Eating Authors: Caitlin Seal

No Comments » Written on September 17th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Caitlin Seal

For those of you who have been paying attention and/or are of the Jewish persuasion, we are nearing the end of the Days of Awe. They started back on the 9th of September, the evening of which was Rosh Hashonah and the start of the year 5779 by that calendar. Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The ten days between are typically spent in contemplation of one’s past deeds, repentance, and pondering what can be done to rectify past transgressions. Heavy stuff indeed. I’ll be spending the day in quiet reflection, so it’s just as well that I prepped this post back on Friday, especially as I don’t have a clever segue.

This week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is the second of my three mentees from past Nebula Conferences, and I’m very pleased to have Caitlin Seal here to celebrate the launch of her first novel. That novel, Twice Dead, is book one of The Necromancer’s Song, and it comes out tomorrow. Caitlin had a bit of scare a few months back when an Amazon glitch started canceling pre-orders and informing the people who had placed them that the book had been canceled by her publisher. Nope. Never happened. And I don’t want to even imagine the kind of panic that must have caused. Instead, let’s just get right to the meal, shall we?

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

CS: Recently my husband and I celebrated our five year anniversary by eating our way through a two week trip to Japan. Our meals ranged from quick bites grabbed at chain cafés, to multicourse traditional meals at ryokans, to a western-style dinner served by a gregarious American who ran an inn in Nikko.

While every meal was memorable, the one that sticks out most for me was a dinner we ate in Nagoya near the end of our trip. We set out from our hotel that evening hoping to find some good beef. The night was warm and the sidewalks busy with pedestrians. It didn’t take us long to wander past a place advertising exactly what we wanted—thin slices of marbled beef served raw with a hot plate to cook them on. We applauded our good fortune and hurried inside.

Twice Dead

The restaurant was near the top of a narrow high-rise. Once inside, we found the entire place was partitioned into private rooms with windows overlooking the city. Waiters and waitresses in traditional dress darted down the narrow halls to deliver covered dishes to the rooms. Each room had wood paneled walls and a phone for guests to call in their orders.

The food we’d seen go by smelled delicious. The rooms were cozy and comfortable, but as my husband and I opened our menus, we felt our stomachs sink.

We both speak and read some Japanese, and up until this point we hadn’t had any trouble ordering food. Most menus we’d encountered were written in a straightforward fashion with hiragana (phonetic characters) written above or below the more complicated kanji. This menu was more kanji than not, and unfortunately well beyond our reading level. After trying for a few minutes to muddle through, we called up the frond desk and explained the predicament.

When our waitress arrived, she was wonderfully sympathetic. We told her what we were looking for and she helped point out a few options and describe them. With her help we placed our orders for two different steak dishes, some fried potatoes, and a plate of salmon sashimi. When it arrived, the food was exactly what we had hoped for. The beef was tender and expertly seasoned, the sashimi wonderfully fresh and rich, and the potatoes crispy. And, all of it had the added seasoning of victory after overcoming our initial nerves about the language barrier.

Thanks, Caitlin. The best beef I’ve ever had was also in Japan when I was there for the Worldcon (and my wife and I also celebrated a wedding anniversary). I’ve since mostly given up eating meat, and I don’t mind. Nothing in the USA could ever come close to that steak in Yokohama.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: T. J. Berry

No Comments » Written on September 10th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
TJ Berry

Words — in this instance culinary words — are losing their meaning. I refer to the cauliflower gnocchi that I am snacking on as I write this week’s installment. Let me be clear, I do not like cauliflower and tend to shy away from gnocchi because of the starch. And yet, this stuff tastes great, has reasonable calories, and is gluten free. What’s next, cocaine with fluoride?

Sorry. If I seem a little testy it’s probably because of the heat, but by the time you read this a massive cold front should have come through, dumped a lot of water on the eastern seaboard, and dropped the daytime temperatures here a good twenty degrees or so. All of which is as close as a segue as I’m going to get to the meal(s) described by T. J. Berry, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest.

One of the things I like best about TJ is the way her writing ignores marketing demands and fits into that sliver that some times looks to be science fiction and other times is probably fantasy. I like to call it science fantasy myself, and maybe I’m biased but I’m always happy to see other people doing it.

Her first novel, Space Unicorn Blues, is a great example of this. It came out a mere two months ago. If you missed your chance to include it as part of your summer reading, go ahead and add it to the list for autumn.

LMS: Welcome, T.J. So, what’s your most memorable meal?

TJB: My most memorable meal is actually a series of meals from a single long, snowy winter in Vermont. Our family lived on a tiny island in the middle of Lake Champlain with about 400 other people. In the summer, it was a beautiful tourist haven, with rustic country roads you could cycle along, a defunct quarry filled with Ordovician-era fossils, and quiet lake shores perfect for lazy reading days.

In the winter, however, the island’s climate grew cold and desolate. It snowed nearly every day and it wasn’t unusual for the wind chill to dip into double digits below zero. But in Vermont, people are used to long winters and one of their solutions (aside from down coats) is to lean into their community and gather in front of roaring wood fires as often as possible.

In our rural town, we assembled an international dinner club with three other couples. Each month, one couple chose a country and provided the hospitality as well as an appropriately-themed entree. The other three couples brought appetizers, a side dish, and dessert. It turns out that eight is the perfect dinner party number and there was never any shortage of conversation. We often stayed late into the night, solving all of the world’s problems as the pile of empty wine bottles grew.

Space Unicorn Blues

On Greek night, we ate stuffed grape leaves and I stacked dozens of buttery phyllo sheets into a crunchy baklava. But the real magic of that evening occurred when our observant friends noticed I had skipped the wine. They exuberantly declared I was pregnant before I could even make the announcement of our coming second child.

On Hungarian night, we had a creamy mushroom soup, studded with dill and warmed with sweet, smoky paprika. Our host invited us to see his newly-completed sugar shack—a large shed he’d built on the property to boil maple sap into syrup. When sugaring season arrived in a few months, we would spend countless hours in the steamy sugar shack, stoking the fire and stirring the vat of condensing sap.

On our turn, we hosted Indian night, offering an immense platter of butter chicken and basmati rice. Our neighbors brought along a stunning rose-flavored gulab jamun. One couple shyly admitted they had never eaten Indian food, so the rest of us explained the ingredients and set up tasting plates with tiny portions. There were plain chicken breasts at the ready, but our intrepid food explorers loved everything they tried.

Our final dinner was a hodgepodge of countries. Someone brought a comforting and satisfying pasta puttanesca from Italy and another chose an Argentinian chimichurri over steaks, while we brought along a pavlova (which some say is from New Zealand and others claim is from Australia). It was my first time making this crispy, cloud-like dessert, which is incredibly elegant, but is probably the simplest dessert I’ve ever made.

I can think of no better way to mark the passing of the frigid winter months than eating good food in the company of good friends. We’ve since left Vermont, but I still occasionally make a tureen of that warming Hungarian mushroom soup to remind us of cold winters past and dear friends far away.

Thanks, TJ, that sounds like a great diversion during a brutal winter. But… what did you do the other four weeks of each month?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: J. D. Moyer

No Comments » Written on September 3rd, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
J. D. Moyer

Over the last few years, SFWA has been changing its annual Nebula Conference from a small convention with a banquet and an awards ceremony to a conference offering much more in the way of professional development (and a banquet and an awards ceremony). In addition to bringing in speakers from author relevant concerns like Amazon, Kickstater, and Creative Commons, they’ve also been promoting the tradition of “paying it forward” by pairing newcomers with more experienced mentors. I’m happy to say I’ve taken on a mentee for each of the past three conferences.

This is of course a segue into this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest because last May I had the privilege to play mentor to J. D. Moyer (which means I get to take credit for any all of his accomplishments from here on out, right?).

He’s spent a great deal of time in the music business as variously a producer, label runner, event promoter, and not surprisingly DJ. But he left all that glamor behind to write fiction and has been building up a repertoire of impress short fiction, exploring themes of genetic engineering, the sociological effects of climate change, virtualized consciousness, and evolutionary divergence. You don’t see a lot of this in popular music, and perhaps that’s why he moved to fiction (a much more entertaining explanation than the birth of his daughter). In 2016 he won the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction contest for his story “The Icelandic Cure.”

J.D.’s first novel, The Sky Woman comes out from Flame Tree Press on Thursday. Keep an eye on him, he’s going places (and I get all the credit).

