Eating Authors: Craig Martelle

No Comments » Written on May 21st, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Craig Martelle

It’s a recovery day for me. I’ve been away most of the past week at the Nebula Awards Conference. I only returned last night. It’s not usually this long an event, but the SFWA Board added an extra day for an amazing strategic visioning session (in addition to the regular day of Board meetings). In fact, this trip was all about meetings. I was off at dinner every night doing business with different parties on different projects and all I can say about any of that right now is the coming year is going to be jam packed and very interesting.

Not all of the dinners were all business, some merely set the stage for later business (and a good meal can go a long way toward such) and included other people. One of these meals allowed me to get to know Craig Martelle a bit better, which is pretty convenient as he’s this weeks EATING AUTHORS guest.

Craig is a former marine turned lawyer turned author. He currently lives in Alaska. He’s been having phenomenal success as an indie author, to the tune of some fifty-three books spread out over twelve different series. It’s a wonder the man has time to eat.

LMS: Welcome, Craig. Having just shared an incredible dinner with you mere days ago, I’m wondering what else stands out for you as a memorable meal?

CM: 9/11 happened in the twentieth year of my Marine Corps career. I was stationed in Washington D.C. at the time so the impact was near and dear, both in the lives of those I knew and the impact on the nation. Within five days, I was deployed to US Central Command in Florida. I wanted to go forward, but that wasn’t meant to be. I was a staff puke, so they put me up in a condo-like residence with a rental car for three months. The hours were long, but as far as a deployment went, it wasn’t bad at all. After a couple months, my wife flew down to join me since I wasn’t going to be home for our anniversary.

The Free Trader of Warren Deep

In Tampa, there is a five-star steakhouse called Bern’s. I made reservations and off we went. The place has fuzzy wallpaper and looks like a recovering brothel. They claim to have 30,000 bottles of wine and they give the diners tours of the kitchen and the wine cellar. When you order your meal, you also decide at that time to make reservations at the desert bar upstairs.

We did all that. I believe they have that much wine. Everything they cook is from their own farms, livestock, and fields. To be a server, the person starts at the farms and it takes a year or two to work your way into the restaurant. Every part of the process is managed, up until the best cut of steak you’ll ever taste is delivered to you.

Happy anniversary, sorry I’m deployed to a war, but glad you could join me.


Upstairs, there are separate cubicles with their own ventillation because out of a seventy-page menu, only one had food. All the rest were cigars and dessert drinks. There was a slight hint of cigar smoke upstairs, but that was it.

A memorable meal to be certain. My wife had to leave shortly after our anniversary because she had to return to Moscow to finish her first master’s degree in Russian philology.

For me? I can still taste the Bern’s steak. I don’t remember the dessert, as I was half way into a food coma.

Eventually, I too returned home, only to be sent to the Ukraine on a different mission. And then I retired from the Marine Corps because one can only spend so much time away from home.

Thanks, Craig. Anniversary dinners make for memorable meals. But now I’m wondering, did you and your wife indulge in cigars?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Jessica Reisman

No Comments » Written on May 7th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Jessica Reisman

The return of spring has also meant a return to geocaching. If you’re not acquainted with it, geocaching involves following GPS coordinates to a location where someone has hidden a container. Typically, at a minimum, this “cache’ contains a log which you sign and date to prove you were there. It mays also contain trinkets and swag of wide description. The size of the caches range from something as small as the tip of your finger to enormous ammo boxes. They can be hidden in plain sight in parking lots or secreted along woodland trails. It’s oddly fun, and it gets me out into the world, seeing parks and preserves in and around Philadelphia that I never knew existed.

And speaking of Philadelphia (he said by way of segue), Jessica Reisman, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, hails from here. I feel an odd kinship with Jessica. I dropped out of college yet ended up with a doctorate; she dropped out of high school and nonetheless has a master’s degree. I like to think that such experiences shapes a writer’s perspective in unique ways. This certainly seems to be true of Jessica, whether she’s writing about haunted space stations or economically abandoned mining colonies, there is the touch of a different mind, a foreign presence, that alters and informs the way we experience the world. I think we’d all do better with a bit more of that.

