Thanks for coming back to another episode of our interactive culinary mystery serial. The “ingredients” all of you send help make sure the story includes a multiplicity of ideas. However, the cupboards are bare again. Everyone is welcome to leave three food-related things in the comments. That’s what drives this pantser story — your varied ingredients.
Variety is something I’ve always enjoyed. When I find a restaurant I like, I want to try something different from their menu each time I visit. This week’s ingredients are from a woman who adds all sorts of variability to her life — Sally Georgina Cronin, at Smorgasbord – Variety is the Spice of Life. Her books and her blog cover a remarkable and useful assortment of things. Here is just one of Sally’s many books. I hope you’ll check out Sally’s fiction and nonfiction books, and her amazing blog too.
Keep an eye out for some links for fun, information, and recipes throughout today’s story. Without further ado, here is the episode of Three Ingredients Cookbook-2 that Sally’s ingredients inspired.
10. Strawberries, Avocados, Lobster
The tan spoke wheels of the black Dodge Roadster spun merrily when I saw their reflection in a shop window. It was a sunny day and we put down the tan ragtop. Andy and I drove around Savannah and the general area the whole morning. We looked at every church we could find, hoping for one with a window that matched the glowing image Daisy the Dainty Dish caused to appear to us in the abandoned warehouse.
It was well past noon when we drove toward a roadside fruit stand. “I’m starved. Why don’t we stop and get something here. Maybe something to make a cobbler for supper too,” I added as the inspiration struck.
Andy slowed the Dodge and we pulled off the road. “Strawberries!” I exclaimed. “They’re beautiful too,” I said as I opened the door without waiting for Andy to come around and open it for me.
He shot me a look for my impatience, and I suppose for my lack of ladylike behavior. But I was a flapper, after all. I could throw convention to the winds. Besides, Andy was my dear old friend, not my beau. When he caught up with me I was still going on about how good the strawberries looked. I asked if he didn’t agree.
“Oh Pip,” he began and gave me a lopsided grin. “They’ll be the berries!”
I rolled my eyes at Andy’s pun. The aroma was heavenly and I inhaled deeply as I selected several small baskets of the luscious red berries. Andy insisted on paying as he said he planned on eating the majority of the cobbler.
Our chatter about being hungry turned into a conversation with the stall keeper about what there was to eat nearby. The man told us there was a pier about a mile up the road and recommended one of the vendors for a bite to eat.
While the guy talked, Andy picked up a black pebbly skinned pear-shaped thing and tossed it happily. The stall keeper took on a professorial tone. “Had them alligator pears brought up special from Florida,” he told Andy.
“We’re both from Florida,” Andy told the man. “I remember my grandpa calling avocados alligator pears,” he said fondly. Then he turned to me. “At least that was one familiar thing in California. This kind of avocado got real popular there fairly recently.”
“I see you know your onions — and your avocados,” the man said and chuckled at his own joke.
I wouldn’t have expected the guy to know his slang. My expression must have said as much and he smiled. The grin took ten years off his face. Maybe he wasn’t such a codger after all.
We both picked out a few more things and then we were ready to settle up the bill. The stall keeper looked at the strawberries and then looked at us carefully. “You know,” he began but hesitated for a second before continuing. “For special customers… I could be talked out of a bottle of strawberry wine. Don’t worry, everything’s jake,” he added upon seeing our surprise.
Both of us grinned. “I wasn’t expecting to run across any giggle water here,” Andy said and told the guy to add a bottle of the wine to our purchase.
“On one condition,” the man said. “You gotta promise not to get spifflicated until you get where you’re going.”
The pier turned out to be a hotspot, just short of being a carnival. I could tell it was a fun place before we got out of the roadster. There were lots of bathers in colorful suits who came for the narrow strip of beach. All manner of vendors were setup with their crafts and wares along the boardwalk and out onto the pier.
We walked past a stand where a man played a happy tune on a banjo. Yet when I thought about it, any song sounded cheery when played on a banjo. The stall boasted several beautiful handmade instruments the musician and his wife had for sale. However, they did most of their business with the smaller less expensive things like harmonicas and mouth harps.
The woman gave us a quick demonstration of the mouth harp. It had a flexible metal “tongue” attached to an oval metal frame. She put the tongue part inside her mouth and plucked with a finger to produce a note. She offered to help Andy learn to play the odd little instrument, but he politely declined.
“I tried to play one of those jaw harps when I was a kid,” Andy commented derisively. “All I did was pinch my mouth. Bad. I looked like I had cold sores worse than Maestro gets as supernatural punishment for leering at your grandmother.”
The scent of something delicious wafted to my noise. The banjo music trailed behind us as we made for the food stalls. To my surprise we got into line and the person in front of us was Hank Hertz, Savannah’s youngest police officer. I invited him to join us, but Hank pointed out a booth the police department had set up. Hank said he was “on duty,” and had to man the booth.
