Eating Authors: Steven H Silver

1 Comment » Written on August 3rd, 2020 by
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Steven H Silver

And lo, we have achieved August. And it’s a good thing, because the second half of July was really kicking my ass, albeit in a good way with a glorious birthday celebration and the release of Ace of Corpses (book one of a new spinoff series set in the universe of the Amazing Conroy).

We’ve also seen the coming and going of the first ever completely virtual Worldcon. With everything else going on, and because of the massive time zone difference between here (just outside Philadelphia) and Wellington, I had minimal presence at ConZealand. I appeared on one panel, held court at a kaffeeklatsch, and attended a couple of author readings. In addition, I probably spent all of ninety minutes spread out over several days chatting in a side room (aka a Discord channel) with some old friends. But that was the whole of my Worldcon experience this year.

Convention talk makes the perfect segue for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Steven H Silver only recently published his first book, but he’s been involved in running conventions for many years (including three stints as chair of Windycon and vice-chair for the 70th Worldcon). He’s also been a leader in the world of fannish publications, having racked up seventeen Hugo nominations, twelve for Best Fan Writer and five for Best Fanzine. He’s written reviews and edited several anthologies, been editor and publisher of a small press, and written more than a dozen short stories. Somewhere in there he also found time to appear on Jeopardy!

But let’s get back to his first book. After Hastings is an alternate history novel. It’s hardly surprising that he’d choose this genre for his debut book. Back in 1995, Steven founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has continued to serve as a judge for the award ever since. Is it any wonder then that he warped history by defeating William the Conqueror, thus ensuring the English language would never be the same again. The irony being that his book would read very differently in the resulting timeline.

LMS: Welcome, Steven. Please share your most memorable meal, and do not answer in the form of a question.

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal.

After Hastings

When I was fifteen, my grandmother and a couple of her cousins decided to go on a tour of Scandinavia, seeing the sights of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. The tour was double occupancy, so my grandmother invited my mother to join her. While that should have solved the roommate problem, my father decided that he also wanted to go to Scandinavia. Still in need of a roommate, I was invited to join them.

The most memorable meal was one we ate in a restaurant in Stockholm. There is no reason this meal, one of the last of two weeks’ worth of meals eaten with my parents, my grandmother and my grandmother’s cousins, should have been memorable. I couldn’t tell you the name of this restaurant, although I could tell you that it was located in Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm.

I can tell you what I ate. It was the first time I tried reindeer. That actually was pretty memorable. It is good, I recommend it, although it is a little gamy. What I certainly can tell you is that even in Stockholm people will give you strange looks if you are eating a reindeer steak and humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

So, what made that meal so memorable? The restaurant’s owner, whose name I couldn’t tell you.

Wondrous Beginnings

In the middle of our meal, the restaurant owner came out of the kitchen and looked around the dining room. She saw us and hurried over to our table, speaking rapidly in a language I didn’t understand, but knew wasn’t Swedish.

When she got to our table, she very excitedly grabbed my grandmother’s left arm and started to pull up my grandmother’s sleeve, all the time speaking in his foreign language.

My grandmother always wore long sleeves. The temperature didn’t matter. It was more important to her to cover up the fading numbers that had been tattooed onto her arm when the Nazis wanted to keep track of humans as if they were cattle.

Upon seeing my grandmother’s tattoo, the woman rolled her left sleeve up to show my grandmother her left arm. A similarly faded tattoo was on her arm.

Eventually, my grandmother was able to tell us what was going on.

Alternate Peace

As we had already surmised, the restaurant’s owner was also a Holocaust survivor. Although my grandmother didn’t recognize her at first over a distance of four decade and 1,000 kilometers, the woman had quite clearly recognized my grandmother.

It turns out that they were in the concentration camps together. When the restaurant owner fell ill, my grandmother made she sure had enough food and kept her out of the eyes of the guards so she would have a chance to survive. Over the years, she remembered my grandmother’s name and the number on her arm, and when she saw her, she recognized her.

Their conversation was brief, it was in Polish, so I couldn’t tell you anything that was said, even if I wanted to. My grandmother later admitted not having remembered the woman whose life she saved in the camps.

It doesn’t really matter than I was eating with my parents and cousins. It doesn’t really matter than we were in a forgotten restaurant in Stockholm’s Old Town. It doesn’t really matter that I was introduced to reindeer steak and received strange looks. It was a memorable meal because a stranger interrupted our meal to thank my grandmother for saving her life under deplorable conditions forty years earlier. And I can’t think of a better reason for a meal to be interrupted… or memorable.

Thanks, Steven. That may be the most compelling meal this blog has seen. I mean, because of the reindeer steak. You don’t often see that on the menu.

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.

photo credit: Richard Man

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Eating Authors: James Alan Gardner

1 Comment » Written on July 27th, 2020 by
Categories: News
James Alan Gardner

Happy birthday to me.

A few hours after this posts I expect to be online for a virtual birthday celebration. I hit sixty-one today, but the party is more of a celebration of the fact that I’m still around to check off another birthday after the rigors of the past year with its cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, endless scans and tests, innumerable visits with medical specialists, weeks of physical therapy, surgery, hospital stays, brutal side effects, convalescence, and ongoing recovery. I think ERB’s John Carter said it best: “I still live.” He got to go to Mars, me, I’m letting friends throw me a virtual party.

A few weeks back I was part of an online conversation discussing a Canadian SF convention and someone asked if I knew this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest James Alan Gardner. I recognized the name, but no, we’d never met. The next day I realized that I’d never read any of his books, and immediately went off to pick up a copy of Expendable, the first volume in his League of Peoples series.

I was blown away!

Light and fun and clever, James is a master of the very same style that I strive for in much of my own writing. I’ve been devouring his books since (I’m currently on number 7), and I immediately reached out to invite him to be a guest on the blog, and lo, here he is!

James attended Clarion West, took home the Grand Prize in the Writers of the Future contest as well as Canada’s Aurora Award and has been nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. In addition to writing and teaching science fiction and fantasy, he dabbles in mathematics and geology — none of which explains why he has been attempting to teach kung fu to a rabbit. I keep hoping it’s a metaphor, but who am I kidding?

Rabbits aside, go read his books, they’re absolutely delightful!

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

AJG: Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1967, and many special projects were funded in the exuberance of that year. One of them was SOLE: Summer of Learning Experience, a program that offered small amounts of money to set up local education centers for teens across the province of Ontario. In my hometown of Simcoe, this took the form of a drop-in center in an old railway station that hadn’t been used in years. The director of the center described himself as lazy; instead of trying to organize a lot of activities on his own, he just put out a call to people around town. “Hey, if you have free time, why don’t you teach kids about something you love doing?”

Expendable

Lots of people responded. There was a young guy who came in once a week and worked kids through the lengthy process of making themselves custom leather sandals. An older man led nature hikes every Sunday afternoon. A college art student on her summer vacation showed up most evenings to help people work on whatever kind of art they liked.

And it turned out that an older woman in town had studied as a Cordon Bleu chef in the 1930s. Times being what they were, no restaurant would hire a female chef, and she eventually just got married and became a housewife…but when she heard that SOLE was looking for people to teach things they loved, she leapt at the chance.

So every Thursday throughout the summer, she opened her house and her kitchen to teens who wanted to cook. Usually, there were six to eight of us. Our Cordon Bleu teacher planned the menu and bought the ingredients; we’d work on the meal all day, starting at 10:00 in the morning and finishing around 6:00; then the director of SOLE plus a few invited guests would arrive, and we’d all eat what we had cooked. The guests paid to cover the cost of all the ingredients, while the rest of us ate for free.

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault

I always felt that our teacher chose famous dishes for us to cook: things I’d actually heard of, like Quiche Lorraine, Coq au Vin, and Crêpes Suzette. On the other hand, maybe she just thought we should learn to cook the Cordon Bleu specialties, and those specialties were the most well-known…or perhaps, since Simcoe was an unsophisticated town, and the 1960s were a time when people seldom went out for dinner except to mom-and-pop restaurants, our teacher thought she needed to serve famous dishes if she wanted to attract guests who would, after all, be paying considerably more for their meal than they would at a hamburger joint.

At any rate, those dinners were amazing, both in terms of food quality — delicious things I’d never tasted before — and in the whole experience of cooking together all day with other kids, then spending a languid two hours at the table, and then (oh well) cleaning up as fast as we could. More than fifty years later, it’s hard to remember which dishes we cooked on which days… but let me pretend that the highlights of the summer all happened at the same meal.

So we started with French onion soup: so sweet, and of course, with croutons and grated cheese. I drove my mother crazy for years thereafter, insisting on shredding cheese into every kind of soup she ever cooked.

They Promised Me The Gun Wasn't Loaded

Coq au Vin: cooking with wine! Daring! Especially since all the cooking staff were under age. We were assured that every bit of alcohol boiled off during cooking, so we wouldn’t get in trouble by going home drunk… and might I say that the smell of chicken cooking in wine was far more appealing than my first actual taste of wine years later.

For dessert, we had the greatest Apple Strudel in the history of the world. I remember three of us working for hours on the pastry, gently pulling it wider, ever wider, with our hands, until it was so big we had to take it into the living room to finish stretching it out. Our teacher told us that good strudel pastry was supposed to be so thin, you could read a newspaper through it… and I think we nearly got there. We wrapped it over and over around a homemade apple filling, producing a sugary dessert where the pastry was as fine as tissue — one of the best things I’ve ever made in my life, in a kitchen or elsewhere.

So a memorable meal in the eating? Absolutely. But it was more memorable for the entire experience, and an awesome way to spend an entire summer. It sparked a love of cooking (and eating!) that I cherish to this day.

Thanks, James. I’m wondering what the weekly dinner guests thought of those meals (especially if their usual fare was limited to Simcoe’s mom-and-pop restaurants, and how they managed to return to more mundane meals once summer ended.

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: David Drake

No Comments » Written on July 20th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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David Drake

July is winding down, and it’s been quite eventful, with the promise of still more to come.

  • My replica Neanderthal skull arrived and is now mounted on its custom stand and seated upon a marble pillar in my dining room, because where else does one put such a thing?
  • One of my oldest friends in the world is organizing a birthday event for me, to honor the past year’s battle with cancer, and has set up a site where people can record 30 seconds of video to send me birthday greetings.
  • This year’s 27th annual Klingon Language Conference has shifted to an online venue and gets underway in four days, and promises to bring in many more speakers from across Europe and other distant realms.
  • And today is my dog’s eleventh birthday. He’s still chipper and spry, just received a check-up and clean bill of health from the vet and a major shearing from the groomer. Later today I’ll present him with a shiny new chew toy (a rugged fabric moose). Dogs make everything better.

None of which has anything to do with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, but I hope something on that list will have caught your fancy enough that you don’t notice I don’t have a proper segue to my introduction of David Drake.

Dave’s probably best known as the author of the Hammer’s Slammers series, with his Republic of Cinnabar Navy series, coming in as a close second. He’s been credited with creating the Military SF genre as we know it today. Like many authors producing Space Opera and Military SF, he brings a veteran’s perspective to the topic, tempered in his case by his study of law.

His bibliography is incredibly extensive and ranges from multiple series in multiple genres that he’s written on his own, other series he’s co-authored or created outlines for with folks like Eric Flint and S.M. Stirling, and a long list of anthologies he’s edited.

You can sample some of his work over at the Baen Free Library. Check it out.

LMS: Welcome, Dave. Thanks for accepting my offer to talk about your most memorable meal.

DD: My first thought was to pass on your offer because I’m not very interested in food. My mother was a terrible cook (though she baked well), and food was to me simply something necessary for life.

I then realized that a meal is much more than just food and drink; and this in turn reminded me of my dinner the first night of the first World Fantasy Convention in 1975.

To Clear Away the Shadows

I was an SF reader and had recently begun writing SF, but I had never been a fan. My first con had been the 1974 Worldcon; it was a stressful and unpleasant experience. (I’m a Nam vet with a degree of PTSD.)

My agent Kirby MacCauley said he was starting a completely new sort of con: WFC — and I had to try that. Against my better judgment I did.

I was in correspondence with another of Kirby’s clients, Ramsey Campbell, and he was coming over for WFC also. My wife Jo and I agreed to drive him in Jo’s 1965 Mustang from Chapel Hill where we lived to Providence, RI, for the con.

Jo and I had room in the convention hotel (the Holiiday Inn) but we’d made no other arrangements for the con. After we dropped Ramsey off we found a Ford garage and had a new trunk key made because the key chain had broken while Jo was closing the trunk, locking the key inside with all the luggage. It was late afternoon by then and we decided to find something to eat.

The Complete Hammer's Slammers Volume 1

We got into the lobby and were heading for the front door when we saw Manly and Frances Wellman, our friends from the Triangle, looking around in puzzlement also. We joined them and had decided the hotel restaurant was probably very full (WFC was only about 300 that year, but there were two other conventions in the hotel), when another elevator opened and a group of people got out including L. Sprague de Camp and his wife Catherine. The de Camps were old friends of the Wellmans but the couples had become estranged in the ’50s. Manly called and went over to Sprague. They immediately agreed that they didn’t remember what they’d been arguing about way back then — and it didn’t matter at all now.

The de Camps were with about four other people who were going to dinner; they had reservations. They and the restaurant were fine with merging the two groups, so we all went in together.

Lord of the Isles

I didn’t know all of the de Camps’ group but one of them was Forrie Ackerman, the famous fan (and editor and agent). Somebody in the group mentioned having seen a porn paperback by L Sprague de Camp. “Not me,” said Sprague. General consensus at the table that it was probably by Sam Merwin, long-time editor and writer for Standard Magazines, who was now doing porn.

We ordered and ate. I have no memory of what anyone had. Sprague de Camp was probably the author on whom I had most modeled my work when I first started writing fiction, but I’d never met him before. It was wonderful to chat with him.

At the end of the meal, Forrie handed Sprague a list which he’d written on his napkin. Sprague read it out aloud. It was a series of Sprague de Camp titles slightly modified (one letter or word changed) to make them porn titles. I don’t remember a single one of them now, but they were hilarious; and Sprague laughed as hard as the rest of us.

That was far the most memorable meal I’ve ever had.

Thanks, Dave. While I’ve had the pleasure of dining with Forrie, I never got to even meet Sprague. If we ever build time machines, I hope someone will sneak back to that restaurant seconds after you all left and recover that napkin.

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: Raven Oak

No Comments » Written on July 13th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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Raven Oak

We’re almost midway through July and I am swamped. Or not, depending on whom you ask. My wife is agog with all that I am doing and accomplishing, both in terms of how far I’ve come with my recovery from the after-effects of my bone marrow transplant (lo these five and a half months now), but also with regard to the outpouring of creativity and productivity in my writing. Me, all I tend to see if that there’s so much left to do and I’m not as far along as I want to be. It’s a sickness, I tell ya.

I’m sure other writers know what I’m talking about. I’ve never subscribed to the notion that “I have to write, I have no choice.” I don’t need that kind of drama. But when I make plans, when I commit myself, I want to see things through, no matter if my expectations are outrageous or improbable.

I suspect that this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest can relate. Raven Oak wrote her first novel (a 320 page Pern-inspired fantasy) at age twelve. Yeah, seriously. What were you doing at that age?

Some thirty years later she’s living in Seattle and still writing. She seems just as comfortable with Fantasy as Science Fiction, novel length work as well as short stories. When not writing, she describes herself as “a geeky, disabled ENBY who enjoys getting her game on with tabletop games, indulging in cartography and art, or staring at the ocean.” Actually, elements of that describes everyone I know in Seattle; maybe there’s something in the water.

Amaskan’s Honor, the third book in her Boahim fantasy trilogy, is due out later this year. If you start reading the first two now, you’ll be well-positioned to put in your pre-order.

LMS: Welcome, Raven. Let’s talk about your most memorable meal.

RO: Thinking about memorable meals is a challenging topic for me as my husband and I both grew up poor — the kind of poverty where parents skip meals so that the children can eat. For us, Thanksgiving was no different from any other day meal-wise, as we didn’t have the money for anything fancier than hot dogs and mac and cheese. Be it new friends or new foods, my husband and I set out to make every Thanksgiving meaningful.

Amaskan's Blood

Both of us dreamed of fleeing Texas for the Pacific Northwest, an opportunity that arrived the week of Thanksgiving in 2012 by way of a new job. On Monday, we resided in Texas. Two days later, we lived in Seattle in temporary corporate housing. After the plane touched down the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we settled into our temporary abode with zero local friends and no plans for the morrow.

With the Internet to our rescue, we placed a Thanksgiving reservation at a small, vegetarian restaurant called Café Flora. Why here? First because I’m vegetarian, and second, their employees worked the holiday on a volunteer basis only. We weren’t wrong to pick this restaurant. Our table was tucked between a window and a fireplace, giving us the perfect view. Outside, rain drizzled from gray skies, while indoors, a warm fire crackled as cheerful staff served customers a four-course meal.

Class-M Exile

The first course consisted of foraged mushroom soup, garnished with a dollop of horseradish mascarpone, and served with walnut crostini. I love mushrooms, so I was excited about the soup. I wasn’t sure about the horseradish mascarpone, but if there’s one thing Café Flora excels at, it’s their ability to blend flavors. You will enjoy tastes you never imagined you’d enjoy, as was the case with the mascarpone. Our second course was hazelnut-sage pesto, rich cornbread, butternut squash, and Honeycrisp apples in a creamy corn custard, served with Brussels sprouts, roasted parsnips, wild mushroom gravy, and apple-cranberry chutney. I’d never had chutney before, but this meal made me a life-long fan. For us, this course was the perfect replacement for turkey, stuffing, and gravy, which is saying something as my meat-eating husband lives for his traditional turkey dinner. Next, we were served green bean and fennel salad with Marcona almonds, pomegranate seeds, and herbed mustard-maple vinaigrette. Because of the sometimes drastic change in flavors, palette cleansers were provided between each course, ranging from small crackers to whipped puddings. The last course, being dessert, was a choice between vegan pumpkin pie and chocolate roulade with clove pastry cream, poached black plums, and cacao nib brittle.

I don’t like to say that I’m a picky eater, but I am. I’ve been a vegetarian for over twenty years, suffer from several food allergies (including tomatoes), and have issues with certain food textures, yet, I loved this meal. We weren’t rushed through it, despite it being a busy holiday, and it gave me an opportunity to explore some new tastes in a new city. Between the food and the ambiance, Seattle didn’t feel so lonely and new.

When people come to visit us or we meet people new to the Seattle area, we always make a point to visit Café Flora as we know it will be a warm welcome to Seattle.

Thanks, Raven. I’ve only ever had wonderful experiences whenever I’ve visited Seattle. It might be sufficient to get me to visit a vegetarian restaurant. Maybe.