LMS: Welcome, Jessica. Would you tell me about your most memorable meal?

JR: When I was 11, I went from Philadelphia to San Antonio to visit my mother for a month. It was summer, 1974, and my mother, who left when I was seven to “find herself,” was living at a commune called the City of Love and Light that took up two floors of an old, once elegant hotel in downtown San Antonio.

Substrate Phantoms

Mostly we ate in the communal dining room. My mother was one of the cooks and the food buyer. My main memory of the dining room is one of the other cooks talking about having a nightmare in which they ran out of Tobasco sauce and all the men pounded the tables in revolt.

Sometimes we ate in the hotel restaurant, though—my first exposure to grits for breakfast took place there—and once at a restaurant in the city.

It was a family-owned and run restaurant on the ground floor of an old city building. Cool tiled floors, a deep stone fountain against one wall, massive palms and other greenery—a secret grotto, lush and lovely in the city’s heat. A child of the northeast, I had never had Tex-Mex or Mexican food at all. I already knew I didn’t like jalapenos—or Tabasco sauce. The owners, an older couple who made the food, came out and talked to my mother and her current beau about what I might enjoy. What they produced for me was a simple plate of nachos. Just large triangles of house-made corn and lime chips, a dollop of the best refried beans I would ever taste on each, and just the right amount of melted white cheese like a see-through veil across it all.

Bourbon, Sugar, Grace

Nothing had ever tasted so good. For dessert, the woman brought me a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, gorgeous. To this day, I remember that plate of nachos as one of the most wonderful things I have ever eaten. And that hot chocolate as the perfect, kind-hearted end to the perfect meal in a setting of real, everyday magic. As an adult, I’ve had many memorable meals, and by the grace of fabulous friends, some truly magnificent ones. But the meal that remains most memorable, still numinous, is this one.

Why does this meal retain such indelible savor in my memory? The combination of elements, my mother being with me, the welcome of the couple who owned the restaurant, the adventure—summer in a different city—in which the evening was couched, the beauty of the restaurant’s tile, stone, water, and greenery…it felt like all the good things, both home and journey, earthly support and magic. For a kid who felt unsafe and insecure in the world, longing for some sense of home and welcome, who was also a rabid reader, and already writer, of fantasy and science fiction—it was everything. I’m pretty sure the memory of that meal has at least a little to do with how I ended up coming to Austin, Texas for grad school, and maybe even why I’m still here—though the nachos of that memory have never been matched. Local El Chilito makes a pretty good cup of Mexican hot chocolate, though.

Thanks, Jessica. The phrase, the nachos of memory, is going to haunt me now.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Michael Anderle

No Comments » Written on April 30th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Michael Anderle

How has April gone by so fast? I blame the winter. Seriously, there was still snow falling well into the month. And then, a day or two of high temperatures, just to fool all the trees into budding, then cold again. Well, fine. Spring is finally here, and if we had to sacrifice most of this month to get there, I’ll take it. Just, enough with snow already. Let’s get on with the vernal stuff. If I wanted white powder, trust me, I know a guy.


Sorry, that’s all the segue I have in me today, so let’s get right to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, none other than Michael Anderle. In case you don’t know, Michael is an indie author whose personal story is the exception that proves the rule. He published his first book about two and half years ago. Within the next ninety days he had published four more books and was suddenly generating royalties — royalties, mind you, not sales — of over $10,000 a month.

I’m not sure how many titles he’s up to now. Depending on how you view it, his Kutherian Gambit series is up to at least 21 books allone. And then there’re the dozens of books, many of them spin-off series, that he’s co-written with authors like Craig Martelle, Ell Leigh Clarke, Paul C. Middleton, T. S. Paul, and others. If you’re like me, you’re already out of breath.

In a perfect world, Michael would reveal the mystic secrets of his success for this blog. Alas, we have to settle for a meal. Unless of course you think he’s encoded those secrets into his description of the event. I hear he’s sneaky that way, so… maybe.

