Poison to Purge Melancholy

Poison to Purge Melancholy by Elena Santangelo

Book: Poison to Purge Melancholy by Elena Santangelo Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elena Santangelo
Tags: Fiction, Mystery, midnight, ink, pat, montello
them, place them face down in the dish, dust them with sugar. Easy. The difficulty came where it said to take two “Spoonfuls” (size apparently wasn’t an issue back in 1756) of the clear juice of a lemon and “add one Spoonful of Orange-flower Water.” Huh?
    “I bought Empire apples,” Glad said, returning with two clear grocery bags, with a half dozen each. “They have a nice round shape and aren’t too big. Eighteenth century fruit was smaller than our modern hybrids, you see.”
    She headed for the sink, so I went over to help wash the fruit. “What’s orange-flower water?”
    “Used to be a flavoring liqueur, made by distilling orange blossoms. The closest I could find was orange extract, though I’m sure the taste won’t be the same.”
    I was tempted to point out that since no two-hundred-fifty-year-old food critics would be eating our version, authenticity mattered less than yumminess. I took the tactful route. “Modern extracts are probably a lot stronger. Let’s put just a drop or two in a tablespoon of water. Or maybe a drop of the orange with a drop of vanilla extract might be closer to the right taste.” Since I defined “right taste” as anything that wouldn’t drown the Empire’s cidery tang, I added, “Less lemon, too—I assume their lemons were smaller and not as fresh as we’re used to?”
    “Absolutely. Citrus came by sailing ship from the Mediterranean.”
    Picturing shriveled, moldy fruit in the stalls of Market Square, I was thankful I lived in this century. Then again, those colonials never had to deal with stubborn produce stickers.
    While I halved the apples and arranged them in the baking dish, I asked Glad more questions about eighteenth century foods, not to get on her good side, but because I was genuinely interested. Cooking was my main creative outlet and recipe-collecting my favorite hobby. Here was a new source—the past.
    Glad was more than willing to educate me, chattering away as she took a covered bowl from the fridge. Spices, I learned, were in the same boat (so to speak) as non-native fruit. They were shipped from the East Indies, with no tight-closing jars or tins sealed for freshness and tamper-proofing, and so they would have had a weaker taste than we’re used to. I also learned that Glad’s covered bowl contained fresh pumpkin diced into half-inch cubes, which she put into a frying pan with a pat of margarine.
    “Of course,” Glad continued, “there were only springhouses and root cellars to keep food fresh. You’d go to market more often—every day in the summer—for your meat and eggs and milk, if you had no cow or chickens of your own. How’re the apples coming, Pat?”
    Per Martha Bradley’s instructions, I’d dribbled the lemon-orange-vanilla concoction onto the apples and sprinkled on a tad more sugar (talk about your sweet tooth!), then set them aside to await their turn in the oven, where they were to “stand Half an Hour in quick Heat.” Given the “black” in their name, I guessed that the sugar ought to caramelize (candy apples!) and suggested to Glad that she crank the oven up to 425 F after the bird was done.
    Then I asked what else I could do, and Glad, as she slid the now fried pumpkin cubes from the pan to a paper-towel-lined bowl, said, “Let’s see. I suppose we could boil the peas for Ev’s pudding. I’ll fetch them from the pantry.”
    Pudding? Peas? Two words that, in my opinion, didn’t go together. But no sooner was she through the doorway, than I spied lights outside—the headlamps of a car pulling into the yard. Headlamps that I recognized: Hugh’s Ford. The porch light picked up the postal insignia on his car door (since he ran a one-man annex, he didn’t rate an official postal service Jeep, but the decals on his own car kept him from getting ticketed while delivering mail in our local housing development).
    Shouting to Glad as I dashed outside, I was on the porch before he’d come to a stop and beside his

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