PseudoPod 729: What We Talk About When We Talk About Cooking Country & The Halloween Parade

Show Notes

Please head over to the Escape Artists Patreon for information about the parade clues.

Audio notes:


What We Talk About When We Talk About Cooking Country

by Jamie Grimes, Kitty Sarkozy, and Jessica Ann York


Transcript of What’s on the Table, Episode 92:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Cooking Country


BERTRAND COBB, host:

This is What’s on the Table. I’m Bertrand Cobb. If you’re like me, the past few months have challenged your culinary capabilities. Anyone who’s listened to this show is aware that I’ve dabbled in the sweet science of baking. I have produced a number of edible breadbox basics. This includes current instagram favorites sourdough and banana bread. However, I’m no maître pâtissier. 

But our guest today, Pricilla van Pelt, is a master baker. She recently published her first book at the tender age of seventy-five, collecting recipes and personal stories from her award-winning blog. It’s called What I’m Talking About When I Talk About Cooking Country. Her book has generated a lot of buzz on pinterest and instagram, as well as the discussion boards of reddit since publication.

I’m still working from my home studio and connected with Ms. van Pelt via Zoom from her grandson’s home in Buford, Georgia.

Pricilla van Pelt, can you tell us What’s on the Table?

 

PRICILLA VAN PELT:

Well, Mister Cobb, there’s a pretty little centerpiece my great-grandbabies put together, wildflowers mostly, and this computer. We don’t need much more than that.

COBB: [chuckles] I find your cookbook fascinating. Every recipe has a story or warm anecdote that is as much an experience as the food itself.

 

PRICILLA: I used to love reading memoirs, seeing how famous folks lived their lives. Now I’m not saying I’ve done much of anything except this book, but if you can see my cooking through my eyes, through my experiences, maybe you’ll find it all as special as I do.

 

COBB: I want to begin with a reading from the book, if you’re up for it.

 

PRICILLA: Oh, I’d love to.

 

COBB: It’s almost Halloween. How about the introduction to the pumpkin cookies?

 

PRICILLA: Of course.

 

“It’s these cookies I’m always coming back to this time of year. The pumpkin, the spice, the little tea frosting. I started making them back in, oh it had to have been ’89. I was trying to figure out what to do now that the kids were finally all off on their own. My quilting guild tried to put it in my head that I was good enough to start up a bakery on my own. I’d sometimes whip something up and take it down to Leonard’s showroom. His flooring customers and employees loved them, but who doesn’t enjoy free cookies? I didn’t think they’d be worth selling. Thought I’d be a fool to waste time on anything like that. But I did like baking and my friends loved eating. I started working on my recipes and testing them out on the ladies at our weekly meetings.”

 

COBB: Your quilt guild. You dedicated this book to them.

 

PRICILLA: If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They helped with the design elements, helped me get it published.

 

COBB: It’s a beautifully designed book. That gold inlay on the cover—

 

PRICILLA: We call that a triquestra. Some nowadays call it a trinity knot, I’ve heard. It’s got another name, real old, but I’m liable to sprain my tongue if I try to pronounce that.

 

COBB: Well, we wouldn’t want that. I’d like to talk a little bit more about the importance of family to your work. You talk at length about your struggles raising your children and about your adventures in grandmotherhood, but there’s only a few mentions of your husband.

 

PRICILLA: Yes, raising three kids might not have been so hard if he’d been around more. But he’s been gone these thirty years, no need to go digging him up now.

 

COBB: You think he’s dead?

 

PRICILLA: He has been to me and the kids for a long time. Ha, he was an odd one, that Leonard.

 

COBB: What do you mean?

 

PRICILLA: All those ridiculous flooring commercials he made. This one time, the local station slipped up and interrupted the inauguration of President Bush, the read-my-lips one, not his boy. Blasted things kept showing up every now and again for months after he was gone. I’d call up the station and ask them to stop.

 

COBB: And did they?

 

PRICILLA: Some did. Some didn’t — but they swore up and down they did. Anyways, let’s talk about these yummy cookies.

 

COBB: Of course. It’s just…I was wondering: Why, after all this time—thirty years, you said—why would anyone bring up your husband’s disappearance? Why now?

