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In the mood for a sweet, off-beat murder mystery? 'Elsbeth' is on the case

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In the mood for a sweet, off-beat murder mystery? 'Elsbeth' is on the case

Carrie Preston stars an an astute but unconventional attorney in Elsbeth.

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Carrie Preston stars an an astute but unconventional attorney in Elsbeth.

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Carrie Preston won an Emmy Award in 2013, as outstanding guest actress, for her portrayal of a seemingly scatter-brained lawyer on the CBS series The Good Wife. Her character, Elsbeth Tascioni, really was a character. Her conversations tended to derail into unexpected directions. Her questions never seemed to follow any logical path, but they always had a purpose – and she was keenly, almost uncomfortably, observant.

Michelle and Robert King, the writing team that created The Good Wife to showcase the talent of Julianna Margulies, quickly recognized Preston’s Elsbeth as a valuable supporting player. She appeared in six of the seven seasons of The Good Wife, and won her Emmy there.

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Then she returned as the same character in The Good Fight, which the Kings wrote as a sequel series starring Christine Baranski. And now, there’s a third series, this time bringing Preston front and center. It’s called Elsbeth, and the series pilot was written by co-creators Michelle and Robert King, with him directing the premiere episode.

So what are they up to this time? They’ve transplanted Elsbeth from Chicago to New York City, where she’s been hired to officially observe, and secretly investigate, some of the police there. In her new job, she’s given so much latitude, she even can serve as an ad-hoc murder investigator.

Elsbeth, the series, is structured like Poker Face, or, even more obviously, Columbo. I’ve previewed three episodes, and each begins with viewers seeing the murderer commit the crime … and then, and only then, does Elsbeth enter the crime scene and start putting the puzzle pieces together.

As with Columbo, each episode features a prominent guest star as the killer of the week. For the premiere episode of Elsbeth — no spoiler alerts here, because the murder is shown in the opening moments — Stephen Moyer from True Blood is the special guest star. He plays an acting teacher and director who has found a way to dispose of his much younger former student and lover, by making it look like suicide. When Elsbeth arrives at the victim’s apartment, she ignores the dead body and heads straight for the bathroom – where she pokes around until a detective notices her and objects.

The police aren’t sure what to make of her, of course. Wendell Pierce, that wonderful actor from The Wire, plays Capt. Wagner, who is exasperated one moment, impressed the next — which is how everyone reacted to Elsbeth way back on The Good Wife. Carra Patterson plays Kaya Blanke, an officer who soon becomes a friend as well as a colleague.

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But as with Columbo, the most important dynamic is between the investigator and the killer. Elsbeth, like Columbo, is persistent and underestimated. But where Columbo kept his theories close to his vest, or his raincoat, Elsbeth almost delights in revealing her hole cards, to unsettle her prime suspect. Preston and Moyer worked together on HBO’s True Blood, and it’s fun to see them together again here – this time as adversaries.

Other episodes shown to critics feature, as the murderers of the week, Jane Krakowski from 30 Rock and Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family. Both of them bring a playful energy, sparring with Preston’s Elsbeth – and she really sparkles, with and without them, and carries the series with ease.

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Also, the show’s New York locations add even more to the flavor, and the enjoyment. All together, they make Elsbeth an undeniable throwback to an earlier TV era. But so is Poker Face, which I love for many of the same reasons: Great leading role; delightful guest stars; decent, clever mysteries that are solved by the end of each episode. And in an era where so much TV is so dark and depressing, Elsbeth stands out as a sweet, happy little treat.

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Kim Kardashian Posts Photo with Taylor Swift's Frenemy Karlie Kloss

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After years of documenting Jewish food traditions, Joan Nathan focuses on her family's

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After years of documenting Jewish food traditions, Joan Nathan focuses on her family's

After decades creating and publishing recipes, cookbook author Joan Nathan has released what she said is likely her final book, a cookbook and memoir called “My Life in Recipes.”

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After decades creating and publishing recipes, cookbook author Joan Nathan has released what she said is likely her final book, a cookbook and memoir called “My Life in Recipes.”

Michael Zamora/NPR

Joan Nathan has spent her life exploring in the kitchen, trying new dishes and recipes all year. But every spring, for the Passover Seder, she sticks with a menu that follows her own family’s traditions. The holiday starts tonight.

