3 Ingredients Serial: Episode 4
Welcome back to the Roaring Twenties and my "pantser" culinary mystery serial. If you've been here before, then you know that every last thing about this story -- the plot, the characters, all of it -- is spontaneously driven by "ingredients" that readers of Teagan's Books left in comments. Be sure to watch for fun and educational links along the way.
I hope you'll enjoy what I'm re-posting here from my WordPress blog. Feel free to visit -- there are lots more stories there. So here's the third episode of Three Ingredients, Cookbook 1: Murder at the Bijou.
Original Introduction & Featured Blogger
This time our ingredients are from Alexandra of “A Scholarly Skater.” I hope you’ll check out her blog. Alexandra’s suggestion of “graham cracker” took my imagination to an unexpected character. I’m not sure how long this character will stick around -- only the "ingredients" can say!
There is a how-to video for making graham crackers at the end of this post. The narrator’s voice “feels like home” to me. She really does make me think of Granny Fanny! (But of course these characters are strictly the product of my strange imagination and have no relationship to people living or dead, disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer.)
Episode 4: Graham Crackers, Apples, Cream Cheese
“Part of being a good cook is learning to work with whatever you have on hand,” Granny Fanny instructed me. “You have to use your imagination in the kitchen just like you would if you were sewing a quilt or painting a picture.”
I tried not to fidget, and determined to be focused on what she was saying. I stifled a yawn. It had been a late night. To my surprise, Detective Dabney Daniels had offered to let me tag along when he went to investigate the dead man’s hotel room. I was even more surprised when Granny said it was okay for me to go with him. Maybe she wasn’t as strict as I expected, letting me go off alone with a man. But I guessed she knew him pretty well.
It was more than just tagging along. Daniels put me to work making an inventory list of everything in the man’s room. And I mean every little thing, all the way down to receipts from the diner across the street from the hotel, to various items of trash in the wastebasket. The detective still wasn’t sure who the man was, but he took some papers from the dresser drawer that he wouldn’t let me see.
The place was in a huge mess, mostly thanks to his pet. The guy had a big parrot and it had shredded a fruit basket that was on the dresser. There were bits of apples and other unidentifiable fruit everywhere. Daniels called the veterinarian to get him to take charge of the bird. However, the doctor’s wife said he was a good three hours’ drive away, for the birth of a champion thoroughbred’s foal. So I ended up taking the cranky, loud, messy parrot back home to Granny’s. At first my grandmother was horrified. Granny always complained that birds were too messy, so she’d never had so much as a budgie.
“Paisley Idelle Peabody!” Granny said in a borderline tone that snapped me back to what she was doing. “Now pay attention,” she said then suddenly sighed, stopped, and turned to face me. “Pip darlin’ you aren’t here just because I convinced your father that you need to learn to be a passable cook.”
Her expression looked a little sad and I was immediately concerned. “You’re here because I need your help, Pip. I’ve been doing odd cooking jobs, treats for parties, and things like that. It’s become a good bit to handle. Now this hoity-toity family has asked me to catertheir kid’s wedding. I’ve taken on small cooking jobs, but never something that big. It’s all too much for one person, so I need you to pay attention and learn.”
Granny was the most self-sufficient person I knew. Her asking for help was a big deal. I gave her a hug. “I’m sorry Granny. I’d be pleased to help you. I promise to listen better.”
The words made her smile and she set about half a dozen items on the counter. “Now, what would you make from these things?” she asked, and I thought so hard it felt like my head would explode.
“Come on now. Don’t fret. Just relax and think about it. You have cream cheese, pepper jelly, graham crackers, a lemon, and an apple,” Granny said encouragingly.
“Well,” I began. “I could just eat the graham crackers,” I caught her glare and desperately added to that idea. “Okay the graham crackers —” I started to say but was interrupted by the afore mentioned avian.
“Cracker-cracker-cracker!” the parrot flew into the kitchen screeching. It perched on the back of a chair bobbing its head up and down in a comical way. “ Cracker!” it repeated with emphasis.
I handed her a cracker, and the parrot made short work of it. “Cracker…” it said softly that time and rubbed its head against my arm.
“I did, Granny. But she knows how to open it,” I defended while I scratched the bird’s head. “Poor thing. She must have been scared to death when her master didn’t come home. The Doc said they’re real smart. I haven’t heard her say anything but cracker. Have you?” I asked and my grandmother shook her head. “I wonder if she’s traumatized?” I added.
My grandmother snorted at that idea. But the wily bird looked at Granny and gave a wolf whistle. Granny Fanny finally laughed and gave the parrot a piece of apple. “It’s too bad she can’t tell us who her master was. Back to work now. What were you about to do with the graham cr — With those things right there,” she asked, apparently hoping the bird would stay quiet if she avoided using the word cracker.
I laughed. “Maybe that’s her name. Cra —”
“Shush Pip,” Granny interrupted in a whisper.
“Ha! Okay. Ummm… they’d be better with some cream cheese on them.”
She looked at me patiently then raised her eyebrows. “Uh… I could slice that apple and rub it with lemon juice so it doesn’t turn brown. It would be good alongside the cream cheese spread graham crackers. But I’m sorry Granny. I can’t imagine how the pepper jelly works in with this.”
“Very good Pip. Very good indeed. It’d make a right nice snack to go with a cup of tea,” she said, and I couldn’t help smiling. “This pepper jelly is actually really nice blended with the cream cheese.”
I handed Cracker a slice of apple and started trying to coax other words out of her. I had the crazy idea that she might say something that would help us figure out who her late owner was. However, I was interrupted by a knock at the front door. Granny called out, “Come on in, we’re in the kitchen!”
A moment later Detective Daniels walked in with a man carrying a medical bag. “I brought Doc Vale to give the bird a check-up,” he said and introduced me to Dr. Vincent Vale.
Cracker eyed the men and bobbed her head. She made a cooing sound and then another wolf whistle.
“Hey baby! Who’s your daddy?” the parrot wriggled her tail feathers and asked our visitors.
I thought Granny would faint.
Homemade Graham Crackers
Copyright 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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