LMS: Welcome, J.D. Talk to me, please, about your most memorable meal

JDM: My most memorable meal consisted of slightly burnt popcorn cooked in the plaza of a mini-mall on the north coast of Kauai. I was eighteen, and my friend and I had just hiked the entirety of the Napali Coast trail in a day. We were absolutely exhausted and famished, having run out of food (except for popcorn) that morning. It was late, and all the shops and restaurants were closed.

The Sky Woman

Camping at Kalalau beach, at the other end of the trail, we’d overstayed our rations. Kalalua was a paradise of white sand, waterfalls, and footpaths winding between palms and crossing clear brooks, all of it shadowed by soaring cliffs. A loose tribe of hippies lived there year round, evading helicopter patrols by the rangers. Ron, an ex-cab driver from NYC, was their de facto leader. One night he cooked us a delicious soup made from green papaya, local herbs, and crustaceans plucked from the creek.

Back at the mini mall near the trailhead, I cooked our popcorn on a small camp stove while my friend ran an errand. A woman approached me. I wearily looked up. For the next five minutes she berated me for hanging out in a mini mall instead of enjoying the glorious natural sights nearby. Too tired to protest, I meekly endured her admonitions until her breath was spent, all the time worrying if I was overcooking the popcorn.

It’s true that hunger is the best sauce. The burnt popcorn was delicious.

Thanks, J.D. I hope in this case, the sauce was a buttery one.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Mareth Griffith

No Comments » Written on August 27th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Mareth Griffith

I believe I have finally, finally, recovered from the exhaustion produced by the recent Worldcon. Or at least I’ve stopped using that as an excuse and gone back to working on the next writing project. Exhaustion aside, I’m still floating on air from the incredible reaction I received from fans over The Moons of Barsk. And it certainly didn’t hurt that two of the three dealers carrying the book at the convention had completely sold out by the time I made the rounds to sign their stock.

But enough about the Worldcon. To introduce this week’a EATING AUTHORS guest I need to harken back to a previous convention. I first met Mareth Griffith back in May during the Nebula conference when I was hanging out with some folks from Parvus Press. She’d traveled a long way to be there. Mareth lives in Seward, Alaska where she works as a naturalist and wilderness guide. Apparently this involves leading the unwary (she calls them “adventurous souls”) on epic quests involving glaciers, bears, and whales. She assures me she comes by this lifestyle naturally, having lived and worked in Scotland, New Zealand, and Northern Ireland – where she claims her nearest neighbors included two thousand puffins and the ghost of a spectral black horse. Sounds like a writer to me.

Her first novel is Court of Twilight, and it surely won’t be her last,

LMS: Welcome, Mareth. Speak to me of your most memorable meal.

MG: For the last four years, I’ve spent most summers sailing around Southeast Alaska, working as a wilderness guide aboard a tiny cruise ship. Being a naturalist with an interest in wild edibles, I spent a lot of time trying to convince passengers to eat things I find growing in the woods.

On one particular trip, a tour company from Japan had chartered the entire boat for a weeklong trip, and brought along several of their own translators. And lots of their own food – suitcases and suitcases full of food the guides had shipped over with their baggage, or specially ordered from vendors in Juneau, or had air-mailed up from Seattle. Sashimi, wasabi paste, soba noodles… It was apparently part of the charter arrangements that the tour group emphatically did not want to chance American cooking. That was, apparently, one part of the cultural experience these travelers were not interested in experiencing. So, our chef gave up his usual array of king crab and sockeye salmon for a lot of stir fried vegetables, sticky rice, and miso soup.

Court of Twilight

On the last day of the trip, the Japanese tourists and I were spending a full day kayaking around a cluster of islands north of Sitka Sound. For our lunch stop, I decided to head to a particular beach on one of the largest islands of the archipelago. Paddling through a narrow channel, the passage opens up into a small lagoon, where the remains of an old dock sit, crumbling, along the edges of a vast expanse of green. The meadow is carpeted with one of my favorite wild edible plants. Salicornia pacifica, also known as glasswort, or beach asparagus.

Even for someone who loves foraged foods, I will be the first to confess that eating certain wild greens can be about as exciting as the prospect of eating badly cooked kale. Some greens can be bitter and stringy if they’re too old, or watery and bland if picked too young. Not so with beach asparagus. The plant has a thick stalk, as slender as a soda straw, with a crunch to it like a potato chip. Growing as they do on the edges of the tide line, they’re often pre-salted like a potato chip as well. Although stir-frying them cuts down on the crunchiness, I like them best when eaten raw, with that pleasant snap and salty aftertaste intact.

