Friday, August 30, 2013

I finished another chapter of my book: Romancing the Vasilopita

Well, I've never tried to sell a book before. Something I have learned is that books are usually sold before they are written.  So, even though I haven't finished the whole thing, I have begun sending proposals to agents.

I put the first chapter on here a few months ago.  Here is the 16th.  I. don't think I'll put the whole book on here, though.  I hope to sell it and make some money.

Well, here is chapter 16 which I just finished today.

Chapter 16: 

The Eighth Day of Christmas: Romancing the Vasilopita

In which the oldest Wilcox son learns to make vasilopita, and finds a girlfriend he didn't know he was looking for.  Recipe for vasilopita and instructions for playing the coin game included.

It was almost 8 in the morning and Ben was in the kitchen waiting for Mrs. Papandreou to arrive.  He had been enjoying all the cooking he'd been doing, and the feeling of finally make his parents proud of him.  But this was the fist time he'd be taking instruction from someone who really knew about all this religious Christmas stuff.  Before, if he didn't know exactly what the instructions in cook books meant he just guessed, and no one knew the difference because it was all new to them, too.  But now he had to bake, which is harder than cooking, with a real honest to goodness Greek yia yia, and he was more than a little nervous.

When the door-bell rang he jumped up from the table – it was cluttered with wooden spoons, measuring cups, mixing bowls, and bread pans in anticipation of the day's work – and went to the door to let Mrs. Papandreou in.  At the door he stopped for a minute, straightened out his "Kiss the Cook" apron, took a deep breath and opened the door.

"Hi.  I'm Myrope.  Are you Ben?", asked the unusually beautiful, tan (In the winter?) dark haired girl standing on the porch.  In her left hand she held a large department store shopping bag. Her right hand was extended and her smile was genuine and bright.

"Um, you,um who, wha…Oh, yeah, yes.  I'm, Ben.", answered Ben, slightly confused by having this very attractive girl at the door instead of the old woman he was expecting.  "Are you Mrs. Papandreou?"

She laughed heartily and said, "That's my mother.  I'm Miss Papandreou, or, at least one of them. I have sisters." 
"You do?" Ben asked, looking around as though he expected to see the girl’s sisters hiding behind the trees in the front yard.

“Yes, you doufus.  Just like you do.  Sheesh! My mom said you need to make vasilopita.  Do you want me to teach you how?"  she asked, and held up the shopping bag full of ingredients and an apron.

"Yes, please, come in.  Thanks", Said Ben, who was regaining his composure.   I’m sorry, yes. It’s just that I was expecting someone old-worldy, like a old fat grandmother or something, like Yia yia in the yogurt commercials,  not a um a um a…

"A ravishing olive-skinned, raven-haired, Greek-American goddess of beauty?", Myrope teased, as they stepped into the kitchen.

"Something like that", Ben blushed.  And changing the subject, asked, "So, what do we do first?”

"You wash your hands and get a large mixing bowl.  I'll unpack my bag here on the counter", Myrope said as she reached into the shopping bag and began taking out ingredients and setting them on the white tile countertop.

"How did you get into baking?", Ben asked as he soaped up his hands at the kitchen sink.

"The usual way, I guess.  My mom bakes, and I help.  I learned from her."

"So, um, you make vasilopita every Christmas?"

"Ha! No, we make vasilopita every St. Basil's Day. For Christmas we make christopsomo", Myrope laughed, and punched her student playfully in the arm.  "Learn your holidays, Ben." She laughed that same full laugh she laughed at the door, but this time Ben laughed with her.

And they set to work, measuring mixing, and kneading.  Ben was a good student, and Myrope was a patient teacher.   When everything was mixed it was time to knead the dough.  He say that though her hands had a beauty his lacked they were strong and handled the dough with expertness. He could have watched her knead dough all day but…“Hey, you’re the man, you do this. It’s hard.  Besides, you have to learn how.”  So, Myrope taught Ben to knead dough.  He was not as quick or as skilled as Myrope but she said he was doing fine.

Then they had to wait for the dough to rise.  After cleaning up the kitchen and putting everything back in the bag, Ben didn’t know what to do.  They had at least ninety minutes to wait before the next step.  He thought for a second and said, “would you like to see our Christmas tree?”

“Sure”, Myrope said and she followed him into the living room.

“Oh! You put popcorn strings on your tree?  I didn’t know people really did that?”

“I know, it’s kind of dumb.  It was my brother’s idea.” 

“No, I think it’s neat.  Did you use a sewing needle?”

“Yeah. Hey!, I have a present for you!”, and Ben took one of the gold foil wrapped chocolates off the tree and presented it to Myrope.  She took it from his hand, unwrapped it, and broke it in half.

“Thank you”, she said.  “Here, you have some too.  You worked hard kneading the dough.  I’m sure you need this.” Ben blushed. And Myrope laughed again.  They talked about Christmas, and school, and their respective families.  Myrope told Ben about Greece, and the little island of Ithaca where she was born.  Ben told Myrope about his trip to the Grand Canyon with the Boy Scouts last summer.

