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The stories in this anthology are each accompanied by a recipe.
~The Quest for the Elusive Pineapple Salad Recipe
~Everybody Knows I Can’t Cook
Killer Italian Dressing
~Breakfast for Two
~Gorillas Might Sing
Fine Young Cannibals’ Chicken Salad Cheat
~Coming to the table
~It’s Who You Know
Easter Story Cookies
~Accept the Cup
Black Forest Cake
~The Case of the Missing Pecan Pie
Mother’s Pecan Pie
Grilled Lime Chicken
~Killing with Kindness
Golden Corn Cake
~It’s Just Hash
~Last Meal and Testament
Crockpot Chicken in Wine
Bear Stew (Mock Venison Stew)
~Don’t Die With Your Mouth Full
Roast Fowl With Honey Nut Sauce
|The Quest for the Elusive Pineapple Salad Recipe
by Bonnie AbrahamMother had hundreds of cookbooks and cooking magazines. Her recipe box, which was large to begin with, overflowed into a letter rack which, in turn, overflowed onto the shelf. Like most good cooks, however, for Mother recipes were nebulous things. If you picked up one of her recipe cards and followed it exactly, expecting to get her results, you would be sadly disappointed. This is because Mother almost always changed the recipe and the changes were written only in her memory.Some recipes were so nebulous that they existed only in her memory. These unwritten ones didn’t even have measurements. I never did get measurable quantities for the salad dressing she made. She used it in ham salad, potato salad, chicken salad, macaroni salad, even plain lettuce salad. Actually, she never made it the same way twice. Sometimes she used dried mustard in it, sometimes celery seed.
Sometimes she added vinegar and sometimes she didn’t. When I asked how much milk or how much sugar she would say, I don’t know – I just keep putting in until it looks right. Since the dressing was something you could keep tasting and adding to, I finally gave up on getting exact amounts.
After I moved away from home, my quest for Mother’s recipes became more urgent. She wasn’t right there for me to ask, Does this look right or Do you think this needs more. . . I needed the security of measurable amounts. One afternoon, when I was home for a visit, I got out a recipe card and a pencil and started grilling Mother for the recipe for pineapple salad. It was an old family recipe and a special favorite of mine. I wasn’t going to take “I don’t know” for an answer.
Everybody Knows I Can’t Cook
Fay opened her door to insistent pounding and jumped back as Lucy stormed in.
“I swear I’m going to murder Mona. I’ll put rat poison in her low-cal cappuccino!” Lucy declared and burst into tears.
Fay’s next-door neighbor, Anne, rolled her eyes. “I’ll talk to you later,” she mumbled and beat a hasty retreat out the back door.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know Anne was here.”
“Oh, don’t worry about her. What’s the matter? What’s your beloved sister-in-law done this time?” Fay asked, offering her a handful of napkins.
“She’s volunteered me to prepare the dinner for the Historic Society’s Rook tournament. Thirty-some people, and I’m supposed to feed them a complete meal. She did it on purpose – she knows I can’t cook!” That last came out as a wail.
“Honey, EVERYBODY knows you can’t cook,” Fay assured her. “Just order pizza and forget it.”
“No. I’m not going to let her get away with this. I’m going to fix that meal if it kills us all. At least she’ll have to eat it too.”
Gorillas Might Sing
“Babe, we’re in the money now.” The rictus of a smile not quite touching his eyes stretched across his face. Mason removed the zip-closed clear plastic bag from its safe haven taped to his hairless chest. He read the six winning numbers from the small pink lottery ticket. “Boy, the gorillas were really going to sing this morning…Don’t you remember? I swore I’d hire a troop of actors dressed like gorillas to deliver my resignation from my job. Yeah, I actually did it. I finally found a singing telegram agency that would send out a dozen singing gorillas. This morning at nine-sharp, my boss Mr. O’Grady, is going to open his office door to the Wilson Gorilla Revue. It’ll make the news, Pammy.”
Still, she sat silent.