On this particular beach, the asparagus grows like a carpet, covering perhaps an acre altogether. Walking through it reminds me of the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where the kids are wandering through the park, eating everything they see.

As we sat down on the remnants of the dock, and began to unwrap our lunches, I pointed out the beach asparagus, and encouraged my guests to try some. Their eyebrows went up in surprise. A few of them broke off some stalks. One lady tentatively popped one into her mouth. The eyebrows went up some more. Several more of the group broke off stalks, amidst animated discussion in Japanese.

Then, I partially unwrapped my veggie wrap and added a handful of the raw stalks. I usually do this when I’m eating lunch in the field (have I mentioned the crew food on this particular boat wasn’t the most appetizing?) but I have never had a group adopt the practice as enthusiastically or completely as this group of Japanese kayakers. Eyes lit up. Mouths opened in surprise. Immediately, everyone on the beach started disemboweling their own wraps, salads, and rice concoctions, breaking off handfuls of the beach asparagus to add to their dish.

After a moment, one of the ladies, eyeing the line of shrubbery beyond the beach, asked, through their translator, was there anything else growing here they could eat?

Oh yes!

Leaving our kayaks by the old dock, we prowled the edges of the meadow, coming up with smaller quantities of goose-tongue (salty but bitter, with a crunch almost as good as the beach asparagus), beach green (lettuce-like and mild), and venturing a short way into the forest for the cucumber-like flavors of the leaves of the twisted stalk, topping off the resultant salad with a handful of wild blueberries and crowberries.

I couldn’t understand very much of what my guests were saying amongst themselves (I was staying quite busy making sure that the plants being harvested were, in fact, edible ones) but their expressions told me all I needed to know. Even when someone didn’t like a particular plant, they only seemed even more enthusiastic about getting everyone else to taste it, too.

Eventually, we wandered back to the beach, finished our substantially-altered lunches, and took a short walk into a muskeg – a moss-covered wetland also known as a peat bog. Here, I showed the group the amazingly spicy scent that comes from lightly crumpling the leaves of the Labrador tea. The whole group collapsed into the muskeg, tired from paddling, full with lunch, pillowed on the spongey ground of the muskeg, many with tiny sprigs of crumpled tea leaves sticking out of their nose.

On our way back to the kayaks, both translators continued to forage, filling up one of the now-empty plastic lunch boxes with more impromptu salad. And when we returned to the ship for our last dinner of the trip, the resultant concoction was (in complete disregard of FDA regulations) spread out on the buffet, given a place of pride alongside the bean paste snacks and sashimi rolls. Though the Japanese tourists never did seem to warm up to the idea of caribou sausage or halibut cheeks, the wild greens turned out to be an unexpected window into appreciating Alaskan food.

Thanks, Mareth. Two things stand out for me from this. First, you should definitely go along on any “first contact” mission with aliens. Second, if something like this ever happens again, please send me the unwanted sockeye salmon; I promise to give it a good home.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Omar El Akkad

No Comments » Written on August 20th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Omar El Akkad

The seventy-sixth Worldcon ends today (and boy are my arms tired). If you’re reading this before noon and you’re anywhere near San Jose, you may still have time to make it to my reading in 211A of the Convention Center. If not, oh well. As you probably suspect, I’m writing this post before the convention has even begun, so I can’t yet give you my take on all the amazing things that happened there, nothing about the surprising upset at the Hugos, nor the author who said that thing that has already polarized our community, nor even the rumor that the most serene republic of san marino is staging a coup to take over next year’s convention in Dublin. Sorry, no spoilers.

What I can tell you is that this week here on EATING AUTHORS we have another Canadian writer, Omar El Akkad, who, like last week’s guest, is a finalist for the 2018 Sunburst Awards for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.

He was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar, moving to Canada in his teens. As a journalist he’s covered the War in Afghanistan, military trials at Guantanamo Bay, the the Arab Spring in Egypt, and the Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, MO.

American War is Omar’s first novel. Odds are good that if you like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, you’ll enjoy this debut.

LMS: Welcome, Omar. Amidst all your travels, what lingers as your most memorable meal?