 

PRICILLA: Bless your heart. You ain’t never spent time outside the city, now have you? Small towns, you see, they can be like a…like a crab bucket. You understand what I’m saying, not liking people getting big ideas?

 

COBB: [hesitantly] I think I do.

 

PRICILLA: Come on now. Can’t a woman accomplish anything without her husband being centered in the conversation?

 

COBB: But don’t you want to talk about it all? Maybe set the record straight? He was last seen on April 30, 1989.

 

PRICILLA: [sighs] Oh, I remember that day clear as this one. Leonard had been especially stern with me that night. He didn’t like all the time I was spending with the girls.

 

COBB: Your quilt guild? He didn’t like them?

 

PRICILLA: No he did not. Can we—?

 

COBB: Why’s that?

 

PRICILLA: [pause] I’d come home from our meeting full of light and life, sugar. Happy, wasn’t no way for a wife to be. Anyway, that night he was drinking. Boy was he drinking. Now, he wasn’t never right, a bunch more quirks than most folks, but if he had a few too many drinks…

 

COBB: Wow, I hadn’t read anything about that side of Leonard in my research. If you need a moment to—

 

PRICILLA: Now, you gone and got me started, pumpkin, might as well see it to the end.

 

I had been out in the little garden I was putting in with the girls, they had come over to help me with the tilling and planting. We weren’t doing nothing wrong. A little wine, a little dancing. We put together a few words and we blessed the earth. They left right after he got home, but I stayed out, doing a few things. He must have started drinking right away, because not an hour later he comes storming out yelling nonsense, already boiled over. Saying something about feminism or witchcraft or lesbians. Told me he didn’t like what them girls were turning me into. Oh, I sassed him hard. He didn’t often lay a hand to me, hadn’t in years and years, but that night he did, struck me once. He used some off-color words, the least repugnant of which was devil. Made some accusations. I told him he could go right to hell and get my room ready. Come morning, he was gone.

 

COBB: Why keep this to yourself all this time? I’m sure your detractors would ease up, if only—

 

PRICILLA: Oh it ain’t never been a secret, I told the police when they were looking for him. I’m sure my statement is written somewhere. But the kind of people that would come after an old lady? I wasn’t going to explain myself to them.

 

COBB: Leonard was never found?

 

PRICILLA:  The whole town did a search, found neither hide nor hair of him. I told the cops about his lady friends. One of the girls from the quilt guild said she had seen him. Another came forward about them having an encounter, before she knew he was married. Of course I forgave her, it’s the right thing to do. Those girls are the world to me, I couldn’t have done any of this without them.

 

COBB: We’re coming into our last minute, and I’d like to apologize that we haven’t really talked about your book.

 

PRICILLA: How courteous.

 

COBB: [nervous] We could close out with a little more from the book?

 

PRICILLA: Yes, dear. We should keep on the pumpkin cookies, ‘tis the season.

 

“The first pumpkin of the season was plump, orange as a perfect sunset, sitting right where the land had been blessed. I was so overcome by its perfection that I got down on my knees, cut that sucker open right there in the garden. It took a little effort. You know the way the skin resists a knife point, until it sinks in? It was a nice feeling. I scooped out the guts with my bare hands and sliced me off a piece of that flesh. I took a little nibble. I ain’t gonna lie. It was sweeter than sin. That’s how I got the idea for my cookies, I wanted all those sensual exotic flavors, from that chai one of the girls had made, last we met. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger and the big secret is a little black pepper, for luck”.

 

[Dialogue is abruptly cut off and interrupted with a commercial.]

 

“Do you want a monster of a deal on your next flooring installation? Well I’m King Leonard and I’m murdering the competition with killer savings during our Halloween sale! I’m absolutely buried in stock! And I gotta get it outta here before my wife sends me to an early grave! Discount hardwoods! Tile! Vinyl! Shag carpeting! All offers considered!”


THE 2020 HALLOWEEN PARADE

by Alasdair Stuart


No one expects the parade to happen. This is 2020. The plague year. The year we hunker down, shelter in place, and hope against hope that the empty suits at the top of the table aren’t stupid enough to get us all killed. It’ll pass. These things always do. But this one is taking its time, leaving a mark. So you check in on your loved ones, make sure you’re well stocked, and you settle in to wait it out.

