Today's guest is new to our blog so please give her a huge WELCOME!
We each probably have a place that’s near and dear to our heart. For me, that place is Pasadena, California—not as it is now, but as it was when I was a kid. I’m including Altadena, the unincorporated community just north of Pasadena, in my love affair.
My Daisy Gumm Majesty cozy historical mystery novels are set in Pasadena and Altadena in the 1920s. That’s many, many years (oh, all right, so it’s not all that many) years before I was born, but the charm was there then—in fact, it probably had more charm then than it had when I came along.
In the 1920s Pasadena was a haven for wealthy folks who wanted to get away from the frigid weather in New England, or for moving-picture people who wanted an escape from the crowds and clamor of the big city (Los Angeles). The folks in my novels fit into this fabulously wealthy community by being their worker bees and minions. In fact Daisy, my heroine, is a phony spiritualist-medium. There’s not a rich woman in Altadena or Pasadena who doesn’t use her services from time to time. Working-class folks like Daisy and her family don’t have time for nonsense like spiritualism, but Daisy is extremely happy to earn money pretending to talk to the dead relations of the wealthy. She’s not as cynical as that sounds.
In the historical era encompassing the 1920s, it seemed to folks that life was spinning out of control. Many (too many, according to some) young people no longer wanted to emulate their parents. They didn’t want to work on the family farm. They wanted make money. They wanted to work in a big city, where excitement lay (they thought). They wanted to be stars! Or they went out, unsupervised) in automobiles, went to the flickers, or actually wore short skirts, rolled their stockings down, rouged their knees and frequented speakeasies. Parents despaired of their children, and children despaired of pretty much everything. Nothing seemed worthwhile to them. Nothing made any sense anymore (to the parents or their kids). The world had just been through a horrific world war, the likes of which no one had ever seen before. Hot on the heels of the Great War came the Spanish Influenza pandemic (which began in Kansas, but I didn’t name it) that killed nearly a quarter of the world’s population in 1918 and 1919. Both of those things left thousands, if not millions, of people mourning deceased loved ones.
Daisy, who is a kindhearted young women even if she is a fraud, attempts in every way she can to comfort rich people who are reeling from the loss of husbands, children, fathers, cousins, friends, etc. She does this with her Ouija board through her spirit control, a Scottish chap named Rolly; reading palms; and with her tarot cards and crystal ball. Daisy doesn’t mess with ectoplasm which, to her mind, is merely icky. She began her spiritualistic biz when she was ten years old, and she was shocked to her core when people took her seriously. When the series starts, she’s a star in the spiritualist-medium-ing world of Pasadena.
In her day, solidly middle-class women like Daisy and her female kin were supposed to stay home and take care of the house while their men-folk were out earning a living for the family. Neither Daisy’s husband, Billy Majesty, nor her father, Joe Gumm, are able to work, however. Billy was shot and gassed during the war, and Daisy’s father has a bum ticker. Therefore, the women in the family bring home the bacon
Daisy’s aunt, Viola, cooks the bacon for the family. This is a Very Good Thing for the Gumms and Majestys, since neither Daisy nor her mother can cook a lick. Daisy has managed to burn water in the past and, although Daisy’s mother did manage to make a raisin pie once, it was a traumatic experience for her. It didn’t help that neither Daisy nor her mother could figure out what the capital T in the recipe stood for. Fortunately, they decided the T was short for tablespoon, and things worked out. Although I didn’t say so in the book, I’m pretty sure Vi made the crust for that pie, since making pie crusts is a skill beyond either Daisy or her mom. According to Daisy (and pretty much everyone else in the Pasadena-Altadena area), her Aunt Vi is the best cook in the known universe. Vi has to work away from home, too, as cook for the ultra-wealthy Mrs. Pinkerton, Daisy’s most lucrative client. Mrs. Pinkerton lives on Orange Grove Boulevard, which in those days was nicknamed “Millionaire’s Row.” Daisy and her family live in a tidy little bungalow on South Marengo Avenue. In those days, Marengo was lined on each side with pepper trees that formed a kind of canopy over the street.
Because Vi is such a great cook, I’ve considered putting together a cookbook featuring some of her recipes. Unlike Daisy, I love to cook. Unlike Vi, I don’t cook fancy stuff, which requires more patience than I personally possess. I have the patience of a gnat on meth. However, in Daisy’s latest adventure, SPIRITS UNEARTHED, one of Vi’s recipes appears. It’s a recipe for Swedish-style smothered chicken and, in order to make it, you first have to haul out your Scotch kettle. Don’t know what a Scotch kettle is? Neither did I. So I did some research. Turns out, it’s a Dutch oven!
I have acquired quite a few vintage cookbooks over the years, and the main thing I’ve noticed as I’ve looked through them is that, way back then, folks cooked with milk, cream and butter without giving a thought to their waistlines. That’s probably because milk, cream and butter were believed to be good for a person. My mother’s mother owned a Jersey cow because Jerseys gave the richest milk with the highest cream content! Go figure. AND (this is a big and) there were no fast-food restaurants on every street corner back then, so it was more difficult for a person to get fat. Daisy’s Aunt Vi also makes her own bread (which Daisy can never cut straight. Her slices are always uneven—fat on one end and skinny on the other). Daisy gets teased a lot about her cooking catastrophes, and she considers herself a terrible failure in the kitchen. That’s because she is one, but don’t tell her that, please.
Anyway, if you’d like to read more about Daisy and the gang, please visit this page ( https://ebookdiscovery.lpages.co/aliceduncandaisygummbook12excerpt/ ), where you can read an excerpt from SPIRITS UNEARTHED and learn more about my Daisy books. If you’d like to visit my web page, here’s the link: http://aliceduncan.net/ . And if you’d like to be Facebook friends, please go here: https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925
THANK You, Alice! What a cute and informative post!
Hope you enjoyed Alice's post as much as I did friends and that you check back weekly for Tuesday Treasures, Thursday Thoughts and Saturday Spotlight.
Until next time take care and God Bless.