OEA: I was born in Cairo. I left when I was a child, but the vast majority of my extended family still lives in Egypt. I go back every few years – to see my relatives, to report on the myriad political and social calamities in which the country seems perpetually embroiled, and to visit my father’s grave in the El Akkad mausoleum within the City of the Dead. Like many immigrants, my relationship with my homeland is one of negative space – I feel a kind of unbelonging everywhere I go, but I feel safest in my unbelonging here.

I remember one night, about ten years ago, my cousins took me out to dinner in a restaurant that, for most of the day, doesn’t exist. I was in Egypt on assignment for my newspaper, working on a story about the wild fluctuations of the country’s burgeoning stock market. I was the one who had pitched the story and yet I was now growing sick of it, sick of the fact that I had come all the way to this place that lives in my marrow only to write a throwaway article about such a quintessentially Western phenomenon – a stupid institutionalized greed whose hallmarks were no different here than in London or New York or anywhere else. I asked my cousins to take me to the most Egyptian place they could think of.

American War

That night they drove me to a wide downtown street, its lanes separated down the middle by a tree-lined median. Old buildings towered over both sides of the street, their bottom floors occupied exclusively by small shops whose signage projected a cascade of gaudy neon into the evening.

But the street itself was empty – no car traffic of any kind. On either side of a two-block stretch, a group of boys and men had just barricaded the intersection. I watched as dozens of people began dragging wooden chairs and tables into the newly made clearing, turning the street into a makeshift restaurant. I couldn’t tell if the people doing this work were employees, volunteers, or folks who were simply walking by and decided to lend a hand. Cairo is the sort of place where, if you look even remotely in need of assistance, half the city will come to your aid. There is no quicker way to make ten new friends in Egypt than to ask one Egyptian for directions.

My cousins and I sat at one of the tables. A few seconds later, a kid came over to take our order. There was no menu, no expectation we would not know exactly what it is we wanted. After all, the place only served one thing – an Arabic dish called Foul (pronounced “Fool”). It’s a dish composed of fava beans, olive oil, diced onions, tomatoes, maybe some lemon juice. In much of the country it is breakfast food: cheap, utilitarian fuel that has been a staple here forever. Poor-people food that, like all poor-people food, is eaten by everyone. With the exception of a gilded kleptocracy and an all-but-vanished middle class, Egyptians wrestle constantly with poverty, and poverty produces food that lasts.

In less than a minute there was no more space on our table. Out came the bowls – this one in the style of the Cairenes, that one cooked the way Alexandrians like it. Plates of pickled beets, carrots and turnips, an endless parade of Arabic bread that doubled as cutlery. In the raucous expanse of this street turned dining room, I ate until I couldn’t breathe.

These are the meals I remember, moments of communion with a culture and a history and a people that are at once mine and distant from me. Food is the most effortless vessel of memory, and to break bread is to eradicate exile.

Thanks, Omar. A little more political than the meals I usually see here, but certainly compelling. Timeless food, to be sure.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Terri Favro

No Comments » Written on August 13th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Terri Favro

As you know, Bob, yesterday was World Elephant Day. Tomorrow is the release of The Moons of Barsk, my second novel featuring anthropomorphic elephants. But let’s stay in the present and talk about the elephant in the room (for want of a better segue), which is this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Terri Favro.

Terri lives and writes in Toronto, Canada. She produces copy and content for everything from direct mail ads to websites to print and radio. She’s writes essays and graphic novels and novels. Last month, her novel Sputnik’s Children, landed her on the short list for the Sunburst Awards, which are given out in recognition of Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Really, that’s all the endorsement you should need to go pick up a copy.

Earlier this year she released Generation Robot, a nonfiction volume looking at the history of our ever-changing relationship with robotics and technology that will change the way you envision the future (not to mention your household appliances).

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

TF: I’m Italian. Okay, not a real Italian: I was born in Canada – near Niagara Falls – to parents from the Old Country who grew up (as my relatives in Torino liked to put it) “under the Queen”. Our status as British subjects was their way of distinguishing us from my mother’s American cousins, who ran a restaurant in (ironically) Queens, New York: all of us in the New World were, to the Italian way of thinking, “Americans.”