Soon Andy and I had paper baskets full of crispy fried chicken, golden-brown biscuits, coleslaw, and some German potato salad. We sat down on a sun-warmed bench to eat. It gave us a view of the brightly colored stall awnings to one side and of the little beach to the other. It was fun to watch all the activity and different people.
Some of the bathers cavorting on the sand caught my attention. A huge lobster had somehow caught hold of a flapper’s bathing suit and another girl tried to pull it free, resulting in a humorous tug of war. It didn’t look like anyone was in any danger of being harmed. Andy and I chuckled at their antics.
If I hadn’t known Andy so well, I would have thought he really had been about to starve. There wasn’t a scrap of chicken left on those bones. However, that was how Andy ate fried chicken. He always said the very best part was right on the bones, and sometimes I wondered if he would munch into the very bones! I had to admit it was delicious. I licked my finger after the last bite of moist crispy deliciousness.
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We dodged a yellow jacket that buzzed around the big garbage can as we threw away our trash. That was one angry looking bee! I jumped backward away from the yellow jacket, just as I heard the bell of a ferry coming up to the pier. I nearly stumbled into an artist’s easel and I apologized profusely.
Trying to make amends for nearly turning over her work, I started looking at her paintings. The one I ran into was a truly lovely landscape with a building and flowers; daisies amid red roses. I saw that she signed the painting Mattie Maddox. However, I began to see a central theme to her work — stained glass windows. I murmured something to Andy, but I couldn’t get his attention, he was so engrossed in the paintings.
“Horse feathers Pip!” he finally looked up at me and whispered an exclamation. “Look at this. Most of them are stained glass windows!” he said and I tried not to roll my eyes since that’s why I had been trying to get his attention.
Mattie the artist was flattered by our interest in her work. (That just didn’t have a ring to it, I thought. Shouldn’t it be Annie the artist? Or Abbie?) I told her we were looking for a church with a particular stained glass window. She showed us all of her church paintings, but none matched the image of the window Daisy the ghost woman showed us.
Mattie Maddox was a kind and charming woman, so it was pleasant to pass a few minutes talking to her about her paintings. She was a little beyond middle years. Her hair was heavily streaked with gray and pulled back into a tidy bun. Mattie’s stall was the neatest one I had ever seen. When I commented on it, she said that through most of her life she worked as a chamber maid and the neatness was a firmly ingrained habit.
“Mattie the Maid!” I exclaimed and then was horribly embarrassed, fearing I had been offensive.
I tried to explain my fondness for making names for people I liked, such as Mona the Movie Star, and of course Andy the Astronaute-man. Mattie seemed to be a sweet soul and was not bothered by my silliness. She tilted her head to one side as if a thought suddenly came to her.
“I wonder… It wasn’t the church, but the rectory has a lovely window with shapes and colors like you described,” she said as she moved toward a stack of unframed canvases in the corner of the little booth. “I did so many different paintings of it. I guess I was trying to work through some grief over a friend who died.”
Andy and I both murmured our condolences. “Oh don’t you fret none,” Mattie said. “That was so long ago. Ah! Here’s one,” the artist exclaimed as she pulled out a square canvas.
The piece was covered in bright hues of gold and aqua, and featured an arched stained glass window. Roses and wild flowers mingled; a contrast of sophistication and the commonplace, to frame the window. Mattie looked at it with a sad expression in her eyes. “She was the one who was really the rose,” she whispered as if to herself.
My excited gasp was echoed by Andy. The artist chuckled at our enthusiasm. Andy pulled out his wallet without even asking the price of the painting. At first Mattie declined to take anything for it, apparently she thought we were newlyweds and she was charmed by our excitement. Naturally Andy insisted on giving her a good price.
“Where is this place?” I asked eagerly.
“It’s the rectory, not the church,” she reminded me and I nodded. “The one out on Tybee Island,” she said and then took a hurried look at a watch that was suspended from a chain around her neck. “Oh my, would you look at the time!” she exclaimed. “I have to hurry and put away my things so I can catch the ferry,” she said and then looked at our puzzled faces. “I live on the island and this is the last ferry of the day. It will be leaving in just a few minutes.”
Mattie went on to explain that Route 80, which connected the island via road with the mainland, was washed out. “We’ve had so many storms this summer,” she said. “So the ferry is the only means of getting there for now.”
“We’d very much like to see the place,” I said and then remembered Granny Fanny. I doubted there was a telephone on the island. Mattie said that was the last ferry of the day. If we went, we’d be stuck overnight. How would I let Granny know, so she wouldn’t worry? It was a lot simpler when I lived on my own in the old office building where Andy and my other friends used to rent our apartment “offices.” I didn’t have to worry about making anybody else worry.
“Pip!” Andy exclaimed. “Mrs. Peabody would want us to have a chaperone. And we can’t just go off to Tybee Island without letting her know,” he said and without being asked, went about helping Mattie lock up her paintings.