“Yep. Finally going to have the life we’ve always dreamed of. A live-aboard yacht in the Bahamas…No pressures, no problem. I was even going to make it up to you about the big hurt. You know, after we made the decision. Okay, after I made the decision to get…the abortion. Then…Then, when we wanted kids, you couldn’t get pregnant. Anyway, now that we have the money, I was going to hire the best doctors in the world and get us pregnant. One way or another we were going to have a baby. Or a whole boatload of the little buggers.” Mason gazed into his wife’s normal-looking eye waiting for her response, but she remained silent. The last few years, Pam refused to discuss the matter, saying words and words about it wouldn’t solve the problem.
“It was really going to happen for us, Pammy. But, look at us now. Here we sit in a car in a thick woods, rammed against a big rock and wedged between trees at both doors. And here I am trapped behind the wheel. And look at you— you’re dead! Can’t take you anywhere, can I? Forget I said that, Pammy. I didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just that it’s a really big downer you being dead and all.”
It’s Who You Know
Ruth walked silently through the streets of Jerusalem, her footsteps as heavy and labored as the beating of her heart. The bustle of the marketplace, the barking voices of the vendors, the mingled smells of fresh breads and sweet cakes, the bumps and shoves of passers-by, was an afterthought, a sea of consciousness which surrounded her and the raft of pain on which she was adrift.
“Crucify him! Crucify him!” The shouts of the people pounded in her ears as strongly now as they had last week. Then, she had stood among the crowd, unable to speak, overcome by the hate around her and the Teacher’s bloodied, swollen face in front of her.
“Stone her! Stone her!” Those were the words her accusers had hurled at her when she was brought before the Teacher. Later, looking on him, bruised and beaten, she knew the fear he felt, to stand before a judge while those around you demanded your death. A single tear fell onto the dusty road beside her right foot and was immediately swallowed up by the parched earth.
Accept the Cup
Berlin, October and November, l938
“Did your daughter, Leah, call from Jerusalem last night?”
The elder woman’s face darkened. “No. Still no word. Levi says she is busy, but I believe the mail isn’t getting through. Her last letter said she would call on the telephone the fifteenth of August, at seven in the evening. It never came. And now, it’s October. Each night, we wait. I believe, also, the government is blocking calls from Palestine.”
Having participated in a version of this story daily, Anne nodded her head. “Maybe you should seriously consider going to Palestine, yourself. Levi still will not immigrate?”
Greta shook her head. “No. He insists we’re safe. Everything will be all right. After all, he is a veteran of the last war. He has medals to prove his bravery and loyalty. No one will harm us, he says. Besides, most countries, like your America, have filled their Jewish quotas.”
“But you think you should go? Maybe, you should apply for your papers.”
“Yes.” Pain was on her face. “They relocated my sister and her family, and we have not heard a word from them. Levi says Jacob is not a veteran, so, he hasn’t any protection. I don’t believe any of us have protection. We’re marked,” she said pointing to the Star of David stitched to her coat.
I’ll begin with the dogs–in medias Rex, as it were. There were two of us–three, if you count Sparkle–four, if you count the puppy–but there were two of us on the scene.
Direct your attention, if you will, to Fiona. Cairn Terrier, twenty pounds of dark intensity, muscles and nerves of steel, wrapped in yards of gray shag. Observe her gleaming eyeteeth, her glittering eye. Do not attempt to extract that plastic action figurine from between her paws. She is not cuddling it, and she will not welcome your intervention. Fiona is my elder by three years, and I am five.
My name is Cyrano. I am, to an observable degree, Irish Setter. To her credit, Fiona, who is pedigreed and papered, purchased from a licensed breeder, has never made me feel my unmapped lineage.
The third dog in this adventure, the one we’ve never met, is a black Labrador retriever called Sparkle. Sparkle is the editor of Sparkle’s Bark, a newsletter to which I subscribe over the World Wide Woof. Every night, she sends out an issue filled with jokes, tips, and recipes….
