Susan Crandall is an award-winning women’s fiction, suspense, romance and mystery author. Her first book, Back Roads, won the RITA award for best first book, as well as two National Reader’s Choice awards in 2003. She has released eight more critically-acclaimed and award-winning novels since. Susan lives in Indiana.
In the bestselling tradition of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Secret Life of Bees, Whistling Past the Graveyard is an unforgettable story of friendship’s healing powers set against the backdrop of 1960s Mississippi. When nine-year-old Starla runs away from her hometown, she makes an unlikely ally in Eula, a lonely African-American woman, who takes her on the journey of a lifetime.
Get your copy of Whistling Past The Graveyard here.
I got up the next morning and it looked like Eula had been up all night baking. I bet she’d used up everything in Miss Cyrena’s kitchen that could be made into a pie or cake. And she didn’t even have a single order yet.
I stood there looking at them all lined up on the table. “How come you baked all these?”
Eula was at the counter her hands deep in a mixing bowl, squeezing and patting, squeezing and patting. “Sometimes I just gotta bake.”
“What’s this one?” I pointed to a pie that kinda looked like apple, but not.
“Green tomato, for Miss Cyrena. She near ate the last one all herself.” Eula leaned close. “So I reckon it might be her favorite.”
“That one pumpkin?”
“And that?” I pointed to a round cake with a hole in the middle.
“Surely you know apple-dapple cake?”
I shook my head. “Never seen a cake with a hole.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Angel food?”
I shook my head.
“Well, we got our work cut out for us. You gotta know what they taste like if’n you gonna make ‘em.”
I eyed the table. There was lots of things that didn’t look familiar.
“We gotta eat ’em all?” I was all for sweets, but even I couldn’t eat all these, even if I had a week.
“Miss Cyrena said she’d take some in town, maybe give out a sample to some of the restaurants and a couple of her friends. Try to scare up some business.”
Then it hit me. Eula said I had to know if I was gonna make ’em. “Am I helpin’?”
“You want to?”
I nodded. This’d be almost as good as when I got to Nashville and got to make Christmas cookies with Lulu.
“Good. A lot of soothin’ come from bakin’. Get your hands washed and down in this here dough.” She wiped her hands on her apron and stepped back. “We makin’ a chess pie.”
“Shouldn’t I use a spoon?” I asked before I plunged my hands in the bowl. “Mamie always said to keep your fingers out of what you’re makin’.”
“Oh, no child. Gotta get your hands deep in a pie crust. That how you know when it right. Just gotta barely hold together. Too wet and it won’t be nice and flaky.”
We spent the rest of the morning making that chess pie. Eula explained to me how you had to use ice water when mixin’ the crust. She showed me how to put it in the pie tin and brush it with egg white and prick it with a fork and bake it for a few minutes before adding the filling—which was mostly eggs and sugar, but had cornmeal in it!—to be baked. That made for a nice crisp crust, she said. But it was only for a chess pie. Every pie, it had its own special trick. I wanted to learn them all.
Eula was right, baking was soothin’. Too bad baby James was too little to do baking, maybe he wouldn’t cry as much.
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