Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Search Results for: What to eat

What to eat, read and watch while you’re quarantined

2

Part 1

My survival kit includes Toll House cookies, good mystery novels and classic noir films

 

I’m a slow learner.  But yesterday I dredged up useful cooking tips from a silt-laden inlet of my brain to help me turn out a batch of Toll House cookies.  They are the quintessential homemade comfort sweet to help you through the days ahead.  Chocolate is a mood enhancer; dark chocolate contains antioxidants.  So let’s talk cookies. 

While I’m at it, I will recommend some good mysteries I’ve been reading and offer a few words about streaming noir. Here is my survival guide, a delicious tonic for your confined isolation and a supplement to the daily dose of numbers TV news so efficiently serves you.

Chocolate chip cookies are as American as baseball, which regrettably is on hiatus, and they’ve been a hit since 1937 when Ruth Graves Wakefield accidentally invented them. She and her husband Kenneth started the Toll House Inn near New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the 1930s. According to the Facts About Chocolate website, Mrs. Wakefield wanted to bake chocolate cookies one day but didn’t have any Baker’s chocolate.  Substituting, she chopped up a Nestle semi-sweet chocolate bar and stirred it into her dough.  The chocolate was supposed to melt and spread throughout the dough.  It didn’t, and the chocolate chip cookie was born.   

Unfortunately for Mrs. Wakefield, in 1939 she sold the recipe to Nestle for $1, according to a 2013 New Yorker article, although she became a paid consultant for Nestle, published successful cookbooks and her Toll House name will forever be attached to the cookie.

As to the recipe, it has no doubt changed over the years, but the one you find on the back of the yellow Nestle semi-sweet morsels package can hardly be improved upon.  As we live at 5,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada foothills, I modify most cookie recipes for the altitude and I occasionally experiment with different recipes, but for Toll House, I stick to the package.  It even includes perfect high-altitude adjustments. Be sure to stir in pecans.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things to make the chocolate chip baking experience a little easier—mainly on the clean-up. Having baked these addicting treats for more years than I care to admit, improvements in my technique sadly have come but slowly. 

One recent revelation involves the annoyance of being showered by flour dust as you add dry ingredients to the butter, sugar and eggs in a running mixer.  I figured out—all on my own—that if you stop the mixer, pour in some of the flour mixture and use a spoon to cover it with the batter already in the bowl, you can start beating again without the snow storm.

My second epiphany: parchment. Even though I use insulated cookie sheets to prevent burning, Toll House cookies sometimes stick. Simple solution: put a sheet of baking parchment on the cookie sheet.  The cookies will slide right off the sheet.  I realize this is not a culinary secret known only to an exclusive set of Cordon Bleu pastry chefs, but for someone who bakes just two or three times a year, it was a breakthrough.  One tip that might be a little less than a century or two old:  get a non-stick silicone baking mat. 

After you’ve eaten half the batch of chocolate chip cookies, even before you’ve pulled the last cookie sheet out of the oven, you might want a change of pace.  (Full disclosure: I have eaten about seven—no, maybe eight cookies—in the time it took me to write this.)  The change of pace I recommend is one of the easiest cookie recipes I’ve ever seen. I received the recipe for these delicious treats from my daughter in law, Brandi.  Taste them and you won’t believe there’s only three ingredients—and that they are so easy to make:

Brandi’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 cup of peanut butter – crunchy style optional
1 cup sugar

Mix all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until they are light brown.  As they cool on a rack, the cookies will become firm. I’ve been using massively rounded teaspoonfuls to make a good-sized cookie.

Now that you’re getting comfy with a plate of cookies and milk, (or tea or coffee), the next step is a good book.  My reviews include Where the Crawdads Sing, a sort-of mystery; The Zebra Striped Hearse, an oldie from one of the masters of the PI genre; a chilling story of contagion from a Nobel-winning author; an unabridged-dictionary-size collection of short noir, and more. 

The next episode of my survival guide will arrive in this space tomorrow.

Links:

A history of the chocolate-chip cookie, The New Yorker  https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie

Facts About Chocolate  https://facts-about-chocolate.com/history-of-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Nestle chocolate chip cookie recipe  https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/174864/original-nestle-toll-house-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Dark Ride Deception novel beats Disney to new ride

3

“Dark Ride Deception,” published in September, describes a technology that gives visitors a virtual reality experience—without goggles.  The Walt Disney Company received a patent for such technology three months later.

According to The Los Angeles Daily News, the Walt Disney Company was granted a patent on Dec. 28 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a technology that enables users to experience a 3D world without glasses, goggles or digital devices.

“Dark Ride Deception,” describes an advanced technology that is stolen from Nostalgia City, an Arizona theme park. The stolen secrets allow park guests to experience virtual reality without goggles.

VR Goggles no longer needed?

The Disney technology, according to the Daily News story, is called a Virtual World Simulator.  The stolen Nostalgia City tech is called the Perception Deception Effect.

Since my first Nostalgia City novel I’ve been following the development of amusement park attractions.  I never read anything about this new Disney technology, however; but it’s the next logical step in virtual reality.  Inventing the Perception Deception Effect just made sense.

In the book, a brilliant theme park engineer disappears, along with details of his ground-breaking technology—before the plans can be patented. Nostalgia City employee and ex-cop, Lyle Deming, is tasked with finding the missing engineer and recovering the secrets.

Critical details of the Perception Deception Effect are known only to the missing engineer, Tom Wyrick.  Deming speculates that Wyrick was either kidnapped or killed to obtain the secrets or that he plans to sell his inventions to the highest bidder.

“What’s he going to do,” Deming asks, “start his own theme park?”

When I wrote the book, I thought theme park rides needed to be bumped to a higher technological level.  Apparently, so did Disney.

—————–

Looking for the second half of Hitchcock’s Sabotage?

The first half of my review of the Hitchcock film had a bunch of words unnecessarily underlined in the email version. Distracting.  It doesn’t show up in the WordPress editor or in the web version of the story.

The second half of the review will be published soon.  And it will be linked to the online version of the first half. Stay tuned.

Innocent clue leads Collins down a rabbit hole of death

1
Frog in a Bucket (An Eddie Collins Mystery, Book 5)
Clive Rosengren
Kindle $5.99, paperback $14.99
Coffeetown Press   Aug. 2021
242 pages

Eddie Collins is working on a movie. He and other actors, dressed in suits, sit at banquet tables playing show biz trivia to pass the time. Finally, the filming is about to begin. An assistant director calls for quiet. The banquet speaker, played by veteran actor Tony Gould, his mane of silver hair in place, stands at the lectern, adjusts the microphone, then keels over.

The collapse is not in the script.  A doctor is summoned, then an ambulance.

Click the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page.

The shooting is finished for the day, and as the actor is carted off the hospital, Collins has time to ponder a small mystery with his wardrobe suit coat. That morning he’d noticed a tag sewn into the jacket with the name Ken Thompson on it and the words Crash and Burn. The name probably belonged to the actor who used the suit before, and likely the words identify the name of a movie. In the pocket of the jacket Collins finds a finds a key attached to a metal disc with the word Pandora engraved on it.

With just a little work, Collins discovers that Thompson did act in a picture called Crash and Burn.  Understandable, but Collins is skeptical.  Costume companies don’t usually stitch names into costumes. And what about the Pandora key?

An actor might not have enough curiosity or interest to carry his inquiry any further, but Collins is also a private investigator. Several years ago economic necessity prompted him to find supplemental work and his “tendency to stick my nose into places it probably shouldn’t belong” prompted him to open a detective agency.

Back on the set next morning, Collins gets two surprises.  The first is word that Gould has died. The second surprise arrives when he steps into the trailer that serves as his dressing room on the movie lot.  A white young man with grungy dreadlocks is snooping through his clothes. The man says he’s looking for a key.  He gives Collins double talk saying he was cleaning out Gould’s dressing room and was told that a key was missing.  Before Collins can pin him down, the guy dashes out the door and disappears in the bustling studio.

Is there a connection between Gould and Thompson? What does the Pandora key unlock? How did Gould die? Collins considers the questions while the production resumes temporarily and film executives debate a replacement for Gould.

Collins learns that Gould died of an insulin overdose; he finds that Gould and Thompson worked on Crash and Burn together; and a Burbank police detective appears on the set to ask questions about Gould’s death. The actor/detective is promptly dragged into a layered mystery involving a private production company and a decades-old missing persons case. 

Following Collins through movie sets and along Hollywood streets is a pleasure.  The story flows smoothly with author Clive Rosengren’s relaxed, easy first-person writing style and sense of humor.

A driver pulled up along side and then abruptly cut in front of me and roared off, blonde hair flying in the wind. I honked and flashed her a digital salute.

“You think that did any good?” Carla asked.

“Probably not, but it’s the gesture that counts.”

The story’s movie-set authenticity comes from  Rosengren’s 40 years as an actor, nearly half of that in Tinsel Town. Speaking of authenticity, movie buffs will appreciate some of the trivia questions Collins and his fellow actors trade during down-time on the set. Don’t expect any “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” questions. These are for true movie aficionados .

And the story is not all laughs as you’ll be reminded of Hollywood’s real-life dark side. But Collins adroitly handles the bad with the good.  Follow along.  It’s a thoroughly entertaining and exciting trip.
– – – – – – – – – – – –

Clive Rosengren was an actor for nearly 40 years appearing on stage and in movies and TV. He is a multiple Shamus Award nominee by the Private Eye Writers of America.  His other Eddie Collins books include Murder Unscripted, Martini Shot, Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon and Red Desert. He lives in southern Oregon.

%d bloggers like this: