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Eating Authors: Rebecca Gomez Farrell

1 Comment » Written on September 28th, 2020 by
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Rebecca Gomez Farrell

The Autumnal Equinox as well as National Elephant Appreciation Day fell on the same day this year and I hope you remembered to celebrate both. For unrelated reasons, I’ve been under stupid amounts of stress this past week and it’s likely that I will continue in that vein for another week or more, but the specifics are not my story to tell. Suffice it to say I have not been sleeping well, or exercising, or getting as much work done as I’d like.

Fortunately, things that I had set in motion are coming to fruition despite my stress levels. I refer of course to my first-ever Kickstarter, which was approved just the other day and will be going live on Wednesday. This is a bit of crowfunding to allow me to publish a book of one hundred of the best meals from the ten years of this very EATING AUTHORS blog. I promise I’ll be posting about it far and wide and sharing a link so you can get in on some of the amazing swag being offered.

Meanwhile, let me introduce you to this week’s guest, Rebecca Gomez Farrell, who resides out on the west coast of California where, when she’s not writings short stories or novels, she fills her time with a variety of author-adjacent activities. She co-organizes the East Bay Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup Group, as well as heading up her local chapter of the national Women Who Submit Lit organization, which encourages all writers who identify as women and/or genderqueer to submit their work out for publication. As if that wasn’t enough, she recently stepped up and took on the responsibility of being the new Communications Manager for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)!

Having spent years myself in service to SFWA and seeing how the sausage gets made, I was impressed and immediately reached out to invite her to share a meal with all of you.

LMS: Welcome, Becca. Please talk to me about your most memorable meal.

RGF: In addition to writing fiction, I’m what the kids call an influencer, particularly of food and drink. So I’ve had a ton of memorable meals, from maple-walnut pie served a la mode with horchata ice cream to manhattans made with smoked bourbon. It’s a hobby that absolutely contributes to the sensual aspects of my writing. What’s most powerful to me, however, is the emotional memories a meal can trigger.

chilaquiles

Which is why my favorite meal is not the near perfect Dungeness crab roll I had last week on a dock in Sausalito, though I admit, it comes close. My favorite meal is chilaquiles, something of a tortilla casserole that originated in Mexico but can be found in much of the Americas.

I didn’t know it as chilaquiles growing up. My family called it shipwreck, and they taught my mother how to cook it when she married into our particular Gomez branch. My burgeoning horror-writer heart reveled in the gruesome details of shipwreck, for this was a dish with a story. We cut corn tortilla chips into strips and fried them for the wooden planks of the wrecked ship. We drizzled canned tomato sauce over the chips in a casserole dish to recreate the blood, or the ocean, depending on whom you asked. Diced onion stood in for the poor sailors’ bones. Finally, we rained down flames of cheddar cheese on top. Two layers fit in a pan. Bake at the universal 350° for about 30 minutes. Then slather sour cream and guacamole on top, the true signs of a properly assimilated Mexican American dish. My family may loudly proclaim us to be Spanish, despite the first of my ancestors making that Atlantic trip over half a millennium ago, but we’ve been proudly Americans since Mexico ceded the Southwest.

Wings Unseen

Imagine the surprise of my college self, when in Santa Cruz, CA, I ordered a strange-sounding dish called chilaquiles for brunch. Out came a bowl of tomato salsa-dipped tortilla chips topped with scrambled eggs, salsa verde, and yes, crema and avocado. One bite, and I knew I’d met shipwreck’s true ancestor. Like my Gomez predecessors, its origins had been obscured to me. And sure, maybe it lost some of its flavor along the way. It certainly had morphed into a dinner meal rather than a breakfast feast sometime during our centuries in New Mexico and Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Yet it’s just as delightful both ways.

The last time I ordered chilaquiles was a few weeks ago from a local joint here in Oakland named Chica. They dip their chips in homemade enchilada sauce and top them with carnitas hash, cotija, salsa roja, chimichurri, and two fried eggs. Each bite triggers delight for me, in the freshness of their ingredients and the heartiness of homestyle Chicana cooking. A bite takes me back to my childhood love of shipwreck and its macabre ingredients, cherished memories and flavors I’ll never forget.

But if I ever write a seafaring tale and name the ship the SS Chilaquiles, well, I think you can guess what that poor vessel’s fate will be.

