Juliet Montague Capshaw Comes to Visit
By Ellie Alexander
Thanks so much for giving me a chance to come chat with your readers about two of my favorite things: pastries and Ashland, Oregon. First, I suppose I should introduce myself. I’m Juliet Montague Capshaw, but please call me Jules. My parents named me after their favorite Shakespearean heroine. The name comes with a bit pressure, especially when it comes to love. In any other town, people probably wouldn’t think twice when hearing my name, but in Ashland, home of the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a name like Juliet practically denotes royalty. Don’t get me wrong I love sharing a name with one of literature’s greatest romantics, but Jules suits me better.
My parents’ love of the Bard is evident in more than just the name they gave me. Our family bakeshop, Torte, sits in the heart of Ashland’s charming downtown plaza where every shop and restaurant is designed to resemble an old English village. The bakeshop is no exception with its colorful awnings, bright red and teal walls, and a giant chalkboard with a rotating weekly quote from Shakespeare. It’s a homey and welcoming space. Everyone who walks through the front door is treated like family.
When I returned home to Ashland over a year ago I thought it would be a temporary stop. I needed some time to figure out what was next for me after leaving my husband and my job as a pastry chef for a cruise ship. Being back in Ashland made me realize that I had been longing for roots and a place to call home. I had worked through my sadness by kneading mounds of bread dough, losing myself in the art of frosting a cake with light and airy buttercream, and managing a team of young and talented baristas and pastry chefs in training.
Imagine my surprise when my estranged husband called to ask me to come back to the ship to fill in for a week. My initial response was to decline, but after giving it some thought returning to the ship might be just the thing I needed to permanently put that part of my life in the past. Of course, it also helped that he buttered me up by offering to bring my mom and her beau, the Professor (Ashland’s resident detective and Shakespeare aficionado) along on an all-expenses paid getaway. The fact that we had had an unusually cold and dreary winter probably tipped the scales in favor of me jetting off to the Caribbean for a week.
The minute we boarded the ship I felt the familiar tug of adventure. There was something magical about the scent of the salty sea air, the feeling of sun on my skin, and the palpable energy of guests waving and toasting with fruity cocktails as we pulled away from the dock. Soon I was immersed in a busy kitchen, whipping up pineapple soufflés and coconut cream tarts. The ship’s massive, industrial kitchen dwarfed Torte’s cozy, small kitchen. But bigger isn’t always better and within a few days of cutting through wide-open azure waters, I found myself homesick for Ashland’s quaint streets and the warmth of a crowded kitchen. I missed the fact that at Torte my hands were always coated in flour. On the ship, running the pastry kitchen had less to do with act of baking and more to do with production.
If comparing the two work spaces hadn’t validated my decision to return home to Ashland, finding the body of a young stowaway floating face-down in the pool certainly did. Now I was focused on solving the mystery of who the young woman was and why someone had killed her. The sooner we tracked down the murderer, the sooner I could return home to my beloved Ashland.
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