LMS: Welcome, Michael. So, tell me about your most memorable meal.

MA: Now, I’m a Texan by birth, and I’ve lived in the state most of my fifty years so I have a penchant for enjoying steak. Especially a tender filet mignon (medium, pink with only a small line of red.)

Death Becomes Her

So, in 2009 myself and my three boys had a house we were living in up in the Lake Arrowhead area of California. For those who don’t know it, picture a scenic, beautiful clear lake about a mile up in the mountains with tall pine trees and beautiful lakeshore homes.

Now picture that they didn’t have a real steakhouse to speak of (that I knew about) and you see the issue.

It takes about thirty to forty-five minutes to come down the mountain and I didn’t have a CLUE where anything was once I got down, especially not a steak place I could trust. Fast forward a few months and I was dating a woman (who later became my wife, Judith) who lived in Orange County, California. For our first date, we found a restaurant that was in between our homes.

But for this particular date I had driven all the way over to OC. She asked me if I was missing any particular type of food, and I had to admit I was seriously jonesing for a steak.

The Dark Messiah

She knew the OC area very well, and suggested we try Maestro’s Steakhouse in Costa Mesa. I was game, but didn’t have a clue where Costa Mesa was. Judith is a more traditional woman, so I was driving which we have since learned is not the best solution for continued married bliss.

She drives now. Especially if I don’t have a clue about the area, or where we are going.

We drive from Coto de Caza (think Housewives of Orange County) over to Costa Mesa, driving for a while up the PCH 1 – idyllic. However, I was not paying too much attention to the scenery as I was 1) CLUELESS and 2) HUNGRY.

I recall having trouble finding parking once we arrived, as well. To set this up, this date was an early in our relationship and I was trying to impress her. It would have been nice if future me and come back to tell past me not to worry, “She is already into you.”

But, I apparently don’t walk timelines.

Payback Is A Bitch

The restaurant was near the water, everything was white linen, candles on the tables and we sat next to each other at a table for four instead of across from each other.

Like we were teenagers.

The food comes out, and they have my filet mignon on a hot, searing plate. It was blackened, the juices coming out of the steak… the aroma… I took a bite, the explosion of tender beef goodness covering my tastebuds and I turn to this lady… Who was staring at me with a bemused expression on her face. (I was obviously ignoring her at that moment.)

“Do you need some time with the meat? Just the two of you?” Judith asks me.

Without missing a beat, I smile and reply. “Yes, yes I do.”

Sometimes, the truth is written on your face and you have no option left but to confirm it.

Thanks Michael. Few things compare with a fine steak. I’ve since given up meat, but were I back in Japan and offered some properly prepared kobe, I’d be chowing down in no time.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Vina Prasad (Campbell Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on April 23rd, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Vina Prasad

Here in the USA, the deadline for filing one’s federal taxes has come and gone. Lots of stress this year in my household as we shifted over to a new form of record keeping and experienced more than our share of delays and distractions. On the other hand, less stressful than most years, as the critical date got bumped to the 17th, whereas two days before, April 15th, marked the 18th anniversary of my father’s passing. Yeah, death and taxes, he’d have found that really funny.

On a less somber or macabre note, today’s EATING AUTHORS features another of the nominees for this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Vina Jie-Min Prasad. She’s a Singaporean writer who describes herself as “working against the world-machine” (which I think surely means she probably knows where they keep it) and in addition to being up for the Campbell, her short story, “Fandom for Robots” has also garnered her Nebula, Sturgeon, and Hugo nominations this year. But wait, there’s more: Her novelette, “A Series of Steaks” is also nominated for the same three awards. That’s right, she’s up for seven different awards this year (well, six, because the Sturgeon only has the one category). Anyway, go read her!

LMS: Welcome, Vina. What meal stands out in your memory?

