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Death Comes in through the Kitchen

Death Comes in through the Kitchen, March 2018
by Teresa Dovalpage

Soho Crime
Featuring: Yarmila Portal; Matt Sullivan
368 pages
ISBN: 1616958847
EAN: 9781616958848
Kindle: B0738J3SXK
Hardcover / e-Book
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"Intriguing Cuba: politics, food, and murder?"

Fresh Fiction Review

Death Comes in through the Kitchen
Teresa Dovalpage

Reviewed by Debbie Wiley
Posted June 1, 2018

Mystery Culinary | Suspense Psychological

Matt Sullivan arrives in Havana, Cuba, full of hopes and dreams. He's in Havana to see his girlfriend, Yarmila Portal, and he hopes she will accept his marriage proposal. Instead, he finds her dead body, his passport yanked by La Seguridad, and is deemed a person of interest in her death. Did Yarmila have a secret life?

I couldn't resist a book set in Cuba, particularly since I had the pleasure of visiting the city of Havana last summer. Teresa Dovalpage does a magnificent job at describing the beauty of Havana, a city caught in the past where the only cars on the road are classic cars, such as Studebakers. Teresa Dovalpage's exquisite descriptions of both the city and the food make me long to revisit Cuba and once again walk among the historic buildings.

Matt, on the other hand, isn't the most likable of characters. It's hard not to feel sorry for him initially as the idea of being anywhere without the protections we've grown accustomed to in the United States is frightening and the loss of one's passport is simply chilling. However, he's so gullible and wishy-washy that it's hard to truly like him, particularly when his character deficits had me cringing. There are a couple twists regarding his character near the end that had me scratching my head in confusion as they seemed somewhat superfluous to the story line.

Site de Streaming Gratuit

Fortunately, however, Matt's character doesn't detract from the overall intriguing story that Teresa Dovalpage has for readers. DEATH COMES IN THROUGH THE KITCHEN delves into the politics of Cuba just before (and during) the Black Spring of 2003 and offer some interesting insights into the fear that permeated the country during that time. Oddly enough, Matt's gullibility helps accentuate the overall atmosphere of secrecy and suspicion as he stumbles along, trying to understand what happened to his girlfriend and worrying about his confiscated passport.

DEATH COMES IN THROUGH THE KITCHEN is an intriguing murder mystery that is heavy with political undertones. Teresa Dovalpage's exploration of Cuba will have readers wanting to walk the streets of Havana and taste the scrumptious foods described in Yarmila's blog. I'll definitely be reading more by Teresa Dovalpage as DEATH COMES IN THROUGH THE KITCHEN is a compelling, albeit frustrating read as we see a country caught in the past and full of mistrust of both the police and the government. If you enjoy a good mystery and don't mind unreliable characters, then take a trip to Havana and give DEATH COMES IN THROUGH THE KITCHEN a try.

Learn more about Death Comes in through the Kitchen

SUMMARY

Matt, a San Diego journalist, arrives in Havana to marry his girlfriend, Yarmila, a 24-year-old Cuban woman whom he first met through her food blog. But Yarmi isn’t there to meet him at the airport, and when he hitches a ride to her apartment, he finds her lying dead in the bathtub.

With Yarmi’s murder, lovelorn Matt is immediately embroiled in a Cuban adventure he didn’t bargain for. The police and secret service have him down as their main suspect, and in an effort to clear his name, he must embark on his own investigation into what really happened. The more Matt learns about his erstwhile fiancée, though, the more he realizes he had no idea who she was at all—but did anyone?

Excerpt

Better than birthday cake

Tocino del cielo is flan’s decadent, slutty cousin.

Tocino means bacon. But tocino del cielo (or tocinillo, as it is also known) is a misleading term. The reason why a dessert that falls in the same category as flan and egg custard is named after cured pork has always eluded me. The del cielo part is easier to understand: it was “from heaven”—where people used to think everything good came from.

When I was a little girl, I always got a tocinillo for my birthday. Meringue cake? Forget it. We were given one every year through the ration card, but I was happy to let the party guests have it.

I’ll tell you a little secret: though my grandmother Hilda was the kitchen’s queen, it was mom who made the best tocinillo. Mom had “the touch” for sweets, and this is something you don’t learn. Either you have it or you don’t. In most dishes, particularly those involving egg yolk, butter and sugar, you need to find el punto de caramelo, that specific, indefinable moment when it’s done.

Mom’s soups or stews didn’t always turn out right, but she got the right punto for tocinillo and flan. She didn’t brag about it, though—and she wasn’t being deferential. She didn’t want to embarrass Grandma, who was la reina. But she was also afraid that if her talents were recognized she would be asked to cook more often.

That, my friends, didn’t sit well with her. Mom was, and is, a liberated woman, a career woman, not a housewife. Though born and raised in a rural town, she was rather avant-garde. She managed the local clinic and served as the president of the Cuban Federation of Women in our block. She was also active with the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, where she was elected treasurer twice. But housework she didn’t enjoy.

Would you like to try her tocinillo? Then follow my instructions. But be warned—this isn’t an easy recipe.

Start by making the syrup. Boil half a cup of water and a cup of sugar with a few drops of lemon for ten minutes, stirring constantly. (Keep an eye on it all the time, as syrup is one of these unpredictable sweet sauces that gets burned when you least expect it.) Then allow it to cool.

While you are at it, heat half a cup of sugar (again stir, stir!) in a smaller container. Put it aside.

Now, let’s start with the tocinillo as such. Beat five yolks and two whole eggs together. But do not overbeat! I think mom’s success lay in the fact that she didn’t beat eggs as if they were going to be used for, let’s say, merenguitos. Make sure they are well mixed, however.

Add the syrup and a bit of vanilla extract—one teaspoon will suffice. Then strain it, using a colander, pour everything into a pan, and get ready for the most difficult step: the baño de María.

Baño de María, which my Yuma boyfriend calls “water bath,” consists of putting a small pan inside a large one and adding hot water to the larger pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the small one. (Did I confuse you already?)

The small pan, naturally, is where you pour in the strained mixture. Be careful not to burn yourself with the hot water, as I have done so many times. That explains why I am not a fan of baño de María!

Bake in the oven for around an hour. Next, turn the tocinillo over on a plate and drizzle it with the burned sugar. Refrigerate for three or four hours and enjoy. You deserve it!

Comments

Cocinera Cubana said….

Hola, Yarmi! One way of avoiding the water bath hassle is using a pressure cooker. Place the tocinillo mold inside and boil for around fifteen minutes.

Maritza said…

Yes, this is complicated! Not just the water bath, but everything else. It will take me a whole day, I am afraid. Better to buy it at Versailles, hehe.

Anita said…

I’d rather wait until I go to Havana and try your tocinillo, dear.

Yarmi said…

Cocinera, you are right, the pressure cooker is a possibility, but I am ashamed to say that it scares me to death. A childhood trauma! So here is the story: when I was five years old, a neighbor’s pressure cooker exploded and she was left badly disfigured. I do own one, but only use it in emergencies.

Maritza, I bet that if you make your own tocinillo, you won’t need Versailles at all.

Anita, I will make one just for you when you come.

Besitos, Yarmi


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