A day in the life with Francine and Mary Ruth by Elizabeth Perona

the missing ingredient for a good first date

“Only you would schedule a blind first date at a cooking class,” Francine said, shaking her head as she and Mary Ruth navigated the narrow aisles of the local Sur La Table. They scouted the faces of the shoppers more than the kitchen items. “Do you even know what he looks like?”

Mary Ruth fluffed her auburn hair, which Francine knew had recently been highlighted. “Well, on the dating website Tyler is tall and thin, has chestnut eyes, a Tom Cruise smile, and a Clint Eastwood chin. Good ingredients, at least for a first date.”

“How can you be sure he didn’t fake the photo?”

“I can’t.” Her head swiveled as she passed a guy with a vague resemblance but was shorter and had a gap-toothed smile. More David Letterman than Tom Cruise. “I can’t even be sure his real name is Tyler.”

“Did you use your real name and photograph?” Francine pressed.

“Of course.” She ran her hands down the curves of her hips. “Did I mention I’m down to a size ten?” Francine admired her friend’s transformation. It had started a year and a half ago when their first Bucket List adventure gained national notoriety on a slow news day. Mary Ruth, a caterer in her seventies, had given up unhealthy habits, slimmed down, and now occasionally appeared on Food Network. “And it was his idea to meet here.”

“I wonder why he suggested it.”

She shrugged. “It’s neutral territory. Plus, we’re both foodies, divorced, and we love scones. Though I wouldn’t have chosen Garrett for a teacher.” Garrett Stone, a “Next Food Network Star” competitor, was known as the king of scones because of his award-winning flair with biscuits. He was now touring as an instructor. Mary Ruth had a not-so-happy history with him. “Your role is to be my way out of this date if I need one.”

Francine looked at her watch. “We should head to class. Maybe we’ll see him back there.”

They were the first ones in. Francine scouted the name tags on the table. “I don’t see anyone named Tyler,” she said sotto voce.

Mary Ruth slipped the white apron over her head with practiced ease and looped the strings around her waist. “You’re right. The only male name is Kenneth. Maybe I’ve been stood up.” She stuck her lip out.

More people scurried in behind them and snatched up aprons and name tags.

Garrett entered the room and everyone hushed. “Good evening, all!” he said with energy. “I’m Garrett Stone, the King of Scones, and today we’re going to learn how to make those British delights and more.” He passed by them and gave Mary Ruth a playful nudge.

“He’s cuter than on television.” Francine said.

“He’s full of himself.”

“Have you noticed he’s tall, has chestnut eyes, and a chin that could be described as Clint Eastwood-esque?”

Mary Ruth seemed stunned. “You’re right!” She fumbled with the measured-out ingredients. “He does kind of look like Tyler. You don’t suppose he lured me here for a date, do you? Well, if he did, he’s got another thing coming. All I want is revenge!”

Garrett winked in their direction. “I’m delighted to see that I’m joined today by Chef Mary Ruth Burrows. When I found out I was going to be teaching in Indianapolis, I was hoping we’d have a chance to meet again. Let’s hope today goes better than our first date did on “Cutthroat Kitchen.””

Francine remembered the episode on the cooking competition show that caused the dustup. Garrett stuck her with a sabotage causing her to be bombarded with cream pies. She was eliminated that round. Garrett’s losing the next was no consolation. Obviously, she was still angry.

“There won’t be a second date, that’s for sure,” she retorted, eliciting chuckles from the class.

He blanched and proceeded with class instructions.

“Do you believe that comment about a date?” Mary Ruth said to Francine. “Like we actually had one! I think he set this up. I think he’s Tyler.”

Garrett was rapidly dictating what to do. Mary Ruth dumped the flour and butter into a bowl. Francine was about to hand her the pastry blender when Mary Ruth began to rub the butter into the flour, creating a breadcrumb-like mixture.

“Class!” Garrett announced loudly, startling Mary Ruth. He had come up behind her while she was working. She spilled half the flour/butter mixture on the table. Francine used the scraper to get it back in the bowl.

“Instead of using the pastry blender as I demonstrated earlier,” Garrett continued, “the classic way to integrate the butter is with your fingers, as Chef Mary Ruth is doing here. Can you gather round?”

“I’ll kill him,” Mary Ruth muttered under her breath.

“Time to kick into ‘star’ mode,” Francine advised.

“I’ll kick him in his star mode.”

Mary Ruth beamed a high-wattage smile. She tilted the bowl toward her classmates with one hand and used the other to demonstrate.

“While we’re here,” Garrett asked, “would you please add the sugar, eggs, and baking powder?”

The class watched as Francine dutifully added them to the bowl and Mary Ruth stirred them with a wooden spoon.

“Now add about half the milk,” he said.

Mary Ruth complied and stirred.

“You want it to be a soft, wet dough. Add enough milk until it gets to that state.” He dumped the contents onto the work surface and bumped her out of the way. “Now I’ll demonstrate how to ‘chaff’ the dough.” He folded the dough in half, turned it ninety degrees, and folded it again.

“Garrett,” she said sweetly, “are you sure this has enough milk in it?”

“Quite sure. If anything, it looks a bit sticky.”

“Really? I think you should take a closer look.”

He bent over. Mary Ruth pushed the back of his head down, planting his face deep into the dough. “That’ll teach you to play me for a fool! And I will never date you, ‘Tyler.’”

“And you’re crazy if you think I would ever date a kitchen witch like you,” he said nasally, rushing from the room to clean his face.

A tall, thin man looking very much like the date Mary Ruth described earlier bumped into him on the way out. He grabbed his name tag as he hurried over. “I’m Kenneth. You know me as Tyler. Sorry I’m late. I ran into traffic.”

“Tyler?” she said, stunned.

“We can still have our date, can’t we?”

“Not here,” she said. “We need to leave, and quickly.”

“What about the scones? Should I grab the ingredients?”

“The only real ingredient we need for our first date is a getaway car. Let’s go.”

They fled, leaving Francine to finish the scones.

That night she had a successful evening on e-Bay. She sold a baked good bearing the facial features of the King of Scones for $100. Who’d have thought?

You can read more about Francine and Mary Ruth’s adventure in Murder at the Male Revue, the third book in the “Bucket List” mystery series.

The Skinny-Dipping Grandmas enjoy a male stripper show . . . until it gets too hot to handle and nearly goes up in flames.

When Mary Ruth’s company is hired to cater a fundraiser fea- turing the Royal Buckingham Male Dance Revue, the ladies see the chance to cross another item off their bucket list: helping divorcée Joy McQueen get over her decades-old fear of men in the buff. But when fundraiser sponsor Camille Ledfelter is stabbed to death, the women must uncover the naked truth about who wanted her dead.

Proving who did it, however, will require dodging a persistent stripper-for-hire, surviving the American Legion Bingo, drinking high-end cognac, searching for a certain 3-D printer, and laying bare the motives of a dangerous killer.

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About the author
Elizabeth Perona is the father/daughter writing team of Liz Dombrosky and Tony Perona. They write the “Bucket List” mystery series. The third in the series, Murder at the Male Revue, was published in July by Midnight Ink. This short-short story introduces two of their sleuths from the series.

All comments are welcomed.

4 responses to “A day in the life with Francine and Mary Ruth by Elizabeth Perona

  1. Looks like a fun series.


  2. Thanks for the excerpt! This series sounds fun and I want to start from the first book. 🙂


  3. This series sounds fantastic! I am adding it to my tbr list! 🙂


  4. Looks like a fun book. Thanks for sharing this with us. 😁