Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's Fall. Let's Read. Let's Write. Let's EAT! Part II

During this harvest season my blog is going to be all about food and how it combines with reading and writing. If you have some food/literary metaphors share them here or if you're blogging about something that's similar, please let me know. I love to link to other blogs with similar themes. And speaking of that, my favorite Canine Couch Potato, Buddy, just alerted me to his interesting "foodie" brain teasers. Pop over for a visit and find out how your brain's working. When you've enjoyed his wonderful site please stop in at 
Sunny Room Studio and read about the Prairie Cook. So lovely.

Next week: I start pairing food I love with books I love, so pop in, have a bite and read along. My good friend and great writer, Michelle Zinc, The Guardian of the Gate will be here.

But this week it's all about . . . 

My Great Tomato Saga

It all began with a tiny seeds back in April. I put them into planting mix, added water to keep them moist and

by June I had sprouts . . . lots of sprouts.
By July I had bushes . . .  way too many. 

August came and so did round green, juicy fruit . . . more than I'd expected.

Last week I harvested of twenty pounds of tomatoes with the promise of more to come. How many ways can you eat a tomato? As of today my count is 1,342.

What we couldn't eat went into jars. I'll love having these pre-seasoned veggies come mid-winter when soup sounds like the best idea for dinner, or I have a stew craving and I have to go to a book signing for some wonderful writer I adore.  

While I was peeling, slicing, and preparing the tomatoes I couldn't let my writer's brain sleep. I kept thinking how much this process reminded me of writing a story.

Two years ago I wrote this. "What would happen to an affluent, happy family if they lost everything?" That was the seed for my second book, The Princess of Las Pulgas. In the first year I didn't match my tomatoes' success. I had one huge dud of a rough draft. The book didn't start in the right place, it sort of sagged in the middle, and who would even care about the end? Back I went to that seed stage again. 

I kept asking myself that "what if" question I'd first written, and finally the answers started to come. Fruit set this time around, so that at least the book started where it should and the middle got me to the end and at last readers actually cared what happened to my poor characters. Still this story wasn't growing the way I wanted it to, so hew, hack, cultivate and . . .  rewrite. 

Three drafts later I got it. Three drafts later my editor liked it. Three drafts later I went back to cooking comfort food. Mine happens to be Chicken Paprika--a simple dish that you can assemble and leave to simmer. There's only one drawback. It doesn't require tomatoes. Here's the recipe anyway, just in case you're hungry, and really need some time to write that scene that finally has settled into your head.

Chicken Paprika

1/8 lb. sweet butter
3 chopped onions
1broiler chicken, cut into serving pieces
Hungarian paprika
Salt and pepper

Brown the onions in butter. Add the chicken and brown about 4-5 each side. Add salt, pepper to taste and the paprika until the chicken has reddish color. Cover. Set timer and return to desk to write for 45 minutes. You should be able to create a great first draft of that scene you've just been inspired to write while you added the seasoning. Remove chicken and add a pint of sweet cream to liquid and onions in pan. Stir to blend. Serve over rice. Sit down and reread that scene while you savor your chicken.

Does anyone know how to say Buen Provecho in Hungarian?


  1. What the tomato heaven???? C.Lee, you truly are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. And...I do have a post coming up in a few weeks about certain ingredients and how they can influence a writers writing. I'll keep you posted. (Um...yeah, no pun.)

  2. Alas, I can no longer eat tomatoes. But your chicken recipe is definitely something I can try!
    Thanks. I'm looking forward to your book/food pairings.

  3. AWESOME! And I am soooo jealous about your tomatoes--ours did not take off this season (with some help from a rabbit family) :(

  4. Thanks all for stopping in. Let me know if the chicken turns out and if you write an awesome scene while it simmers! :-)

  5. Glad I stumbled on your blog. Gives encouragement with your three-draft-story AND a yummy-sounding recipe. Going to have to try that one! Thanks.

  6. I can compare my writing to my garden this year - full of weeds. My garden was under water for months, so the two tomato plants on my patio make up my harvest potential;_) Hopefully, my muse is just out of scync with the seasons!
    Good luck with your book release; I'll be sure to pick it up when I find it!


  7. We had a garden when the kids were little, but once they got into sports and activities, it was too hard to keep up. Maybe we'll try it again - the tomatoes were the best!

  8. This is great Lee! I remembered a link to a post on Enchanted Inkpot not too long about food in fantasy in case you want to check it out

    Wish I had a green thumb!

  9. Thanks, Lisa. I popped over and read the post. Super. I'll be linking to it when I have the Mermaid's Mirror featured this month.

  10. Kindred spirits, no doubt! I loved your post and am intrigued by the recipe you shared. Writing is a lot like living, isn't it? And certainly, it's a lot like looking for creative solutions to whatever life tosses in our direction -- even an abundance of ripe tomatoes! (re the recipe, now you've got me thinking about chicken pictures again ... please post them sometime!)


Please say something to me, anything. Well, not anything, but a kind word will do.