Today TK Starr is here matching one of her childhood favorites - Trixie Belden - with Spiced Grape Juice as Trixie hits the big 80. And there's even a cookie recipe if you look closely...
The Trixie Belden Mysteries, 1948-1986
The Most Fun Ever!
(Trixie Belden and the Mysterious Code)
And they were fun. The Trixie Belden Mysteries were an exciting blend of the happily unrealistic and the enjoyably believable. With the help of her friends and family, Trixie thwarted con-men and thieves, saved lost souls and rescued the injured while volunteering at the hospital and organizing charity events. I liked Trixie’s world. There was reassurance there. In the end, the bad guys lost and the good guys won. It’s the way it should be in fiction as it can’t always be in life.
Trixie, a spunky, sandy-haired, and freckled faced 13-year-old, burst onto the literary scene in 1948 with “The Secret of the Mansion”. Julie Campbell, wrote the first six mysteries, then relinquished her creation to Random House.
For the next four decades, under numerous authors using the Kathryn Kenny pen-name, the mystery-solving adventures of Trixie and the Bob-Whites of the Glen, a “secret” club consisting mainly of Trixie, her brothers Mart and Brian, and friends Jim, Honey and Di were chronicled in 33 additional sagas. When “The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost” appeared in 1986, it signaled the end of new Trixie Belden exploits. The series disappeared until the early 2000’s when fan loyalty resulted in a brief re-printing of the 39 existing books.
Despite the numerous ghost authors creating inevitable backstory inconsistencies (to which I was oblivious as an enamored tweenie), the honest appeal of Trixie Belden, her down-to-earth identifiability, never waivered. One could relate to the imperfect Trixie. I certainly did. She often had calamities and continually put her foot in her mouth. Growing up middle class on Crabapple Farm in fictional Sleepyside-on-Hudson in New York, Trixie had to earn money by doing dreaded household chores. I had to do that too. Sure, Trixie was too impetuous, a bit meddlesome, and lacked some basic common sense at times, but her imperfections made her the more relatable. In the end, she did the right thing by finding the courage to overcome her fears and the confidence to act on her beliefs. Trixie’s maturing self-awareness of who she was, what her faults were, and how she could improve made her more than the average two-dimensional “schoolgirl shamus”.
To be sure, it was a different world in the mid 20th century with the unfussy settings and lack of technology. The language and references were a bit dated, a tad sexist and probably not “PC” by today’s standards. But nothing was truly shocking or unexpected. It was so refreshing that Trixie was still so ahead of her time. She refused to stay in the “this is what girls do” box (don’t ever dress her in pink) and fought against meanness and stereotypes. Trixie was naturally independent and hardly ever had full-time adult supervision. In the Red Trailer Mystery, for example, she and her BFF Honey wandered alone on horseback for hours in search of a runaway friend armed only with a map and a picnic lunch!
Perhaps almost criminal by 2015 principles, that unsupervised time, mishaps and all, was normal when I was a kid too. It helped develop resilience, self-assurance, and conscientiousness. The Belden stories reflect this.
Responsibility, compassion, and self-reliance were threaded throughout the series. I learned how to treat a snake bite (suck and spit), make the juiciest hamburgers (bread crumbs and milk), and never go anywhere without a clean handkerchief and a penknife.
I still have my battered collection of Trixie Belden, the cheaper drugstore versions bought with that hard earned allowance. I have dragged them through various moves across the country and over the Pacific. I have donated hundreds of books over the years including an entire Agatha Christie set or two, but I could never give away Trixie. She’s too much a part of me. I think even in today’s tech-obsessed society, the Trixie Belden mysteries still have value and relevance. While the mysteries were entertaining, the interpersonal relationships were the true heart of the series. That yearning for connection still exists today underlying our Smartphones, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter fascinations. Language and standards may change, but the need for others is timeless.
So in celebration of Trixie’s 80th birthday on May 1, 2015, I’ve made my version of three favorite foods from the series (food was very important in Trixie Belden): Spiced Grape Juice, chocolate cake and hearty cookies. Spiced Grape Juice can be served hot on a cool autumn night (an alternative to mulled apple cider) or cold (instead of iced tea) and with or without alcohol. Any way you like, it’s delish and a perfect drink for Book Club or just cuz.
To accompany are chocolate s’more cake bars and banana bread cookies with white chocolate and cinnamon pecans. Both recipes are Trixie approved as they are both made easily with cake mixes (like Trixie would really bake from scratch, Gleeps, get real!) and available on my website blog under Cookies in Crime Spree: Trixie Belden.
Enjoy! Or as Trixie would say, Jeepers, shush up and eat already.
Spiced Grape Juice
(scale as desired)
64 oz unsweetened concord grape juice
- 4 sticks cinnamon
- 12 whole cloves
- 2 tbsp whole allspice berries (or ¼ to ½ tsp ground allspice-careful, less is more!!)
- 1/2 cup sugar
Spiced/Mulling process: Put juice in large sauce pan on stove or into crockpot. Simmer on stove at least 30 minutes (do not boil) stirring occasionally or heat 4 to 6 hours in crockpot (if you have the time). The longer the simmer, the stronger the spices. Strain spices from juice before serving. Better yet, place all the spices in a tied cheesecloth or tea infuser and place in the grape juice to let the spices steep while simmering (much easier).
Vodka-For 64 oz Grape Juice, add approximately 3.5 cups vodka (or to desired taste/strength) after the mulling process, serve hot or cold.
Wine – Replace Grape Juice with a Sweet Concord-based Wine (any will do) and follow the mulling process above. Serve hot or cold.
Got a favorite dessert recipe from a favorite mystery you’re just dying to try or see made? Come on over to tkstarrmysteries.com and share on the blog or leave a comment. I’ll do my best with it and post it in the Cookies in Crime blog (btw doesn’t have to be cookies). Check out the other posts on Criminal Behavior, Killer recipes, Crimes in the Kitchen (the oops collection) and other criminally minded tidbits.