Thanks, Becca. I’ve been living on the east coast for too long, and I miss the authentic cuisine I grew up with in southern California. I don’t think I’ve ever had chilaquiles though, I’m pretty sure I’d remember the screams of those shipwrecked sailors as I consumed them.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Eating Authors: Bokerah Brumley

No Comments » Written on September 21st, 2020 by
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Bokerah Brumley

As often happens, I’m prepping this week’s EATING AUTHORS installment in advance, which could be seen as the act of a very responsible person or an exercise in cat vacuuming because I don’t want to work on some other thing I’m supposed to be doing. I’m pretty sure it’s one or other.

By the time this goes live, I’d like to think I’ll have turned in (and maybe actually pulled the trigger on) the Kickstarter to fund the 100 Writers’ Most Memorable Meals book — celebrating ten years of this blog. And too, Soup of the Moment will have burst out into the world. I’ll also have had a follow-up visit with my orthopedic oncologist as well as my primary care physician. And with a little luck, I’ll have inched ever closer to finishing a draft of Ace of Saints, the second book in the Freelance Courier series. As you can see, September is an especially busy time.

Other bits since last week’s post have included my appearance on a virtual discussion of “why we love SF” alongside Jody Lynn Nye and Chuck Gannon (both pasts guests on this blog), and pimping two anthologies that have included my work: The Expanding Universe 6 and Hellcats. That last, as you may have guessed given the pattern emerging from the last few weeks, is your segue to this week’s guest, Bokerah Brumley, who is also a contributor to the anthology.

Bokerah lives in Texas where she’s a permaculture farmer on ten acres of land that also includes her husband and five home-educated children. This is not the usual background of most writers who drop by to share meals, nor the string of jobs that often attend authors as they struggle to finish their novels. Instead, Bokerah comes across as an expert multi-tasker, doing a dozen different things at once, making steady progress in all of them.

Her fiction ranges not just between short stories in a host of anthologies but also to novels that cross genres from fantasy to science fiction, paranormal academy to shape shifting romance, Mom adventures to Texas romance. I’d be remiss if I didn’t call special attention to her participation in as unique a themed anthology as I’ve ever seen: CRACKED: An Anthology of Eggsellent Chicken Stories .

LMS: Welcome, Bokerah. I had to look up the term “permaculture,” and now I’m more eager than ever for you to share your most memorable meal.

BB: My answer is different than most, I think. It involves sweat and tears and muck.

It’s not about eating a place out or going away from home.

It’s not even exotic. It was some greens, a chicken leg, and a glass of milk.

Book of Power

Our family has been making movement toward sustainability for years. Not because it’s particularly easy in this sun-scorched, perpetually-droughted, bad-soiled part of West Texas, but because participating in the creation of food brings about a mindfulness that’s hard to get in any other way.

Up until last year, we had five kids at home. Between us, we worked the horrible dirt and mixed chicken/turkey/guinea/peafowl/sheep/goat manure into it. We’ve killed so many plants. I swear, I must have a black thumb. I’ve added lady bugs and praying mantids above ground and composting worms beneath.

It hasn’t been easy.

For instance, a few weeks ago, we had a wildfire on our property. My hubs fought it for fifteen minutes with a broom and a shovel until the volunteer fire department could get out here.

Our county has been hurting for rain. Don’t worry, though. September came and brought five inches of rain and cooler weather (it’s not 105 degrees Fahrenheit now), and I was able to put 700 new composting worms into our soil without them baking away to nothing.

Curse of Aerie

We take our failures, but we’re always building for tomorrow. Adding carbon to lifeless soil, running creatures over the ground… Every time we get a shipment from any place, we break down the box, put it on the ground and put old hay over it.

We’re growing dirt. Not for today, but for next year or the year after.

So, what makes the most memorable meal I’ve ever had? I’m glad you asked.

A couple of years ago, as a family, we ate the first meal that we produced ourselves from start to finish. We had chicken that we grew up from chicks to poults to adult. And then we processed the chickens ourselves.

We cared for the needs of each of the birds, minding what they ate. They received grit and fermented feed with apple cider vinegar in their water. We kept them safe, and we gave them the best existence on fresh pasture that we could. In all of their life, they only had one bad day.

Admission

We drank milk from the goats and water from our well. Then we ate boiled eggs (sloppily peeled) and veggies we’d harvested from our own garden.

There’s something unifying about food. A home-cooked meal has a way of bringing people together, and producing that same food amplifies that tenfold.

It was a hard-earned meal, as each of them are, but it was the most memorable one, I think. It gave every member of our family a sense of pride.

We fail often in this journey, but we’re always trying to fail forward.

“Someday, it’ll be easier,” we sigh. Maybe not. Probably not, if we’re honest.

But EVERY DAY, we leave these acres better than they were yesterday.

It’s never easy. But it is good. It is satisfying, and it makes the best meal.

And we did that. Together.

Thanks, Bokerah. I envy the satisfaction that such a meal must surely bring, though not the effort necessary to achieve it. But that’s probably because I’m just old and lazy. Also, I kept wondering if you make your own cheese. I may have to travel down to Texas to find out.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Efthalia

No Comments » Written on September 14th, 2020 by
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Efthalia

We’re all but midway through September, and at least here in southeastern Pennsylvania the weather has broken and it is feeling like autumn. Gone (for the most part) are the too warm temperatures, and while the sun is rising a bit later in the morning, I’ve been loving my morning walks again now that I begin them in the mid-50’s and low 60’s.

In other news, this looks to be a busy week for my fiction: The Expanding Universe 6 comes out today, and includes my story “Remora Immortal.” On Thursday, the Barsk prequel novella Soup of the Moment will be released. And of course, we’re two weeks into the campaign for the massive, sixty-nine story Hellcats charity anthology that includes my short story “Cat Futures.” This last book also provides a nice segue into this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, as Efthalia is also a contributor to the anthology.

Efthalia is the author of the Phi Athanatoi series (the second volume of which, Phantasia: A Bad Day On Olympus, came out this past May), a blend of modern day police action with demons, Greek gods, and assorted witches, werewolves, and vampires.

She lives in Sydney, Australia, and with luck I can leverage her appearance here to score some violet crumble or tim tams (both of which I became addicted to when I visited Sydney years ago). It should come as no surprise that she’s currently studying Classics and Archaeology at the local university.

LMS: Welcome, Efthalia. Please tell me about your most memorable meal

E: Food for me has always been one of those things that means more than just eating to live. It brings people together, opens up discussions and gives us these perfectly glorious moments that become painted portraits in our mind. Food isn’t always about the plate that arrives at the table, it’s the location, ambience and the people you are with.

Phantasma

I love trying different things and I think one of the most memorable dishes I ever had was one when I was feeling a little adventurous while on vacation in Fiji. We had decided that it would be a good idea to check out one of the other hotel’s restaurants. Why not? We were on holiday and this is something you do, look for new places to eat when you’ve grown tired of what is available at the resort you’re staying at. The restaurant we visited is no longer there, but what I do remember is that when I sat down my eye was drawn to the ‘Lobster Bisque’, for like ten minutes that was all that I could read from the menu. I was in a lobster bisque trance. Hypnotized. Everything else around on the menu was blurry. I had heard people raving about lobster bisque over the years, this was my chance to earn more foodie stripes, by diving straight into bisque territory. I took the plunge and ordered the bisque. While we waited, I contemplated silently, what if my ‘spur of the moment,’ decision had been the wrong choice? Well, my fears were put to rest when a big bowl of aromatic bisque arrived. I took one spoonful and my tastebuds just exploded. This dish was worth every penny. It was perfect and well balanced, the way a good meal should be. It exceeded my expectations and it confirmed my belief that we should all be a little daring when it comes to different types of cuisine.

Food has always been a big part of my life that when I’m writing I tend to put food scenes in my stories or mention food, because I figure our characters have to eat too. Especially if we want them to be well rounded and three dimensional, right?

Thanks, Efthalia. Speaking as a certified hypnotist, I can’t tell you the number of times I have used lobster bisque as a trancing tool. I can’t tell you because it’s never happened. Maybe I should, but I’ll have to swap out “you’re getting sleepy…” for “you’re getting hungry…”

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Andrew Mackay

No Comments » Written on September 7th, 2020 by
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Andrew Mackay

Much of the past week had me focused on medical matters. I received the second round of inoculations for all sorts of pesky ailments that I’d built up immunities to decades ago but since lost with the replacement of my immune system earlier this year. As a consequence, my arms ached for days and I acquired an impressive bruise. I’ve also been grappling with increased fatigue, a cumulative side effect of my chemo meds, which has had me a little frustrated because I want to be doing more more more, whereas my body wants to bump up the hours I spend sleeping each day instead.

Meanwhile I’ve been inspired by the nonstop efforts behind the campaign for the Hellscats anthology, which came out on the first of the month and is chugging along to raise funds to keep an old woman in her home in Armenia. I’m happy to be a part of that effort, and also very pleased to use EATING AUTHORS to turn a spotlight on some of the other writers who are contributing to the project. This week that’s Andrew Mackay.

Andrew used to write screen plays, but has since embraced the world of Indie publishing where he has more control over what becomes of his work and less of the aggravation that production companies so often bring. Like a lot of Indie authors his focus is more on story and less on genre. Whether he’s writing science fiction or horror, thrillers or romances, the common element is the resonance of human emotion. He’s found that regardless of the trappings, telling a story that is compelling and can connect at an emotional level is what writing a successful novel is all about.

LMS: Welcome, Andrew. Please share your most memorable meal.

AM: The most memorable meal I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a few!) would be the one I and three of my colleagues had back in 2003.

I lived in London, UK, at the time, and SKY (the corporation) took me, my girlfriend at the time, and my good friend Lloyd Kaufman (of indy movie studio Troma Entertainment) to Claridge’s in Mayfair to celebrate my selling of a package of Troma movies to their subsidiary TV channel, BRAVO.

Star Cat

For those who don’t know, Claridge’s head chef and owner, at least back then, was Gordon Ramsey. This was before he was a TV star, and right around the time a little movie, written by my late, dear friend Larry Cohen, called Phonebooth was hitting the movie theaters.

The three SKY employees who treated us to dinner were publicists themselves, and one of them was reeling from having seen Phonebooth – a film about a publicist trapped in a phone booth with a sniper threatening to kill him.

I remember at the time marveling at how so many strands of my life and friendships all came crashing together.

The three publicists each had what they referred to as a “Murdoch Card” – that is to say, dinner was on Rupert Murdoch, and we could have whatever we wanted in as much frequency as possible.

Glitch

Needless to say, the food was out of this world. I can’t even remember what I had, but the experience is what has stayed with me, particularly the dessert, which was some sort of banana boat with very, very, very thin slices of caramelized fruit running through the middle. It was a true work of art, and a big shame to have eaten.

The waiters on hand in this grand and lavish room within one of the more expensive hotels were ready to pounce if you needed anything. I remember putting a cigarette in my mouth (you could smoke indoors, back then!) and a hand with a lighter just appeared out of nowhere and lit the end.

The lunch started at around 12:30 in the afternoon, and finished at about 5pm. LOTS of wine, in the main, and before long, most of us were absolutely f**ked to the point where we couldn’t remember why we were there.

My Lockdown

I remember asking one of the SKY publicists why this had lasted such a long time, and he told me he was killing time because he had to meet another client at the bar at 7pm, and continue the merriment. Oh, to have had their job.

My girlfriend and I finally struggled out of the hotel, and went home with the female publicist.

And I think I’ll stop the story, here.

I think it goes without saying that very few meals have lived up to this experience. I’m a big believer in learning and getting to know how industries operate. I was only 24 at the time, but it really opened my eyes to just how exorbitant and indulgent the lives of those way further up the food chain — in all respects — actually live. A complete and utter wanton disregard for money, and debauchery.

And I’d do it again in a heartbeat because I’m a hungry hypocrite.

Thanks, Andrew. Being wined and dined by entertainment executives with unlimited expense accounts is an experience that every writer should have at least once. Not just for the opportunity to bask in raw excess, but also as something to haunt them forever: a time and place that exists in memory but will likely never be experienced again. You can get a lot of good fiction out of that kind thing.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Jamie Davis

No Comments » Written on August 31st, 2020 by
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Jamie Davis

I’m no stranger to the power of community, or the power of the internet as it affects community, but sometimes it still creeps up on me and takes me by surprise. Case in point, a few weeks back when an author I know put out a call for help because an aged relative was in danger of being put out of the house she’d lived in for decades. All at once, a vast list of authors came together and began contributing to an anthology, Hellcats, some sending in reprints and others writing new works just for the anthology. The plan: sell the book for bushels of cash, all of it earmarked to keep an old woman from being turned out onto the street.

I sent in a story, and readily agreed to boost the book’s signal via social media, but then wondered what else I might do. The solution was obvious: feature some of the other contributors here on EATING AUTHORS. That wasn’t quite so easy an idea though, as many of them (including Craig Martell, A.M. Scott, Julia Huni, E.G. Bateman, and R.R. Virdi) had already put in an appearance here.

