Friday, September 15, 2017

Crooked House by Agatha Christie and a birthday toast

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Today, September 15, is Agatha Christie's birthday. I won't give her age as it wouldn't be polite, but let's just say she would be pretty old if still alive. 

I have written before about my longtime enjoyment of Dame Agatha's fascinating mysteries starring Hercule Poirot (my favorite) and Miss Jane Marple (her favorite). I also wrote about researching her passion for archaeological splendors for a paper I presented to a group four years ago (here and here).

I recently read Crooked House for the first time and was struck anew by how pleasant it is to be in her world of stately homes, family secrets, afternoon teas, formal gardens, nannies, and tutors.  

I came to Crooked House through a column in The Guardian called Novel Recipes. It takes a look at certain foods mentioned in various works — say, the macaroons in The Enchanted April, or potted beef from The Wind in the Willows — and creates the recipes. For Crooked House, it was the ice cream sodas mentioned near the end of the book. 

This tale doesn't feature either of her famous detectives. Instead we have Charles and his fiancée Sophia trying to solve the murder of Sophia's grandfather Aristide Leonides. Sophia has put the marriage on hold until the murderer is unmasked. 

There are plenty of suspects. All of Aristide's family rub up against each other in the large house — two sons, two daughters-in-law, Sophia and two other grandchildren, a former mother-in-law, a nanny, a tutor, and the young new widow.

Fortunately, Charles's father is assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard so he is privy to the goings on both in the house and in the investigation. Ms. Christie writes in the prologue that Crooked House is one of her favorites. I can see why: the denouément is quite surprising and dark.

But back to the ice cream sodas — one of my favorite childhood treats. When I would spend the night with my grandparents, I would beg for one as an after-dinner indulgence. My grandmother kept those little glass bottles of Coca-Cola chilled in the refrigerator which combined with vanilla ice cream made for a cold, fizzy, foamy delight. 

So, in honor of Dame Agatha's birthday, I treated myself to an ice cream soda today. A very simple one from McDonald's — I ordered a vanilla ice cream and a small Coke. Combine, et voilà

I think she would approve. Happy Birthday!

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  1. I prefer Miss Marple to Poirot. He gets on my nerves the same way Monk, from the TV series, does. I've read Crooked House, but it was so long ago that I don't remember a thing about it.
    My mother and I used to stop at the drug store or the soda fountain when I was a child and order lemon phosphates, our favorite. I once had a Brown Cow (ice cream and root beer) and promptly threw it back up. That put me off any ice cream and soda combinations for the rest of my life!

    1. Oh Joan, those childhood traumas do stick with us! I don't think I have ever had a phosphate, nor have I ever had what is known as an 'egg cream'. I'm sure that 'egg' in the name turned me off. I do remember ordering chocolate or cherry cokes at the soda fountain though.

      I hope we can still be friends when I tell you that I love Monk! I like reading the Poirot mysteries because of the smattering of French phrases, but there is a certain obsessive similarity between Monk and Poirot. Perhaps that is why I like both characters.

    2. Of course we can still be friends! One of my other friends was worried that I wouldn't like her anymore because she doesn't like the Louise Penny mysteries!

    3. Just goes to show you how loyal we can be to certain authors and characters! I don't think, though, I have ever ended a friendship over a book. Thank heavens for that!

  2. I am a devoted Christie fan, and I think I've read all her books multiple times. I don't recall Crooked House very well, so I think I'll look for it in my library, as I've been wanting to reread a Christie. I grew up calling an ice cream soda a "float"--as in root beer float. I love most things that contain ice cream.

    Have you heard of the book Voracious? The author discusses some of her favorite books and creates recipes that go with them. I enjoyed it a lot.

    1. Well, Kathy, after the storm of last week, I am glad you aren't now living in a Crooked House!

      I don't know how I missed reading this Christie offering unless it was because it didn't star Marple or Poirot. It is a doozy.

      I love the way Charles and Sophia call each other 'darling' and Charles refers to his father as Old Man. Seems to very British to me.

      I have not heard of 'Voracious' but will look it up. I remember reading a book long ago that was along the same lines - books and food.

      We sometimes called the ice cream soda a 'float' but never would we use root beer! Don't know why, but we never had root beer in the house.

  3. It was forever ago that I read Crooked House. I will remedy that soon, I hope.
    I loved hearing of your ice cream soda, via MacDonald's. :) Just the right amount to satisfy the palate. One of my favorite childhood summertime memories are of what we called Black Cows (the same as Brown Cows/Root Beer Floats). We had them only in the summer, on weekends. Our house was the gathering spot for our large clan of relatives, which in summertime ended up in the back yard. We would go with my dad to a root beer stand that was only open in the warmer weather. We would bring several glass gallon jugs that would be filled with root beer made at the stand, Home we would go for Black Cows - and now I am going to have to make one. :)

    1. Well, Penny, the McDonald's ice cream soda wasn't very elegant, but it did do the trick.

      Your summer gatherings sound lovely. We never had root beer in the house when I was growing up. We were strictly a Coca-Cola family. Maybe a 7-Up now and again. I don't think I had my first root beer until high school when a friend and I visited her grandparents who lived in a small town 'in the country' and we went to the A&W Root Beer Stand there. I guess I just never developed a taste for it. It's funny the names we have for certain ice cream treats.