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Perfection Salad

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November 6, 1947
Jefferson, Illinois

Dear Emily,

You’ll never guess who came to dinner yesterday! Or maybe you will. I bet all the newspapers in London are talking about his trip to America.

It was Hercule Poirot, the famous detective! Dad met him when he was in London during the war.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Ricky yelled. He loves murders nowadays just as much as he loved fighter planes when you were here. (He asked me to ask you to include any clippings you can about Poirot’s English cases in your next letter.)

“The case involved sensitive war work,” Dad said.

“Spies? You helped Hercule Poirot catch spies?” Ricky yelped.

Dad wouldn’t tell us any more about it, which I think means Ricky has to be right. Isn’t that amazing? My own dad helping catch Nazi spies! But I guess that must have been happening all the time in England during the war.

Ricky had basketball practice so he wasn’t at home when Poirot arrived, but Brad and I sat in the staircase to watch. I wish you had been here to see him! (Even more than I usually wish you were here.) He looked just like he does in his pictures, with that funny little mustache curled up at the ends.

He stopped to check his mustache in the hall mirror, making sure it was absolutely symmetrical. Brad started to snicker. I elbowed him, but not fast enough to make him stop. Boys! Honestly! And of course Poirot heard it and spotted us.

(Ricky thinks Poirot probably knew we were there the whole time. “He notices everything,” Ricky told me. “That’s the cornerstone of investigative practice.” Ricky thinks he’s going to be a police detective someday.)

I thought Poirot would be angry about Brad laughing, but he smiled at us. “Ah! You must be the so adored children of my dear friend Dr. McIntire,” he said. “Molly and Bradley?”

Hercule Poirot knows my name!

He had to catch the train for Chicago that night (Ricky & Brad & I agreed he’s probably going there to catch mobsters), so he only stayed for dinner. And the funniest thing happened! Mom made a perfection salad –

Do you have perfection salad in England? It’s lime Jell-O with shredded carrots and cabbage and crushed pineapple. I think it’s a waste of perfectly good Jell-O.

And you could tell Poirot didn’t think much of it either. He eyed it like he expected it to slime off its plate and slink away, leaving a trail behind it like a slug. (Or maybe that’s just what I think every time we have it.)

“And this,” he said. “What is this American dish?”

“It’s perfection salad,” Mom told him.

“Ah, this salad, madame,” Poirot said, “it is so perfect, I would not dare to disturb its perfection by eating it.”

Isn’t that swell? I’m going to try that excuse next time Mom makes it. It probably won’t work, but if it makes Mom laugh hard enough she might let me off with only a few bites.

I think he liked the dinner otherwise. He made a face over the coq au vin – I told him we’d made a French dish to remind him of home – but he seemed to enjoy it when he ate it.

Write to me soon!!! I want to hear all about Princess Elizabeth’s wedding! If Poirot solves any big cases in Chicago I’ll send you the clippings.

Your friend,