We’re delighted to have Agatha Award-nominated Mollie Cox Bryan with us today! Mollie is the author of the Cumberland Creek Mystery series, the third of which, DEATH OF AN IRISH DIVA, is available now.
As we meet up with the ladies of the Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Crop, spring is in the air but they hardly have time to stop and smell the roses. Not when famed Irish dancer Emily McGlashen is found murdered in her studio just after the St. Patrick’s Day parade–and one of the Crop’s own members, Vera, is the prime suspect. Lucky for Vera, co-scrapbooker Annie is a freelance reporter eager to vindicate her friend. What she discovers is a puzzling labyrinth of secrets that only add question marks to Emily’s murder. Just when it seems they’ve run out of clues, an antique scrapbook turns up and points the croppers in the right direction–and brings them face to face with a killer more twisted than a Celtic knot.
We’ve been talking about our first jobs this week, and Mollie’s got a story to tell us about hers. She’s also offered to give away a copy of Death of an Irish Diva to one lucky commenter (details at the end of this post).
Take it away, Mollie!
When I tell people my first job was as a waitress at a truck stop at the age of 15, I get one of two reactions. The first is laughter, “Yeah, right.” The second is a sort of uncomfortable silence and squirming around as if they don’t quite know if I’m trying to pull their legs.
But, dear reader, I assure you that it’s true. But I was more than a waitress. I was an ice-cream maker and scooper, as well as a kick-ass doughnut maker.
Now to explain.
Mary’s Restaurant was located on Route 18 in rural Pennsylvania—in the middle of nowhere, Raccoon Township, where I grew up. But it was a route that truckers used often. It served down home, stick-to-your-ribs country food. The truckers made certain to stop there. Back then, that’s what truck stops were—not the kind of borderline-trashy places that you see so often today along the highway.
In fact, this was also the community restaurant where people stopped after church, families held birthday celebrations, and police officers stopped for pie after their shifts.
Yes, Mary’s was a favorite stop for the truckers. But Mary didn’t put up with any nonsense from them. She held a sort of grandmotherly authority and the men knew to behave themselves. Turns out, she didn’t put up with the “nonsense” of a 15-year-old who liked to decorate homemade doughnuts with too much icing and sprinkles, either.
I think I lasted a month.
I worked in the ice cream and doughnut stand, which was attached to the restaurant, but only open during the summer months. Scooping homemade ice cream left my skinny forearms aching for days. It was a busy place—baseball and softball teams stopped by after games and we’d suddenly be swamped. My arms ached and I didn’t like serving my school friends. It was humiliating for me.
But I found refuge in the doughnuts. It wasn’t just the decorating, mind you, it was the whole process of pouring the dough into this huge metal bowl and then cranking each round nugget into a huge hot pan full of sizzling grease. I can still remember the scent of the sweet cakey nuggets as they fried. Then after we pulled them out with long sticks and let them cool off, the decorating fun began—at least for me.
I used all the colors and flavorings available for different icings and experiments with sprinkles and nuts. (Masterpieces, I tell you.) My boss, Mr. Doughty, was not impressed. And there was no warning before he let me go. I wonder why. Why did he not say, “Your doughnuts are lovely and delicious, but not cost-effective. Please don’t do it like that again.”
No. It was just, “You’re costing us too much money. We have to let you go.”
Somehow, my youth prevented me from becoming bitter, and I continued to enjoy Mary’s Restaurant as a customer for years. Then, ironically enough, I became a food writer and wrote about a restaurant that is similar to Mary’s—Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant in Staunton, VA.
I’m still enamored with the sense of community in a good local restaurant. I love getting in to the kitchens of these places for a view of what goes on behind the scenes. Restaurants hold fascinating stories about food and people. And in many ways I’m grateful to Mr. Doughty for firing me that day—it lead me down the path to discovering who I am and who I’m not. I’ll suffer the pain of scooping ice cream and the humiliation of serving my smirking school friends. But please, PLEASE don’t take my doughnut sprinkles away.
What’s your first job story and what about it are you grateful for?
GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post by noon EST on Friday, May 2nd, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of DEATH OF AN IRISH DIVA. U.S. only, please. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!
Mollie Cox Bryan writes the Cumberland Creek Mysteries, published by Kensington. Death of an Irish Diva is the third in the series. The first book, Scrapbook of Secrets, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2012; the next one SCRAPPED was published in January 2013 and DEATH OF AN IRISH DIVA published in February. The next book A CRAFTY CHRISTMAS will be out in October 2014. She lives in Waynesboro, Va. with her husband and two daughters.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.