So, when we found the Thing in the woods, it was only natural that I appealed to Sparkle for advice.
Killing with Kindness”
He lifted his eyes and his hand with equal difficulty in his effort to greet us as we were introduced. His weight was against him. He was puddled into a chair as though he might never get out of it, and spoke a word or two between breaths.
“Emphysema,” his wife declared. Her voice was round and full; she had to be half his age, vibrant and self-possessed.
During dinner, she was very attentive to her husband, constantly putting her hand on his shoulder, pressing food on him-on all of us.
And it was good, too, in the tradition of good-old, down-home cooking, lots of gravy and mashed-potatoes, hot rolls and bread, a thick, orange casserole of macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings, and a pot of green beans with strips of bacon floating on top.
She had cooked all this for us, and her niece was very proud. Anne, so observant in land-values, yet apparently so blind in cause and effect, diet and health. We sat in lawn chairs in the unmowed grass, and the birds sang in the trees while the old man whuffled in-between bites. I suffered for him, my breath working in measured pulls, all of us aware, but studiously keeping other topics afloat. The dog was too heavy even to grab for any morsels we dropped. Its panting was whistley and tight.
It’s Just Hash
The phone rang. Ellie answered – a woman, asking for Mr. Cartwright. Mrs. Cartwright picked up the phone beside her bed, heard her ask for Mr., and said, “This is Mrs. Cartwright, could I help you?” But the woman – whoever she was – just hung up. That’s not right, Ellie thought. She went in to the bedroom.
“Did she give you her name, Ellie? I didn’t recognize her voice.” Mrs. Cartwright spoke barely above a whisper, it was so hard for her to say much.
“No, ma’am, she didn’t. I don’t recall hearing that lady before. If Mrs. Evans calls, she always says who she is, gives me a message for Mr. Cartwright.” (Mrs. Evans was his secretary.)
Mrs. Cartwright sighed, closed her eyes. Ellie didn’t like seeing her look so sad, so alone.
The apartment door opened. Ellie went out to the living room and found Mr. Cartwright hanging up his coat. His briefcase was on the hall table, and he was bringing out a small suitcase from the closet.
“Did anyone call, Ellie?” he asked.
“Some lady did, but she didn’t say who she was or leave a message or anything. Hung up when Mrs. Cartwright answered.”
He didn’t look happy about that. But he didn’t go in to ask his wife anything, either. Just took out his cell phone and stepped out on the balcony to make a call. Why go out there? Something’s not right, Ellie thought.
Last Meal and Testament
I always begin by washing everything as well as I can. Since I began cooking, I’ve never believed good food could come from a badly kept kitchen. Today I take extra care in the cleaning of the sinks, counters, and stove. As an anniversary, I want everything to be the best.
First the chickens, two of them cut into quarters and left to soak in wine, freshly squeezed lemon, garlic, and onion, with sage, rosemary, and thyme finely ground and sprinkled over the lot with pepper and salt. I clean the area where the chicken was cut and begin on the vegetables. I sever the ends from the six small white onions, peel away the outer layer revealing the bright clean inner-walls and place them aside.
I didn’t always cook. My wife, Sarah, with great difficulty, would frown through many a culinary exploration on my part. I didn’t grow up in a house where food was revered. And though I’ve grown to love good food, rich in spices and cooked to brim with flavor, I didn’t always understand or appreciate it. My mother always seemed to follow the scorched earth policy when cooking, like a crazed general burning everything in his wake as he retreats. I believe I was actually in my twenties when I found out meat could be served without a blackened outer crust. I thought food well done and done for was the same as done well.
The evening breeze carried the smell of wood smoke and cooking meat. At least someone is eating tonight, Rachel mused as her shrunken belly managed a slight growl.
This spying business hadn’t turned out the way she planned at all. It all seemed like a glorious adventure just a few months ago when her cousin Beau suggested she would be a model courier. It hadn’t seemed odd to Rachel that Beau would ask a female to assist the Cause. Oh no, all she saw was an opportunity for adventure. A chance to get out of the twelve petticoats she usually wore and sitting around rolling bandages. It wasn’t something she could explain to her mother that a future of being well groomed and unfailingly polite didn’t appeal. That was the only future for a genteel young woman of impeccable breeding. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to get married, she did. Lately she was afraid the war wouldn’t leave her much to marry. Instead of worrying about what might be, she wanted to get out and do something. The courier plan was perfect for a girl with time on her hands. Beau even provided the ideal excuse, visiting his family in Savannah.
Rachel silently slipped nearer to the fire lured by the aroma of cooking meat, without any actual thought about her actions. Horrified that her bodily needs almost led her into the fatal mistake. Stepping out of the moonlight, she stopped abruptly, cracking a twig under her foot. Would it really be so bad if whoever was cooking saw her? That was the hunger speaking, she knew it; still, what would they see? A young boy, no more than twelve, dressed as a farmhand. Neither Yank nor Rebel would perceive her as a threat. That was the genius behind her disguise. When she was stopped, and she had been a few heart-stopping times, she became the idiot farm boy.
An old-timer with a prominent beard stirred something in a kettle. It was hard to tell what color his uniform was in the flickering firelight. Normal times, he would be too old to be in the army at all. Rachel had almost convinced herself that the idiot boy act was the way to go, when the old timer peered in her direction.
“Ar ya going to stay thar all night ? Or ar ya going to come out and et a bite?”
Don’t Die With Your Mouth Full
I decided to take the opportunity to do as I had been instructed by the Crown Prince and look around. Look around. Yeah, sure. Why did everyone always assume I knew what I was doing? Nefer-Djenou-Bastet and I wandered aimlessly for some minutes until I realized we were in the section with the granaries. The place was near deserted because we weren’t supposed to record the grain for a few more days. As a result of this, the tour of this area had been cursory. I stood back and looked at the huge hive-shaped mudbrick buildings with awe. They were simple structures, but they were the lifeline of the whole nation. No surprise that the recording of their contents figured so prominently in the Heb-Sed Festival.
Neffi launched from my shoulder and made for one of the empty ones. It had been recently repaired in anticipation of being used for the Census. Several days from now, Master Khenemetamun-pa-sheri and I would be atop it recording the grain being put into it a basketful at a time.
I suddenly realized Neffi was on top of it now. He pawed at the mudbricks, then looked down at me. “Yeow!”
“Come down from there! What are you trying to do?”
He scratched at the sun-baked brick vigorously. “YEEEEOOOOWWW!”
I mounted the ladder and grabbed for him. He danced out of my grasp and started digging on the other side of the hatch. “What is wrong with you? That granary is empty!”
We played tag around the top of the granary for several minutes with Neffi attacking the hatch and me diving for him until I finally shouted. “Fine! It’s empty! I’ll prove it!” I snatched the handle of the unsealed hatch and pulled.
The odor that hit me wasn’t the aroma of past grain harvests, but I recognized it, anyway. It was one I had been hoping not to encounter again. I hastily dropped the lid back into place and crouched, gulping air, until Neffi’s face pushed into mine. That cat has smug down pat. “Okay. So it isn’t all that empty.”
Here I am again, bringing up the rear. I am supposed to have a short story finished by the 30th and it is now the 29th. If I don’t get it finished I won’t be included in the book. You know we writers are not paid for these stories; we just love the sheer agony of a self- imposed deadline. Keeps us in practice for that wonderful day when our talents are discovered and we have that best seller line stamped across the top of our book that everyone in the whole world knows about and just can’t put down. But I digress.
I’m supposed to have a story about food…and I do. It’s a story about how I came to write this story instead of the other two I started.You see, I always seem to have a time problem, not enough of it. I work days from 8:30 in the morning to whenever, and then when I get home the maid hasn’t cleaned the house or been out for groceries or cooked dinner. Maybe it’s because I am the maid.