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: Kevin Steverson

No Comments » Written on July 6th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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Kevin Steverson

Welcome to July! We’ve barely begun the month, but it’s already exploding! Since you were last here, fans, friends, and colleagues all chipped in to contribute to a very unlikely GoFundMe page and in less than twenty-four hours had hit the goal to purchase a replica Neanderthal skull for me for my birthday later this month. Crazy, right? Then, last Thursday, my new collection, The Rule of Three and Other Stories was released, and people have been saying extremely complimentary things about it. And, as if that wasn’t enough, later today I’ll be meeting with my oncology team and among other bits of medical poking and prodding I’ll begin my regimen of vaccinations to replace those old childhood immunities that went away during my bone marrow transplant. All in all, it’s quite a lot, and there’s still most of the month to come!

But enough about me (and my soon-to-arrive Neanderthal skull), let’s talk about this week’s EATING AUTHOR guest, Kevin Steverson. He also just had a book released. The Long And Short Of It, a gathering of five novellas set in his Salvage Title universe, came out last Friday, so his month is also off to a great start (and yes, that was a double-reverse segue there, in case you missed it).

Kevin is probably best known for as a writer of military SF, and a twenty-one year career in the army that’s understandable. But he also writes fantasy. And songs. In fact, when not writing he’s often as not on the road as the Tour Manager for the band Cypress Spring. Somewhere between his military service, his writing, and his musical escapades he’s found the time to have six children (I’m sure his wife helped), and they seem to have learned the trick of it because Kevin reports he’s now up to ten grandchildren. I’m tired just thinking about it.

LMS: Welcome, Kevin. What’s your most memorable meal?

KS: My most memorable meal? A great question. Let me start by saying, I am a simple man from the panhandle of Florida. Lower Alabama, if you will. I grew up near the beach, but inland about an hour. Give or take a few minutes.

Prior to that, my father retired from the Army. We lived all over the world but the food cooked in our home was always decidedly southern fare. After my own twenty one year career in the Army, we now live in northeast Georgia and southern cooking still holds sway.

Salvage Title

My wife is an incredible cook. Now, I’m not saying this because it is best if I do…or else. Those of you with a better half know what I mean. She truly is. Besides my career as an author, I manage a nationally signed music act, Cypress Spring. The guys are forever trying to plan ways to stop here while on the road for a meal or two. My wife and I once made a six hour drive with her red velvet cupcakes for one of their wedding receptions.

Sorry. Bright light. Squirrel with a flashlight! Quick, chase it! I went off on a tangent to say this: I am not one to go to fancy restaurants or eat meals with small medallions of meat and three squeaky green beans crossed over each other with a red swirl of color on a plate. I’m not knocking those type of meals, I’m sure the bite or two involved tastes great, but they are just not for me.

My most memorable meal was so long ago, it seems like a lifetime. In 1989, I was traveling from Missouri to the Florida panhandle. I had spent a year in South Korea, eating in army chow halls or local food in the village outside our base while on a weekend pass. I still love Korean food, to this day.

Hide the Lightning

A year. A whole year without real southern food. I flew in from Korea to Missouri to visit my two oldest children living there with their mother. I stayed in a hotel and ate fast food, something else I hadn’t had much of. Anyway, after a few days I headed southeast, towards home.

Traveling through Arkansas, in a small town, I saw a sign outside of a restaurant advertising chicken-fried steak. The restaurant was an old wooden building, kind of what you see in the modern restaurants trying to appear southern, only they didn’t try to deliberately gain that particular look. It was authentic. An old building with worn grey boards overlapped, a stone chimney, and a tin roof. I had been driving for hours, so I hit the brakes like a deer just darted across in front of me.

When I walked in the door of the place, the aroma coming from the kitchen was enough to make a man cry, remembering meals at grandma’s house. I could make out the scents of cornbread, fried chicken, and the sweet smell of fresh baked pies.

Burnt

The sign made me stop, so I ordered the chicken-fried steak. To this day, I have never had it so tender. It was covered in a white sawmill gravy. The green beans on the side were perfectly flavored with pieces of fatback. Not bacon…fatback. The cornbread was amazing with a perfect crispness on top smothered in butter. Washing it all down was nectar from God himself. Real. Southern. Sweet.Tea.

Unable to decide, I had a piece of apple pie and pecan pie for dessert. Back then, as an infantryman, I ran a six minute mile pace in the mornings and didn’t give a flip about calories. Not so much, these days.

The conversation with the owners and their daughter, the waitress, was great. It didn’t revolve around what I did for a living. We talked hunting and fishing, comparing Arkansas to my neck of the woods. Their daughter was an avid huntress. I left her a twenty dollar bill as a tip. Twenty dollars n 1989. Ah well, a soldier and his money is soon parted.

These days, between traveling to conventions or the weekends when I go out with the band, I suppose I could trace the route I took home that early December and possibly find the town but hesitate to try. I would be disappointed if I found the restaurant no longer there. Some things are better left as memories.

Thanks, Kevin. I doubt the restaurant is still there. Not because it failed or burned down or was crushed by a wandering Daikaiju. No, it was gone the day after you visited. We’ve seen a lot of restaurants like that here at EATING AUTHORS. It’s part of the magic.

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: K. Gorman

No Comments » Written on June 29th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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K. Gorman

Lately I’ve been waking up at dawn, yawning, and asking myself why the hell I’m waking up so early. It’s not like I’m punching a clock or have early morning meetings or anyone else depending on me for much of anything. But then I remember that I want to get my steps in, that walking daily is critical to rebuilding the strength and stamina that I lost along with my old immune system, and (the critical factor) the outside temperature is only going to increase the more I dawdle.

I usually walk in a nearby park on a nice path that wends its way around numerous soccer fields and through a small wooded area. The soccer fields are empty, their use prohibited due to Covid-19, but there are usually a handful of other people walking, jogging, or riding bicycles on the path. I’d been doing my walks after lunch, but as summer arrived and they turned into two miles in 90° temperatures, I switched over to early mornings for the much cooler temps. Don’t misunderstand, I’m still drenched with sweat by the time I get home, but the walk itself is much more pleasant and I think that carries through in some way to the words I’m dictating into my phone over the course of two miles.

This week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, K. Gorman, hails from Victoria, British Columbia, which looks like it would be a glorious place to walk around. I’ve had the pleasure to walk quite a bit in Vancouver, B.C. when I was a GoH at a convention there a few years ago, and as that’s only about sixty miles away from Victoria, I’m going to count that as a segue for this week.

Kelly is an indie author writing everything from sword and sorcery to urban fantasy to space opera. She colors that entire range with her interest in the histories and culture of China, Taiwan, and Japan. It makes for a tasty mix.

Her latest book, Black Dawn, is the first volume of a five book series, The Eurynome Code Book, recently relaunched by Aethon Books just last week. Check it out today, because you’ll be able to get books two through five in the series as they come out in three week intervals over the next few months.

LMS: Welcome, Kelly. Let’s get right to it. What’s your most memorable meal?

KG: I’ve had the fortune to have multiple meals that can compete for that title. In recent memory, however, that title may have to go to the barbecue I had with my coworkers near the beginning of my teaching contract.

Black Dawn

I’d moved to Taiwan in mid-2015. With only a barely-conversational skill in Mandarin, my partner and I had, at that point, only wandered out and memorized the routes to a few key places—the laundromat that was a 45min walk away (we had yet to find the one that was only a 15min walk), the local ex-pat restaurant with decent breakfast dishes and burgers, the other local ex-pat restaurant without decent breakfast dishes and burgers and whose owner came off to me as being a sleazeball, one of the local night markets, and the grocery store. All other points were navigated by using Google maps, which can get temperamental.

About two months into my teaching contract, once the mess of hiring and class scheduling was mostly settled, my workplace sprang for a Korean barbecue meal for the employees.

It was a complete blast.

Picture this: You show up at 10am on a Sunday and the place is so busy they have a line-up out the door and you have to make reservations.

First Blood

Each table (meant for groups) had two small barbecues with funnel-like smoke hoods above them. You’re given a paper menu where you tick off everything you want to eat, hand it back to the waiter or waitress. They bring it out raw for you to cook it, with sauces and spices, and give you a clean menu for your next round of ordering.

About ten feet from the table is an all-you-can-drink fridge stocked with glass bottles of Coca Cola and a few other drinks. Across the room are three freezers of all-you-can-eat ice cream. Second dessert ended with us holding sticks with cute marshmallows on the ends over the barbecue.

You pay per person and for the time you stay (basically: order lots of food quick, don’t slack on the eating, and be shameless about your ice cream).

I can’t remember all of what we ordered. All I know if that there was a lot of it, it was all absolutely delicious, the company was a blast, and we all waddled out of there having packed enough food in our stomachs for the rest of the week.

Thanks, Kelly. This sounds like an incredible experience, though I’d probably have to return multiple times to learn the right technique and balance of sauces and spices to ensure my barbecue was edible. At least I couldn’t screw up the ice cream.

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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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: Naomi Kritzer

1 Comment » Written on June 22nd, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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Naomi Kritzer

Here in the northern hemisphere the longest day of the year has come and gone and it is now officially summer. In my home, the A/C has already been running for more than a week and I fear the next couple of months are going to be especially hot. Add in the chaos of a worldwide pandemic, political protests throughout the US, and people just generally being nasty to one another, and I fear the evening new is going to bring more distressing tales of the world being on fire in ever new ways.

One method for coping, at least some of the time, is to lose yourself in fonder memories. For me, that’s lately meant reflecting on my trip to China last year, which coincidentally enough was the last time I saw this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Naomi Kritzer. We were both in Beijing as guests of APSFcon, and afterwards also climbed the Great Wall together, toured the grounds of the Summer Palace, and shared a dinner of Peking Duck.

Naomi has won the Hugo and Locus awards, the Edgar award, and the Minnesota Book award. She’s twice been a finalist for the Nebula, and as of this writing is short listed on several other prizes to resolved soon. Further evidence that it’s going to be an interesting summer.

She lives in Minnesota where in addition to writing fiction and racking up award nominations she also writes about politics and elections in the twin cities, providing detailed looks at candidates that might otherwise receive little coverage or scrutiny. A lot of eyes have been on Minneapolis of late, and her perspective on the recent events makes for insightful reading on her blog.

LMS: Welcome, Naomi. We had some incredible food last year in China, but I’m guessing you’ve got something else in mind as your most memorable meal. What was it?

NK: I’m married to someone who likes single-malt scotch. My take on scotch is that it tastes almost exactly like gasoline smells, and the very expensive kind only tastes like more expensive gasoline, and if it’s as amazing as my scotch-drinking friends say it is, they should definitely not waste any of it on me. But Ed likes it, and several of our friends like it, and back in 1996 or 1997 (I was a year or two out of college at the time), my friend Dave found out that Sherlock’s Home, a brew pub/restaurant in a Minneapolis suburb, had the largest collection of single-malt scotches in the state. He organized a group outing for dinner there, with the goal of sampling as many scotches as they could. There was a hotel right next door, so four of these friends actually booked hotel rooms so they wouldn’t have to drive home. I didn’t want any scotch, but dinner sounded fun, and I told Ed I’d be his designated driver.

When Ed and I ate out, at that point, we tended to choose diners or the very inexpensive Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants near the U of M campus. We also usually economized by ordering water rather than soda (or beer/wine) unless it was a special occasion. We’d both been taught by our parents to order from the middle of the menu when someone was treating us, and we gravitated toward those items even when we were paying our own way.

Catfishing on CatNet

The outing to Sherlock’s Home included me and Ed; Dave and Rebecca; Kent and C.; and I think probably another pair of friends, but I can’t remember who. I remember Dave having an enormous bushy beard at the time, and I’m pretty sure he arrived at the restaurant in overalls. Kent was Dave’s best friend, a huge fan of scotch, and a “maximizer.” Maximizers are people who are constantly on the lookout for what they consider best. Years later, I teased Kent about being an everything snob: some people were wine snobs or beer snobs or cheese snobs, but Kent could authoritatively tell you who had the best version of literally anything. When he demurred, I baited him by asking who had the best state fair. Another friend said, “Pfft, he’ll just say Minnesota, but that’s not snobbery, that’s just regional chauvinism,” and Kent turned around and said, “Actually, Texas has the best state fair,” thus proving my point. Anyway, if you’re doing something like attempting to sample a hundred different scotches in one night, an opinionated everything-snob who’s also excellent company is a great person to bring along. (Thinking back, he probably originally hatched the idea, but he had no organizational skills so that part was on Dave.)

We had a table reservation; when they seated us, Dave cheerfully warned the waiter that we were going to be there for many, many hours. The waiter got a very worried look until Dave went on to explain that this was because as a group we were going to try to sample every scotch they had, and if they wanted us to relocate to the bar when we were done with our meal, they should just let us know. (At some point later in the evening Dave reiterated the offer to move and the waiter said “oh, no, the bar’s super crowded, you should definitely stay here and I’ll bring you whatever you like.” When the check came, Dave and Kent drunkenly calculated a 25% tip, rounded up, and added a couple of additional twenties just to be on the safe side, so I don’t think the waiter was disappointed.)

Fires of the Faithful

The scotch-drinkers got their first round even before we’d ordered food: they each selected a scotch off the list, and then passed their glasses around so that everyone could have a small sip of every scotch. There was a lot of discussion of flavors. Ed took notes on the ones he particularly liked.

Meanwhile, I looked at the menu, and since the scotch drinkers were all going to be indulging themselves with expensive liquor I figured that I could definitely justify ordering the most expensive item on the menu, which was a special: ostrich medallions in cherry sauce. It cost $25. At that point in my life I’d never bought a $25 entrée. I don’t think I’d ever had a $25 entrée that someone else was paying for. I’d never had ostrich. I had no idea what an ostrich would taste like. And I wasn’t sure it would go well with cherry sauce. But why not. I went for it. (I just checked a constant-dollar calculator: it would be a $42 entrée today.)

More scotch got passed around while we waited for the food. I sipped my beer and teased the scotch drinkers about some of the adjectives they were using, which didn’t actually make the scotch sound like anything a sensible person would want to ingest.

The food arrived, and I took a bite of the ostrich in cherry sauce.

The ostrich itself tasted a bit like steak, only far more delicate and tender than steak ever is. The cherry sauce was sweet and rich and the flavors together created something brand new to me. I had never tasted anything like this; I had no idea that food could taste like this.

