Poirot gourmet: Crêpes and camembert

Below: Apricot-cherry crêpes, a wedge of camembert, and a lemon-camomile tisane. I used more of the apricot preserves and cherries left over after my experiments with Baba au Rhum. Served up on my best dishes!  🙂

As though in answer to prayer, the flap of the tent was lifted and Hassan appeared, bearing a steaming cup which he offered to Poirot. It proved to be camomile tea, a beverage of which he is inordinately fond.

-“The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb”

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Poirot’s blind spots

Few things are as endearing to a reader as their favorite character’s blind spots. Especially with such a seemingly omniscient character as Poirot, he is brought  down to earth by these simple foibles. From both the books and the TV series (mostly both), here are some of Poirot’s most “humanizing” aspects and traits.

1. His wardrobe. Especially those patent leather shoes; highly impractical, perpetually a cause of pain. But dang it, he wants to look smart. Instead, he ends up covered with sand and dust in “The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb,” and immerses (and ruins) a pair of suede shoes while helping Arlena Marshall to launch her float in Evil Under the Sun. He knows, on some level, that his get-ups cause consternation to his British acquaintances:

Rowley Cloade was eyeing Poirot rather doubtfully. The flamboyant moustaches, the sartorial elegance, the white spats and the pointed-patent leather shoes all filled this insular young man with distinct misgivings.

Poirot realized this perfectly well, and was somewhat amused. (Taken at the Flood)

But in other stories– perhaps earlier ones– he seems blissfully unaware of his own incongruity to the surrounding landscape.

‘Dear me,’ I complained. ‘There is something about this place that makes me feel extremely conspicuous. As for you, Poirot, you look positively exotic.’

‘You think it is noticed that I am a foreigner—yes?’

‘The fact cries aloud to heaven,” I assured him.

‘And yet my clothes are made by an English tailor,’ mused Poirot. (Dumb Witness)


2. The English language.
It seems a bit rich to call Poirot’s slips in English a “blind spot,” considering that he speaks (as per Christie) at least four languages himself– English, French, German, and Italian. He has solved various crimes and decoded clues specifically because of his linguistic skills (including clues in English), sometimes highlighting the Englishman’s lack of a grasp of foreign languages (see: “The Stymphalean Birds,” “The Adventure of the Lost Ball”). But let’s face it– when he does get bewildered over various turns of phrase in English, it’s hilarious.

Miss Lemon replied sadly that servants did not seem to know what elbow grease was nowadays. Poirot looked a little puzzled, but decided not to inquire into the inward meaning of the mysterious phrase ‘elbow grease.’ (“The Mystery of the Spanish Chest”)

‘No, no, you do not derange me in the least.’

‘Good gracious– I’m sure I don’t want to drive you out of your mind.’ (Dead Man’s Folly)

‘Perhaps some convivial idiot who has had one over the eight.’

Comment? Nine? Nine what?’

‘Nothing– just an expression. I meant a fellow who was tight. No, damn it, a fellow who had had a spot too much to drink.’

Merci, Hastings– the expression “tight” I am acquainted with.’ (The A.B.C. Murders)

And one of my favorite bits of banter with Japp:

‘You’re a pig-headed old boy, you know.’

‘You insult first my nose and then my head!’

‘Figure of speech, that’s all,’ said Japp soothingly. ‘No offence meant.’

‘The answer to that,’ I said, ‘is “nor taken.”’

Poirot looked from one to the other of us completely puzzled. (Lord Edgware Dies)


3. Offering drinks to guests.
For a man with such a grasp of human nature, it is remarkable that Poirot continually offers his guests exactly the sorts of drinks that they find disgusting. It works well for humor, however: in the TV adaptation of “The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim,” attention is called to this trait by Poirot’s offering “something warming” to Japp, who accepts since he’s off-duty… only to be given a cup of hot chocolate, much to Hastings’ amusement.