And then the card arrives. Bone-coloured paper. Silian Rail typeface.

THE DELIVERY WILL ARRIVE ON THE 31ST

No postmark, no letter. Just the card. So you wait. And on the 31st, a shiny silver disk is at the front door. Not inside, not slipped through the letterbox, at the front door.

The embossed front cover reads NE LEGERE LATINE EST FUTUO.

You do what any of us would do. You take it inside, refill your mug, and put it on.


The first thing you hear is AC/DC, a camera shot panning up to air drumming on a leather-wrapped steering wheel. And you know the boys are back in town. The black Impala with the infinite backseat has been a mainstay of the parade for as long as you can remember. Like so much else this year, you know it may be the last.

You also know they’re convinced this is their last ride. Isn’t it quaint how the people who think they’ll ride off into the sunset are always a little too busy to actually do it. The back of the car is full of the same people it always is: the family members, the occasional King of Hell. The angel.

But the mage is missing. Just as you realize his absence the perspective shifts as the camera is handed out of the car. There he is. Several of him, in fact. The dark-haired one radiating New York charm is chatting animatedly to the pair who seem curiously two-dimensional, all speech bubbles and bright colors. Nearby .. is that an animated version, walking hand in hand with a bipedal shark?

Behind the cabal a family comes into view, the child walking between them phasing in and out of existence. The rest of the islanders follow them, masks at the ready, driving forward into a future they will make better through blood and terror, as well as love and kindness. Remember, the causeway only opens twice a day. And they aren’t saying when.


The view shifts, the image fading to grainy black and white as you can hear the industrious, almost musical click and whir of the film. The passengers’ motion takes on an almost caffeinated over-enthusiasm, especially the old homicide cop as he yammers away nineteen to the dozen in the driving seat of a car that would now cost more than you pay in rent.

He’s a small man, but has a density to his presence that belies his stature and easy-going charm. This is a man who has seen things. Survived things. As the
camera pans around, he’s not alone. His partner is young, Hispanic and just as haunted. In the back, his mother, sister and brother stare straight ahead. Surrounding them, the women with the same face all smile for very different reasons.

Behind the car come the runners and walkers, survivors and empties, led by a teenage genius and her best friend. One small and wiry, the other tall and broad, together they form a complete person. She talks too fast, he keeps her grounded and even as the arguments flare up they never stray far from each other. From the perspective of the scene you can’t see the bonds of trauma holding them together. But you know what they look like.


Next come the survivors. The gaudy coated grinning woman. The ailing king and his faithful bodyguard. The man in the hat not his own, wearing a new identity to deal with an old problem. Alongside them, the kids. All frightened, all terrified, all doing it anyway. Looking for a World Beyond and hoping this is the town they find it in.

Behind them? More runners and walkers and riders, and all the years they’ve put between themselves and the zombie horde. Leading this year’s wave are three figures in what look like space suits, garlanded by hyper active spherical drones. One frantically waves at the camera, EATS stencilled on their helmet as Vangelis’ ‘Chariots Of Fire’ swells through your speakers.


The last scene. The last entry in the parade and you’re sure now these are all being filmed on the road. A smiling old man, no colour whatsoever to his face, holds a widescreen laptop. It shows a group of women, the same age, all different levels of worry, happily chatting, each in their own square. A male friend cannonballs into the conversation long enough to establish just how desperate he is for attention before being dragged away. An older woman waits patiently in the corner.

A quick cut to black, or near-black, but roiling. Seething. Something somehow there even in the absence of presence. You hear a driving heavy metal tone, one that works its way into your brain. You can honestly say you’ve never heard anything like this. You can honestly say everything now, as the music continues to drive into your brain at the same time the women on the Zoom call realize they are very far from alone. At one point their screens all vanish, replaced by a panicked, desperate YouTuber demanding to know what’s in the box? The box you notice, in the background of the shot. The one with an arresting pull, as though the light is dragged towards it and inside it and…

You blink. The after image on your eyes is a vast tentacled head, and a woman in bulky armor, staring up at it with something approaching serenity. There’s a bright flash of light, your eyes close instinctively.

