French Chic & Slim
News and Opinion from Anne Barone to Keep You Chic & Slim
6 January 2019
A Marmalade Tea With Murder
thé du jour / today’s tea: Lover’s Leap Estate Ceylon
I was on the point of throwing out the package of this single estate Ceylon tea that I had ordered from the online vendor English Tea Store. But then I finally tried a brewing method that produced some taste.
Lover’s Leap is a light-bodied Ceylon tea, and I prefer more full-bodied, even for afternoon tea. When I brewed 1 teaspoon of this tea to a cup of boiling water, to my palate it had NO TASTE. For all practical purposes I was drinking hot brown water. But when I finally increased the tea amount to 1 1/2 teaspoons of tea and brewed it for 4 1/2 minutes, I found a taste that suited me much better.
le casse-croûte / the snack: Mackays Marmalade on Toast
I love marmalade. My favorite marmalade is three-fruit marmalade. And my favorite three-fruit marmalade is Mackays, a marmalade that is still made in open copper pots in Scotland — that country that makes marmalades most to my taste.
Marmalade and butter (or marmalade alone) spread on whole grain toast is simple to prepare and tastes lovely with a cup of hot tea on a rainy chill afternoon. A good book to read rounds out my requirements for afternoon tea.
à lire / to read: Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
When I set out to find a good book to read with a marmalade tea, I had just read the announcement that the copyright had expired on a number of books putting them in the public domain. These books included Agatha Christie’s third mystery novel (second Hercule Poirot) Murder on the Links published in 1923.
At one point in the past, I owned all the Agatha Christie mysteries — and even copies of four of the six romance novels she wrote under the name Mary Westmacott. I had located the worn copies of Agatha Christie's early literary attempts while poking around in various London used book stores — and found these novels suprisingly autobiographical for a writer who later gave out little personal information.
But time and many moves have reduced my Christie mysteries collection. So on 2 January, I went to Archive.org and downloaded Murder on the Links.
Since Scotland is even more famous for golf than it is for marmalade, not recalling the plot and setting of this early Christie mystery, I thought it possibly set on golf links in Scotland. That would make the book a neat tie-in with the jam. Actually, the action of Murder on the Links takes place (mostly) on the English Channel coast of northern France. For us at Chic & Slim that was even better.
There is even a mysterious chic French woman of certain age in the story. Françoise, the housekeeper at the murdered man’s villa, tells Hercule Poirot: "Madame Daubreuil, she was poor, that one—and très chic, for all that she lives so quietly with her daughter. Not a doubt of it, she has had her history! She is no longer young, but then I who speak to you have seen the men's heads turn after her as she goes down the street.”
I was not far into the novel when I realized that Merlinville-sur-Mer in which the story takes place was a fictionalized Le Touquet.
This use of Le Touquet might not have been so apparent to me had I not learned so much about this resort city in writing the most recent Chic & Slim book Toujours 2.
Today Le Touquet-Paris-Plage (its full name) is a chic playground for the wealthy of Paris and Lyons. Additionally — and the reason a substantial amount of historical information for Le Touquet appears in Toujours 2 — it is the legal residence for French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron. Mme Macron inherited one of the villas built in Le Touquet in the early 1920s. In those “roaring 20s” Le Touquet was a chic French resort that catered to wealthy British who came there for its golf links developed by a British syndicate. Hercule Poirot says of the fictionalized Le Touquet in the book: “It is a quiet little place—but chic!”
When on 2 January 2018 I tried to download the Kindle and epub versions of Murder on the Links from the Archive.org website, the downloads were not successful. But I was able to download both a PDF and a plain text version. Both versions seem to have been made from an optical scan of a print version. There are numerous missing words and phrases. Though you can still follow the story despite the glitches. One hopes a volunteer will do some tidying up on the text.
Perhaps all those errors in the text is the reason that the text and PDF links can no longer be accessed from the Archive.org search function. (I tested just before posting.) If I copy and past the URLs from my notes, they work — for the uncorrected files. I will post those links in this 5 o'Clock Tea when they are again working. Archive.org did have 2 "Borrow" copies of Murder on the Links when I checked this morning. And of course there are a multitude of used and new copies of this classic mystery available online, in brick and mortar stores, and in libraries.
When I last checked on 5 January 2018, Gutenberg website did not yet have Murder on the Links, though they do have the first two Agatha Christie mysteries that are also out of copyright. Gutenberg will likely offer Murder on the Links later.
Agatha Christie does not describe the scenery in any detail in Murder on the Links. She assumes that her readers who in the early 1920s had access to British "picture papers" with news about the wealthy and celebrities and to the cinema could visualize a popular resort in northern France.
As for me, the information that I had collected about 1920s Le Touquet in my research for Toujours 2 and the photos I had viewed made it easy for me to visualize the novel's golf links, villas, and hotels — which are still there today. All I had to do was mentally paint the detective Hercule Poirot, his faithful Captain Hastings and the other characters into the scene. Fun.
image: tea and toast spread with butter and marmalade.
be chic, stay slim — Anne Barone