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Posts by Lawrence:

Eating Authors: J.R.H. Lawless

Written on January 18th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
J.R.H. Lawless

I’m a bit distracted today, as it’s almost one year since my bone marrow transplant and I’m “celebrating” by having another bone marrow biopsy. I think this is my fifth, and unlike the last three which involved anesthesia, an operating room, and a full surgical team, I’m opting to do it old school in an exam room with just a local and one physician. The whole thing will be quicker, cheaper, and I’ll be able to drive myself home afterwards.

Distraction is good, but it only goes so far, and the real world (or what passes for it) keeps intruding despite my best efforts. Polarization and stupidity, frustration and anger, these are the things that are driving so many people. Me, I’m just trying to stay alive and keep busy. So even though it’s not just the USA that seems on fire, there are certainly other nations that are behaving a bit better.

Which provides my segue and part of why I’m turning to Canada for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, J.R.H. Lawless. Not only is he statistically nicer, living as he does in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces, but as an attorney and Secretary General of a Parliamentary group at the French National Assembly, Lawless (hint: not his real name) seems the prefect person to go to this week as here in the USA we wait to see if we’ll enjoy a peaceful transfer of power or descend into civil war.

Last year he found time away from his legal pursuits to publish both his debut novel and a sequel, the first two volumes in his series The General Buzz, a quirky blend of humorous and dystopian SF. I confess I’m very curious to see where he’s going to take this next, but a starting point of game show participants competing to be labeled as having the world’s worst life is a fresh and compelling beginning.

LMS: Welcome, J.R.H. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

JRHL: I love good food and drink, and a wide variety of it — it shows up more often than I intend in my work. But I didn’t choose the story I’m going to be sharing because of the food itself — even though it was, as you will see, very nice indeed. This meal is one of my most memorable (and the most memorable I feel comfortable sharing) because it took place at the height of my career as a head of a parliamentary group at the French National Assembly, and featured both political tensions and manoeuvres worthy of the Red Wedding, and some of the finest drinks I’ve ever had — and which I’ve drawn on directly to craft some of the drinking my main character shares with the audience in my novels.

Always Greener

As part of my functions as secretary general of the parliamentary group at the Palais Bourbon, the seat of the French National Assembly (and also the birthplace of the terms “left wing” and “right wing”, incidentally), I was expected to attend our yearly “journées parlementaires”, or start-of-year seminar, held by one or another of our MPs, in their corner of France. This one was held deep in the heart of the French Sud-Ouest, in a locale I won’t specify, in the seat of one of our MPs who had taken over from their predecessor, who was now President of the Département, the French equivalent of a county. After a day of workshops, a luncheon cruise down the local canal, and a tour of the ultramodern Département offices including an incredibly proud display of an original Napoleon bust in the President’s office (a local hero), we retired to the literal castle near to the offices, where the Département President received guests.

Now, even though I was always cautious during any function like this, since that was the nature of the job, I was particularly wary that evening. The President in question and the MP who had replaced them at the Assembly were very influential within the party, to say the least, and had actively campaigned against my nomination to secretary general of the group. This had included the aforementioned President, who was no longer an MP, coming to the Assembly to campaign against me, under pretext of needing to visit the Assembly hairdressers, despite being completely bald. The head MP of the group and the others who had backed me were there as well, but a large part of the event would inevitably be either a trap or an exercise in reasserting domination after a phase of rebellion, which I’d been at the heart of. We had a lovely apéro down in the reception room, then the staff invited us up to the dining table for the meal itself.

The Rude Eye of Rebellion

The food was gorgeous Sud Ouest fare — duck confit and magret, basted roast potatoes, amazing deep red wines including beautiful Cahors, my personal favorite, and everything you would expect from the heart of the French South West. That being said, as a vegetarian who refused to compromise my personal principles even in the face of a major culture shock, I had to rely on the goodwill and sympathy of the serving staff, who managed to adapt on the fly and sort out a combination of sides which turned into a lovely vegetarian meal in its own right for me.

