Many decades ago I was driving to the grocery store and listening to NPR when Canadian-American mystery writer Charlotte Macleod was being interviewed. I was so charmed by her that I jotted down her name, set on finding her books. Before going to the grocery store in Green Hills, I stopped at a favorite antique mall and was not there ten minutes before I noticed a pile of paperbacks on a swoon-worthy table.
They couldn't be...but they were! They were Charlotte Macleod mysteries and I bought all four or five of them. Quickest grocery store trip ever and I was back home falling in love with Prof. Peter Shandy. That felt preordained as my other main mystery heartthrob was the sleuth in Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey books.
That day led to me buying all the Peter Shandy books over the years and all the Sarah Kelling mysteries and finally, when I discovered that Macleod also wrote mysteries set in Canada under the pen name of Alisa Craig, to buying all of those I could find. (Remember, there was no Amazon in those days, no Abe Books, only books sold in bookstores so it was a slow process. Libraries were out because I wanted to keep the Macleod books.)
Maine resident Charlotte Macleod wrote a lot of books and I wanted all of them. And she didn't even begin writing books until she retired as vice president of a large advertising agency at age 60, a major inspiration for me. I also loved that she wrote all morning in her bathrobe.
At the beginning of this year I pulled out five of the old Macleod writing as Alisa Craig paperbacks to have handy for breaks between novels I read at bedtime, sort of palate-cleansing books, The Grub-and-Stakers mysteries featuring Dittany Henbit, a petite heroine from a small town in Ontario called Lobelia Falls.
In the first of the five Grub-and-Stakers mysteries, The Grub-and-Stakers Move A Mountain, that I finished last week, I remembered how much I loved this particular series, even identifying with Dittany. Her mother is a gadabout and now that she has remarried and moved to Vancouver from Ontario, Dittany lives in the old family home, with no desire to leave the small town she grew up in.
Whereas the former Mrs. Henbit had always been a goer, Dittany herself was a natural-born stayer. Lobelia Falls was where she belonged.
Those who know me best know that is me to a T, reluctant since my forties to leave my hometown of Nashville. It's true that Nashville has only been my hometown since I was four but I love it as much as I love the mountain town I came from. It's the part of this country that has kept part of me every time I've visited those mountains. Some loves last forever, as Emma Thompson's character says in Love Actually, or at least I think she said it.
Kitchens are another love that lasts forever forever for me. I always want a pretty kitchen in a novel or movie, preferably a quaint one. Dittany's kitchen is such a one, and she knows she is falling in love when a new man in town loves it too, doesn't want one thing in it changed, unlike another man interested in changing Dittany's single status as well as her outdated kitchen.
But the quote below is about Zilla's kitchen. Zilla is one of Dittany's fellow Grub-and-Stakers, and she has a kitchen I love to picture.
While the things that came out of Zilla's kitchen were sometimes peculiar, the kitchen itself was a dream. Old grocers' bins stood full of rice, oats, barley, and other grains. Bunches of dried herbs and festoons of onions and garlic hung from hooks in the oaken beams. On the high-backed iron stove the same old curly-nosed graniteware teakettle Zilla's mother had bought new when she got married was sending up gentle puffs of steam.
I feel comforted to know I have a stack of the Grub-and-Stakers mysteries waiting by my bed for winter reading. They are weirdly funny and relaxing mysteries. And like Dittany, I am a stayer, something that has made staying at home during a pandemic easier on me than it has for some. And while I'm staying home, the kitchen calls, whether in a book or movie or on YouTube--Nigella has claimed much of my time there lately.
Books, YouTube, Kitchens, Dachshunds, my time is yours. And RH too, naturally. It wouldn't be much fun to cook without him to share my meals. The first picture on this post is an artsy picture of the pink roses he bought me this week, saying they were BOGO. They were priceless to me.
[I apologize for the quality of these pictures. I must have been extra shaky the day I took them. Maybe it's time to drag out that tripod that's stored in a closet.]