Meals to Die By, no. 8

So many poisons to choose from this week. So many so easily mixed into a smorgasbord of food. How is a murderer, or a writer, to choose? Should I try my hand at figs, pudding, chocolates, cocktails..?

I think maybe there were other lessons to be learned from The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum than last week’s new-found appreciation of alcohol and this week’s how to kill people. Gruesome lessons about how each poison works its way through the body causing destruction and leading to death will have to wait until after a second reading. With all the people adding a touch of poison to a favorite dish (interestingly, most appealed to the victim’s sweet tooth) my mind had to focus.

In truth, I’m a tad disappointed that all these stories were found in one book. The Meals to Die by series could have been scheduled for months in advance.  Instead the searching will have to continue.

First, though, I must make some decisions about this week. Chocolate laced with…

What’s that? Thanksgiving is tomorrow? I should post a Thanksgiving-y recipe even though it’s too late for anyone to adapt it for their use? You would also like for the murderer to incorporate arsenic because it was nicknamed the “inheritance powder” and everyone is visiting family for Thanksgiving? Not a problem, let me flip through these pages here, ah, yes. This is the section where we learn about one New York City diner serving pie with a flaky arsenic-laced crust to its lunch rush. Not that the diner knew. Only the person who put in the arsenic knew and he or she kept the secret well.

Authentically, this should be a berry pie, but I signed up for pumpkin for my friend’s Thanksgiving. Right now, I imagine my family is thankful I made alternate plans and my friends are glad they aren’t family. Everyone shouldn’t worry so much. Arsenic is much harder to purchase these days — I haven’t the faintest idea where to start looking. I can also tell you that if you think the book is going to teach you how to get away with poisonous murder, it won’t — unless you live in 1920’s New York.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie
(This recipe is adapted from ones found on, thanks to my co-worker Anita, and from

1 9″ pie crust

½ cup hazelnuts

1 pie pumpkin, for about 1 ½ cups puree
olive oil
ancho chili powder, optional
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch ginger

For filling:
Skin hazelnuts. (This can be done by toasting them and then rubbing quickly between a towel. Or, boil in water with a couple tablespoons of baking soda for a few minutes. Run under cold water and remove skins. Pat dry.) Toast hazelnuts. When cool chop in a processor until paste consistency. Think peanut butter.

Cut pumpkin into fourths, scoop out seeds. Place pumpkin in a roasting pan. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, pepper (and ancho chili powder). Roast in a 350° – 400° oven until tender. Remove and when cool puree.

Beat together cream cheese and sugar. Beat in pumpkin and eggs. Lightly beat in remaining ingredients.

Spread hazelnut paste over bottom of pie shell. Pour in pumpkin mixture. I end up with more mixture than I can fit into the pie shell. If I were prudent I’d pat a little crust into a ramekin, pour in the remaining filling and bake a mini pie. I’m not, though.

Bake in a 350° oven around 30 minutes until firm.

One thought on “Meals to Die By, no. 8

  1. I’m glad to see you hard at it. I’m still working out some physical problems but each day is a more positive and better day !! Have a great Thanksgiving and please give your folks my very best. garner tullis


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s