“I think Passover tells us who we are, and it tells us, this is my family sharing with other families. I get chills every year at Passover, because I realized that it started in ancient Israel. I mean, it’s in the Bible!”

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Joan Nathan chops up fresh herbs for her soup and rolls matzo balls in her kitchen in Washington, D.C.

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Joan Nathan chops up fresh herbs for her soup and rolls matzo balls in her kitchen in Washington, D.C.

Michael Zamora/NPR

Nathan has written a dozen cookbooks, documenting how food traditions evolved as Jews wandered all over the world through the centuries. Now in her 80s, her new book is her most personal work yet, excavating her own culinary history in a combination memoir and cookbook called My Life in Recipes.

“I’ve been more nervous about this book than any book… It’s sort of going into my life, you know?”

Cookbook author Joan Nathan looks through old family recipe books.

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Cookbook author Joan Nathan looks through old family recipe books.

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Nathan spoke with All Things Considered in her Washington, D.C. kitchen on a late March day, while she prepped a version of a dish she’s been eating since childhood: chicken matzo ball soup. And, like many Jewish mothers and grandmothers before her, that afternoon, she fretted over whether the matzo balls would turn out the way she wanted them to. Every family has their own recipe, whether they’re light, fluffy, hard, dense.

“So my mother’s, hers were al dente,” Nathan said. “And my mother-in-law’s were very light. You know, she was straight from Poland.”

As with every immigration story, these family recipes evolved as people relocated, fleeing wars or seeking a better life for their kids. One example is a special combination Nathan adds to her own matzo balls.

Nathan prepares matzo ball soup in her kitchen.

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Nathan prepares matzo ball soup in her kitchen.

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“I’d added ginger [and] nutmeg, which I knew was what my father’s family would have used in Germany,” she explained. “Ginger nutmeg was a very common condiment combination in the 19th and early 20th century.”

For Nathan, cooking matzo ball soup for Passover, or any Jewish holiday, just feels comfortable – like home.

“It’s the smell,” she said. “You just know that smell. Like my mother’s brisket, I know; like challah, I know. I love those smells. It knows that you’re at home, that there are people that care.”

Nathan pulls two loaves of challah out of the oven at her home in Washington, D.C.

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Nathan pulls two loaves of challah out of the oven at her home in Washington, D.C.

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While the soup simmers, Joan walks over to the living room where boxes of letters and books are laid out. They’re some of the artifacts that she’s uncovered from her family, including handwritten recipe books in German. One from her great-grandmother dates back to 1927, written in purple ink full of recipes for desserts like kuchen and caramel pudding. Nathan’s new book is full of her letters, diary entries and parts of these family artifacts.

Nathan looks through old family recipe books including one that dates back to 1927.

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Nathan looks through old family recipe books including one that dates back to 1927.

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This book is also a love story. Joan Nathan writes about her courtship and marriage of 45 years to her late husband, Allan Gerson. He died just before the pandemic. She says writing this book felt almost like a form of therapy.

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“It was my savior. I would just write. And I would include him in my life, you know? So it was a way of really making him part of my life. And I think it was really helpful to me. It really gave me strength.”

A photo of her family hangs in the living rooms as cookbook author Joan Nathan prepares matzo ball soup in the kitchen of her home in Washington, D.C.

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A photo of her family hangs in the living rooms as cookbook author Joan Nathan prepares matzo ball soup in the kitchen of her home in Washington, D.C.

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My Life in Recipes also includes anecdotes from Nathan’s prolific career, her world travels and stories of her collaborations with food luminaries that include Julia Child.

“Julia – I had her 90th birthday in this – she was sitting right here on this couch. I had a party for her. She’s somebody who just kept living,” Nathan remembered.

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“And she said to me, at 90, why should I quit if I’m doing what I like to do? And she made me realize a few things: Have people that are younger around you as you get older, be positive, don’t talk about being uncomfortable or whatever. And also, to write thank-you notes to everybody.”

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Can Celine Work Without Hedi Slimane?

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Can Celine Work Without Hedi Slimane?
After growing the brand’s annual sales to nearly €2.5 billion, the star designer has been locked in a thorny contract negotiation with owner LVMH that could lead to his exit, sources say. BoF breaks down what Slimane brought to Celine and what his departure could mean.
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