But I reached out and in classic win-win spirit, authors began reaching back. Which is why I get to introduce you today to Jamie Davis. In addition to being an author, Jamie is also a nurse, a retired paramedic, and a nationally recognized medical educator who started out teaching emergency responders. Among readers, he’s probably best known for his six volume Huntress Clan Saga, his Accidental Traveler trilogy, and his ongoing Extreme Medical Services series (currently up to seven books)

Jamie lives with his wife and three kids in Maryland woods, combining his interests in medicine, gaming, and writing with seamless ease.

LMS: Welcome, Jamie, and thanks for contributing to the Hellcats anthology. Now, tell me about your most memorable meal.

JD: The most memorable meal I ever had has to be the breakfast at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans famous French Quarter. My wife and I were on our honeymoon and this was the one place she wanted to eat so we’d made brunch reservations for our fourth day in the city. Now Brennan’s is fine dining, the full 5-star meal in every way. It was a lot for two young people in their twenties to appreciate. Up until that point, we’d had some wonderful meals consisting of PoBoy sandwiches, raw oysters and fried shrimp brought in that day from the Gulf of Mexico, and beignets fresh from the fryer and dusted with just the right amount of powdered sugar.

So, when the two of us kids dressed up and wandered down to Brennan’s, I don’t know what I was expecting, but given what we’d had so far, I knew it would be a lot fancier. My wife ordered a mimosa to start and Eggs Benedict for her meal. I ordered steak and eggs, a ribeye if I remember correctly, along with two fried eggs over medium. We wrapped it all up with my wife’s order of Bananas Foster, a flambé dish prepared table-side by our waiter.

Cyber's Change

All in all, it was a pretty decent meal. The wait staff attended to our every need, and the chefs prepared everything perfectly. The meal was excellent over all, but it wasn’t the food I remember the most. The most memorable part of the meal was the check. This was 1990. It was breakfast, for God’s sake. Which was why I couldn’t wrap my brain around the bill. It was $115.42 before the tip. My jaw dropped. I don’t think we’d spent that much for two of us over an entire day before. I tried to hide my shock and pulled out my shiny plastic credit card, paying the man with a smile (I think).

Ever since, when asked about our honeymoon in New Orleans, I mention the breakfast at Brennan’s right at the top. It wasn’t to protest the price so much as time went by. I’ve grown accustomed to some pretty expensive fine dining establishments over the last thirty years. No, it’s more to talk about the wide-eyed country kid who had to pay for his first “big-boy” bill as a married man. In the end, I can’t complain. I must’ve done something right. We’re still together thirty years later with three wonderful kids, a grandson, and our health. Oh, and a great story from the beginning of our lives together to kick things off.

Thanks, Jamie. My wife and I had breakfast at Brennan’s once. My wife trained as a chef, so when she said that an ingredient of her meal had come out of a can rather than being fresh I believed her. We complained. They responded with a bullshit song and dance, and then an offer to comp our next meal (in a city with so many amazing restaurants, why would we return to a place that had disappointed?) until in the end, the head chef came out to our table. He apologized, comped the meal, sat with us, told stories about cooking for three presidents, and insisted we enjoy some bananas foster while we chatted.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Darcie Little Badger

No Comments » Written on August 24th, 2020 by
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Darcie Little Badger

In the middle of last week I had a crash and burn moment. I’d been pushing myself too hard, both physically and mentally, and even though the result has been insane levels of productivity and accomplishment, by late afternoon when the fatigue comes rolling in, I get frustrated as I imagine how much more I could do if my body would just get over the need to keep playing recovery games.

But timing is everything, and I recalled a moment of serendipity from four years ago which helped restore my mental/emotional balance. I’d had a story idea that involved plankton. Yeah, you heard me. But… I knew that I didn’t no much about plankton, and the particular notion I had in mind wasn’t something that I was going to be able to research with my limited biology background. So naturally, I reached out via social media for someone who might know a little bit about the subject. And almost instantly I was in contact with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Darcie Little Badger, a doctoral candidate in oceanography who was a day or so away from her defense and an expert in, you guessed it, plankton. I have a lot of serendipity in my life, so much so that I don’t question it any more. So I probably shouldn’t be all that surprised that when I had my crash and burn moment, I was already primed with the memory of magical plankton conversations because Darcie’s first novel, Elatsoe, was due out on Tuesday.

As she has hauled me back from the brink (all unknowingly) last week, I now get to tell you a bit more about Dr. Darcie Little Badger, Lipan Apache, oceanographer, and author. That debut novel? It’s both a New England Book Award finalist (young adult category) and a BookExpo 2020 Young Adult Buzz Finalist. Darcie also co-writes Strangelands, a comic series in the Humanoids H1 universe. And if that’s not enough to impress you — and let me be clear, you should have been satisfied with just her plankton bona fides — she’s had her short fiction featured in an episode of the podcast LeVar Burton Reads.