A couple of my favorite examples from the books…

Poirot pressed his guest with refreshments. A grenadine? Creme de Menthe? Benedictine? Creme de Cacao?…

At this moment George entered with a tray on which was a whisky bottle and a siphon. ‘Or beer if you prefer it, sir?’ he murmured to the visitor.

Superintendent Spence’s large red face lightened.

‘Beer for me,’ he said.

Poirot was left to wonder once more at the accomplishments of George. He himself had had no idea that there was beer in the flat and it seemed incomprehensible to him that it could be preferred to a sweet liqueur. (Mrs McGinty’s Dead)

So it came about that at three o’clock of that same afternoon, Rhoda Dawes and Anne Meredith sat primly on their chairs in Poirot’s neat room and sipped blackberry sirop (which they disliked very much but were too polite to refuse) from old-fashioned glasses. (Cards on the Table)

The one astonishing exception to this rule is Poirot’s interactions with Ariadne Oliver. In one story, he says to George that “I never know what she likes”– and yet he goes on to provide exactly what she likes. On every social occasion, this is the case. Mrs Oliver also knows exactly what to offer Poirot as a hostess, unlike most of his other acquaintances. (I’m currently writing a short story featuring Mrs Oliver, outlining the story of the literary luncheon in which she and Poirot first meet, and this becomes an important plot point.) Her attentiveness is especially notable in Third Girl, and the scene is translated nicely in the television series in Poirot’s visit.

‘Chocolate? With whipped cream on top? Or a tisane. You love sipping tisanes. Or lemonade. Or orangeade. Or would you like decaffeinated coffee if I can get it– ’

‘Ah ça, non, par example! It is an abomination.’

‘One of those sirops you like so much. I know, I’ve got half a bottle of Ribena in the cupboard.’

‘What is Ribena?’

‘Blackcurrant flavour.’

‘Indeed, one has to hand it to you! You really do try, Madame. I am touched by your solicitude. I will accept with pleasure to drink a cup of chocolate this afternoon.’ (Third Girl)

Hastings is also much better on this point than Poirot is with others. When he places orders for drinks for himself and Poirot, he goes ahead and finds that creme de menthe (the episode Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan) or the cup of chocolate or the tisane that the English scorn.

I ordered two whiskies and sodas and a cup of chocolate. The last order caused consternation, and I much doubted whether it would ever put in an appearance. (“The Cornish Mystery”)

One might conclude from this that only Poirot’s closest friends have that proper mutual understanding about drink preferences. Otherwise, Poirot’s completely out to sea.

4. The Countess Rossakoff. It isn’t only that he knows perfectly well that she’s a crook, and yet eternally fascinating to him. He is also aware on some level that she has probably lied about her romantic past. The story “The Capture of Cerberus” is jarring to Poirot readers on this point– the great detective chooses to remain willfully blind about this object of his affection. It is a very rare move for Poirot.

Poirot objected, ‘Her life can surely not have been safe and dull as a member of the ancien regime in Russia during the revolution?’

A look of faint amusement showed in Miss Cunningham’s pale blue eyes.

‘Ah,’ she said. ‘A member of the ancien regime? She has told you that?’

‘She is undeniably an aristocrat,’ said Poirot staunchly, fighting back certain uneasy memories of the wildly varying accounts of her early life told him by the Countess herself.

‘One believes what one wishes to believe,’ remarked Miss Cunningham, casting a professional eye on him.

Poirot felt alarmed. In a moment, he felt, he would be told what was his complex. He decided to carry the war into the enemy’s camp. He enjoyed the Countess Rossakoff’s society partly because of her aristocratic provenance, and he was not going to have his enjoyment spoiled by a spectacled little girl with boiled gooseberry eyes and a degree in psychology!

