Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Blue Plate Cafe Mysteries...and how they grew

The first book in my Blue Plate Café Mysteries series launches next week as an e-book, with print to follow shortly. Such fun to introduce a new series, and I’m particularly excited about this series, because it is deeply connected to some rich and wonderful times in my family’s life. When my children were little, we began to visit Reva and Charles Ogilvie at Arc Ridge Ranch, outside Ben Wheeler, Texas—about an hour east of Dallas. It was a glorious place for city children—forests, ponds, alligators, beaver, pastures, sometimes horses, occasionally a rescued wild burro, paddle boats from which the boys could fish, and for a while a small sandy beach where the kids could swim (with careful supervision, because of the alligators, who mostly stayed hidden in a cove).

Reva and Charles soon became Aunt Reva and Uncles Charles, and we spent what weekends we could there as well as at least one two-week vacation. We had our own cabin, with a full kitchen and two bedrooms. I would arrive with so many groceries that Charles said I was fine if the creek rose. Reva and I cooked together a lot, and both of us thoroughly enjoyed it. Then we’d eat on their front porch (a Florida room with louvered shutters) and stare out at the small, peaceful lake.

Charles was raising a steer in a pen between our cabin and the main house, and he named it Houdini because it was an escape artist. The kids loved Houdini and always stopped to pet him. One night at dinner, Charles asked them how they liked their meat. They chorused that it was delicious, and he said, “You’re eating Houdini.” Charles was not one to mince the facts of rural life. Another time I watched an alligator stalk a baby duck, and I said, “Do something, Charles.” He shrugged and said, “It’s the law of nature.” The children had a fine upbringing at the ranch, and they were disappointed to learn that our cabin wasn’t really ours—other people also rented it.

When Reva and I didn’t cook, we often went to a café known as The Shed in the nearby town of Edom. We had grand and glorious times, especially on Saturday nights when catfish was the special. I remember once chiding Charles, who was very conscious of what he ate, for ordering lemon chiffon pie. “It’s all air,” he said. “Not the custard part,” I replied, and he said, “Shut up, Judy.” In later years, we laughed about that.

When my marriage failed, we didn’t go much until the kids could drive, and then we resumed our trips to the ranch. Later, when the kids had mostly moved away, Jamie and Mel, now his wife of fifteen years, used to take me out there for weekends.

Life changes. Reva gradually slipped into Alzheimer’s, and the last time we were there, Charles was living alone. We went for my nephew’s wedding in Tyler, maybe ten years ago, and that Sunday morning we all had breakfast at The Shed. Then son-in-law Christian said his grandmother had a house in Edom where he’d spent a lot of time as a child and he wanted to see if he could find it. It doesn’t take long to drive every street in Edom, and we did but with no luck. When he got home, his grandmother told him the house was right next door to The Shed.

So that’s where the background comes of the Blue Plate Café. I changed the name of the restaurant and the town (though barely), and the book is dedicated with love to the memory of Charles and Reva Ogilvie, now both gone. I miss them sorely. And the book is my small tribute to their love and all they did for my family and for me.

Some of Reva’s recipes are included at the back. Another tribute.

No comments: