Nancy Drew turned out to be just a gateway drug. By my teens I was
pulling the Agatha Christies and Dorothy L. Sayers
off the shelves as fast as I could read them.
Amy Pershing, An Eggnog to Die For, Kindle Loc. 2353
An Eggnog to Die For is the second book in Amy Pershing’s Cape Cod Foodie mystery series. One of the elusive aspects of writing that Amy does well—pacing. It’s hard to teach how to pace a book. In today’s world of instant everything, book pacing is especially important because readers often would like to tune out the fast-paced world and relax. This is not to say that Amy’s books don’t have action, but those scenes are interspersed with backstory development and the series’ premise—food! She mixes conversations with friends and family, often about the case, with food tastings, which the reader wishes would materialize for a tasty melding between reader and the fictional characters. If that could be the future of three-dimensional reading, perhaps I would consider it.
Please welcome Amy Pershing back to WWK. E. B. Davis
I know that there are forensic psychologists, but are “legal psychologists” a thing?
It is indeed, though it is often used interchangeably with the term forensic psychologist. A legal psychologist’s remit includes evaluating people facing criminal charges, talking with witnesses, and consulting on murder investigations, often with a focus on advising legal personnel on psychological issues in criminal cases.
Is the Christmas Eve Family Feast of Fishes (5, 7, or 12 fishes) a New England tradition? What’s the story or did Sam make it up?
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is not a New England tradition per se, unless, of course, you are a New Englander of southern Italian heritage, as Sam’s “nonna,” or grandmother, was. The meal is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, and Sam absolutely did not make it up. But what Sam did make up was the idea of streamlining the meal to five fishes: “Okay, so traditionally it’s seven fishes or even twelve. But times have changed. The holidays are stressful enough. Christmas Eve should be fun.”
Is Eggnog a special drink in New England? I’ve never been a fan, but all of your characters, including Jenny’s Three Things (her sons) liked it (the nonalcoholic eggnog).
I don’t think eggnog is native to any particular region of the U.S. It is a traditional Christmas drink, though, perhaps because, as Sam points out, “it is essentially dessert in a glass.”
Although I’m not a fan, Caribbean Christmas Eggnog made with homemade coconut cream sounded good, but the Santa Clausmopolitan with vodka-infused cranberries sounded delicious. Do you make up these recipes or did you have a lot of hard research to imbibe and learn these drinks?
The research, as you can imagine, was intensive! No, I’m just kidding. I did try about a zillion different eggnogs in my own kitchen, with my favorite being the Puerto Rican “coquito,” which features, you guessed it, coconut cream. As to all those other fancy schmancy drinks like the Santa Clausmopolitan, the research was online only, as I was writing An Eggnog to Die For in the middle of the pandemic so visiting a craft cocktail bar was not in the cards.
After taping an interview about a new restaurant featuring small plates and inventive drinks, Sam finds the body of the selectman who was playing Santa that year. Some customers videoed her saying that Santa was dead, which then became viral. What is it about Sam that media attracts? Jenny says the camera loves Sam with her cheekbones and six-foot height. Sam admits to feel ease and poise while filming. Is it her or the situations she gets herself into?
I think it’s a bit of both. But mostly it’s the situations Sam gets herself into. She tends to be a woman of action, which is a nice way of saying she’s impulsive. But it’s also a function of the ubiquity of cell phones. In most of the viral videos that Sam unwillingly “stars” in, she’s been filmed by a bystander who has no compunction about posting her awkward encounters on YouTube.
When Sam’s parents come to visit, her father seems preoccupied with some secret endeavor and her mother resumes her investigative reporter role. The murder victim, a selectman, owned a concrete plant and was offered a buyout from a group Sam’s mom suspects of being the mob. Why does Sam also decide to investigate?
I’ll let Sam answer that question:
”All my alarm bells were going off. My mother wanted to talk to mobsters? She really had been away from work too long. And she had that look in her eye that I knew from old, the look that said “Outta my way.”
“So, I knew what I had to do. My mother wasn’t going to stop going down this particular road unless I offered her another, more interesting road. I needed to cast around for other, more interesting suspects for her to sink her journalistic teeth into.”
Do towns in New England not have mayors?
Some do, but traditionally in New England a town's legislative body is the open town meeting, which is a form of direct democratic rule, with a board of selectmen possessing executive authority.
I live on Hatteras Island. So, I was surprised to find out that Cape Cod has mild weather. I know all about the ocean keeping island’s temperatures moderate, but really, it’s New England. It’s got to be dang cold up there. Is there a reason it is usually cloudy in winter?
Cape Cod weather is generally more temperate than the mainland’s as a result
of being surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, which keeps temperatures a few
degrees cooler in the summer and a few degrees warmer in the winter. It is rare
during even the sultriest summer day for there not to be a cooling ocean
breeze, and when the balance of New England is covered with snow, a true
snowfall is rare on Cape Cod. As to why it is generally cloudy in winter, I
honestly don’t know. It’s traditionally cloudy in winter in most places isn’t
What is the Cape Cod Canal?
The Cape Cod Canal is a seven-mile-long canal across the neck of land joining the peninsula of Cape Cod to the Massachusetts mainland. The canal allows boats and ships to avoid the 135 mile journey around the Cape. If you’ve ever been on a beach on the Atlantic side of the Cape during a nor’easter, with gale force winds and waves sometimes as much as six feet high, you will absolutely understand why the canal was built.
Martin, one of the restaurant’s owners, has a tattoo that looks like a molecule. The story is that it is of serotonin, but Sam finds out it really is structure of the E in Ecstasy. Why would someone have a tat of that unless he was selling, and, evidently, it was an unspoken code to others in clubs that he sold?
Martin was a teenager when he got that tattoo. His sister Julie says it was just to look cool, but we’ll never really know…
How does one muddle ginger by using liquid nitrogen? How does it accomplish the task? Sounds expensive. What is acidless grapefruit juice? Why would anyone want crystalized simple syrup when is goes in a drink? Does it then melt, which would negate the crystallization?
I wish I could answer those questions J (See lack of in-person research above). I do know from my online research that it essentially flash freezes the herbs and is indeed expensive, as it requires specialized equipment. Please check back in with me post pandemic, as I plan to sample many, many cocktails with all of these fancy ingredients!
Sam says that Police Chief McCauley has no emotional IQ. What does that mean?
Emotional IQ is the ability to understand and manage your own and other’s emotions in positive ways. People with a high emotional IQ are empathetic and tend to communicate well with others. Needless to say, Police Chief McCauley exhibits none of these traits.
First of all, they are thinner than the usual lasagna noodles, so they make a more delicate lasagna. Second, because they are so thin, when you build your lasagna, you do not boil the noodles in advance. You simply layer the noodles in their dried form and let the sauce from the dish cook the pasta as the lasagna bakes. (I promise this really happens!) Not only is this so much easier, the lasagna noodles themselves are not nearly so mushy as noodles that you boil first.
Helene’s comments about extroverts and introverts was enlightening. They are not absolutes, but are scales. How they recharge is the essence of defining who is which. Please explain these concepts to our readers.
I’ll let Sam and Helene take it from here (This is actually one of my favorite scenes in the book):
“Of course I’ve heard of extroverts and introverts,” I said. “Extroverts are social and outgoing. Introverts are shy and retiring.”
“Not exactly,” Helene said. “Those are really the two ends of a spectrum, with most of us falling somewhere in the middle and some of us closer to one end or the other. More important, it’s not so much about how outgoing or shy we are. Introversion and extroversion actually relate to where we get our energy from.”
“I don’t get it,” I said. I get my energy from grilled cheese sandwiches. Simple.
“Think of your brain like a rechargeable battery,” Helene explained patiently and taking another sip of her wine. “Introverts enjoy being social but only to a point. They are drained of energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds. And even when the time spent is with people they care about, there is always a point when they need to retreat, to recharge by being alone.”
I nodded. “Okay, that explains Jason,” I said. “But what about me?”
“You my dear are a classic extrovert,” Helene responded. “Extroverts get energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is low when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being social. And there’s nobody they want to be with more than the people they are closest to.”
So. Jason needed more alone time. And I needed more Jason time. I didn’t see how this was going to work.
“So we’re doomed,” I intoned dramatically as I drained the last of the wine from my glass.
“Nonsense.” “Nonsense” is often Helene’s response to my, well, my nonsense. “It’s like yin and yang. Introverts and extroverts can complement each other. But they have to talk to each other.”
Well, that ain’t gonna happen. I looked at my watch and struggled up from the low-slung chair. “Thanks, Helene. That helps,” I lied.Is a quick kiss on the forehead dismissive?
It is when you’re expecting a super-duper Jason kiss. Jason is an amazing kisser.
What is candlepin bowling? At what point north does it start?
Candlepin bowling is a uniquely New England sport, with bowling lanes stretching from Connecticut to Maine. Here’s how Sam describes it:
“In candlepin, we use smaller balls with no finger holes to knock down skinny pins that look like, well, candles. There’s a certain finesse to candlepin bowling that we like to think makes it superior to its less demanding ten-pin bowling cousin, with its finger-holed fat balls and fat pins. Not that I was prejudiced or anything.”
Did Sam really take over the cooking for their household at age eleven? Her mother is that bad of a cook? How did Sam get the cooking gene? Or was it a matter survival, which made her interested in cooking?
Well, Sam took over any interesting cooking at age eleven, when she discovered Julia Child. Sam’s mother, a dynamite investigative journalist, had never been much of a cook. Sam’s Nonna, however, was a fabulous cook, which explains Sam’s cooking gene and how she learned her way around a kitchen at a young age.
What is linguica soup?
The linguica soup that I reference in An Eggnog to Die For is a version of Portuguese “caldo verde,” which was brought to the Cape Cod town of Provincetown by Cape Verde sailors who settled there in the 19th century. It is a slow-simmered soup of kale, beans, and a unique kind of garlicy sausage called linguica. It is the ultimate Cape Cod comfort food!
Will Sam ever get a pony?
That’s so funny! We can only hope!
What’s next for Sam (she’s going on a picnic, right)?
She’s not just going on a picnic, she’s throwing one! July 4th is coming and for Sam, it’s all about the picnic. Ok, and the fireworks. And the parade. But mostly the picnic. What could be better than a DIY clambake followed by the best blueberry buckle in the world? Which Sam has finally found in the kitchen of Clara Foster, famed cook book author and retired restaurateur. And which Clara has agreed to teach Sam how to bake!
Their session, videoed for Sam’s column, goes beautifully. But when Clara dies in a house fire blamed on carelessness in the kitchen, Sam doesn’t believe it. Unfortunately, Sam’s doubts set in motion an investigation pointing to the new owner of Clara’s legendary restaurant – and a cousin of Sam’s Harbormaster boyfriend. So, in between researching the Cape’s best lobster rolls and planning her clambake, Sam determines to sift through suspects to find the real killer before she gets all steamed up!