Fatally Flaky

I canned the tomato chutney last week. Today I tackled the peaches. As I'm writing this, the jars, which have just come out of the water bath, are popping which means they're sealing properly. The kitchen floor is sticky with peach juice and my flip flops sound like suction cups on it. I remember exactly where I was on 9/11. I was in the Essex Thrift Store buying canning jars for 25 cents apiece. Someone had turned on a used TV behind the checkout counter and the salesclerks were standing around it watching the planes fly into the twin towers. I thought it was a movie. When they told me what was happening, I asked, "Why?" Nobody knew. One of the announcers said they thought Afghanistan was responsible. "What does Afghanistan have against the United States?" I asked. Nobody knew. Now, every canning season I think back on that, perhaps because I'm using those jars.

As well as canning, I've been reading books centred around food, specifically Diane Mott Davidson's Fatally Flaky and Judith Jones' The Tenth Muse, My Life in Food. If you've seen the movie Julie & Julia, you know that Judith Jones was the editor at Knopf that accepted Mastering the Art of French Cooking when it looked like those years of writing and rewriting and testing recipes was going to be for naught. Right off the bat Jones describes how leftovers were used in the house she grew up in: "One never let things go to waste, so Edie learned to turn leftovers into wonderful dishes: crispy croquettes with creamy lamb, ham or chicken inside; shepherd's pie of ground-up leftover lamb with a mashed-potato topping; minced meats in cream on toast; stuffed vegetables." And right there she had me, because no one else I've ever met is familiar with "minced meats in cream on toast". In our house my mother used canned tunafish and called the luncheon dish, "Creamed tunafish on toast." Just the description made my sister-in-law gag but it's one of those things we grew up on and figured everyone ate. It's very easy to make: a can of peas and a can of tuna in a white sauce, piping hot, spooned over toast and seasoned with salt and pepper. It's very filling and you can substitute canned salmon for the tunafish.

Davidson's Fatally Flaky is a light culinary mystery you'll figure out halfway through but which will keep you reading just to discover what lovely tidbits the caterer is feeding her hunky husband. Davidson includes recipes, including the ones for "Nutcase Cranberry-Apricot Bread" and "Fatally Flaky Cookies" at the back of the book and I was very impressed that her detective had the energy to deal with flaky clients, cater a wedding, solve a couple of murders, and whip up these dishes for her husband at the end of the day. Whew! Definitely not a book I'm going to let my husband read, that's for sure!