Sputnik's Children

But other than a taste for Red Rose Tea (a brand only available in Canada, so Mom was in the bizarre habit of carrying tea bags in her purse whenever she and Dad travelled to Italy), my parents were, as all real Italians are, food snobs. My mother judged people by what they cooked and what she saw in their kitchens. A jar of mayonnaise or a potato salad marked you out as déclassé. We lived in an immigrant neighbourhood of Italians, Poles and Ukrainians, and Mom was not above making snide remarks about the neighbours’ perogi and cabbage rolls. Outside of a nice, hot cuppa tea, British cuisine was marked out for particular scorn. Yorkshire Pudding was a mysterious menu item we saw on our occasional trips to restaurants in the big city (Toronto); I assumed it was a dessert until I was invited home for Sunday dinner by an English-born boyfriend in university and discovered it was a cream puff full of gravy. I found it exotic.

Because of my Italian-ish-ness (and despite the Britishness of the long-lost Canada of my youth), life for me has been a series of spectacular meals. My Nonna’s tortellini al brodo and penne arrabbiatta were so good that they set a high bar below which my Nonno refused to limbo: any meal served to him that he judged inferior to Nonna’s, he would throw out the nearest window – and yes, I actually saw him do it. My mother’s polenta with sauce, risotto Milanese, minestrone, creamy Alfredo sauce and the salads she made from dandelion leaves picked near our backyard vineyard were amazing. And those were just day-to-day meals. A special occasion meant she hauled out the big guns, like stuffed manicotti, baked cannelloni or a big, crazy lasagna that was an all-hands-on-deck enterprise for everyone in the family.

Once Upon a Time in West Toronto

So my most memorable meal is not one of the great ones, but the first truly tragic one. It was the one I ate after my grandfather died and my mother was too upset to cook. Neighours rushed to our door laden with home cooked meals (mostly the aforementioned perogis and cabbage rolls) as well as delicacies I had never had before, jello salad being a standout. (Peas and carrots suspended in green transparent slime, like sea monkeys in the backs of comic books – I thought this was very cool an space age-y, if devoid of actual taste.)

But at some point in the grieving process, possibly before the neighbours arrived with real food, we did something that we had never done before: we ordered a meal from a take-out chain: a bucket of Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In the midst of all the sadness, the appearance of the bucket was thrilling. The greasy, bony, stringy chicken eaten with my fingers. The fake-tasting coating. The French fries – chips were a rare treat, something even my mother approved of, but never made.

After consuming all that greasy deliciousness, I was made to wash my hands, put on a scratchy dress and go to the funeral home. I was seven years old. I was shocked by the sight of my grandfather’s corpse stretched out on white satin with a rosary snaking through his fingers, even though he wasn’t particularly religious. Nonno was a much loved storyteller in our family whose recounting of grisly, magical and strangely sexy Italian fairytales probably set me on my way to becoming a writer of grisly, magical and strangely sexy novels. The room was a fug of roses, holy water and old lady perfume.

Generation Robot: A Century of Science Fiction, Fact, and Speculation

The sight of my dead grandfather, the heaviness of the air, the sweetness of the flowers – I didn’t throw up exactly – well, maybe a little bit in my mouth – but I must have looked ill because someone ushered me into the foyer where there were fewer smells and less people. No one comforted me: I was left to cry it out alone, a bundle of queasy grief. And at the back of my mouth was the unmistakable aftertaste of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

There have been two long-term consequences from this experience. One was that the scene in the funeral home imprinted itself not only on my memory but on the work that I would write as an adult: a meal of take-out fried chicken, followed by a funeral, has appeared more than once in my fiction, non-fiction and even a digital storytelling series on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).

And the other thing: not surprisingly, I can’t eat KFC. I can’t even pass one of their stores and smell that distinctive fragrance of grease and artificial spices without feeling that a tragedy of operatic proportions is about to take place.

Thanks, Terri. Just goes to show, there was a time I did my writing, five or six days a week, at a corner booth of a KFC. This went on for more than two years. So, I think I’ve eaten your share.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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author photo by Ayelet Tsabari.


Eating Authors: Ryan Campbell

No Comments » Written on August 6th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Ryan Campbell

Welcome to August. As chaotic as last week was, this month promises an even bigger theme park of rides and attractions including such highlights as my wedding anniversary, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, and the release of The Moons of Barsk.

