Last Monday, I flew to Washington DC to appear on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show to discuss The Lace Reader. The show is an hour long, and it is live, so I was a bit nervous. I didn’t sleep much the night before. Instead, I sat in the dark, making mental lists of all the ways I could mess up. Of course, I knew better. If you’re going to make mental lists, make them of all the ways you can be successful, right? But middle of the night list-making often yields darker results, so, eventually, I turned on the light and started to read.
In the morning, when I walked into the studio, all of my apprehension faded. What a great group of people! They are gracious, smart, and funny. They had me laughing within about a minute. Diane is such a good conversationalist that you get better just by being in her presence. The hour flew by. In the second half of the show, we fielded some very interesting questions from listeners.
The only thing we didn’t get to was the promised definition of chop suey sandwiches (CSS). So for those of you who were listening and for others who may be curious, here’s the dish. CSS are a popular treat in The Lace Reader and in the real city of Salem. When I moved back to town about a decade ago, they were the best value around (beating even McDonalds at sixty-five cents apiece, though the price has increased since by a dollar). They are sold at two different take-out Chinese places along the midway at Salem Willows Park. John Rafferty (the book’s fictional detective) eats at least one of them per day, partly because he really loves them, and partly because he has acquired a sense of New England frugality that would make the locals proud.
Basically, the sandwich is a scoop (some would say lump) of very traditional chop suey, with soy sauce squirted on top, and sometimes a bit of chicken, all served on a hamburger bun. It’s not one of my favorite treats, though my brother swears by it. I swear by the popcorn that is sold two shops away and is (hands-down) the best on the North Shore. But that’s a story for another day. So, if you listened to the Diane Rehm show, you now know what a CSS is. If not, and you are interested, click here to listen to the show.