But the most memorable bit for me, at the end of a stressful evening of politicking and playing nice with folks who had done everything to get rid of me just a few weeks earlier, was the bottle of fifty-year-old Armagnac they broke out of the castle’s reserves for the occasion, at the end of the meal. I’d had Armagnac before, but not often, and this golden-amber bulb blew all my previous experience of liqueur out of the water.

Thanks, J.R.H. That does sound like a swanky and memorable affair. And though your hosts were playing power games with you, at least they shared the Armagnac. That’s got to count for something.

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: R.B. Lemberg

Written on January 11th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
R.B. Lemberg

I think it’s fair to say that the first week of this new year has been anything but dull.

I generally avoid engaging in politics in any of my social media platforms and outlets. I like to believe that everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if I think it’s misguided or wrong or stupid, because, let’s be honest, there are certainly times when I’ve been misguided or wrong or stupid. The exceptions to his hands-off policy is when people engage in hate and violence. I don’t care about your political, racial, religious, or sexual ideology if you’re backing it up with a rock in your hand. Sorry, I can’t engage in discussion with someone who’s back-up plan is to stave in someone else’s skull if things don’t go their way.

On the other end of the spectrum this week, and somewhat ironically, in the morning hours before the events at the U.S. Capital, I released a new novel, Ace of Saints, Book Two in my Freelance Courier series. It’s a book about metaphor and the limits of abundance, also to some extent gender, identity, and perception of outsiders. The day should have been one of joy and delight, I mean, c’mon, new book day! But all too quickly it turned to one of dread and disillusionment and far too many hours glued to cable news. Not the way I like to observe a new release.

In some ways though it sets up the segue for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, R.B. Lemberg. They’re a queer, bigender immigrant from Ukraine, Russia, and Israel to the US. R.B. lives in Lawrence, KS, and in their academic life is a sociolinguist working on immigrant discourse, identity, and gender. Seriously, give R.B. the ability to teleport people at will and they could have stepped from the pages of my novel.

R.B.’s fiction has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and other awards. They’ve set many of their stories — including their latest novella, The Four Profound Weaves — in “Birdverse,” an LGBTQIA+-focused secondary world.

LMS: Welcome, R.B. Is there a meal that stands out from all others for you?

RBL: Some of the most memorable meals in my life were the ones I made for Bogi, early in our courtship, in my first home in Lawrence, KS. The meals themselves I remember only vaguely. I was still on a green card, and rising from the ashes of my disastrous first marriage, which ended a year or so prior; Bogi was visiting from Hungary to investigate graduate schools, and to meet US friends.

A few months later Bogi was back, again to visit graduate schools – but also to visit me; and finally, they were back to begin graduate school in Iowa City, about a six hour drive away (longer on Greyhound). We were a couple by then, but because of the mess that visas and the US immigration system made of our lives, we could not live in the same town, so visits were what we had.

The Four Profound Weaves

Back then I lived in an old, falling-apart midcentury marvel with thin walls paneled in mahogany plywood; every movement of the wind outside would make the house reverberate like a bell. Every rain made the windows leak. In the middle of the house was a two-sided open fireplace built exquisitely from thin Roman brick; one side looked into a large living space, the other into the cozy, tiny dining room. I remember nights of rain, and the house making its music while the fire roared. I cooked low and slow, in the red dutch oven I bought years ago with the proceeds of my first story sale – braised beef stew, Uzbek plov, stuffed cabbage – fortifying foods of my childhood. When Bogi would arrive, often soaking wet and cold, we would sit with our backs to the roaring fire and eat. There was a pair of turkey drumsticks that I braised for hours while Bogi’s Greyhound bus was stuck somewhere. I think of that turkey drumstick as the pinnacle of my cooking. I remember Bogi’s face, stolen from the darkness by the reverberation of fire; the pure joy of it.

I love to cook – cooking at its best for me is like writing, like poetry – it is about getting to the very essence of things, a secret heart of making; words and textures recede to make place for pure feeling. And it is the feeling I remember – after an unwanted separation, a return; the deep, slow flavor of the meat, the magic of the fire, the pin oaks sighing in the wind, the stars hanging heavy and bright in the deep Kansas sky, and inside it is warm and, for the time being, safe.

