It’s said that, on average, champagne corks kill approximately 24 people a year- far more than the 10 killed by sharks.
Still, Sister Madly decided to risk it with the champagne rather than find sanctuary with a posse of sharks. She likes to live dangerously.
It was the end of October, when the veil between the worlds is said to be its thinnest, and when the living honor those who have passed on through a variety of traditions, including a celebration known as a Dumb Supper.
Now, Sister Madly has attempted a few Dumb Suppers in the past, and with mixed results.* Of course, this could be that the Departed were already engaged in another Dumb Supper across town, or were busy in the southern hemisphere doing southern hemisphere-ish things. Still, she had to consider the possibility that she was completely lacking in the area of social graces, and that the Departed refused to associate with anyone but the elite. Thus, Sister Madly decided to not only host a trial supper, but with a guest.
* Unsuccessful, and even more unsuccessful.
And what Dearly-Departed guest would be more appropriate than Vincent Price?
For a posh dinner party, one must be properly dressed; and for the Merchant of Menace such attire should be both classy and theatrical. Sister Madly has accumulated a most eclectic array of costumes during her Renaissance Faire Days, down to the satin-lined cloak worthy of an Elder god ritual. She admits it may be a bit show-offy for a Dumb Supper, but it would be perfect of the Vincent Price Trial Run. No doubt he would be wearing one as well.
Unfortunately, Sister Madly looked nothing like the sinister, show-offy cultist of her most excellent imagination, but a portable keyhole- something she did not realize during her Renaissance Faire Days. Did she always look like the gateway to another dimension? Why didn’t anyone ever tell her this?
Thanks a lot, fellas.
As for the feast- Mr. Price was a gourmand in his day, and the not-so-sinister Sister Madly couldn’t get away with Frozen Tater Tots and cans of Spaghetti O’s, even if she did garnish it with a lemon wedge and a sprig of parsley. A culinary effort would have to be made on her part, if only to apologize for dressing as a particularly unmenacing Keyhole.
So what could be more appropriate than a dish from A Treasury of Great Recipes, authored by Vincent Price himself?
No doubt he would be pleased that Sister Madly acknowledged his talents beyond The Pit and the Pendulum, and be touched that she was so thoughtful. And should she replicate his recipe to a ‘T’,* Mr. Price would put in a good word for her with gods of the afterlife, who will no doubt permit her to haunt the living willy-nilly. Of course, should she fail, Mr. Price may plague her with wicked laughter, poltergeists, and B-movie dreams for the rest of her life.
* What is this ‘T’ anyway, and why is it the standard to which everyone aspires?
So Sister Madly settled on a delicacy entitled Poularde Pavilion– that is, Champagne Chicken.* That sounded posh.
* Poularde Pavilion does not translate to Champagne Chicken on Google Translate, but Sister Madly is not one to question the magnificent Vincent Price.
Naturally, merely purchasing a bottle of champagne can bring about delusions of sophistication far beyond one’s station. However, Sister Madly- being most adult- retained enough sense to know she might horribly screw up the opening of said bottle; and as she hoped to get her security deposit back one day- and since she wasn’t quite ready to shuffle off this mortal coil in the most embarrassing way possible- Sister Madly opened the bottle on the fire escape outside.
Science can be a beautiful thing to witness, be it fireflies, the way liquid mercury separates, or the Northern Lights; and while there may be a ‘proper’ way of opening champagne, there is nothing more magical than the moment the internal pressure forces the cork from the bottle, and sends it sailing off into the sunset.
Or, as in the case of Sister Madly, over the fence and into the neighbor’s kiddie pool
Naturally, this left Sister Madly pondering one of the Great Mysteries of Life: how fast does a champagne cork travel?*
* Up to 60mph, it turns out- which is a $435 fine and possible license suspension up to 30 days should that Cork be pulled over in Sister Madly’s neighborhood.
Sister Madly did not replicate Mr. Price’s recipe to a ‘T’.
She gave up when instructed to preheat the oven to ‘moderate.’
- 4 chicken thighs, bone-in
- 1¼ cup champagne or other sparkling wine, divided (¼ cup + 1 cup)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Heavy cream, to taste (opt)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- pearl onions, peeled
- wild mushrooms, sliced
- pancetta, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp dried tarragon
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- pinch cayenne, or to taste (opt)
- salt/pepper, to taste
- Oil, for searing
Season chicken w/salt and pepper
In heated skillet, brown chicken on both sides, 3-5 min per side
Remove from skillet; set aside
Sauté pancetta; 2-3 min
Add garlic, pearl onions, and mushrooms; sauté 2-3 min
Add herbs; sauté 30 sec
Deglaze with ¼ cup champagne
Return chicken to skillet
Add broth and remaining champagne
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer: 20-25 min
Uncover; simmer until sauce is reduced by half
Stir in cream (if using) simmer 2-3 min
Remove from heat and serve
THEME SONG: Haunted, Maya Kern
They say that around the end of October, the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. While the mysterious netherworld intrigues, Sister Madly finds the living to be much more tolerant of her delightful petulance than the dead simply because they have no other choice.
However, her sister, Tallulah, had some sort of romantic getaway planned for something called an ‘anniversary,’ and in no uncertain terms implied that Sister Madly was not welcome to tag along, despite the fact that there was ample room at that seaside cottage. Seeing as the only other option was to face the holiday alone, Sister Madly figured she might as well consort with the Dead.
And what better way than with a traditional Dumb Supper? *
* A Dumb Supper is a dinner held in honor of those who have passed on, where the living remain silent while at the table in reverence of the dead.
It’s often said that the deceased guests of said Supper are ‘loved ones,’ but is this a requirement? Is she allowed to invite total strangers, even those whose lifestyles some might frown upon? She would love to mingle with the likes of Vincent Price, Somerset Maugham, and Ambrose Bierce. David Bowie. Sidney Bechet. Gene Tierney. Jack the Ripper- he ought to be dead by now… right?
Apart from the proper Dumb Supper Invite Protocol, Sister Madly found herself baffled by one question in particular: how, exactly, does one invite the deceased to a Dumb Supper? To where does one send the invitation? Is it via carrier pigeon? Smoke-Signals? Or are the means much more mystical, such as through her decrepit old Speak-N-Spell which is definitely haunted?
It was during these ponderings that Sister Madly faced the reality of her accommodations: she doesn’t have enough room at her table to seat all of the Invited Dead- and by that she means she does not have a kitchen table. She would have to make due by seating them on the floor, Moroccan style, which would be no problem as she has an unholy amount of pillows stockpiled on her bed. The seating arrangement may be a bit peculiar as it zigzags through the apartment, with some guests sitting the bathtub and others in the kitchen,* but in the end even the Dead will admit that comfort and convenience is no match for a free meal.
* Jack the Ripper would not be seated near the cutlery. No need to place temptation within his reach.
When all was said and done, the total number of guests came to 13… and you know that THAT means!
But for those who lives are all sunshine and butterflies, it is said that the first person to leave the table of 13 will die within a year. Being the only living creature at this supper, it is practically guaranteed that this someone will be Sister Madly. Sure, she could invite the Professors to safeguard against this nuisance- no doubt they would totally be down for a free supper; but the ‘dumb’ part would almost certainly trip them up. There is always an opinion, observance, or unsolicited advice which deviant genetics forbids them from keeping to themselves, and Sister Madly thought it best not to offend the Ripper while in her apartment
So she decided to remedy this by adding to the guest list… until she reached a total of 37.
Well, way to go, Sister Madly! A meal for 37 will certainly be a strain on the weekly budget; the Invited Dead will have nothing to look forward to other than a feast of Ramen Noodles and Pickled Beets- which means you might still wind up with 13 for Dinner because of a poorly executed menu. What if the some of the guests are gluten intolerant? What if they only want Pop-Tarts? And what if the Invited Dead are engaged elsewhere at the appointed time? Sure, you won’t mind if some arrive fashionably late, but some may not show up at all, and you could very-well end up with only 13 for dinner…
Which begs the question: how is Sister Madly to know if the Dead DO attend? What if they have no message to pass along from the great beyond? What if they are painfully shy? What if they take sides on the great Bette Davis/Joan Crawford rivalry, and a otherworldly food fight breaks out right there in the middle of her apartment? She doesn’t own a mop, and her security deposit does not cover poltergiest…
Then there is the possibility that none of the Invited Dead are able to attend, leaving Sister Madly alone in her apartment with 38 bowls of Pickled Beet Ramen- a nightmare guaranteed to send her into hysterics.
Rather than risk years of intense therapy due to a Feast of Pickled Beets, Sister Madly decided to cancel the party entirely and buy some cider instead.*
* Nice & Naughty, to be exact.
WILD RICE AND MUSHROOM SOUP
- 24 oz mushrooms, sliced
- 3 rainbow carrots, thinly sliced
- 1-2 stalks celery, sliced
- 3-4 cups veggie ~ or ~ chicken stock
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 cup (dry measure) wild rice, cooked
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp rosemary
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste (used chipotle)
- 1 bay leaf
- Oil for sauteing
- Lg pinch tumeric (opt, for color)
Heat oil in stock pot
Sauté onion until translucent; 5 minutes
Add garlic, carrots, and celery; sauté 2-3 min
Add mushrooms; sauté for 5 minutes
Mix in spices until fragrant, about 30 seconds
Add stock and coconut milk; mix
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally
Mix in rice
Simmer to set flavors (10 -15 minutes)
Remove bay leaf
Allow to rest for 2+ minutes before serving
THEME SONG: Death is Not the End, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Sister Madly just HAD to ask…
They were back at the Casino of the Mobile Slaughterer, where the Professors had plans to gamble and lush their way through another Friday night. Sister Madly, whose pick-pocketing expertise left her with nothing but a coupon to Sushi Express, was on the verge of boring herself to property destruction. Fortunately, she was able to avoid the seductive call of vandalism at the last minute by mixing the Professor’s ill-gotten Skittles with the M&M’s.
It was on this night of grand debauchery that Sister Madly made her way over to the Craps Table: a place where everyone looked beautiful, and where everyone was in love with each other- because everyone was thoroughly pickled.
There were the usual crowd in their slouch socks and fanny packs; but when it came to the EEE-O-11 set, the court was held by the High Queen of Glitz: a sparkly woman in feathers and glitter, flaunting her diamond ring in the true Hollywood fashion.
Sister Madly, of course, could never hope to achieve the status of slouch sock royalty, with her Medusa hair rebelling against society and her apathy threatening to fall asleep on the floor. So after Sparkles’ companion rolled something called ’Snakes Eyes’, the woman laughed outright.
“What’s that you’re drinking, honey-child? Is that gin?”
No. It is the tears of her enemies.
“You can‘t be drinking water on a night like this; it’s my anniversary!”
This exchange was accompanied by the majestic display of the yellow diamond (‘Canary, darling, canary…’) beneath the neon lights, an act so flamboyant it left Sister Madly with no other choice but to ask if the ring was a gift from her husband.
Really, Sister Madly- who else would be showering the woman with diamond rings on her anniversary? You may dream of tales of mischievous sprites and Maharajahs, but the Renaissance Faire is not only months, but miles away from here and holds no merit. Just how long have you lived on this planet anyway?*
*That would be Earth, for those of you who are wondering.
Then again, it might not have been such a silly question after all.
“This is my husband,” Sparkles said, “Leonard.”
Qu’est-ce que c’est?
“He always said that I had him wrapped around my finger.”
Do you mean to say that this ring, which Sister Madly- in her wide-eyed, child-like innocence- had assumed was from your husband…
“From my husband? Darling, this IS my husband!”
It would seem that amongst a host of other things that can be done with the remains of the dearly-departed, they can be turned into diamonds. Since it takes an estimated 1-3 billion years to create a diamond in the wild, Sister Madly assumed that some sort of revolutionary psycho-science accelerated the process, which undoubtedly would be unpleasant on one who wasn’t completely dearly-departed at the time. Sister Madly can say that, within an acceptable margin of error, she herself wouldn’t care for it much.
“Want to try him on? He always liked the ladies.”
Sister Madly can say that, within an acceptable margin of error, she wouldn’t care for that at all-
Oh, would you look at that, Sister Madly: you’ve got Leonard around your finger. Indeed, there is nothing like finding yourself thrust between a woman and her husband in a semi-posthumous relationship- and to think: a few hours ago, you hadn’t a care in the world.
Makes you think twice, doesn’t it, about that mortuary job that keeps popping up on Craigslist? Surely if you can handle wearing a stranger’s husband around your finger for a moment or two, it should be no problem driving the vehicle that retrieves the recently dearly-departed from the last known residence for ten cents more than minimum wage.
But even as she took a hot shower afterwards, Sister Madly couldn’t help but admit that such a job, one dealing with nothing but the recently dearly-departed, would somehow screw up her already questionable social skills.
THEME SONG: Ashes to Ashes, David Bowie