A Year with Agatha

New Year, same me.  

I’ve always loved New Year’s Resolutions. I think it’s fun setting goals for the year and at the end, looking back at what you accomplished. 2021, I survived. New move, new job, a new, new job, and new covid. 

It was a stressful year, and part of the year the only thing that got me through was…. Harry Potter. It started out after a stressful couple of weeks, I just couldn’t get into ANYTHING! Every book I picked up I set back down. Everything was too stressful, not knowing what would happen, who would live. I picked up “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” knowing nothing bad happens in that book. There’s something reassuring about a book you’ve read before (or many times before.) It’s safe, and not so stressful (though I absolutely skimmed the part where Harry, Ron, and Neville lose 50 points each for Gryffindor.) After that I picked up “Chamber of Secrets,” then “Azkaban”  and well, several weeks later I’d reread them all. 

But now it’s 2022 and it’s time for a new challenge, a new direction, or maybe something old… For years I’ve been an avid fan of all things Agatha Christie. I’ve always admired her, a woman in the 1920s and beyond not only breaking into a still heavily male populated world of writing, but defining the whodunnit genre! She broke ‘rules’ and created masterpiece tales that are still tropes used in today’s bestsellers! I’ve spent the past few years slowly collecting copies of all her books in the classic pulp fiction covers from the 60s and 70s. (I still have quite a ways to go.) Though I’ve read several, of the over 80 books she published, there are several I’ve never read. So this year, and probably for a few months into 2023, I’m going to read all of her works in the order that she published them. I’m excited to see her growth as a writer, see how she develops her long lived characters, and maybe get some inspiration for myself. I’m going to spend a year with Agatha!

So that’s the book part. I’m going to deep dive into the many, many works of Agatha Christie. But A Book and A Bake is a two parter, and I couldn’t let go of my love of baking. So, I decided the best thing to do is “Bake British” for the year as well, and what better way than to make dishes from The Great British Bake Off! I know no one is surprised that I, along with millions of others, love the GBBO. I love the camaraderie of the contestants, the generally happy demeanor of everyone involved, and the beautiful bakes they do each show. In the 12 seasons thus far, there are 113 technical challenges, so I have PLENTY to choose from. Some may be unmitigated disasters, but what technical round doesn’t have at least one person going off the rails! I’m hopeful it will be a fun, and challenging way to improve my baking skills. And so without further ado, I present, my first bake of the New Year: Treacle Tart!

It felt only right to honor the books that got me through a particularly stressful time by baking Harry Potter’s favorite treat, Treacle Tart, a remarkably simple dessert that is sweet with a bright lemon flavor throughout. For this tart, I chose a recipe from all recipes because it was easy and I had the ingredients on hand as we are currently living through a snowpocalyse: two feet and counting! Even the grocery store is closed!

Agatha’s first novel is the introduction to arguably her most famous character and detective, Hercule Poirot. “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” is set in country manor, a small cast of characters could be the killer, and with many red herrings throughout, only Poirot is able to solve the case. Though I know I’ve read this book at least twice, my memory of the story was highly influenced by the David Suchet episode from the 90’s. I had completely forgotten one of characters who not only was a potential suspect, but also turned out to be a spy, another theme commonly found in Agatha’s novels. I loved being led through the story by Arthur Hastings, in a way similar to Watson’s expounding of Holmes’ adventures. Hastings has a way of leading you astray as a reader, even as Poirot tries to hint at what’s important and what isn’t. It’s helpful, I think, to read Hasting’s accounts with the knowledge that he is rarely on the right trail. So much love to Hastings though, no one has Poirot’s “little gray cells”

“The Mysterious Affair at Styles,” and the rest of Agatha’s works, exist as a direct result of a bet from her sister. Madge bet Agatha that she couldn’t write a good detective story. At the time Agatha worked in a dispensary, work that features heavily in this story as well as others. After creating the murder, she set about creating a detective and looked no further than the Belgian refugees she encountered in her daily life. Without a desire to prove her sister wrong, we may never have the amazing Hercule Poirot! 

I’m so excited to continue my Agatha Christie journey. For future posts, I hope to talk about multiple books. Next on my list, “The Secret Adversary” where I get introduced to Tommy and Tuppence, and “Murder on the Links,” Poirot’s second adventure. Until then, enjoy this recipe for Harry Potter’s favorite, Treacle Tart.

Treacle Tart

1 (9 inch) pie crust pastry

1 cup golden syrup (I made my own using this recipe)

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup bread crumbs

1 lemon, zested

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) Press the pie crust evenly the bottom of t 9 inch pie plate.
  2. Mix the syrup, cream, bread crumbs, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in a bowl and pour into the pie crust.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven until the filling is set, 35-40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Published by Aprile

An passionate reader, amateur baker, aspiring writer, and professional cat lady.

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