I had noticed that Andy called my grandmother Granny most of the time. But when she turned into an authority figure in his mind, she suddenly became Mrs. Peabody. Plus I was surprised at my old friend. Who’d have thought he could be such a stick in the mud? A chaperone? I was a modern woman, a flapper. I didn’t need a chaperone!
Andy’s insistence on propriety seemed to greatly impress Mattie Maddox. She smiled and offered to have us stay the night with her. “I have a little cottage on the church grounds. There’s only one bed but you two are young — I have plenty of quilts and could make pallets on the floor for you,” she offered.
Of course I wouldn’t dream of putting her out that way. Then she mentioned that the church operated a small hostel. Mattie said she would be happy to introduce us to the chaplain. I was already nodding eagerly when Andy again reminded me about my grandmother.
“But there’s no time! I don’t even know where the closest telephone would be,” I complained and pointed at the ferry.
Then an inspired thought came to me and I ran down the pier as fast as I could. Three strides later, Andy caught my elbow and ran beside me. He asked me in a very frustrated voice what I thought I was doing.
“Hank!” I exclaimed.
“Um nope, doll face, I’m Andy,” he quipped.
“No, silly. Remember Hank Hertz? I introduced you at the chicken stand?” I reminded Andy and he grunted something affirmative. “Hank is a wizard with the radio. He’ll get word to Granny Fanny. Plus he knows about Daisy the Dainty Dish. He’ll want to help.”
I asked Andy to go back and get us a place on the ferry, and not let it leave without me. He said he’d bribe the captain if necessary. As I reached the boardwalk, I looked down the pier and saw Andy carrying some packages for Mattie Maddox toward the ferry. He was a good guy, I thought to myself.
Hank saw and understood my haste. Having worked at the pier all summer he was familiar with the ferry schedule. He said he wouldn’t need to worry about radioing an officer at the police station to call Granny Fanny. Hank promised to stop by the cottage on his way home. His shift was almost over.
He also let me know that there was a radio at the church’s rectory, just in case we needed to reach him. Hank, radio wiz that he was, had his own radio, and even a mobile set up in his automobile.
In no time Andy and I were settled next to Mattie Maddox on the ferry to Tybee Island. The Savannah River emptied into the Atlantic Ocean just north of the barrier island.
The ferry bobbed slowly on the stretch of ocean between the island and the small Atlantic coast of Georgia. I closed my eyes against the glare of the evening sun on the water. I might have dozed for a minute, but I noticed that I no longer felt the sunlight on my face. Unexpected clouds overcast the lowering sun, creating a purple sunset.
I remembered the sailor’s old saw, Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Well, purple was not red, I thought, but determined not to be apprehensive just because I was on a small craft, out on the open ocean. What flapper would let a little thing like that bother her?
Black clouds rolled in, abruptly turning the evening to night. I felt my hair stand on end. It didn’t feel like an ordinary storm. The ferryman shouted some kind of warning to all the passengers. However, I didn’t hear what he said because I was focused on the wind’s mournful call. Mournful and familiar.
Thunder rolled and to me it sounded like pounding hooves. A brilliant red bolt of lightning shot a horizontal path across the sky, like an arrow pointing toward the island. When I looked at the black clouds I saw the Devil’s Herd ploughing up the sky and pursued by the ghost-riders. One cowboy strayed from the rest and took off his Stetson hat with a seated bow toward me. His horse snorted fire and reared up, screaming a challenge to the black-horned cattle.
With a strong feeling of satisfaction I noted that the ghost-rider was not Caleb Colman. Maestro Martino’s sacrifice had not been in vain. Caleb the ghost-rider had gotten his chance to redeem himself, though I had no idea what it was.
I looked around me in wide-eyed amazement, but no one else had seen the ghostly display. Rain began to pour. Then in the darkness the ferry hit a giant wave. The boat went up into the air. I felt my posterior leave my seat and I hung on for dear life as the ferry crashed back down against the stormy water.
Saltwater and rain drenched everyone. Passengers screamed. The captain shouted for calm. Huge waves poured into the small craft. Thunder roared. Lightning blasted the darkness, eerily illuminating the terrified faces around me.
A double pronged bold of lightning fractured the sky right above us. The boat launched into the air again. That time I lost my grip. I felt myself lifted off my seat and into the air.
Recipe: Strawberry Cobbler
Recipe credit: Flimish Minx on Food.com. Photo credit: Chia
Total Time: 1 hour
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
4 cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup butter, in cubes
Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
Spread the sliced strawberries evenly in an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish.
In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar.
Add the egg, and mix (a fork works best) till crumbly and the dry ingredients are completely incorporated.
Spread this over the berries.
Dot with the butter cubes.
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden and the berries are bubbling.
Cool slightly before serving.
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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