By J.A. Hennrikus
Several years ago I met my friend Regina for our weekly mystery-writing-check-in lunch. We had barely put in our order when she pulled a ball of elastics the size of a softball out of her bag.
“Do you think you could kill someone with this?” she asked as she tossed it across the table.
I caught it, and tossed it up a couple of times. “Probably,” I said. “It is heavy and really dense. Probably if you aimed it at the right place and threw it hard.”
“Right? I wonder how hard? But can you imagine the interesting pattern it would create? It would keep people guessing, that’s for sure.”
But now we realized that the waiter had stopped a few feet from our table, and that our neighbors on both sides were eavesdropping. Everyone looked a little horrified.
“Sorry,” Regina said. “We’re mystery writers. We’re always thinking about how to kill people.” Fortunately everyone laughed.
The reason mystery writers need to spend time with other mystery writers is that this wiring is a common trait, and it makes civilians nervous. Of course, they find it interesting the first time it comes up in conversation. And entertaining the second or third time. But the umpteenth time you wonder aloud what something tastes like, or how a stair tread could be jimmied, it starts getting creepy. And even a little off-putting for a new relationship.
And so it with that frame in place that I offer a new recipe. I made it for my family, but did not muse aloud of the mystery possibilities during our July 4 festivities. I leave that up to you, dear reader. And Edith Maxwell, since it has great farming/CSA possibilities. I am speaking of making a shrub.
A shrub is a syrup that you add to seltzer for a refreshing soda alternative. It is made of fruit, sugar, and cider. The shrub I made yesterday was 1 c. apple cider vinegar, 3/4 c. sugar and 1 pint of blueberries brought to a boil for 10 minutes or so, then left to cool for 45 minutes. Squish up the fruit during the cooling period, then strain it into a jar, and refrigerate. Add 2-3 T. to a glass of seltzer. YUM. [I am going to try and different method and let the fruit and cider sit for a few days before making the syrup. And I am also going to make one with strawberries. But I digress.]
As I was tasting this drink, all I could think of were the plot possibilities it offered. The taste is strong, and a little odd. You can make all sort of shrubs, so the ingredients could be interesting. In fact, I would have used a shrub in my short story “Tag, You’re Dead” if I had known about them. Don’t be surprised if I do use them in a story at some point. But I promise not to bring them up at dinner. Unless you ask.
How about you, mystery writing friends. Do you plot during family dinners? Think about ways to change old family recipes? Please tell me it isn’t just me.