Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another Meaning of the Term

I was talking to my #4 daughter last night, and she asked if I'm still working on the story about "the cooking people." I am, in fact, still working on the story about the cooking people, although the terms are "the cook" and "the cook's apprentice." They have to challenge a huntsman and his apprentice, and the only weapons they have are their cooking tools--which are, of course, wicked sharp.

That made me think of one of the climactic scenes in Mervyn Peake's TITUS GROAN, which was a battle to the death between a disgraced but loyal royal retainer and the castle cook--a grim and grisly scene, which will surprise no one who has read the GORMENGHAST series. I highly recommend it, by the way.

And THAT made me think of this passage from my own precious darling novel SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING (coming soon from Echelon Press):

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Tosun unhooked his knife and skewer, and unslung his shield. "Time for these."

"Aren't you being a little previous? Shouldn't we wait and see if they send for this Chitamar? See what he says?"

"No," said Tosun. "Now."

This was sure a swell time for him to go rash on me. "You don't even know Honey. If you did, you wouldn't like her. This is my problem. I have to handle it."

"Yes, but I've got to do my part."

"Wait--"

He put his shield, hollow side up, onto the coals, nestling it into them. He pulled a thin flat stone out of his chestpack and some mutton out of his supply bag and began cutting wafer thin slices with his knife. He folded the slices around dried mushrooms and onion wedges and threaded the packets onto the skewer. He wrapped the filled skewer in parchment-like leaves and buried it in the coals. He cut a chunk of pork, and began cubing it.

"Your knife and... You cook with them?"

Tosun looked at me blankly. "That's what they're for."

"That, and for waving around while you jump all over the living room like a crazy person."

"Right. For balance and dexterity. Like juggling."

"Sure," I said. "Naturally. Like juggling."

He sat back on his haunches, his eyes nearly shut, his tongue showing behind his needle teeth. "You thought they were for fighting. You thought--just now--I was going to whip them out and go at it..."

"Who knew? I'm flying blind, here. Most of what I know about this place I've learned since I met you. I came here on vacation, for pity's sake, and here I am cutting a deal for somebody's life. Is that fair? And you sit there shaking your head and wheezing at me. Is that fair?"

"I'm sorry, Managlawn. It isn't fair. You're doing beautifully. Rest quietly on your center, and the right responses will practically make themselves."

Tosun tossed the pork into his shield--well, his wok, but it would always be his shield to me--and stirred it with his knife. When it was browned all over, he poured in enough beer to cover it and added some dried citrus fruit and long, clear noodles, as fine as hair.

Zander sniffed, looked around, and said, "We've decided to send for Chitamar."

Tosun pulled a steak out of one of his bags and began slicing it across the grain. He sprinkled it with salt and dusted it with white, black, and red pepper, and sat it near the fire pit to warm.

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Sort of a non-fatal foodie, I suppose.

MA

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