5. Employee misunderstandings. As my memory has it, Poirot is not really depicted by Christie as someone who particularly misunderstands his employees. A couple of times, Miss Lemon or George surprise him with an astuteness that takes him unawares. In Hickory Dickory Dock, he is dumbfounded to learn that Miss Lemon has a sister. But this cute narrative from the episode The Dream, while not part of the books, does perhaps draw on some of Christie’s notes about Poirot’s hospitality-related blind spots.

Poirot: “But you have never complained before.”
Miss Lemon: “I’ve done nothing but complain for the last six months!”
Poirot: “No!”
Hastings: “It has been mentioned, Poirot.”
Poirot: “Kindly do not band together against Poirot!”


6. The Chocolate Box.
This famous early case, cited by Poirot as his one utter failure of deduction, is one of those few “blind spots” to which Poirot himself has openly admitted. I hesitate to mention it, since it doesn’t really represent a consistent, recurring misunderstanding on his part, as to be a personality quirk. But there is another “blind spot” of Poirot’s at the very end of the story which does recur, serving to amuse Hastings and the reader.

‘Or no– remember it, and if you think at any time that I am growing conceited– it is not likely, but it might arise.’

I concealed a smile.

Eh bien, my friend, you shall say to me, “Chocolate box.” Is it agreed?’

‘It’s a bargain!’

‘After all,’ said Poirot reflectively. ‘It was an experience! I, who have undoubtedly the finest brain in Europe at present, can afford to be magnanimous!’

‘Chocolate box,’ I murmured gently.

‘Pardon, mon ami?’

I looked at Poirot’s innocent face, as he bent forward inquiringly, and my heart smote me. I have suffered often at his hands, but I, too, though not possessing the finest brain in Europe, could afford to be magnanimous!

‘Nothing,’ I lied, and lit another pipe, smiling to myself.

Fashion Week, Day 7: Poirot attire

Day #7: Poirot attire

There haven’t been nearly enough masculine style options in this week’s fashion blitz– namely, because I’ve been working mostly out of my own closet. 🙂  So I’m rounding off Seven Storeys High’s self-styled “Fashion Week” with some fun links and articles on menswear, wardrobe, and props.

Here’s an article by Sven Raphael Schneider for the Gentleman’s Gazette called “The Clothes of Hercule Poirot.” (They have a companion article on Hastings, too!)

A store called Fashionable Canes makes something that resembles Poirot’s swan cane. I wouldn’t be surprised if other people have tried their hand at it, too.

You can also find various attempts online to recreate Poirot’s iconic vase brooch. Here’s one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen…

Finally, here’s a fairly recent Fashionista article by Fawnia Soo Hoo about the wardrobe in the recent Murder on the Orient Express film adaptation. It includes a good deal of detail from designer Alexandra Byrne about choices made for several of the characters–  pretty interesting!

Fashion Week, Day 6: Accessories

Day #6: Accessories

“Kelly,” you say, “it’s all very well for a maniac like you to have Poirot-inspired stuff in your closet. But I don’t want to go to that level of weird. What if I just want an accessory or two to hint at my Agatha Christie fangirl-ness?”

Fine– here are some options for you.  🙂

An awesome moustachioed wallet, for example…

A famous designer recently created a line of handbags that look like vintage Christie books. Unfortunately I don’t even remember who that was or even anything about it, other than the fact that they were infinitely more than I could afford. But apparently people at Etsy like making purses and clutches out of Christie books, too.

How about nail art? Here are some stickers– I like these ones because they include some hats and bow ties along with the moustaches. Tiny 3D moustaches are also available out there for the nails.


Here’s a little barrette I custom-made using some awesome cabochons I found in some craft store. A silver version of the same barrette was a blog giveaway prize last year.  🙂

Finally, the jewellery. I make quite a bit of jewellery– no, not just Poirot-themed stuff– but every now and then…

Pocket watches are a favorite Poirot design element of mine for jewellery. They come as charms or as full-sized pieces, including pendants that function as little customizable shadowboxes.  ❤

The pendants below were personalized using pages of vintage Christie books.