Thanks, R.B. Having spent four long winters in eastern Kansas myself, your words bring back vivid memories indeed. As timing would have it, the weather today is quite cold and the wind outside is blowing with a vengeance. Maybe I should cook up some drumsticks? I think my wife would approve.

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: Elizabeth McLaughlin

Written on January 4th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
Elizabeth McLaughlin

And lo, we have made it through to 2021. While there were surely highs to 2020, the lows so outweighed them that looking backward I suspect it will become quite commonplace to skip over the entire year. Surely that an easy overlook when it comes to convention and conference travel. My last events were in November of 2019, which, as it turns out, makes for a good segue because I first met this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Elizabeth McLaughlin, at my penultimate con, 20BooksVegas.

I had been invited to a private gathering of high-earning indie authors that were looking to form a new indie association. I barely qualified as indie and I certainly wasn’t high-earning, but the organizer had brought me in because I’d been on the SFWA Board and knew a bit about how that kind of sausage was made. At one point when I stood up to speak I said something like “without a doubt I have the smallest income of any author here, but” and there was this woman sitting behind me who assured me that, no, I was second from the bottom.

And that’s how I met Elizabeth McLaughlin.

Liz is married to the hugely popular and prolific Kevin McLaughlin, and indeed her first three books, The Supernova Cycle, were in collaboration with him. But today she releases her first solo novel, Deviant, Book One of the Quantic Dreams series (and though I don’t know what a “Quantic Dream” is, I know it sounds cool).

Her bio states that Liz sees her fiction as a means to normalize typically underrepresented groups including people of color and LGBTQIA+ communities, changing the genre by making everyone equal participants in the epics of SF.

Sounds to me like a great way to start off the new year.

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

EM: People often ask me if I am an “eat to live” or “live to eat” person. The answer is always a resounding endorsement of living to eat. Food has forever been a source of comfort and creativity in my life and it has sparked many other passions I hold dear. I plan to depart this world having had as many adventures as possible, and having eaten as many new things as I could. In my (albeit selfish) opinion, there is no better way to get to know a place than by its cuisine.

Deviant

The most memorable meal I’ve had… there are a lot of contenders for the top spot, but I would have to say it was my first bite of Icelandic lamb. Back in 2016, my husband and I had a set of vacation days that coincided (up to then an unheard of possibility!) and wanted to visit somewhere neither of us had been before. Not being one to pass up on eating well while we were there, I booked us a reservation at a posh restaurant attached to the Blue Lagoon. They served us three dishes-an appetizer of smoked Arctic char, Icelandic lamb over roast vegetables, and astarpungar, a dessert consisting of fried dough and delicious ice cream. The whole thing was complimented with the most delicious wine and richest coffee I’ve ever tasted. I distinctly remember taking my first bite of the meat and voicing out loud that I could die happy now. As with most Iceland tourists, I wanted to spend a spa day in a hot spring and didn’t have a clue about the forty plus pools within the city limits, so after our meal, we enjoyed a leisurely soak complete with complementary champagne and mud masks. Getting back on the bus to Reykjavik was downright painful!

When it came to the matter of our honeymoon a year later, I insisted we return to Iceland, solely so that we could eat this lamb. We returned in 2017 after a whirlwind flight out to Seattle to get married among family and friends. Unlike our first trip which took place in July, we returned in April the second time and found that the weather is very different in the spring! Tourist trap or not, I’ll be returning there as soon as I can to get that lamb dish again. Icelandic cuisine in general has become a comfort food for me. I return from each trip to the country—we’ve been almost once a year every year—with a suitcase stuffed full of Icelandic salt, candy, preserved meats, and beer. Though 2020 kept us from continuing the trend, I dream happily of the next time I’ll sit at a table surrounded by people chattering in Icelandic, with a huge hunk of lamb on my plate.

Thanks, Elizabeth. My wife and I visited Iceland in 2017, twice. I fell in love with the Artic char, caught by the kitchen staff in a stream that ran behind our quiet little hotel. Alas, I never got around to trying the lamb. I’ve been looking for an excuse to return, and now I have it!

