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Unorthodox Practices, by Marissa Piesman

August 25, 2014

Felonies of the Week: The “Nina Fischman” series, by Marissa Piesman

I recently read an article in the Guardian about what kind of stuff AirBnB clients tend to stow in their hosts’ refrigerators. (Can you tell I was trying to avoid working?) Scandinavians need pickles, apparently, to feel at home, while Germans opt for liver sausage and the French require nothing but champagne. The article didn’t mention American guests, but based both on its level of stereotyping and Guardian readers’ assumptions about U.S. eating habits, I’m going to guess that we stand accused of hauling industrial-size containers of high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, and bad coffee across the Atlantic, and then griping about how little space there is for them in the tiny fridge.

As is usually the case with this sort of (non)article, the comments section proved a livelier read. Guardian readers are nothing if not contentious, so there was one contingent that wanted to talk about how AirBnB and related offerings put millions of hotel-employees out of work, and another group that was all high-dudgeon-y about the pathetic traveler who is so wimpishly attached to the foods of his homeland that he can’t stand to be separated from his pickles and liver sausage.

In truth, though, neither the article nor the response held much of interest, no stories about guests who brought in really bizarre foodstuffs, or ate the host’s child’s science project, or created Babette’s Feast and then decamped without cleaning up. But I have rented flats (through AirBnB and other facilities) a number of times. For years I traveled with a bag of fresh-ground coffee, because I am a screaming java-snob and so many places specialized in ancient tins of Maxwell House. Other than that, I have never brought edibles along.

But I have found some.

They have ranged from lovely to mysteriously awful. A previous guest at a flat in London left a mayonnaise jar filled with something that wasn’t mayonnaise, along with a box of PG Tips teabags pasted with a yellow sticky note on which was scrawled “KEEP YOUR CRAP TEA!” I arrived at a B&B in Provincetown to find a box of chocolates next to the bed, which would have been charming except that several of the chocolates had very clearly been nibbled and put back. On the other hand, my delightful landladies in Boston left me a cheese-plate in the fridge, along with two chocolate croissants for breakfast. The best find, though, was at a second flat in London. There was no food in the fridge, but on a little bookshelf, next to the TV set, was a small stack of books. THREE of them were Felony books, bound together with a rubber band. And tucked under the band was a note reading “Great fun. I hope the next reader enjoys them as much as I did.”

In honor of our wonderful, anonymous fan, we’d like to offer a special deal this week on the books she liked so much: 25% off on Marissa Piesman’s deliciously giggly series featuring Nice Jewish Girl Nina Fischman, and Nina’s mother, Ida – who would kvetch mightily about the billing. Are you taking a little break for Labor Day? Anonymous Reader would tell you: Vacation reading doesn’t get much better than Unorthodox Practices, Personal Effects, and Heading Uptown.



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