Food Fiction with Hairstylist Marla Vail
I’d never thought much about my food sources before my recent adventures. But learning that a lot of the items we buy in stores are mislabeled was an eye-opener for me. Normally, I work all day at my salon that I own along with an adjacent day spa. When I get home, it’s near dinnertime and I’m in a rush to fix a meal for my husband and teenage stepdaughter. Tonight, for example, I’ll pull together whatever is convenient from my kitchen.
I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with cooking when I have the time. In my previous marriage, I liked to create recipes using tropical fruits. So it wasn’t any big stretch when my friend Tally coaxed me into entering a bake-off contest at a fall harvest festival. The event was hugely fun, despite the fiasco that followed. I love farmer’s marketplaces, don’t you? It’s even better when the farmers use sustainable growing techniques.
Food blogger Alyce Greene, another entrant in the contest, has a lot to say on the subject of food sources. I interviewed her after I found food magazine publisher Francine Dodger dead in the strawberry field. Alyce bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead woman. I’d even wondered if the killer got the wrong target.
Alyce was eager to tell me about how restaurants and fresh markets offer seafood at high prices when the item is actually a lower-priced variety. Take Florida-caught shrimp, for example. Through DNA testing and tracing the bills of sale, she discovered it came from a fish farm in India. She found “locally grown” heirloom tomatoes that came from Mexico, Florida blue crab that came from the Indian Ocean, and Alaskan pollock that was frozen fish from China.
Alyce did a service to consumers through her reports, but how many providers had she offended along the way? Did she ruin someone’s business without being aware of the damage she’d caused? I suggested to my husband, homicide detective Dalton Vail, that Alyce may have ticked someone off enough to want to kill her.
After this conversation, I decided to eat home for a while. At least that way, I could control the ingredients that went into my meals. Fortunately, I know the source of my Florida blueberries. I pick them myself at Beck Brothers Blueberry Farm in Windermere when I visit Orlando. Sometimes my author comes along, too! Here’s a luscious dessert recipe using this fruit.
2 pints fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 packet flavored instant oatmeal
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
Grease square baking pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread blueberries in bottom of pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar. In separate bowl, combine flour, contents of oatmeal packet, and softened butter. Mixture should resemble small crumbs. Spread over blueberries. Sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Serve warm with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.
Question for Readers: Do you examine labels for the origins of what you buy in the supermarket? Do you care where they originate? Leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered into a random drawing for a digital copy of Hairball Hijinks short story.
Trimmed to Death
Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla joins a scavenger hunt where people playing character roles are the targets. Instead of scoring points with a live person, she finds a dead body planted face-down in the strawberry field. Who would want to cut short the life of food magazine publisher and fellow bake-off contestant Francine Dodger? As she investigates, Marla learns there’s no shortage of suspects. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included!