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: Jane Yolen

Written on December 28th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Jane Yolen

If I can say one positive thing about this pandemic year, it’s that I managed to get through the holiday season without being Whammed! Not a single George Micheal tune reached me all month. That may be my greatest victory of 2020.

This is the last installment of EATING AUTHORS for 2020, closing out the tenth year of the series (don’t worry, we’ll be back next week). To mark the occasion I’ve asked Jane Yolen to tell us about her most memorable meal, but first let me say just a bit about her (though it’s pretty inconceivable that you don’t know her name).

Poet, journalist, writer of both nonfiction and fiction, Jane is an institution unto herself, having published nearly 400 books. Seriously, that’s more books than there are days in the year. Let’s all just let that idea sink in a bit, okay?

She’s won or been nominated for most every award out there, including being honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement award and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award. She’s been an editor for a variety of magazines and publishers and even had her own YA imprint, Jane Yolen Books. She’s served for more than twenty years on the Board of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as well as a turn as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Did I mention she’s written nearly 400 books?

LMS: Welcome, Jane. Thank you so much for being here and taking the time to share about your most memorable meal.

JY: I am not a gourmand. I am a gulper. Everyone who has has eaten with me — husband, kids, friends, even strangers — have noted it. But two memories of food stand out for me, and not because of the food, most of which is forgotten, but because of whom I ate it with.

My newish husband David Stemple and I had packed up our NY apartment, bought a VW camper bus in Germany and in the mid 1960s headed to Europe (as you did in those days) to explore the continent until the funds ran out. And the meal I remember was eaten on a mountain top in the Pyrenees where we sat on a grassy knoll, with a bottle of French wine, a huge hunk of cheese, a loaf of fresh baked bread, and a whole lot of Belgium chocolate.

The Devil's Arithmetic

We sat for hours, talking, laughing, watching birds with our binoculars and through the scope (David remained an ardent birder to the end of his life.) I read him poems — some I wrote, some from one of the poetry books I had brought along. What we didn’t know but found out weeks later was that I was pregnant with our first child.

The second meal I remember happened a year ago in September, before the Covid crises began. David had been dead fifteen years. I had been trying to date for ten years, Turns out I was a terrible date. Or something like that. I’d finally given it up. An old friend, a guy I had dated 62 years earlier when we were both in college, sent me a copy of an article in the New Yorker about my Holocaust novels. His wife had died four years earlier. And so we decided to get together. Turns out, he, a high school teacher in several Independent Schools for years, headmaster in one of them, had taken cooking lessons in both Paris and Italy and if there is a gourmand in this story, he’s the one. He made dinner at his house in Connecticut, a fine French meal which I gulped down. We spoke poems to one another and talked about literature and music. (He’s a violist and an also an ardent birder). I washed the dishes. And, he says, he realized he was in love with me as I was drying the dishes. Reader, I married him. He cooks all our dinner meals. I am practicing to slow down.

Thank you, Jane. I quite like closing out this year with a happy ending. I’m very grateful to you for sharing this one with all of us.

Next Monday (and next year): 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: Christopher D. Ochs

Written on December 21st, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Christopher D. Ochs

Last November, I did a few panels as part of the online experience that was Philcon in 2020. It was a fine time to connect with fans, see some old friends, and meet a few new folks. That last group included this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Christopher D. Ochs, a co-panelist on a session entitled “Writing For Aliens: Cities Without Stairs?”

Not only was Christopher a great panelist, but as it turned out he resides just “up the road” from me in Pennslyvania’s Lehigh Valley. And yet somehow our paths had never crossed. Seriously? It took a virtual Philcon (which, it must be acknowledged, hasn’t been in either Philadelphia or even Pennsylvania for years) to bring us together. So, okay, I suppose I should be grateful for the pandemic for that.

Christopher is one of those authors who can draw on a wide range of experiences for his fiction. He’s worked in physics, mathematics, and electrical engineering, as well as putting in time doing CGI animation, playing classical organ music, and providing voice talent for radio, DVD and anime conventions.

Somewhere in there he even finds time to write. His latest book novel, My Friend Jackson, came out this past October. If you’ve not read his work, why not end the year by picking up a copy?

LMS: Welcome, Christopher. What would you consider your most memorable meal?

CDO: I have trouble with questions that begin with “what’s your favorite” “what’s the best” or “what’s the most?” It’s difficult for me to choose a single “favorite” of anything, and my take on “most” changes from day to day, from mood to mood. For all I know it may even vary depending on the phase of the moon. And that of course assumes my memory is in full working order. So, I’m afraid I can only reduce “most memorable” to two instances.

My Friend Jackson

I love Chinese cooking – mostly the Americanized style, but I relish the occasional foray into authentic recipes. One of my favorite dishes is hot & sour soup. I order it whenever I visit a new Oriental restaurant, using it as a standard by which I measure the establishment’s quality. If the soup is the same glutinous mess as that found in so many soy-sauce-soaked hack joints, I set my expectations appropriately lower for the rest of the meal. On the other hand, if it has ingredients and textures that indicate it was made fresh from a genuine family recipe, my mouth waters for the main dish to come.

Knowing my fondness for authentic Chinese recipes, my sister-in-law gave me Chinese Cooking by Yan Kit Martin. The contents of the book raised my eyebrows starting with the first recipe, as every ingredient was listed in both English and in Mandarin, so to make it easier to find said staples at your friendly neighborhood Oriental food store. In this marvelous book I found the most delectable recipes: Kung Pao Chicken, Ants Climbing a Tree, Eight Treasures, and last but not least, Hot & Sour Soup. It included instructions on how to prepare the stock from scratch, how to marinate the pork. Ingredients included matchstick bamboo, golden needles, potato starch, and heaping helpings of wood ears and cloud ears — usually sold dried in packets, labeled as “Chinese Vegetable.” (Strange, I’m quite sure that my 7th-grade biology teacher taught me mushrooms were NOT a vegetable.)

Pindlebryth of Lenland

I followed the recipe to the letter, ending up with not a goopy soup, but a hearty stew unlike I had sampled in any Oriental eatery to date. It was beyond delicious! But if it weren’t for the recipe book’s photograph of the finished dish, I would’ve convinced myself that I somehow messed up the recipe. (It’s been known to happen!)

Fast forward a few years. My girlfriend and I were attending an anime convention in San Francisco. While there, it was a moral imperative to visit Chinatown. And what would such a trip be without sampling the local cuisine? We stopped in at Z&Y Restaurant, a fine establishment on Jackson St., with a reputation for spicy dishes. I ordered my usual bowl of Hot & Sour Soup and Kung Pao Shrimp.

When the soup arrived, I nearly jumped out of my seat. I stifled a scream. “They make it the way I do!” I was vindicated! And I’m happy to say, it continues to be a favorite of my friends.

Thanks, Chris. I too am a huge fan of Chinese food. I’ve had the pleasure to visit China three times in recent years, and enjoy massive and seemingly endless banquets. The thing that continues to astound me is how most of what we call Chinese food here in the states bears little resemblance to anything I experienced over there.

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: Karen Osborne

Written on December 14th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Karen Osborne

We are well into Hanukkah, for those of you who observe such things. My wife and I do, albeit usually quite haphazardly. I have a beautiful, massive, handmade menorah that is something of a family heirloom (and which legend says was disassembled and smuggled out of the “old country” by a grand parent), but the sad truth is, most years we get so busy that we’re lucky if we remember to light the candles half of the nights. This year is proving different. This year we need the symbolism of a light in the darkness and all it represents. This year, having moments of hope and inspiration and just feeling positive is more welcome than ever.

And it’s not just Hanukkah. I find myself constantly looking for things that will tweak my interrest or give me a smile. That’s how I came across this week’s EATING AUTHOR guest. In my professor days my area of expertise was cognition, and so when I saw Karen Osborne’s first novel — out this past Septmeber — was entitled Architects of Memory, I had to know more. I am all about seeing how other authors use memory in their fiction

Karen has had her speculative fiction craft honed by some pretty great workshops like Clarion and Viable Paradise. She lives in Baltimore, and I suspect if not for the pandemic, we’d have ended up on a panel (or two) a couple months back at Capclave. Maybe we’ll get a shot at doing so in 2021.