VP: One of the best meals I’ve ever had was in Vietnam. I was travelling with my partner on a very ambitious itinerary that we had planned earlier that year, and we got to our homestay in Dong Hoi after spending most of the day at the limestone caves. There are two things I remember very clearly about that part of the trip. The first was that there was a shallow fishpond on the first floor–some of the fish in it had outgrown the pond, and were carefully swimming sideways so they didn’t splash out.

The second was the noodles.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 18

For a little more context, the homestay was pretty far from any restaurant. Our previous itinerary-planning selves had assumed we’d be able to go into town and grab some dinner. However, our previous itinerary-planning selves were possessed by what I call the Vacation Demon. The Vacation Demon, in case you aren’t familiar with it, does things like make you pack your swimsuit when you aren’t going anywhere near a body of water because “there might be a pool somewhere”, pack extra shoes for a weekend trip “just in case the sole falls off”, and plan five separate things for one afternoon because “they’re so near to each other, and I’m sure we’ll have energy, we’re on vacation”.

Anyway. Reluctant to forsake the Vacation Demon’s itinerary and dash the hopes and dreams of our past selves, we were at the point of the trip where we were hauling our shambling carcasses from place to place while secretly hoping our past selves had left a gap in their meticulous plans so we could get some rest. As the itinerary didn’t say anything about dinner that night, all our determination spontaneously evaporated the moment we took off our shoes.

At some point of rolling around trying to motivate ourselves to get dinner, I remembered that the homestay had advertised breakfast in the listing, and went to check if we could pay extra and get some kind of meal, even if it was just bread. The host was pretty accommodating, and she offered us the choice of toast and scrambled eggs, or noodles. I picked noodles as it seemed like the most filling option.

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 124

A few minutes later, we were served two steaming-hot plates of instant noodles–they were boiled and drained, dry-style, with bits of eggs and finely-chopped spring onion greens on top.

The taste was an experience. The noodles were perfectly cooked, al dente with that hint of give, and were tossed so that just the right amount of sauce coated every strand. Hints of white pepper deepened the noodles’ soy-scented fragrance, and the clouds and wisps of scrambled eggs added to the richness. The occasional bit of spring onion added a pop of freshness every few bites.

I looked at my partner. He looked at me.

“Is it just me, or–“

“No. These noodles are godly.”

We got second helpings, just to check if hunger had skewed our judgement. They were still incredible. We complimented the chef multiple times, and had more noodles for breakfast the next morning. (Still good.)

It’s been years since my Vietnam trip. I’ve had many great meals since then, but I’ll never forget those noodles–how sheer skill and technique elevated a basic-seeming meal into something truly amazing.

Thanks, Vina. I’m well acquainted with the Vacation Demon. With its help I’ve amassed a lifetime worth of museums, parks, and restaurants I’ll likely never visit. Sigh.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Rebecca Roanhorse (Campbell Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on April 16th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Rebecca Roanhorse

If everything has gone as planned, then this morning I should be waking up in Pennsylvania, after having spent four nights in Quebec. But seriously, when do things go as planned? Which is why I prepped this week’s EATING AUTHORS before I skipped town, so you wouldn’t miss out on reading about Rebecca Roanhorse, our second guest this year who (along with Katherine Arden, Sarah Kuhn, Jeannette Ng, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, and Rivers Solomon) was recently nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

I’d be remiss not to mention that in addition to being on this year’s ballot for the Campbell, Rebecca is also on both the Hugo and Nebula Awards ballots for her short story “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™.”

She’s also a Yale grad, a lawyer, and a pug owner (the last of which resonates with me because my dog is half pug, so yeah, that’s all it takes to bias me). Her first novel, Trail of Lightning, comes out from Saga at the end of June, with the next one in the series already slated for release the following spring. Then there’s the new book, an Aansazi-inspired fantasy that we’ll get to see sometime in 2020. So yeah, she’s been busy.

LMS: Welcome, Rebecca. Tell me about your most memorable meal.

RR: It was a chilly March afternoon on the Navajo reservation in Northern Arizona, and an In-law Chaser, a quick heavy snowstorm that doesn’t stick but has enough force to usually scare the uninitiated off the warmer indoor accommodations, had just raced through our tiny camp. A thin blanket of snow coated the ground around us, and we huddled in our coats, hats and scarves, waiting for the sun to return.