I love tiny magnifying glasses. The magnifier pendant above works nicely on a bit of transparent line, so that it appears to be “mysteriously” suspended on thin air.  🙂

This moustache bracelet was given to me for Christmas this year by a sister-in-law.

A few Halloweens ago, I decided to go Poirot-themed. Along with the pocket watch necklace and a pinned flower on the lapel of a blazer, I opted for an ear cuff with a chain. It was a little bit punk, and in a funny sort of way, it seemed to suggest Poirot’s fob and chain to me.  🙂

One more day left of Fashion Week!

 

Fashion Week, Day 5: Socks!

Day #5: Socks!

Who doesn’t love fun socks? If you’re going to have socks, you might as well have moustachioed ones. I’ve hunted about for socks with question marks, to be more generally mystery-themed, but question marks are (appropriately enough, I guess) an elusive motif. I’ve also availed myself of other socks by Out of Print that deal with detective fiction– they’ve got splendid Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allan Poe offerings in their store. But if you want Christie’s Poirot, you must content yourself with the moustache. Happily, moustachioed socks abound.

Here’s my daughter, proudly modeling hers…

I got the moustache socks below from Sock It To Me. It looks like they don’t have these particular ones in stock anymore, but they have a few other moustache options on their site.

Moustache slippers are also easy to find. Etsy is absolutely chock full of options, especially for babies, boys, and men. Here are a few photos of what an Etsy search can do for you; with a bit of luck, you can find Poirot-esque elements that pair with the moustache, like a vintage hat.  🙂

A figure was standing on the stairs a little way above them. It moved down and into their range of vision.

They stood staring at the little man with a very fierce moustache and an egg-shaped head. He wore a resplendent dressing gown and embroidered slippers.

-“The Third Floor Flat”

Fashion Week, Day 4: The Year of Agatha

Day #4: The Year of Agatha

“The Year of Agatha” has a blog and Twitter account full of Christie fan fun. They also have an Etsy store with vintage books, knitwear, and some great t-shirts and gear.

My favorite thing here (and which made its way into my own closet) is this shirt with the names of some of her best-known sleuths:

Here’s the full graphic with the name list. If you don’t recognize all of these references, go read more Agatha Christie!!

Here’s another product in their Etsy store that I like a lot, and would be really useful for hauling those truckloads of library books…  🙂

 

Fashion Week, Day 3: Shoes!!

A word about shoes: I did mention, at the beginning of my self-styled “Agatha Christie Fashion Week,” that I was going to stick to wearables that had a direct bearing on Christie, detective fiction in general, and Poirot in specific. That limits the range of options considerably. I love vintagey shoes of all sorts, especially variations on the classic Oxford. But I’m narrowing my shoe-sharing down to the most Poirotesque.  🙂

It’s worth stating also that I’m not into cosplay, myself. I don’t want shoes (or clothes) that make me look like Poirot. The goal rather is to incorporate little elements of the character’s distinctive (and, let’s face it, awesome) style. Even at my most costume-y moments (e.g. Halloween), I want the distinctly feminine to come through.

So here’s the first pair of shoes, which you probably saw in the first Fashion Week post worn with the Murder on the Orient Epxress shirt. They’re black-and-white heels with the look of built-in spats!  😀

The shoes, which go up past the ankle, open up by means of the black snaps as shown. I’m not fond of super-high heels, so these feel perfect. They’re distinctive and fun, and not ridiculous-looking for wearing out and about. Two thumbs up from me.  🙂  I got mine from ShoeOodles, which has a great selection of historical and slightly crazy shoes. They have them in red and black, too.

These shoes are very Poirot, but what if you’re looking for something more extremely shiny and patent leather?  🙂  Patent leather Oxfords are easy enough to find… but how about a pair with a fun metal heel with pearl bling??