Freedom's Gate

I elbowed Ed. “You need to try this,” I said. He put down his own fork and tried a bite of my ostrich. His eyes went wide. “That is exquisite,” he said, clearly regretting his own choice in entrée. I didn’t offer to share any more but ate the rest slowly, feeling a new wash of wonder with each bite.

This, I realized, this was why people went to fancy restaurants.

I’d eaten plenty of perfectly serviceable meals at restaurants by then. I’d eaten plenty of very good meals, even. But I’d never had a meal before that point that made me re-evaluate what I wanted in a restaurant meal. It changed the way I thought about food.

The scotch drinkers did not, in fact, get through every scotch but they plowed through an entirely respectable number.

Ed and I went back to Sherlock’s that summer, for our anniversary, and when I made the reservation I asked if there was any chance they’d make ostrich with cherry sauce again and they did. (It was not in the standard “specials” rotation.) Sherlock’s closed in 2002, but it’s one of those restaurants that people in the area still talk about. Mostly people miss their beer (British style, brewed in-house) and the overall convivial atmosphere.

We are still friends with Dave and Rebecca; C. has moved away. Kent, tragically, died in 2014 of early-onset dementia; he was only 49 when he died. After his death, his friends posted tributes to him — several mentioned his fondness for food, scotch, good friends, and enthusiastically telling you that something was the best (whatever it was) in the world.

Thanks, Naomi. There are a lot of scotch aficionados at SF conventions and I often receive invitations to their private tasting parties. But like you, I think the stuff tastes like gasoline and I always demure so someone who can appreciate the vile stuff will get my share. But now I’m wondering if your late friend Kent had an opinion on the best scotch, or at least the best scotch from that night.

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: Sharif Khan

No Comments » Written on June 15th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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Sharif Khan

I’ve surely mentioned this before. My unconscious likes to sabotage me with creativity. I could be under a deadline, or just trying to make headway on a given project. I have things that I really need to get done. That’s when I’m most prone to shoot myself in the proverbial foot because suddenly I get an idea for a new project, or the solution to a different project. And it’s oh so shiny and cloyingly sweet. It has so many colors and textures and blinky lights and clickable buttons of different sizes. That’s the kind of a week I’ve had. And it’s hard to be annoyed, because really, the new thing is so great.

But it doesn’t help with progress on the current (and much more pressing) thing.

This phenomenon isn’t all that different from the paralysis that keeps some writers from ever finishing a manuscript, or keeps them forever rewriting. As I tend to tell hypnosis clients, the main job of the unconscious mind is to keep us safe, and at some level something about finishing a project looks like it could expose us to danger or risk or some threat, so let’s make sure we never finish, right? Knowing this, it’s usually a simple matter for me to do a little self-hypnosis and assure my unconscious mind that there’s really no problem. Once I do, the cool new idea can be set aside and I can get back to work on the thing I should be doing. The trick of course is to realize what’s going on while I’m in the middle of it, and that can take several days.

None of which has much to do with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, other than to offer up the most tenuous of segues because, as Sharif Khan has demonstrated in his nonfiction book Psychology of the Hero Soul, he has an interest in the workings of the mind. Given the current pandemic and the focus on first responders, my guess would be that the book has been selling well.

Meanwhile, he recently released his first novel. Brave Fortune, came out about six weeks ago, a curious blend of epic fantasy and dystopian science fiction. It’s an ambitious debut, by turns metaphorical, philosophical, and literary. Check it out.

LMS: Welcome, Sharif. What do you consider your most memorable meal?

SK: I went with a friend to this exotic place, The Sultan’s Tent & Café Moroc, a Moroccan restaurant that serves French-Moroccan cuisine in downtown Toronto in my neighbourhood of the St. Lawrence Market across from Berczy Park with its dog-themed water fountain.

Brave Fortune

We were seated in a luxurious, lantern-lit tented enclave with potted palms, plush divans and pillows, and old paintings from Morocco. The place is reminiscent of 1930s Casablanca and would probably be a good spot for a remake of the movie with Bogie. Actually… no, don’t mess with Casablanca!

I had their Lamb Freekha — lamb shank, ancient grains, root vegetables, and toasted cashews. It was to die for. The meat was soft and tender and slid off the bone. I finished off the meal with some baklava and Moroccan Mint Tea, which the server poured from a great height, which enhances the flavour and is seen as a sign of respect.

The highlight of the night was being treated to an authentic belly dance performance. All in all, a sensuous culinary and artistic feast.

That’s what I love about Toronto, which was named the most diverse city in the world by BBC Radio. You literally have a taste of all countries at your fingertips. Having lived in Canada, US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, a lot of my fictional work tends to take a broader world view.”

Thanks, Sharif. I’m a fan of the full Moroccan restaurant experience, and it’s been far too many years since I’ve availed myself of it. I can sit on cushy pillows at home, but belly dancing may have to wait until dining-in options reopen and the world becomes a bit safer.

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.

photo credit: Marco Lappano

#SFWApro