Poirot Gourmet: Square crumpets with sirop de Liège!

This has to be one of the most Poirot things I’ve ever featured for Poirot Gourmet.  🙂  Readers with a good familiarity with the books will likely remember the detective’s appreciation for square crumpets. Combine them with this distinctive and characteristic fruit spread of Liège, and voilà! We have an English-Belgian fusion worthy of Poirot.

I used square silicone egg rings for my crumpets. Alas, I am not what the English would call a “dab hand” at crumpets. They turned out more like pikelets– either I killed the yeast with too-warm milk, or my baking soda was taking the day off. Also, like many egg rings used for crumpets, they lend themselves to a shallower product. At any rate, they’re still quite edible.  🙂  I also decided that they weren’t initially quite square enough. Here’s how they looked at first…

…So I gave them a good severe trim with my lasagna server.  🙂  Before I move on to the spread, here are some book references for you…

Order and method had been Hercule Poirot’s watchwords from many years ago. With George, his perfect manservant, and Miss Lemon, his perfect secretary, order and method ruled supreme in his life. Now that crumpets were baked square as well as round, he had nothing about which to complain.

…And in due course, the faithful George was instructed to provide a meal of square crumpets richly buttered, symmetrical sandwiches, and other suitable components of a lavish English afternoon tea.

…The resourceful George had on this occasion produced large cups, a pot of really strong Indian tea and, in addition to the hot and buttery square crumpets, bread and jam and a large square of rich plum cake.

All this for the delectation of Inspector Sharpe, who was leaning back contentedly sipping his third cup of tea.

-Hickory Dickory Dock

Hercule Poirot sat in a square chair in front of the square fireplace in the square room of his London flat…

…His eyes strayed from the jigsaw puzzle in front of him to the chair on the other side of the fireplace. There, not half an hour ago, Inspector Bland had sat consuming tea and crumpets (square crumpets) and talking sadly.

-Dead Man’s Folly

The spread I used is a Belgian import with a consistency rather like apple butter and dark and heavy like molasses. Sirop de Liège is made primarily with pears and apples, but also (to a lesser extent) dates, apricots, and prunes. Pear/apple syrups and spreads of this kind had been developed in the area for centuries, but this particular recipe was apparently nailed down around 1937 and trademarked after the war. You can read more about it here. It is VERY sweet and concentrated– there’s no need to add more sugar! Liège, of course, is the general vicinity in Belgium from which (we are given to understand) Poirot hails. We know that he likes anything sweet and sirop-y, so this spread is really a no-brainer for Poirot Gourmet. And it’s absolutely lovely with these little griddle cakes.

 

 

Poirot Gourmet, from the Orient Express!

Sorry I haven’t been Poirot-ing much; we’ve been on vacation! But I thought I’d drop a bit of “Poirot Gourmet” here for you today.  🙂 (And no, I am not actually traveling on the Orient Express while presenting this episode, sorry!) 😀

Here, we have smoked salmon cream cheese on baguettes with olive oil and sea salt. To drink: a little crème de violette.

And here’s your book reference!

M. Bouc, who was already seated, gated a greeting and summoned his friend to the empty place opposite him. Poirot sat down and soon found himself in the favoured position of being at the table which was served first and with the choicest morsels. The food, too, was unusually good.

It was not till they were eating a delicate cream cheese that M. Bouc allowed his attention to wander to matters other than nourishment. He was at the stage of a meal when one becomes philosophic.

“Ah!” he sighed. “If I had but the pen of a Balzac! I would depict this scene.”

-Murder on the Orient Express

ITV’s Poirot and BBC’s Sherlock

It’s no great secret to Poirot fans that Agatha Christie’s most famous detective owes a lot in concept to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Both authors created bachelor gentlemen “consulting detectives”; each had a sometimes-flatmate as their admiring, not-quite-as-intelligent chronicler of tales; each were conceited to the nines due to a nearly flawless track record of deduction wizardry; each foiled Scotland Yard’s best men; etc. Rather than go into too much detail with the books alone, this blog post takes a look at the screen translations of those two universes as portrayed in the Poirot series and the BBC Sherlock series. The biggest difference in interpretation is the fact that Poirot is a period drama, while Sherlock is a modernization. Yet, fans of both series may find a good deal in one to remind them of the other. For example…

Mark Gatiss. The multi-talented Gatiss is well known as a writer and producer of several series, including (of course) Sherlock, in which he also stars as Mycroft Holmes. As for Poirot, Gatiss was a scriptwriter for Hallowe’en Party, The Big Four, and Cat Among the Pigeons. A few of the similarities between the series may possibly be traced to him as a result. He also acted in a certain episode of Poirot…

Appointment With Death. In this episode, Gatiss plays Leonard Boynton, the insecure stepson of the murdered woman. Seeing Gatiss flex his sarcastic chops against Poirot, it’s hard for me not to think of his banter with the other great fictional detective. There’s something else about Appointment With Death that is significant for this side-by-side: the story line of the man who fled across the desert to Samarra, attempting in vain to cheat Death. Originally used by Christie in her novel, exactly the same story is trotted out as an important framing narrative in Sherlock episode The Six Thatchers (Season 4, Ep. 1).

The “death” and resurrection of the detective. In true Holmsian fashion, Christie had her detective undergoing a fake death and dramatic return, much to the shock of his “Watson.” Gatiss did the screenplay for The Big Four as well as working on The Reichenbach Fall and The Empty Hearse, and the episodes of the two series were released very close to the same time. Yet Gatiss has claimed no deliberate influence between the two scripts– apparently they were conceived quite independently and at different times. Nonetheless, you can spot a few things in production if you look– including an iconic shadow on the pane of each of these detectives when their resurrected selves emerge from hiding once more. (Book-Poirot’s elusive brother, the highly-intelligent but constitutionally indolent Achille, was Christie’s nod to Mycroft. He was not included in the TV adaptation of The Big Four.)

Other cast members. Here, I’ll just note certain major characters from Sherlock who play other roles in Poirot. Along with Mark Gatiss as Mycroft…

Amanda Abbington (a.k.a. Mary Watson) is one of the teachers in Poirot episode Cat Among the Pigeons.

Tom Brooke is also noticeable as Wiggins in Sherlock and Tysoe in The Big Four (the journalist following up shady leads). The characters are even a bit similar, in that Wiggins and Tysoe attempt to work alongside Sherlock and Poirot professionally to a certain extent.

An actor who stands out as an arch-villain in both series: Toby Jones, who plays the notorious Ratchett in Murder on the Orient Express, and the equally creepy, sinister, wealthy Culverton Smith in Sherlock’s The Lying Detective.

Lindsay Duncan, who has a recurring role as Lady Smallwood in Sherlock, is Lady Tamplin in Poirot’s The Mystery of the Blue Train.

Would you believe that Sherlock’s “Anderson” (Jonathan Aris) is a receptionist in Lord Edgware Dies?? That whole critical conversation about the pince-nez, Mrs Van Dusen, and the need to telephone to Donald Ross happens with him.

The judge in Sad Cypress who condemns Elinor to death is Benedict Cumberbatch’s dad (Timothy Carlton), who plays the elder Mr. Holmes in Sherlock!

Honorable mentions for being recognizable: Haydn Gwynn is a painting-forging museum curator in Sherlock, and Coco Courtney / Miss Battersby in Poirot. Russell Tovey is a young Lionel Marshall in Evil Under the Sun, and is later seen as the terrorized guy in The Hounds of Baskerville.

“The Yellow Face” (ala The Six Thatchers) and “The Chocolate Box.” I’m cheating on this one because I’m comparing an episode with a short story, but hey, it’s my blog. 😉 In the Holmes story “The Yellow Face,” the detective says to Watson: ‘If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, kindly whisper “Norbury” in my ears.’ Christie spoofs this moment at the end of story “The Chocolate Box” with Poirot asking Hastings: ‘If you think at any time that I am growing conceited… you shall say to me “Chocolate box.” Is it agreed?’ These are both rare instances of recorded failures of Holmes and Poirot. In the TV series, Poirot ends up getting his solution correct at the end after all and his line to Hastings does not appear. In the Sherlock episode The Six Thatchers, the detective wearily issues his directive about Norbury to Mrs Hudson. I include this example because I still cannot watch the end of this Sherlock episode without thinking of Poirot.

The Lost Mine: Hastings attempts to set Poirot straight on the rules of Monopoly, but Poirot’s brain can’t handle the illogic inherent in some of the game details. So when Hastings protests: “But it’s not in the rules,” Poirot retorts, “Well then, Hastings, the rules are wrong!” Sherlock snaps almost the identical dialogue at John Watson in The Hounds of Baskerville. One can’t help but feel it was lifted wholesale from the Poirot script. 🙂

Holmes: It’s this or Cluedo.

Watson: Ah, no. We are never playing that again.

Holmes: Why not?

Watson: Because it’s not actually possible for the victim to have done it, Sherlock, that’s why!

Holmes: It’s the only possible solution.

Watson: It’s not in the rules.

Holmes: Well, then the rules are wrong!

Retirement references. Christie, as a nod to the concept of Holmes retiring to Sussex to look after beehives, mirrors that idea with Poirot retiring to the country to (unsuccessfully!) grow vegetable marrows. In the words of Christie’s Tuppence from the book Partners in Crime: “This is our last case. When they have laid the superspy by the heels, the great detectives intend to retire and take to beekeeping or vegetable marrow growing. It’s always done.” 🙂 We see Poirot’s futile attempts at retirement at the beginning of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. We don’t see Sherlock with beehives in the other series, but there is a passing reference to it in the episode His Last Vow.

Janine: So, we’re good, then?

Sherlock Holmes: Yeah, of course. Where’s the cottage?

Janine: Sussex Downs.

Sherlock Holmes: Mm, nice.

Janine: It’s gorgeous. There’s beehives, but I’m getting rid of those.

How the actors in the title roles portray a walking brain. Both Suchet and Cumberbatch made use of the classic “steeple hands” position throughout the series to indicate their detectives entering a spell of deep thought. Interestingly, they each employed other distinctive techniques to convey the cerebral aspect of their characters. Suchet manages this by setting his voice into a much higher register, the “head” voice suggesting that the brain dominates Poirot’s entire personality to the exclusion of everything below-neck. Cumberbatch also wanted to evoke a “mind over matter” aspect of Sherlock’s physicality, and he did this by losing a significant amount of weight for the role. Doyle, of course, does describe his detective as very thin.

Giraud. Sherlock Holmes gets several references in the Poirot stories, in book and on film. Some are by name; several are by allusion (written monographs, the parsley in the butter, etc). In The Murder on the Links, Christie invents the odious Giraud to provide a rival detective for Poirot. Giraud prides himself on his great observational skills, his collection of tiny clues, his attention to cigarette ash and tire marks, and– in the episode– his trademark pipe. He is clearly aspiring (and failing) to be a second Sherlock Holmes, a “human foxhound.” I include this in my catalogue of similarities because we do get to see some pipe-smoking in the flashback episode of Sherlock, The Abominable Bride. 🙂

Offhand, those are the most noticeable “overlaps” I see when watching one or the other series. One could possibly find some connections as to how Lestrade and Japp are played (perhaps in getting their respective sleuths out of jail?), or Countess Rossakoff and Irene Adler, or Miss Lemon and Miss Hudson. However, to my mind, those are more general similarities– they don’t make me think automatically of the other series.

Are there any others you’ve noticed?  🙂

I found Poirot’s ring, you guys.

In the television series, as in the books, Poirot has some fancy bling. In the series it takes the form of what appears to be silver-and-amethyst coordinates with faceted oval gems, including the famous “Virginie” brooch, the fob, the cuff links, and what a police inspector in The Veiled Lady calls “one fancy ring.”  🙂 🙂 🙂  These pieces are ubiquitous throughout the series. Here are a few shots of the ring:

Well, dear blog readers, I found the ring…

…At least, a remarkably similar one. 🙂  Mine came from a store in India. The design is appropriate for either men or women and amethyst also happens to be my birthstone, so I didn’t even feel too weird about getting it.  😉  It is the closest I could find to what is seen in the series– and it really is VERY similar. Here is the link to a listing of the identical product. If you visit with an aim to purchase and find that it’s sold, don’t worry; they apparently re-list it each time. It is the 3-carat version.

I love props and wardrobe stuff.

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”