These shoes fulfill my condition of being Poirot-esque but feminine; bling-y, and not silly-looking. (We know from “The Incredible Theft” that Poirot owns pearl studs, so it’s all very appropriate.) I don’t remember exactly where I bought these, but an online search of relevant terms brings up a variety of options. Just remember– patent leather scuffs very easily!

Fashion Week, Day 2: ModCloth

Day #2: ModCloth

ModCloth is my hands-down favorite spot for online clothing. They have an amazing selection of retro and vintage-inspired gear. This Christmas, my mom (hi mom!) sent me a couple of detectivey things from my MC wish list.



This circle skirt is covered with detective-themed symbols: magnifying glasses, fingerprints, question marks, footprints, keys, and cameras. SO FUN! I’ve never gotten so many compliments on a skirt before. And it has POCKETS! It’s also on for a great sale price at the moment here.

My other detectivey gift from ModCloth this Christmas was this shirt with “mystery clue” symbols on it. The captions to the pictures are “the blade” (scissors), “the secret tome” (open book), “the signal” (a bird), “the skeleton key” (a key), “the wild hare” (white bunny), “the sight” (magnifying glass), and “the lookout” (a dog). The overall feel of the shirt, like the skirt above, is almost more of a Nancy Drew kind of thing, but incredibly cute and great for any Agatha fan.  🙂


ModCloth calls this shirt “Investigative Elements,” and it looks like they’re almost out of stock. However, if you happen to be an XS, you’re in luck– and the price is down to $14.99. They carry a matching skirt, as well.

Agatha Christie Fashion Week

Looking in my closet, I thought: “I sure do have a lot of Agatha-Christie-inspired swag. That should be used for a blog post.” But it turns out that I had too much for just one blog post. So, I’m declaring this week to be “Agatha Christie Fashion Week” here on Seven Storeys High. (Emphasis = Poirot, of course.)  🙂   For the next seven days I’ll post photos of all sorts of Poirot-loving gear that you might not have even known existed, with links if possible to where you can find your own. The mystery swag of this fashion week is not merely 1920s- or ’30s-themed, but rather stuff that directly references Agatha Christie, detective fiction, and Poirot motifs. Intrigued? Let’s go!

Day #1:  Out of Print Clothing

Out of Print Clothing is a store that sells literary-themed clothing and gifts. It is a book-lover’s dream spot to shop. Currently they have three different Agatha-themed motifs– Murder on the Orient Express, The Body in the Library (a Marple), and a “The Queen of Mystery” slogan.

The Murder on the Orient Express shirt is a new favorite of mine– to be worn with very red lipstick (and, if you’re feeling a chill, throw on a scarlet kimono). Out of Print also has a unisex shirt with this artwork, as well as a pouch, a tote bag, and the paperback.

Here’s the Queen of Mystery shirt. Both of these women’s shirts are soft and super-comfy, with a fun scoop neckline.

This gear is sold here— and they’ve lowered their prices since I bought my stuff there.

Stay tuned for more Christie gear on Day #2!  🙂

Poirot gourmet: New Year’s edition!

Happy New Year, all! I’m signing out of 2017 with one more Poirot Gourmet entry. Embossed chocolates with a hot chocolate beverage concoction of my own invention– I’ll call it “The Rossakoff.” Recipe and more details below… 🙂

The drink consists of hot chocolate (use your favorite; bonus points for a Belgian variety like Godiva) with a shot of Smirnoff’s Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka, topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of Maison Routin Caramel Sirop.

Speaking of vodka, we have this highly-applicable quote from the alternate version of Agatha Christie’s “The Capture of Cerberus”:

Poirot asked the lady: ‘You will have an apéritif with me?’

‘Yes, yes. We will drink vodka together and be very gay.’

The idea seemed to Hercule Poirot a good one.

As for the chocolate: this is a form of “chocolate clay” (includes corn syrup; recipes abound online), the benefits of which include the possibility of embossing it. I found the most amazing moustache-and-diamond embosser online, so it invariably came home with me… 🙂


Best wishes to all as we head into 2018!!!