And speaking of anthropomorphic SF, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is no stranger to furry fiction. Ryan Campbell has twice won the Cóyotl Award, once for Best Novel (God of Clay) and once for Best Novella (Koa of the Drowned Kingdom). And of course he’s penned other novels and short stories. Rumor has it that he’s hard at work on the third book in his series The Fire Bearers.

Ryan is an alum of the Clarion workshop, and for the last three years has been “paying it forward” as an instructor at RAWR, the Regional Anthropomorphic Writers Retreat.

Meanwhile, back in San Jose, CA, you’ll find Ryan there in November as the Author GoH at PAWCon.

LMS: Welcome, Ryan. Would you share the tale of your most memorable meal?

RC: My husband and I were exploring California, driving through the hills of gold country and sampling all their wine. Napa and Sonoma are fine trips for wine tasters, but the wineries tend toward the crowded and highly commercial – Disneyland for adults, and all the rides are alcohol.

Now I’m worried I’m overselling it.

God of Clay

The point is that if you go wine tasting in Napa, the wineries that you visit are all trying to be Tourist Destinations: a Tuscan castle with a dungeon and torture chamber; a stuccoed palace mainly accessible by sky tram; a museum to the movies of Francis Ford Coppola. And they are constructed to encourage mass numbers of tourists to flock in, cough up the $25 tasting fee, and purchase as much overpriced merchandise as their wine-addled judgment suggests is appropriate before they all hop on the wine train to the next major attraction.

But if you travel to eastern California, into Sonora or Calaveras, you’ll find wineries unmobbed by group tours, where the tasting rooms are tiny, and sometimes don’t even charge fees, staffed by people genuinely excited to talk about their wines, answer questions, and supply extra pours to the enthusiastic. The wines aren’t always as high-end, but the people are real, and the experience is almost always better.

We’d made a day of it, exploring Angel’s Camp, where Mark Twain’s Celebrated Frog performed its jumping, and where the town still hosts a frog jumping contest every year. (We’d had no idea it happened and had missed it by one week.) Down the winding highway a few miles sat another small town called Murphy’s, and the main stretch of street was lovely: shady in the summer and lined with tasting rooms for at least a dozen of the local vineyards.

So yes, by the time we had staggered to the far end of the commercial strip, we had tasted a lot of wine. A lot. And we didn’t use a spit bucket; spitting out wine is an unforgiveable act of sacrilege and anyone who does it should be surreptitiously castigated in an author blog.

Forest Gods

What I’m getting at is that at the point that we encountered the person wearing a costume of a large, purple bunch of grapes with a cartoon smirk and one eyebrow raised in some kind of unspoken social challenge, we had achieved a level of marination that made us highly susceptible to whimsy. I know that I said scornful things previously about Disneyland, and now I’m confessing to have been successfully seduced by a giant cluster of foam fruits, but please remember that wine had happened.

In addition, whoever the person wearing that grapes costume had been, they had clearly been preparing their entire lives for this job, and perhaps studied at some esoteric specialized institution, because they were far too good at it. “You’re hot, tired, and soused,” they communicated through a complex, semaphore-like series of arm and hip gestures, “and you know—you know­—deep down in your life-worn, beaten soul that the restoration you require lies within, just where my confusingly opera-gloved hands are pointing, nay, enticing you to enter.” The costume’s eyebrow somehow raised higher, like some kind of dancing, botanical Mr. Spock. “No, do not look away. Do not walk past. Do not snicker to your friends and thus belittle only yourself. This is where you belong. I challenge you to disprove me.”

I have often thought about that stupid, confusingly sexy bunch of dancing grapes, and how it lured me into a restaurant called The Wild Grape. We have returned to the spot since that day and while the building remains, the restaurant is gone, like one of those stores that sells exactly the magical item you require and then vanishes when you turn around.

But I also think about the meal—not specifically the meal, since I no longer remember the exact food I ordered. I remember my husband, who was flirting with vegetarianism in the same way that an armchair quarterback flirts with church on Sundays, ordering bacon-wrapped shrimp in the same breath that he told the waiter he was vegetarian. And I remember the subsequent mockery from the actually vegetarian waiter that shoved my husband back into abashed omnivorousness.

Koa of the Drowned Kingdom

I remember that the food, whatever it was (I think I ordered a chicken pasta) was amazing; fresh, satisfying, balanced, rejuvenating. I remember how the wine list was populated exclusively with all the local wines we had spent the day tasting, and how their flavors melted into each bite like missing but recently rediscovered ingredients.