She has since followed up that first novel with a sequel. Engines of Oblivion (i.e., the Memory War Book Two) is coming your way in February.

LMS: Welcome, Karen. What stands out as your most memorable meal?

KO: I think the most memorable travel meal happened in 1989 during a family trip to Cape Cod. I don’t know why I remember this meal over all the other times I’ve eaten on the road. I’ve had Thai food sitting one table away from Robin Williams. I’ve had chicken feet in rural Colombia. I even ate at what’s widely considered to be “the most exclusive restaurant in America.” But when I think of memorable meals, I also think of how they change people, and no meal changed my life for the better as much as my first reuben sandwich.

I know. Sounds weird, right?

Stay with me.

Maybe it was the mirrorball interior of the diner, the fact that walking towards the table felt like dancing in a movie. The neon triangles and funfetti on the wall that reminded me of that new show, “Saved By The Bell,” which looked so grown-up at the time. The clatter of dishes was welcome after the roiling nausea of trying to read books in the car the whole way. Maybe it was the promise of getting to drink a chocolate milkshake (which, at nine years old, is just the best thing ever).

Architects of Memory

At any rate, this was my first memory of ordering from the adult menu — maybe I’d done it before, but memories can be weird swiss-cheese creatures, and this is the one flagged with “first experience with massive diner menu full of omelettes and souvlaki and eggplant parmagiana.” Finally, flummoxed, I turned to my father and asked him what he’d recommend. He was getting a reuben sandwich, so I decided to have one, too.

I even remember the plate it came on — a typical diner plate, white with blue veins carved in it from hundreds of other diners’ forks and knives. The taste was unlike anything I’d ever had up to that point: the marbled rye made tender by too much butter, the dressing making rivulets through the briny sauerkraut, the way the corned beef clung together and then pulled away all at once, leaving me to munch delicious, too-big chunks. And I didn’t need to worry about being neat, which, again, is the best thing ever when you’re nine. Turns out the perfect accompaniment to a reuben, see, is to eat it so the extra sauce can drip in literal gobs on diner-dry steak fries, which you devour directly after the sandwich. (And then you fall straight asleep in the car afterward to the Pretenders’ “500 Miles” with a happily full stomach and get to avoid your brother poking you for the next two hours. Wait. Is that just me?)

Looking back, the implications to my life of eating this one ordinary sandwich are endless. I’d never had any of the flavors in it before — sauerkraut, corned beef, thousand island dressing — and they seemed so odd to me that I was sure I wouldn’t like them. But the combination was so delicious that nine times out of ten, if I’m at a diner, I’ll have a reuben. We’re talking over thirty years of reubens right now. It’s almost a joke at this point in my family. I think I’m an adventurous eater partly because I took a chance in that neon restaurant, which freed me up to take more choices, and most of them were delicious, too.

Engines of Oblivion

And that’s the thing about memories, about tiny memories and big ones. Yes, our huge memories — the major successes, the miserable failures — have massive consequences for how we handle things in our future, but the little moments matter, too, because they have more of an influence than we can possibly imagine when we’re experiencing them.

It’s a concept I play with in my upcoming novel, Engines of Oblivion. You don’t know which little moments you’ll remember. You don’t know how they’re going to shape you until you’re far in the future and have the sharp goggles of hindsight strapped to your face. There’s at least one dear friend — hell, maybe four — that wouldn’t have been in my life if I hadn’t thought “I want a reuben; let’s go to the Circle Diner instead of the noodle place” one night. And how about the after-midnights and early mornings and work afternoons spent at diners, gobbling omelets and reubens dripping with sauce and storing up thoughts as warm as the sun? I didn’t know I’d need those memories so much this year, and I’m grateful. Oh, man. The first thing I’m going to do after I get a coronavirus vaccine is get in my car, page my friends, drive north, and waltz into the first upstate New York diner I see. I’ll smile into the mirrorball wallpaper and check out the pies on my way to my seat. And then I’ll order a reuben.