Trail of Lightning

We were all there for my niece’s Kinaldaa. A Kinaldaa is a Navajo puberty ceremony for young girls that welcomes them into adulthood. It is a momentous occasion that brings family and friends together to offer advice, ceremony, and company. It is held in a traditional Navajo home, called a hogan, but all the cooking and prep work is done outside.

Despite the blast of winter, the open fire in the middle of the camp still crackled merrily, burning through the pinon wood and smelling like the Southwest version of heaven. The cowboy coffee (strong coffee where the grounds are dumped directly into the stovetop-style pot and placed over the open fire) was bubbling and ready for drinking. My husband had just finished butchering the sheep that would go into the fresh mutton stew that was to be our dinner. I was chopping the stew vegetables – carrots, celery and potatoes – and another relative was busy mixing the dough for our frybread. It was the quintessential Navajo comfort meal – mutton stew, frybread and coffee – made with our own hands and eaten outside among friends and family. It was the best meal I’ve ever had, hands down. Well, there was that one gourmet 5-course meal in Paris once that is a close second, but even that can’t beat outdoor dining around an open fire in the snow.

Thanks, Rebecca. Is it wrong that a part of me wants some Parisian chef to wrangle an invitation to a Kinaldaa so they can be inspired to produce a fusion dish? Yeah, probably. Sorry (not sorry).

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Jeannette Ng (Campbell Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on April 9th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Jeannette Ng

There are six names on the ballot for this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Katherine Arden, Sarah Kuhn, Jeannette Ng, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Rivers Solomon. I’ve reached out to all of them and with luck over the next several weeks you’ll get to read about their most memorable meals. And too, I hope you’ll go out of your way and read their fiction, because if you’re not already familiar with their work the odds are pretty good that you’ll be seeing a lot more from them.

First up here at EATING AUTHORS is Jeannette Ng. She’s the author of Under the Pendulum Sun, a novel that can be succinctly described as Victorian missionaries travel to Fairyland. She counts the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and the Brontë sisters among her influences, a combination which was all I needed to compel me to order a copy of her book.

Jeannette hails from Hong Kong and currently lives in Durham, UK. You can see the influence of her master’s degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies in her fiction. It’s also surely fed her interest in both costuming and the LARPs she runs. What more could you ask for?

LMS: Welcome, Jeannette. Please share a memorable meal with us.

JN: Allow me to set a scene: smoky wood fire in a Tudor croft, porridge quietly steaming as it hangs low in the fire, shutters seamed with light, shut against a howling wind.

I am curled up by the fireplace, voices of various colourful characters discuss turnips and orc armies and slashed sleeve fashion above me. I wedge another block of wood under the grate. I nudge the dripping candle closer to the pan as it is underlit by the fire. I flip the bubbling flatbread.

These are the meals I helped cook whilst pretending to be a fantasy medieval peasant.

Under the Pendulum Sun

I’ve often written about my partner’s medieval cooking hobby and every meal Serve It Forth produces is memorable. However, this particular weekend sticks in my mind as we had very limited access to modern amenities. The game’s organisers had rented out the Anglo Saxon village and normally we work in the modern kitchen of the visitor’s centre. However, this weekend it was not available and we were stuck in the back room of the Tudor Croft.

Now we had brought frozen stew to reheat, as well as bread and Ember Day tart. We weren’t cooking everything from scratch in that kitchen.

But we were still catering an eighty-or-so person weekend-long event off two camping stoves and the fireplace in the front room. We had a sneaky hidden pipe that brought running water into the kitchen area, but there was no drainage so every bucket used had to be thrown into the ditch outside. We had a shining tower of tea urn that gave us hot water as long as we kept it filled with water. Never have I loved a kitchen appliance more. Hot water is the lifeblood of a catering kitchen.