The restaurant was part of a house, but no one ate indoors. There were tables behind the house, under the shade of enormous oaks, and so we were all dining outside, in someone’s back yard. A small platform had been put up near our table, and musicians played banjo and mandolin music at a perfect volume to entertain and soothe without drowning out conversation.

And I remember tilting my head back, full of the day–of great food, great wine, and great music, sharing the moment with my husband and friends. And the breeze gently curled around me, carrying away the heat of the day, and shifted the leaves of the oak tree above me, making leaf-shadows swim across the tables, and I was completely, perfectly happy.

The food, probably, wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. Certainly not the most high-end experience. But everyone around me seemed happy and glad to be there. We shared a moment of music and food and peace.

It’s a moment that I hold onto when times are bad, a talisman to ward off dark thoughts and fears, a reminder that life can be good. And a reminder that sometimes, no matter how stupid it seems, it doesn’t hurt to obey a cartoon fruit with an MFA in Mascotting.

Thanks, Ryan, sounds like a idyllic combination. Though I’m left wondering if your anthropomorphic cluster of grapes was real, or a manifestation of your own inebriation? Grapes. Huh. Me, I tend to see elephants, pink or otherwise.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Chris Kennedy

No Comments » Written on July 30th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Chris Kennedy

The last week has been a blur. You’d think that I’d be entitled to recovery time after spending the previous week hanging out with fifty Klingon speakers from around the globe, but no, too many deadlines coincided with this end of the month. Most of them were publishing related, including releasing three books: the Klingon translation of Sun Tsu’s The Art of War, the fourth volume of the novella anthology Alembical, and book two of my collaboration with Jonathan Brazee entitled Scorched Earth.

That last provides a segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Chris Kennedy. Ever since my collaboration began, I’ve been getting educated on military SF, and as a result inviting more military SF authors to talk about there meals. And so here we are. Chris is a former naval aviator which probably goes a long way to account for the realism in even his most far future military epics. Somewhere in there he also picked up a doctorate in educational leadership and has been a school principal, which probably goes a long way to account for the realism in his fantasy novels (that’s supposed to be a joke, please laugh here; thank you). Nowadays, he’s a full-time indie author, building an empire, publishing not only his own work but that of eleven other authors as well!

He released his latest book kicks off a new series, the Worlds at War Saga. Book one, The Replicant War was released last Friday.

LMS: Welcome, Chris. So, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

CK: The best meal I’ve ever had? It would have to be a dinner I had in Key West, Florida, in the summer of 2005. At the time, I was an officer in the U.S. Navy, and I was stationed at a NATO command in Norfolk, Virginia. As part of my duties, I was on a NATO working group, where we helped develop policy for technology that the NATO nations were implementing. Each of the members of the group took turns hosting the quarterly working group meetings, and it was my turn. I took a poll of the members, and they decided they’d like the meeting to be held in Key West.

The Replicant War

In addition to the “nuts and bolts” part of the meeting, including a number of face-to-face conferences where the actual policy was hammered out, at these types of meetings the host normally arranges an evening social engagement, where all the delegates to the conference can come together and get to know each other in a less-formal environment. As we were having the meeting in Key West, I put together a deep sea fishing trip one of the afternoons, and we had enough participants to fill two boats. We went out, had a great afternoon, and returned with a huge amount of fresh fish.


The rest of the attendees met us at the restaurant located at the docks, where we turned over all of our fish to the waiting server, who asked how we’d like them prepared. When told to use his best judgement, he said they’d fry certain ones, grill some of the others, and blacken the rest. They would then serve them with hush puppies and a couple of sides. We sat down with a number of pitchers of beer to await our feast–and boy, was it a feast! Everything was incredible! I’m not a big fried fish fan, but it was the best I had ever tasted, as were the rest of the dishes. Everything was perfect, the camaraderie was awesome, and the weather was perfect to sit in the open-air portion of the restaurant as the sun set.

Many friendships were made that night, which would help smooth the way forward with our meetings both then and in the future. The word “perfect” is often overused, but that evening, that day, and that meal were just that. Perfect.

Thanks, Chris. It’s a rare thing for a fishy story to be perfect. Usually it’s the perfect meal that ends up being the one that got away. (insert snare drum)

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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