LMS: Welcome, Darcie. It’s wonderful to get back in touch with you. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

DLB: My most memorable meal (for all the wrong reasons) involves a boat trip with my boss, a heavy Italian breakfast, and seasickness. The story’s an amusing comedy of errors, but I don’t want to ruin anybody’s appetite, so I’ll describe a more pleasant meal instead.

I’m engaged to a veterinarian named T, and during the 12+ years we’ve known each other, T and I have eaten lots of tasty stuff. I’m talking everything from a multi-course Gudetama-themed dinner at a Curry House in California (it was almost too cute to eat) to coffee, warm cookies and sandwiches at the Austin Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. But my most memorable meal has to be a hash brown, egg, and pancake combo from Denny’s. Here’s why:

Elatsoe

After earning my PhD, I moved to Connecticut to be close to family. In contrast, T lived on the Californian coast. Because it’s possible to write anywhere — even on a plane — I visited T every couple months, spending half the year (take a bit) on the west coast and half the year (give a bit) on the east coast. (This was pre-pandemic, by the way; I haven’t seen my fiancé since March, and we’ve sadly had to delay our 2020 wedding ’till 2021.)

Here’s the thing. Remember how I mentioned seasickness earlier? Well, I get other types of motion sickness, too. Sometimes on a plane. Because of that, cross-country flights can be miserable experiences. Once, before I found the right medicine, I alternated between fainting and writhing with nausea for five hours.

So, yeah. Plane rides are less than relaxing on a good day. And although I haven’t experienced severe motion sickness in years, it’s always a fear I carry in the back of my mind.

Anyway, the second time I made the big cross-country trip, my flight was delayed an hour. Then — I kid you not — my bag was the absolute last thing to slide onto the baggage carousel. By the time I called T to tell them, “I’ll be waiting outside,” it was well past midnight, and I couldn’t wait to curl up under a warm blanket and sleep.

Strangelands

“On the way,” they said.

Seven minutes later, they pulled into the pickup zone and loaded my exactly-forty-nine-pound bag into their SUV. With a grateful “Thank you,” I slid into the passenger-side seat. That’s when I noticed the Denny’s take-out bag at my feet. “It’s for you,” T said. “There’s extra syrup in the bag. I also got you a Shirley Temple.”

While waiting for my flight to land, T had camped out in a Denny’s near LAX. That’s where they bought me hash browns, scrambled eggs, and pancakes.

As I dug into the hash browns — they were deliciously salty and crispy, cooling but not yet cold — I imagined my fiancé sitting, alone, in a diner booth. Still wearing the scrubs from work. Drinking coffee refills — they’d ask for soy milk or oat milk in each cup; they always do — and checking their phone for updates about my flight. Maybe, when I finally landed at half past midnight, they thought about the one-hour drive ahead of us. Maybe they thought about how little sleep they’d get before another day of surgeries and consultations at the veterinary clinic. I don’t know. But what I do know is this: they thought of me. Thought of how hungry I’d be, of how much I love hash browns (I really, really love hash browns).

That realization is why one Denny’s meal (devoured in a car, with heavy metal screaming from the radio and the skyline of LA twinkling in the rearview mirror) is more memorable than all the others. It’s so often the little things–everyday, gentle gestures of love–that make an impact.

In conclusion: my darling, I can’t wait until our next meal together. <3 To everyone else: thank you for reading. 🙂

Thanks, Darcie. At the end of the day (or the beginning of a new one), nothing says love like fried tubers! Hmm, I wonder if Waffle House does wedding registries?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Gautam Bhatia

No Comments » Written on August 17th, 2020 by
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Gautam Bhatia

Although I was one of the founders of the Codex online writing community, I haven’t checked in there much these last few years. Recently, I’ve tried to do better. In particular, because it’s a means of holding myself accountable. There’s a quarterly topic thread where novelists check-in on their progress over each three month span. It’s one of the few Codex threads that I visit. I like to hit it with a listing of my ambitions, month to month, and then follow-up to see how well/badly I’ve hit/missed the mark. I do not use it to compare my progress to anyone else’s because 1) we’re all at different points in our respective writers’ journeys and 2) the only one I should be in competition with is myself. That said, I do enjoy seeing the reports of other writers’ successes, both old friends and folks I haven’t met yet.

Recently, there was a post from someone I didn’t know. He had mentioned that his first novel was about to have its Covid-19 delayed release. My first reaction was to congratulate him. My second was to reach out and invite him to EATING AUTHORS, which is how Gautam Bhatia comes to be here today.

In another world, Gautam is a lawyer. His focus is on Indian constitutional law and philosophy, and he has published extensively. He’s a Rhodes scholar, studied at Oxford, and earned his law degree at Yale. In 2018, ForbesIndia listed him among their “30 under 30” (he was 29 at the time). Nowadays, Gautum lives in New Delhi, India. When not working as a lawyer or legal academic he has been known to put in time as a reviewer and editor with Strange Horizons.

The ebook of his first novel, The Wall, was released four days ago and the paperback comes out next week.

LMS: Welcome, Gautam. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

GB: SFF has shaped my life. So, predictably enough, my most memorable meal had something to do with SFF. Growing up, I loved the historical fantasy novels of Guy Gavriel Kay. My favourite was The Lions of Al-Rassan, that is set — in part — in Moorish Spain. As with all good books, the novel triggered a lifelong fascination with Andalusia. Many years later — in the summer of 2019 — when my taste in SFF had moved on, but my long-distance love affair with Andalusia had not, I was able to plan an actual trip to the region. My final destination was Granada, whose squares I had dreamed of not only because of Kay’s novel, but also because of Mahmoud Darwish’s heart-stopping poem, “I Want from Love only the Beginning.”

The Wall

I spent a lovely day wandering around the old city’s mountainous, winding streets. As evening wore on, I called my mother, who insisted that I eat dinner at a restaurant called Estrellas de San Nicolas, which she had uncovered after careful research: nestled into the hillside, it was supposed to have the best views of the Alhambra Palace (a landmark featured in Kay’s novel), from anywhere in Granada. I went hunting for the restaurant, but it proved notoriously difficult to find, and — being the penny-pincher that I am — I had decided not to pay for an international roaming on my phone, and rely only on hostel and city WiFi. There was, of course, no WiFi on the mountainside, and I was reduced to walking up and down the streets in the general area, peeling my eyes for the restaurant’s sign. I spent an hour or two this way, with the Alhambra — across the valley — seeming to mock my fruitless quest. On my fourth or fifth pass along a street, I finally did manage to uncover the restaurant (it is genuinely well-hidden), by a stroke of great good luck, found a vacant table despite having failed to make a reservation, for want of a functioning phone.

I ordered paella, which everyone had told me was the dish to eat when in Andalusia. The view of the Alhambra was everything I had been promised: I watched the fortress change colour with the sunset, the outer walls turning golden, dark red, pale red, and then grey, as the sun went down. It was also, I realised, the ideal place to finish that I had kept pending: I had to write the Epilogue of my novel — its last page — and I had been putting it off for a special occasion. This, evidently, fit the bill: so, next to my plate of paella and my glass of orange juice, with the Alhambra across the valley, I scribbled the final scene of my novel — which is due to be in print in one week from now.

Thanks, Gautam. I’ve only had paella once and it was a miserable experience. Admittedly, that was in Cannes, and surely it would be better in Andalusia. Then too, a view of the Alhambra seems guaranteed to make any meal wondrous indeed.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

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Eating Authors: Fiona Moore

No Comments » Written on August 10th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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Fiona Moore

The first ever virtual WorldCon has come and gone. It was by all accounts a Herculean effort and kudos to everyone who contributed to making it happen. In preparation, the organizers tried to get all the participants vetted on the necessary tools (e.g., Zoom, and in some cases also Discord). My calendar at the end of July was tight, but I had been scheduled for a panel and a kaffeeklatsch, which meant that well before the con began I had to sign up for a Zoom training. If memory serves, I latched onto a 9am slot, which would have been right after my morning walk so my blood would be pumping and I’d be at my best. This also corresponded to 1am of the next morning in Wellington, and I felt bad for the poor trainer who would have to run things at such an hour (and deal with up to nine other potential students) .

As it turned out, the trainer was actually in the UK, where it was a much more reasonable 2pm. Also, the class only had one other person. Which, as it turned out, was how I met this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Fiona Moore.

Fiona is a Canadian academic who currently works in London as a Professor of Business Anthropology, where her professional writing delves into issues of culture, gender, ethnic identity, transnationalism, and globalization. In the broader world of science fiction, she’s apt to slip in these same themes. She’s probably best known for her guidebooks to television series (such as The Prisoner and Battlestar Galactica) and for her short stories (for which she’s been shortlisted for a BSFA Award). She also writes stage plays, and a couple years back she published her first novel, Driving Ambition.

