There she was again, that odd girl, wearing the same gray dress and stuffing cucumber sandwiches into a large handbag.
I’ve received a lot of questions to answer for an upcoming blog tour (which I’ll tell you about another day). So far no one has asked: “Why in Blue Thread is Serakh so totally into cucumbers?” Just in case inquiring minds want to know, here’s the answer.
The Serakh character in Blue Thread is based on two references to Serakh (or Serah), daughter of Asher, in the Bible. One refers to her being among the first Israelites to go to Egypt (Genesis 46:17); the other refers to her leaving Egypt during the Exodus (Numbers 26:46). So the way I figure it, Serakh had a long time (about 400 years!) to enjoy the fruits and vegetables that grew along the Nile, and she would have missed them during the forty-year trek through relatively arid lands. Cucumbers, according to another biblical story, were on the minds of those Exodus wanderers, who groused at their limited diet (Numbers 11:5-6):
We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all. Nothing but this manna to look to.
Fast forward to Blue Thread and to the buffet at Miriam’s temple in Oregon in Fall, 1912. Serakh would likely not have seen melons, and there wouldn’t have been leek, onion, or garlic sandwiches. But cucumber sandwiches? Definitely!
Even cucumber sandwiches can vary. Here’s a recipe from the 1908 Rumford Complete Cook Book:
The Rumford version won’t give you the sandwiches that Serakh lusted after in Blue Thread, with whole slices of cucumber nestled between layers of cream cheese. Serakh likes my kind of cucumber sandwiches. What a coincidence!