After the punching down of the dough they had another 90 minutes before the baking could start.   Ben suggested they have some lunch.   By this time the rest of the family was awake and had come into the kitchen for a late breakfast, late because the night before was New Years Eve and they had not gone to bed until after midnight. 

There were still lots of leftovers.  Everyone had panetone with lots of butter, everyone had coffee with whipped cream.  Mom made omelettes with some of the left-over Christmas ham. “Do you think it’s still safe to eat?” Dad asked.  “Sure, said Mom. It’s been cured, and baked, and this hunk has been in the freezer since Christmas.  I took it out to thaw last night. Totally safe.” 

While they were eating the whole family had lots of questions about vasilopita, and Myrope explained that there are lots of different recipes for it, but this is the one her family uses. She explained the coin tradition; that a coin is baked in the loaf and the person who finds it has a blessed year.  Then, after breakfast was finished and the dishes washed and put away everyone went into the t.v. room to watch football, as Ben and Myrope formed the loaf, hid the coin, and put it in the oven.

While the vasilopita was baking, Ben asked, “what are you doing the rest of the day?”

“Well, I have to go home and help my Mom get ready for St. Basil’s day dinner.  We’re having lamb.  Why?”

“I don’t know. I just thought, maybe we could do something.  But you have plans and, I guess, I have a St. Basil’s day meal to make too.  I hadn’t thought of that.  Is lamb traditional?”

“It is if you’re Greek.  But you already have the valsilopita, and that is the main thing. Do you do all the cooking in your family?”

“No. It’s just something I’ve started doing.”

There was a pause as Ben tried to think of a way to rescue his attempt to ask Myrope out on a date.  He hadn’t thought that St. Basil’s Day Dinner would be an obstacle.  Asking a girl out on a date was more difficult than he had anticipated. 

Myrope broke the silence, “Well, we’ll be through with dinner by 6 or 7.  Do you want to go see a movie after?”

Ben started from his chair, almost knocking over his coffee and exclaimed , “Yes, I’ll go ask my mom if she can take us to the cinema after dinner!”

Mom said, “sure, but it has to be rated PG” and then it was time to take the vasilopita out of the oven.  Myrope supervised Ben as he turned it out on the rack to cool. Then she took off her apron, folded it neatly, put it in her shopping bag with all the unused ingredients and cleaned equipment, and said, “Okay.  That’s it.  Make sure you eat it all today.”

Ben asked, “Why?  Is it bad luck if we don’t?”

“No, Silly. It has no preservatives.  Tomorrow it will be hard as a rock”

Ben laughed at himself, and he was happy.  He really liked Myrope.

He showed her to the door and thanked her.

“You’re welcome”, replied Myrope, her eyes smiling. “Be at my house at 7. Pick a good movie for us.”

“Okay”, Ben said though a beaming smile. “I’ll see you at 7.”

And he closed the door.

Recipe for Ben’s and Myrope’s Vasilopita

 1/2 c water
3/5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. anise seeds
3/4 tsp fresh grate orange peel
2 bay leaves
1/2 c milk
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp. salr
3/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c warm water (110 degrees)
2 T sugar
2pkgs. yeast
3 eggs. lightly beaten
sesame seeds

Heat 1/2 c water to boiling. Add cinnamon, aniseeds, orange peel and bay leaves. Remove from heat and steep.

Scald milk. Add 3/4 c sugar, the salt, and 3/4 c butter. Cool.
Pour warm water into bowl. Stir in 2T sugar and years. Let stand until frothy ( perhaps 10 mins)

Pour milk/butter mixture into yeast mixture. Add lightly beaten eggs and mix well. Stir in spice liquid, removing bay leaves. stir in 3 c flour, alittle at a time and beat until smooth. Add only as much flour as needed to make a smooth, non-sticky dough.

Turn onto floured board and knead 15-20 mins until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, brush top with melted butter. Cover lightly and allow to rise in a draft free, but warm place until doubled - perhaps 2 hours.

Punch down, knead again briefly about 5 mins. Remove an orange sized piece from dough and form rest into one large round loaf. Insert coin. Place loaf on a lightly greased sheet or silpat covered baking sheet.

Divide reserved dough and form into a cross. set on bread pressing gently.

cover lightly and let bread rise again for about 1 1/2 hrs. or until almost doubled in bulk.

When risen brush loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle w/sesame seeds.  Bake at 350 for 45-60 mins. done when golden brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped.



Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I'd buy it for sure :-)

GretchenJoanna said...

I would buy it today! I am awfully curious about how the story got to this point, and I like your writing. There is a typo in the sentence "He sa_ that though her hands had a beauty his lacked..."
Ha! I almost posted this with a typo in the word "typo."

About your last post: I wonder if CityTeam Ministries could help in some way. My father-in-law was a long-time donor which is how I first knew of them, and recently a son of people in my church has had his life turned around by their help.

We all need the support of other people, and live by that support, whether their present prayers or their past upbringing, or maybe as in your current need, something new and uncomfortable.