THIS PAST WEEK SAW A couple of personal milestones: the completion of my 100th Prosatio Silban story, and my e-book‘s first review. (Pop the confetti and cue the corks.) To celebrate, here are synopses for all the Cook For Any Price tales spun so far, including some not yet published in the e-book or as blog posts. Please enjoy these concise bites of “in which Our Hero …”
Advertent Appetizer: … ‘s customer literally sings for her supper.
Affable Invitation: … diverts a probing question.
Agreeable Disagreement: … settles a religious contretemps.
Ambiguous Twins: … caters for children who may not be as they seem.
Annual Doom: … looks Death, or at least its messenger, square in the face.
Antecedent History: … learns the secret behind the name “Exilic Lands.”
Anxious Drummer: … attempts to calm a nervous noncombatant.
Arrow Escape: … helps a fugitive slave toward a better life.
Balance (Amuse Bouche): …reflects on what makes Eating, Dining.
Beloved Animal: … explores the nature of adoration.
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ACCORDING TO THE WISE, REPUTATION is everything. But that’s not always a good thing.
“I would like for us to enter into a commercial arrangement,” said Idino Tarz to Prosatio Silban. “You have a solid standing throughout the Three Cities and Thousand Villages of the Uulian Commonwell. And I would like to leverage that standing into a profitable enterprise.”
The pair were sharing a modest bottle of white duliac over the amiable late-evening din inside Pelvhi’s Chopping-House, where epicurean Pormaris’ professional hospitality-class came to relax and conduct occasional side-business. Idino Tarz was well-dressed and open-faced, two essential qualities in a wishful merchant, and his voice was the proper mix of confidence and flattery.
The beefy cook cocked his head. “What sort of ‘enterprise?’” he asked.
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– Definition: adj. portmanteau of “fabulous” and “fantastic”
– Used in a sentence: You have fabtastic style, my dear.
– Why: I generally dislike modern portmanteaus, but this one leaped onto the screen when I tried to type “fantastic” and hit the “b” key instead of the “n”. My contribution to the English-speaking world’s lexicon.
(THIS TALE IS FOR THOSE who have wondered about Those Who watch over, and occasionally interfere with, the residents of the Uulian Commonwell. Read it in good humor.)
Prosatio Silban finished his evening meditations, stood up on his ornate braided rug, and drew back the black silk curtain dividing his sleeping-berth from the rest of the galleywagon. A long busy day brings both profit and rest well-earned, he quoted to himself, and climbed in. Drawing up the parrot-down coverlet, he exhaled a long and grateful sigh, reached out to his collapsible night-table for the well-thumbed book sitting there (Barbatus the Elder’s Poetries’ Emotion) , thought better of it, and curled up on his left side. Good for the digestion, this, he thought, and closed his eyes in prayer as much as in lassitude. O Galien, the All-Mother; Hopmon, God of the Ever-Full Purse; and Scofi, Goddess of Culinary Impartation; thank You for yet another full day of life. May I be worthy of Your attention for a good night’s sleep. O my gods, mysterious and sublime: through all my prayers, I have yet to see Your face or hear Your voice. If only I could, I … I would … would …
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… Cervantes compared translation to the other side of a tapestry. At best we see a rough outline of the pattern we know exists on the other side, but it lacks definition and is full of loose threads.”
— Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z”tl
AND THEN CAME ONE OF those days which every culinarian dreads.
“Master Cook? Master Cook!” called a well-dressed old man. He was sitting at one of the two tables-and-chairs Prosatio Silban had set up in the lee of his galleywagon, in the unassuming village marketplace of Boggy, not far upriver from many-harbored Soharis. The morning was bright with sunlight and promise, and the cook-errant fixed a professional expression on his face as he hurried over.
“Yes, sir?” he asked with practiced servility.
“This meal,” the man said with a frown. “It is unacceptable. Please bring me another.”
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(THE FOLLOWING IS A BRIEF account of how the Prosatio Silban tales are conceived and written. It’s mostly meant for fans of those works, but if you’re interested in the writing process in general, read on — if not, I won’t be offended.)
0. Before anything happens on the screen, the idea is generated. I can’t quite tell you how that manifests, since I don’t understand it myself; sometimes a premise bursts into my consciousness, sometimes I will think of a theme (or scan my “50+ ideas” file) and let my mind wander.
1. Next, I open a fresh new Word document and type in the title (or at least the “working title”), my byline, that day’s date, a space for the approximate word count, and a reminder: “Bold means change it.”
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