And of course we were still making flatbread and porridge over the fire. Wearing my woolen kirtle, I tended the fire and stirred porridge. I rolled thin blob after blob of flatbread which I fried over a pan I oiled with a rag.

It was all my ridiculous childhood fantasies of being Cinderella come true, right down to the snuffling critters scampering about in the thatch above us at night. We slept on a straw mattress in the attic room. We woke up each morning to the song of the birds nesting there.

Thanks, Jeannette. When I think of Cinderella it’s usually the Disney film that comes to mind. Now I need to add flatbread, turnips, and orcs to my memory.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Liz Colter

No Comments » Written on April 2nd, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Liz Colter

As I’ve noted previously on this blog, April 2nd is my personal academic holiday, or rather, it has been since 1987. For the past thirty-one years I’ve celebrated Doctoral Day, the anniversary of the successful defense of my dissertation. It was a major life-goal for me, or so it seemed at the time, but now it’s more than half of my lifetime in the past, and while its importance hasn’t dimmed, I see it now in the context of the bigger picture more as a stepping stone in the journey that’s been my life. Still, traditions are important, so please, celebrate with me. Salute those friends and colleagues (and yourself, if applicable) who have achieved terminal degrees. Bloviate. If you’re in academia and have tenure, bask in it. And if you’re still paying back those loans from grad school, well, try not to think about them, today at least.

Another, and much rarer, life event worth celebrating is winning the Writers of the Future contest, which is my clever segue for introducing you to Liz Colter (who did that very thing back in 2014), this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest.

Liz writes dark/weird/magic realism as well as contemporary fantasy under the name L. D. Colter, and uses L. Deni Colter for her epic fantasies. A novel-length example of the latter, The Halfblood War, is coming soon from WordFire Press. She recently saw her first book, A Borrowed Hell, re-released. That’s got to feel good.

LMS: Welcome, Liz. Can you share a few words about a memorable meal?

LC: Food lover that I am, it’s odd I can’t remember more specific meals than I do. There are a few that stand out, but on the whole when I try to conjure a favorite it’s the circumstances surrounding the meal combined with the food that makes it stick in my memory.

A Borrowed Hell

Surprisingly, one of my favorites was an unassuming cabbage dish (and, no, cabbage doesn’t normally top my list of preferred foods). I only remember red cabbage and a lot of butter, and that it was superb. Mushrooms and cheese were involved as well, but even though it sounds simple, I’m a dismal cook and I’ve never been able to duplicate the recipe. It was one of the tastiest meals I’ve had, but what makes it memorable is that the meal was enjoyed in England with my favorite uncle in his favorite pub. My husband, mother, and brother were there as well, and my mother had taken us all on the trip so that my husband could see England for the first time and meet my relatives, most especially my uncle. He was in his mid-nineties at the time, a retired doctor, still spry and in good health despite some long-term issues from having been a prisoner of war in WWII. Along with the excellent food, I remember the beautiful green pastures around Maidensgrove and the atmospheric 16th century pub with its low ceilings and dark furnishings. That night at the Five Horseshoes turned out to be the last time I enjoyed a meal with my uncle, as he passed away quite suddenly a few months later. I’ll always be glad that my husband got the chance to meet him, and for the memorable evening we all spent together.

Thanks, Liz. That sounds like the perfect snapshot of a meal, one that evokes flavorful food, extraordinary company, and an exquisite setting.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Jasmine Gower

No Comments » Written on March 26th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Jasmine Gower

Yet another snowstorm has come and gone, the fourth in as many weeks, reminding me of that classic SNL skit about March coming in like a lion. That said, I’ll be happy to get to April in another week, because surely then we can all agree that winter is over and get on with the vernal weather. Meanwhile, I’m awaiting (like so many others) the release of the Hugo Awards short list so I can reach out to this year’s Campbell Award nominees and lure them here to talk about some of their meals.