When you open them again, the screen is black.


‘The thing is…’

The voice from behind you is a shock. You’re alone in your space, the doors locked and yet there she is, the Director. Stepping into reality, suited and gloved, a mask over her face and you suddenly realize you do not want her to take it off.

She ejects the disc, returns it to its case and turns to you.

‘Sometimes? The calls really ARE coming from inside the house.’

She chuckles, a dry leaf sound, and starts to walk. Your front door is open, and you follow.

The parade is lined up along your street. The monsters, the slayers, the runners and the empties. All of them standing by their cars, watching you. Nearly out of sight at the head is the other director: red hair, leather jacket, the idea of a gun in one hand. She watches her counterpart reach your street and turn back to you. She smiles, and you convince yourself what moved under her mask was a mouth. Then she bows, and as one, the parade follows suit. Then they get in their cars and drive away.


The Halloween Parade. As unstoppable as weather. As predictable as an apex predator. Here this year and back again next. You watch until every car is out of sight – never out of mind — and head back inside. You have the sudden urge to make churros…

About the Authors

Jessica Ann York

Jessica Ann York is a horror writer whose debut short story is one of the bookends for the anthology Places We Fear to Tread and next story is forthcoming in Vastarien: A Literary Journal. She currently serves as the Content Editor of the official Text Request blog and as an Associate Editor at PseudoPod. Her fiction centers around women who take comfort in using the macabre as a window to understanding their daily anxieties. Through writing and research, she’s come to love the things that used to scare her (like the baby tarantulas, snakes, and rats she’s raised).

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Jamie Grimes

Jamie is a writer, editor, document designer, occasional English professor, and full-time curmudgeon. He holds a MA in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University, where he also wrangles cats and occasionally provides information systems support. He lives with his far superior wife, his indefatigable kid, and the platonic ideal of dog. You can see just how bad he is at social media on Twitter @Jamie_L_Grimes.

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Kitty Sarkozy

Kitty Sarkozy is a speculative fiction writer, actor and robot girlfriend. Kitty is an alumnus of Superstars Writing Seminar , a member of the Apex Writers Group, and the Horror Writer’s Association. Several large cats allow her to live with them in Marietta GA, She enjoys tending the extensive gardens, where she hides the bodies. For a list of her publications, acting credits or to engage her services on your next project go to kittysarkozy.com.

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Alasdair Stuart

Alasdair Stuart is a professional enthusiast, pop culture analyst, and writer. He is a Hugo Finalist for Best Fan Writer, and a British Fantasy Society Best Non-fiction finalist for his weekly pop culture newsletter The Full Lid.

His nonfiction can be found at numerous genre and pop culture venues, including regular columns at the Hugo Award-winning Ditch Diggers and Fox Spirit Books. His game writing includes ENie-nominated work on the Doctor Who RPG and After The War from Genesis of Legend. (more…)

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About the Narrators

Jennie Agerton

Jennie is actually four tentacles in a trench coat, and finds this to provide superior chicanery to the experience of blending in as that provided by a mere three tentacles. Four tentacles means you can pet two dogs and two cats at the same time. By day, Jennie attempts to hold bureaucracy in check.

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Kaz

Kaz is actually three tentacles in a trench coat, able to mimic human speech through an obscure loophole in Eldritch Noise Ordinances.   By day, Kaz pretends to be a member of the terrestrial band When Ukuleles Attack.

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Alex Hofelich

Alex Hofelich is Co-Editor of PseudoPod, the longest running weekly short horror fiction podcast. You can find him out eating at family-owned restaurants, drinking tiki cocktails, and reading a good book.

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Alasdair Stuart

Alasdair Stuart is a professional enthusiast, pop culture analyst, and writer. He is a Hugo Finalist for Best Fan Writer, and a British Fantasy Society Best Non-fiction finalist for his weekly pop culture newsletter The Full Lid.

His nonfiction can be found at numerous genre and pop culture venues, including regular columns at the Hugo Award-winning Ditch Diggers and Fox Spirit Books. His game writing includes ENie-nominated work on the Doctor Who RPG and After The War from Genesis of Legend. (more…)

Find more by Alasdair Stuart

Elsewhere