She received her doctorate from the university of Oxford for a thesis on ethnic identity among German expatriate bankers in the City of London, which I just think is a very cool thing and something you should all try to work into the conversation at your next cocktail party. You know, if we ever get to attend such things again.

LMS: Welcome, Fiona. Now that the worldcon is behind us, tell me about your most memorable meal.

FM: I’m an eat-to-live type, not a live-to-eat type. Not that I don’t like a good meal, but I go for “tasty and nutritious” (or sometimes, “tasty and really not nutritious,” but never mind) rather than “clever, subtle and gourmet.” I can cook — but the reason is that, during my second year of graduate school, I realised that 1) I was spending all my money on takeaway, because 2) when I cooked for myself, I just made the same two meals over and over. So, 3) the obvious solution if I wanted to stay fed and not run out of grant money, was to learn how to cook, and specifically how to cook like a takeaway.

However, I’m also a traveller, and make a point of eating the local food as much as I can. It’s part of the experience. When I was on a visiting fellowship in Taipei, my research assistants liked to amuse themselves by trying to find out if there was any food Doctor Moore wouldn’t eat (the answer turned out to be “duck, but that’s about it”). In sum, I like trying new things foodwise, but I’m not a connoisseur. Ask me what food I enjoyed on my last trip to Paris, and I’ll tell you about this amazing little place with movie posters on the walls where you could get authentic crêpes Bretonnes, rather than talking about what makes Maxim’s better than anywhere else. And if I go to restaurants, it’s mostly to be with friends or, if I’m on my own, to enjoy the atmosphere, rather than for the food.

Until, one day, I achieved culinary enlightenment. In 2016, in New Orleans.

Driving Ambition

Prior to an academic conference, I was knocking around the city being a tourist, enjoying the hot weather, beautiful houses, copious amounts of alcohol, amazing music and exposure to aspects of North American history I’d never known that much about before.

I’d been told beforehand that one of the things one has to do in New Orleans is eat good food, so I’d been dutifully trying all the local dishes: fried oyster po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya, the beignets at the Café du Monde. I’d certainly enjoyed everything I’d eaten, but that was about all I could say for it.

So, a few days into my visit, I was wandering around the French Quarter looking for someplace to have dinner. A creole restaurant caught my eye. It seemed nice but not fancy; the prices on the board seemed to confirm this. So, just fine for the adventurous budget traveller.

I went to the door and asked the maître d’ if there was a table for one.

“There’s a minimum twenty-minute wait,” he said.

Fall Out

OK, reasonably-priced food you had to wait for? This was news. I said I was fine with that and sat down to read a book while I waited.

About ten minutes later the maître d’ came back out and said that there was a seat available right now, if I didn’t mind sitting at the bar.

Well, of course I didn’t. But I was even more interested by a nice restaurant where people would sit at the bar as well as the tables to eat. I mean, wasn’t going to restaurants about socialising, about being with friends?

So, I sat at the bar and ordered a crayfish étouffée. Because I’d never had one, and it sounded like the sort of thing I should try.

It arrived.

I tasted it.

I had never eaten food that made me involuntarily exclaim “mmm!” Up until that point, I’d never even known that could be a thing.

It was absolutely perfect.

By Your Command

Suddenly I understood why gourmets make such a fuss about getting the right ingredients, the right spices, the right cooking time.

Also why people would go to a restaurant for the food more than for the company.

Why adventure in food can be about more than just looking for exotic or authentic dishes or testing the boundaries of what Doctor Moore won’t eat.

I had plenty of culinary excitement in New Orleans after that—I tried all different kinds of creole food, Southern food, French food. Nothing that was as good at that crayfish étouffée, though I sure tried to seek it out. I’ve also pursued that elusive “mmm!” in the years since, generally finding it not in the fanciest places, but in the places where, fancy or not, they really care about the food (I can recommend, if you’re interested in such things, the Hainanese chicken-rice at the City Satay open-air stall on Orchard Road in Singapore).

But that was the first time I got a glimpse into the world of live-to-eat.

And now I understand.

Thanks, Fiona. I can’t think of a better city for your culinary rebirth. Easily some of the best meals of my life have happened in New Orleans. You remind me that it’s been far too long since I’ve returned. Thanks for that.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro