Welcome back my friends. To those of you in the USA, I hope you enjoyed a Thanksgiving Day filled with gratitude and happiness.
I would use huge letters to say “Ta-dah!” but I’m exhausted from a full month of squeezing every minute of novel writing possible from each day and night. My ta-dah is more of a whimper. But I say it with a smile of satisfaction.
It was my fervent hope that my draft of The Guitar Mancer would be so complete and clean that I might actually be able to publish it this year. Wow — I am a true dreamer! To “win” National Novel Writing Month, I needed a draft of at least 50,000 words. By the time I was half way into the month it became clear that the finished novel will be twice that length — easily! So I have a long way to go yet for a finished novel.
So now I’m torn by the question of how to find time to finish the novel and do a new serial here on this blog. As I continue to ponder my predicament, here are more episodes of the first serial, Three Things.
Another conundrum has been how to give a recipe treat to my foodie friends. So for the remaining “rewinds” I plan to work a recipe into this non-culinary mystery. Because of the first set of “things” in this rewind, look for some Military Eats at the end of the post.
Now let’s get a wiggle on with the rewind!
20. Medical Bill, Confirmation, Military
The man had an authoritative manner and was dressed in very expensive looking clothes. He had what they called presence. The white-haired woman murmured something that was lost in a sob. “Don’t worry about that either,” the man told her in a kind voice. “Besides, there won’t be any medical bill. There’s more than one doctor here today.”
A teenager with an alarmed expression on his face came running toward them. Clearly he’d heard all the ruckus. At first I thought he wore a military uniform, but then I realized he was some kind of servant, dressed in livery.
In a calm voice the man instructed, “Go fetch a doctor.”
“Yes, Mr. Ringling,” the young man said, and ran away.
Frankie and I exchanged astonished looks. Even though we had just seen a picture of this very yacht moored at the Ca’d’Zan mansion, I was amazed to think I was standing a few feet away from a celebrity like John Ringling!
The white-haired woman lifted her head and stood a little straighter. I could see her profile. The first thing I noticed was a bit of blood and a bruise at her temple. I was sure that bump to the head didn’t come by accident. Then my eyes just about popped out of my head. Her profile — it was the spitting image of Boris!
No wonder the “ballerina” had acted so funny back at the Nickelodeon Theatre, when he saw this woman and the group of Russian dignitaries. Even then I wondered if Boris was connected to that group, though he refused to discuss it. Right then and there I was sure I had confirmation. The white-haired woman had to be a relative; probably a close one. I wondered if she might be his grandmother.
However, this old woman looked like she was well off. Boris wouldn’t be living in the building with the rest of us if he was from money. The building owner had a soft spot for people trying to better themselves. Even though the building was supposed to be for office space, he let us live there if we at least went through the motions of having our own businesses. It wasn’t the nicest place to live, but he let us rent the suites for a song.
Despite her wealthy appearance, the woman appeared to have said something to indicate she didn’t have the money to pay a doctor. Maybe, I speculated, she had been wealthy but had fallen on hard times. There was plenty of that going around with the land bust. Or maybe Boris had a falling out with his family and they’d cut him off.
My speculation was cut short when the yacht’s owner, John Ringling, turned and looked at Frankie and me questioningly.
Introduction to Episode-21
When I researched ways to illustrate this episode I noticed that media topics of interest in the 1920s were much the same as they are now. I saw headings about sex, diet, scandal, fashion, and other things that you’d see today. Like they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The “things” for episode 21 come from a friend in the southwest who is positively gifted at refurbishing things. I think she could give new life to any old item she might find. When I saw “underwear” as one of the things, I really hoped I’d do something funny with it. But everything that came to mind was just “tasteless.” Har-dee-har… a play on words or rather things. However, I admit that I had to put some thought into “limestone.”
21. Underwear, Tasteless, Limestone
I swallowed hard, unable to escape the feeling that I had been caught doing something that I shouldn’t. That was silly of me, I know. After all, we had been invited onboard. Just the same, I was as uncomfortable as somebody with twisted underwear.
The white-haired woman turned to us with a haunted expression in her eyes. “These children,” she began, speaking to Mr. Ringling in an accent I recognized. “They are familiar.” She took a trembling step toward Frankie and me. Her bright eyes zeroed in on me. “You were there when I was taken. You were there with my Boris!”
Then she paled and swooned. Frankie Fabro, fireman, rushed forward and scooped her up as if she weighed nothing at all. John Ringling, circus magnate, motioned him into the cabin. Me? Paisley I. Peabody, palmist? I stood in mute astonishment for a second, but I snapped out of it when Frankie called my name. “Pip?” came the fireman’s anxious voice.
I hurried into the beautifully appointed cabin. I still thought my suite back at the office building was the cat’s meow, but that room made it seem tasteless in comparison. The woodwork alone was stunning, and brightly polished brass reflected light from a small but glorious crystal chandelier. An ornately carved table had a red marble top. But no… that would be travertine, not marble. I remembered travertine was actually a kind of limestone. Horsefeathers! Why was I thinking about something like that during all the drama?
With a shake of my head, I gathered my scattered wits. An etched glass decanter of what looked like brandy stood on the tavertine table. Picking up the first glass I saw, I poured a little and held it to the elderly woman’s lips.
“John, kindly introduce me to these lovely young people who know my Boris,” she said with a weak smile.
Frankie cleared his throat awkwardly, knowing we were strangers to that gentleman as well. He introduced himself and then me to both of them. “I’m John Ringling,” the man said, but of course we’d figured that out already. “It’s my pleasure to welcome two clear headed young people aboard.” Then he made a bow to the white-haired woman. “I present the Countess Bepa Babikov.”
I bounced in place before I caught myself. Then I blushed at my childishness. But I had been right! Boris’ last name was Babikov. Maybe it was too forward to be polite, but I blurted out the question. “Are you his… grandmother? I mean Countess… ma’am…”
The woman nodded her head and smiled a hopeful looking smile. “Please, dear one. Call me Faith. That is what Bepa means — faith. If I may call you Pip, as this strong young man does. The sound of the name pleases me. It is like a little bird chirping.” I nodded, speechless for once. “Yes my dear Pip, I am his babushka. Please tell me. My Boris, he is well?”
Don’t go away yet. I promised you a recipe!
Recipe credit: Food Network
Total Time: 40 min
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 20 min
4 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon chopped spinach
1 teaspoon diced red bell pepper
1 teaspoon chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped celery
6 ounces dried fettuccini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 ounces whole baby clams
4 ounces Alfredo sauce, recipe follows
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon twist, for garnish
Alfredo Sauce for Seafood Normandy:
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
Ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Combine scallops, shrimp, chopped spinach, and diced red bell pepper.
Bring large pot of water to boil and add chopped onion and celery for flavor. Add 6 ounces fettuccini to the boiling water and cook to al dente.
Meanwhile, put olive oil in saute pan and heat over medium-high heat. Then add shrimp, scallops, clams, chopped spinach, and diced red bell peppers. Saute for approximately 5 minutes.
When fettuccini is done, drain. Drop mussels in the boiling water after removing fettuccini. Cook until mussels are open and tender, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, then drain and combine mussels with ingredients in the saute pan. Add the Alfredo Sauce to the pan and continue cooking for about 2 minutes.
Add fettuccini to pan and toss until well combined. Plate, sprinkling top with freshly chopped parsley and garnish with lemon twist. Grind fresh pepper and salt if desired.
Alfredo Sauce for Seafood Normandy:
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then add garlic, cheese, and cayenne and whisk quickly, heating through. Stir in parsley and serve.
For a lower fat version, substitute 1 cup milk and 1/4 cup flour separately, instead of heavy cream.
Recipe courtesy The Globe and Laurel