But before any of that can happen, we need to continue on with the final EATING AUTHORS installment of this month, which is segue enough to introduce you to Jasmine Gower. She’s one of the many speculative fiction authors who call Portland, Oregon home (seriously, what’s in the water there?). Her work frequently explores themes of disability, gender, and sexuality. Moreover, her website includes a page detailing trigger warnings and specifies areas such as sex, violence, health, and general phobias that are to be found in her books.

Her latest novel, Moonshine, came out last month. It’s a mash-up of 1920’s Chicago and forbidden magic. What’s a young woman who’s only trying to make her way in the big city to do when magical bounty hunters come looking for her, just because she inherited some old fashioned power from her grandmother?

LMS: Welcome, Jasmine. Tell me about your most memorable meal.

JG: In the autumn after I earned my Bachelor’s degree in English, my mother and I took a trip celebrating my graduation to the United Kingdom, spending two weeks between the London area, Edinburgh, and Cardiff. (We had hoped to swing by the Gower Peninsula but decided to stay an extra day in Cardiff.) Being Americans from well-assimilated families, most of our connection to the UK came from extensive genealogy research done by my uncle and a lingering family penchant for traditional British food, which seems to be hugely unpopular with Americans who did not grow up eating it. We spent the majority of our trip in Edinburgh, and on our first night there (after being warned about the highly suspect quality of Scotland’s take on Mexican food) decided to get dinner at a pub near our hotel called the Arthur Conan Doyle. We been eating at pubs all week so far, but that had been down in Amersham–now that we were in Scotland, it was time to try Scottish pubs.


The menu, then, wasn’t terribly surprising. One of their most prominent dinner entrees was haggis. In America, of course, haggis is derided as the most disgusting of all British foods, fit only for uncivilized highland barbarians. I don’t get a lot of chances to reconnect to my family’s Scottish roots and I couldn’t remember ever having seen haggis on a menu back home, so I put aside my American hang-ups and ordered the haggis, just to say I’d given it a try. The American vision of haggis is admittedly a bit nebulous–something about sheep intestines, no real concept of the flavor, and it’s maybe slimy or chewy or something. No one really puts much thought into their disgust toward haggis before declaring it, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

I was surprised, then, when the dish brought out was effectively just ground sausage, not terribly different in texture and seasoning from the pork-based dish in the US, with a pile of mashed sweet potatoes and mashed parsnips each on the side. But I tend to favor miscellaneous sheep parts to miscellaneous pig parts, and although I like sausage, I found that the flavor of haggis suited my tastes much better. Had the only reason I had never sampled this delicious dish been haggis’ negative reputation in the US?

Well, it turns out, no. There was one other significant reason, which I only found out a few years later thinking back on the dinner I had had in the Arthur Conan Doyle. I was back home in the US, wondering where I might be able to find a restaurant that served the elusive, unfairly maligned Scottish dish. In Portland, Oregon, we have plenty of British-style pubs, including ones with a specifically Celtic bent, and yet I couldn’t find one that included haggis on the menu. When Google Maps was no help in my search, I turned then to regular Google and discovered the true reason why I couldn’t find this legendary Scottish meal.

A Study of Fiber and Demons

Haggis is outlawed in the United States.

As it turned out, the United States banned the import of beef and sheep product from the UK back in the late 1980s during a mad cow disease scare, and one of haggis’ primary ingredients–sheep lung–remains banned to this day. And while you could still make haggis in the US with local sheep or by replacing the lung with some other ingredient, apparently few in the US seem inclined to try. Some Scottish ranchers and chefs seem to believe the US government is complicit in perpetuating targeted anti-Celtic legislation, and maybe this is true (historically, the US loves assimilationist legislation), but it’s probably more likely the result of some pork lobby in the US with a surprising amount of political clout trying to wedge out the competition. Whatever the reason, finding out that the delicious cultural dish I had sampled in Edinburgh was contraband in my home country was both a bit ridiculous and a bit outrageous.

And while I could certainly use any excuse available to me to go back to Scotland, I do wish I didn’t have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to get another taste of this savory and tragically underappreciated meal.

Thanks, Jasmine. And now I know to blame the vast US pork lobby when conspiracy theories pop up. Perfect!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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