Pea, much as you like it, I know you didn’t eat that whole squash casserole for breakfast… So I guess there really was a dad blamed ghost in my kitchen last night,” she said and put her head in her hands.
To my relief, Andy stumbled into the kitchen at that moment. I went about serving them the chicken biscuits, trying to avoid any conversation about the spirit. The telephone rang and they both groaned loudly. I ran to the parlor to answer it.
“Who was it?” Granny asked between sips of coffee.
“It was Doc Vale — I mean Mrs. Doc Vale,” I said. The doctors Vale were a married couple. Vincent was a veterinarian and Veronica was a renowned surgeon. “She said she has the goat’s milk you wanted?” I couldn’t help my questioning tone because I thought the stuff smelled bad. It made good cheese, but I did not care for the odor of the milk a bit.
“Stop making a face, Pip. It might get stuck that way. Besides, nobody’s going to make you drink it,” Granny quipped. “One of the ladies in my book group needs it for her grandson. Little tike can’t drink cow’s milk. Could you be a dear and take my automobile out to the Vales’ and pick up the milk? My head’s about to split wide open.”
Granny gave a little smile despite her headache. She knew I’d jump at the chance to drive period. But going out to the Vales’ place also gave me a chance to visit Cracker the parrot. I got very attached to the bird, but she was apparently more devoted to Marshal Moses Myrick. The G-man was staying with the Vales while he recuperated from nearly fatal gunshot wounds he received in an ambush by Queenie Wetson’s gangsters.
My friend still looked bleary eyed, so I poured him another cup of coffee before asking if he wanted to come along. Granny told Andy he was welcome to stay at the cottage if he didn’t feel like going out, that it was no bother. Andy looked at the empty wine bottles, then at the wooden owl clock. His face paled.
“Err… Thank you, Mrs. Peabody. That’s kind of you, but I’m fine. I’ll go along with Pip, in case she needs any help,” Andy told my grandmother.
It was obvious to me that he wanted to put some distance between himself and the poltergeist.
The bright yellow automobile, which would later be called a Model-T, puttered along the country road to the beautiful property owned by the Doctors Vale. A cluster of pristine white buildings with green roofs shone in the morning light. Before we got to the driveway we saw Vincent and I pulled over to talk to him. He was leading a goat by a rope tied around its neck.
“Who’s your friend?” I asked with a grin when we pulled alongside the veterinarian.
Dr. Vale laughed and shielded his eyes from the sun. “This is Gracie. She’s not half as clever, and not anywhere near as sneaky as Greta. We can’t find Greta anywhere,” he said.
Vincent told us the goats had gotten loose around the time Veronica had called about the milk. They had found all of them except for Greta. He asked if we’d mind looking around for the missing goat after we delivered the milk to Granny’s friend.
Hey, a missing goat was good entertainment back then. Of course we agreed to help.
After dropping off the goat’s milk we drove around the countryside in search of Greta
the sneaky goat. It also served as a nice little tour for Andy, who had never seen the area.
“You know,” I commented. “I’m pretty sure we’re near that factory building of yours.”
“It’s not mine,” Andy reminded me. “I don’t have that kind of money. Yet,” he added with wriggly eyebrows to make me laugh. “I just signed the paperwork. It belongs to one of the executives at the studio where I work in Hollywood — Manny Mayer.”
Amid the weeds I spotted what was left of a gate and a gravel road. “I’ll bet that’s the back way into the place,” I said.
Andy got out and moved the gate and we puttered along the gravel drive in the yellow automobile. In a moment we could see the factory building in the distance. It was a creepy looking place even in broad daylight. There were several tumbledown outbuildings closer to us. They were in the shadows of a cluster of huge old oak trees. The shade looked inviting, and I took my foot off the gas.
“I didn’t realize these buildings were here,” Andy commented. “I should probably check them out too, just so I can give Mr. Mayer a thorough report on the condition of the property and assets.”
As we stepped away from the vehicle, I heard a flat clang, like a cowbell. Andy and I turned toward the sound. We were facing the back of the abandoned factory which sat at the top of a small hill. A strange coarse sound came from the same direction. Then the clanging got louder. So did the other sound. The eerie setting of the abandoned building combined with the sound was enough to make my hair stand on end.
Well, you’d be that way too if you’d just seen a ghost a few hours before.
Something burst from the cover of a stand of bushes about halfway down the hill. It ran pell-mell toward us, clanging and making that half strangled sound. I took a step back and tread on Andy’s toes.
“How could Vincent’s goat have gotten all the way out here?” I asked, though I knew it must be Greta.
“Hey, we’d better try to catch her. She sure seems spooked though,” Andy said and then his eyes widened when he realized he’d said “spooked,” as in ghost. “You don’t think…”
Whatever Andy thought, he didn’t have a chance to finish that sentence because Greta the sneaky goat ran right past us. However, the wily thing dodged when we tried to grab her. We ran after Greta who led us around, behind, and between each of the sheds. Then I heard a crash and saw the half-hinged door to one outbuilding was open.
We followed the goat inside the shed. The sudden change in brightness left me unable to see at first. I heard a bucket or can overturn and then I saw a light. Andy gasped. I squinted. A glowing shape moved slowly toward us. Andy took a step backward and tripped over something. With a scream he hit the floor of the shed.
“That’s the goat!” I said in astonishment. “She’s… why she’s… phosphorescent!”
Andy struggled to his feet. Then the glowing goat lowered its head, made that coarse behhh sound, and charged toward us.
Recipe: Two-Cheese Squash Casserole
Recipe and Photo Credit: MyRecipes.com
4 pounds yellow squash, sliced
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups soft breadcrumbs, divided
1 1/4 cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
Cook squash in boiling water to cover in a large skillet 8 to 10 minutes or just until tender. Drain well; gently press between paper towels.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and garlic, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Remove skillet from heat; stir in squash, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and next 7 ingredients. Spoon into a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir together melted butter, remaining 1 1/2 cups soft breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and garlic salt. Sprinkle mixture evenly over top of casserole.
Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.
Southern Living, May 2004
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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