So, thanks, diner chef. Wherever you are, whoever you are — I owe you.

Thanks, Karen. There is a timelessness to diners: the display case of pies, the vinyl benches, the linoleum tabletops, and yes, maybe even the food. There is magic there, to be sure. But even magic does not, in my opinion, justify the atrocity that I consider adding sauerkraut and dressing to an already perfect corned beef sandwich. Nope, nope, nope.

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: James S. Aaron

Written on December 7th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
James S. Aaron

The weather has turned damp and cold, and I am trying to do all the things before the end of the year. Amazingly, I’m actually having a modicum of success, particularly in terms of finally convincing Amazon to accept my formatting of various trade paperback editions of my work that have previously only been available in ebook format. And this is a good thing, because as convenient as being able to read on one’s smartphone may be, there is no shortage of folks who like holding physical books, or having them upon a shelf. Even better still, some of these books may actually be available in time for holiday gift giving. I’m just sayin’.

Unfortunately, all this work on book design has left no time for proper segues, so you’ll have to settle for having me simply introduce you to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, James S. Aaron, without any further delay.

James comes to science fiction via a background in the army (where he served as a medic, platoon leader, and company commander), as well as nearly a decade in law enforcement. He’s the author of fifteen books in the genre of Mil-SF Space Opera (including work co-written with M.D. Cooper for the Aeon 14 Sentience Wars series and JN Chaney’s Galactic Law series) as well as numerous short stories for anthologies.

All of this is secondary to his pursuit of the perfect pizza dough. It’s not clear if this search is what led him to live in Oregon, but that’s surely as good place as any — and better than most — for such a commendable quest.

LMS: Welcome, James. Tell me about your most memorable meal. I understand it involves a ‘love connection’.

JSA: According to OKCupid, we were only a 76% match. For that period in online dating history, 76% was a low rating. Some people wouldn’t even bother with a rating so low.

It turned out that Holly and I lived only a block apart and we had a lot of friends in common, so we figured we’d buck the algorithm and meet anyway. Our texts had been great, but we also knew you needed to meet in person to get the sniff test out of the way. We were both jaded by the online thing.

Galactic Law

“I’m going to bring you an avocado poundcake,” she said. “And whiskey.”

“You put avocado in the cake?”

I’d been tricked by subversive ingredients like jalepeño in chocolate cake before. Holly assured me this was nothing like that.

While I was deployed as part of Southern Watch, a Kuwaiti officer held up an avocado in the dining hall and asked us what it tasted like. My unit was from El Paso and well-versed in the wonders of avocado, but all we could think to say was, “It tastes green.”

“It’s a vegetarian secret,” Holly said. “You’ll see.”

I was stuck at my retail job until midnight, and Holly walked over from her place after I got free. We met for the first time down on the big wrap-around porch of the house where I was living. It was spring but extra cold that night.

The Proteus Bridge

When we saw each other, I remember the usual feelings associated with online dating: relief that her photos had captured her great smile, and the reassurance she was as outgoing and sassy as her texts.

Then she handed me the cake wrapped in tinfoil.

I was surprised. “It’s still warm.”

She smiled. “I was anxious, so baking gave me something to do. And then I could bring you something nice.”

Holly’s match rating went to 99%. No one had ever done something like this on a first date before. I needed to step up my game.

I must have passed the sniff test, at least for the time being, because Holly came upstairs to my apartment and we ate slices of the warm, spiced pound cake with melting butter, alongside sips of the bourbon. That was the best meal of this part of my life.

Since then, if someone asks me what avocado tastes like, I say love.

