Whodunit Joined to Whoateit Equals Pure Bliss by Katherine Hall Page

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beloved Faith Fairchild mystery series, we have a special guest post by award-winning author Katherine Hall Page!  Enjoy…

“The twenty-five mysteries that Katherine Hall Page has cooked up for her sleuth, Faith Fairchild, make for delectable reading. What a body of work! Dig in.”

— Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked

Amateur detective and caterer Faith Fairchild is at her Penobscot Bay, Maine cottage preparing for a summer wedding, when she stumbles across . . . another body in this 25th entry in the beloved mystery series.

For the first time in years, Faith Fairchild has time for herself. Her husband Tom is spending days on the other side of the island using a friend’s enhanced WiFi for a project; their son, Ben, after his first year in college, is studying abroad for the summer; and their daughter Amy is working at the old Laughing Gulls Lodge, now a revamped conference center.

Faith is looking forward to some projects of her own. Her friend Sophie Maxwell is also spending the summer on Sanpere Island, hoping for distractions from her worries that she isn’t yet pregnant. And the daughter of Faith’s good friend Pix Miller is getting married to a wonderful guy . . . with a less-than-wonderful mother. Between keeping Sophie’s spirits up and Pix’s blood pressure down, Faith has her hands full.

And that’s before a body with a mysterious tattoo and connections far away from small Sanpere Island appears in the Lily Pond. Once again, Faith will get to the bottom of this strange case—and whip up a delicious blueberry buckle on the side.

From author Katherine Hall Page: 

With the publication of The Body in the Wake ,the 25th book in my Faith Fairchild mystery series, I’ve been thinking about why I have been drawn to writing about both murder and meals. I dug up one of my favorite quotations:“Next to eating good dinners, a healthy man with a benevolent turn of mind, must like, I think, to read about them.” (W.M. Thackery). Faith and I would add “and woman” to the phrase, but Thackery was definitely on to something. We enjoy reading about food. And for many of us, reading about food and murder is the real frosting on the cake. Why is the pairing of gastronomy and crime so seductive?

Dorothy Sayers delights us with her descriptions of Lord Peter Wimsey’s meals, with perhaps the best title in the annals of culinary crime: “The Bibulous Business of the Matter of Taste.” That short story describes a six-course dinner with the emphasis on the identification of the wines accompanying each course. Only the real Lord Peter is able to correctly name all of them. I like the breakfasts best and entertain fantasies of Bunter appearing at the door of my bed chamber, tray laden with tea, kippers, coddled eggs, and a rack of toast.

Meanwhile across the channel, Madame Maigret is taking excellent care of her husband, preparing traditional French dishes that Simenon writes about in mouth-watering detail. It is no wonder Maigret tries to get home for lunch so often. I would too if someone was whipping up coq au vin and a tarte à la frangipane  (a particularly sinful custard pastry) for me.

On our own shores, we have Nero Wolfe, whose attention to food is as obsessive as his devotion to his orchids. He and Fritz Brenner, his chef, range over a number of cuisines in the pursuit of their art. Fritz is so gifted that he even makes milk toast “superbly”. Why on earth would Archie ever look for his own apartment? Would you?

It would be simple to say that each author uses food as a way of characterizing each sleuth, a way of extending our knowledge of the kinds of people they are— and leave it at that. An idiosyncrasy perhaps? But it’s more. We get hungry when we read these books and I’m sure the authors did too as they wrote. I certainly do. How could it be otherwise, given the emphasis we place on the joys of the table?  Food is important. It makes a statement on its own. Whodunit is irrevocably joined to Whoateit.

Faith doesn’t have a cook, nor do I. If we want something tasty, we have to make it ourselves; something, fortunately, both of us like to do. The Body in the Wake is set on an island in Penobscot Bay with an abundance of ingredients close at hand—lobster, scallops, mussells plus the fruits and vegetables that are all the more delicious for our late growing season. I particularly love making recipes culled from old Down East recipe books, often ones put together to raise money for a new church roof and the like. Blueberry Buckle is a favorite. A “Buckle” has been described as a muffin that has mated with a coffee cake. The name comes from the fact that the cake “buckles” into a slight round when taken from the oven. Delicious on its own served warm; delectable with ice cream or whipped cream!

Blueberry Buckle

Topping:

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened and cut into pieces

 

Batter:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 tablespoons softened butter cut into pieces

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup milk

2 ½ cups blueberries, preferably wild Maine ones

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degree F.

Grease a 9-inch square pan at least 2 inches deep, preferably with butter

 

Make the topping in a small bowl by mixing the sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter with two knives or a pastry blender. Set aside.

 

To make the batter, blend the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, cream the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy using an electric mixer or by hand. Add the egg, vanilla and milk. Mix.

 

Gradually add the flour mixture from the medium bowl into the mixture in the larger one until blended. Fold in the blueberries. It will be a thick batter. Spread it in the pan and sprinkle the topping evenly on top.

 

Bake in the center of the oven for 40-45 minutes. Check with a toothpick or broom straw.

 

Serves eight.

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