Thanks, James. I confess, I knew this tale was going to end well when you went ‘old school’ and referenced tinfoil. Happy ending aside, I’m still wondering about the secret behind the use of avocado…

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: Rick Partlow

Written on November 30th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Rick Partlow

In simpler times, today would be “Cyber Monday.” Except in these pandemic days, “Black Friday” became an online event, which kind of does away with the cyber distinction. And too, I started seeing Black Friday deals a month ago. Clearly our collective time sense is seriously out of whack. Despite this, last Thursday in the USA was Thanksgiving, albeit a mutated version for most, reflecting folks not traveling over rivers or through woods to grandma’s house, and Zooming to share meals. It’s not the same, and I don’t recommend trying to pass anyone candied yams through a computer monitor.

But we’re still here. It’s the last Monday of November and the year is dwindling before our eyes. Many of us are counting on something magical happening once the calendar says 2021. I don’t think we seriously expect everything to instantly improve, but crossing into January will surely feel like the start of better days.

All of this was on my mind for Thanksgiving, which, as you’ll read below, is something of a segue for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest because Rick Partlow’s most memorable meal is a very specific Thanksgiving. But before you get to that, let’s talk a bit about Rick.

I think I first discovered Rick’s work earlier this year when we were both part of the 20Books Space Opera Pack put together by Craig Martelle. But we hadn’t met. Maybe we’d gave connected at the 20Books conference this year, but yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, I encountered Rick at the virtual SFFcon organized by Amy DuBoff in response to so many other events canceling. Rick was on a panel talking about AI, Robotics, and Cybernetics, and it was such a great discussion that as soon as he and his co-panelists left the virtual stage I immediately reached out to him and invited him to share a meal.

Looking at his schedule, I’m amazed he could squeeze me in. Rick’s been busy, having written more than 40 books spread out across ten different series, including his popular Drop Trooper series and the Interstellar Bounty Hunter series. There’s also assorted shorter works that can be found in a dozen different anthologies.

Oh, and if you want to catch that panel from SFFcon, here’s a link.

LMS: Welcome, Rick. So here’s the question: what’s your most memorable meal?

RP: That’s a toughie because I’ve had some excellent meals in my day. I’m not a gourmand, but I am constantly in pursuit of the perfect steak and I’ve come to very much appreciate bison fillets. I’ve also had some great experiences eating at little, out of the way places like the little hole in the wall family restaurant in the mountains of Costa Rica where we ate on a covered porch and watched nesting Montezuma Oropendola birds bringing food back to the nest while we ate.

Contact Front

But my memories always tend to go back to the food I ate fresh, cooked outdoors, simply, seasoned by hunger. To a rock fish caught on a half-day deep-sea charter by my nine-year-old son, pan-fried by a little Filipino woman whose family was camping in the cabin next to ours in Seward, Alaska.

But the most memorable meal, the one that keeps popping up in my thoughts whenever I consider the question, was a particular Thanksgiving Day back in the 90s.

The father of a close friend of mine owned a ranch in Wauchula, Florida, and on the ranch he also kept orange groves, and periodically he would apply for depredation permits to let him hunt the deer and feral hog out of the groves. Very early one Thanksgiving Day morning, my friend and I and one other mutual acquaintance went into the groves to hunt deer. We killed three and then we took them back to the barn to dress them. I helped the other two men skin and dress the deer, then cut them into steaks and we grilled the meat over an open fire and had fresh venison for Thanksgiving Day lunch with our families.

Absolution

Venison tastes best when it’s marinated for a day or three, so this was gamey, hardly the best meal I ever had, accompanied by simple, roast potatoes and carrots and corn on the cob. Nothing to write home about from a culinary standpoint, but the experience changed me. When you kill a living animal, push its guts out with your hand, skin it with a knife and chop it into cuts with knives and a hatchet, when you brush the flies off of the cuts before they can lay their eggs and then cook the venison on a grill, your mouth watering from hours and hours of work, then eat the fruits of your labor, well… it’s either going to turn you into a vegetarian or it’s going to give you a newfound appreciation for the realities of how hard it’s been historically to get food and how lucky we are to live in a time when it’s as simple as a drive down to the grocery store.

I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t get upset over food prices anymore.

Thanks, Rick. But seriously, three deer? That’s a lot of meat even for a Thanksgiving feast. I hope you had a lot of people to feed. Either that, or a large freezer at your disposal.

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