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Eating Authors: Micaiah Johnson (Astounding Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on June 14th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
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Micaiah Johnson

June is continuing to fulfill its promise. Last week I managed a small getaway, the highlight of which was a five hour meeting with a co-author for a shiny new series, and I’m optimistic that we’ll have the first book out before the end of the year. I also hit a major wall of medical bureaucracy (boo!) but quickly found a workaround courtesy of members of the SF community (hooray for the Facebook Overmind). And tomorrow my latest novel, Ace of Thralls, will be available from the ’zon in both ebook and trade paperback formats.

By way of not only continuing the celebration of good things but also segueing into this week’s EATING AUTHORS post, let’s return to boosting the signal for this year’s Astounding Award nominees (Lindsay Ellis, Simon Jimenez, Micaiah Johnson, A.K. Larkwood, Jenn Lyons, and Emily Tesh). Today I get to introduce you to Micaiah Johnson.

Her bio describes Micaiah as a biracial author who was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness community in the Southern California desert. It goes on to point out that she graduated from high school at just thirteen. She has an MFA, and she just finished her comprehensive exams in her PhD program at Vanderbilt where she studies race and robots. This summer she’ll be attending the prestigious School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell.

It’s also worth mentioning that her debut novel The Space Between Worlds was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a finalist for the LOCUS Award, and took home the Compton Crook Award.

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

MJ: My most memorable meal is also my favorite meal is also my least favorite meal, depending on the year. Most of us who are latchkey-kid-adjacent can name at least one large-batch meal, born to be leftovers, that we hated not because it was gross but because we knew it too well. For me, it was my mother’s chili. Cooked in a giant black pan that intelligent people tell me is a soup pot, but I will only ever call a cauldron, the smell of chili in the kitchen meant my sisters and I would be eating it once a day for, at the very least, a week. Every I’m hungry would be met with eat some chili. Every there’s no food would result in there’s the chili. There was always — like crocodiles or horseshoe crabs or some other prehistoric creature that manages to slog forward through time untouched — the chili.

The Space Between Worlds

When I left home it was in the fashion of all Jehovah’s Witness teenagers leaving home — in an explosion and an exile. My last year at home was every cliché about teenage self-discovery conflicting with parental control, like Dirty Dancing but without Patrick Swayze and with far more quoted scripture. I was poor, living in a trailer with mold in the ceiling and the kind of landlords who are so difficult, so unstable, they are forced to keep the rent cheap because only those who have no choice would put up with them. I was isolated. I was hopeless. I was hungry.

One night there was a knock at the door, and I opened it to that familiar giant pot of chili with one hundred dollars tucked into the lid. My parents were not the kind of people for whom one hundred dollars was nothing. In three months, they would be facing another foreclosure, losing their house in the hills of Hesperia and having to move with two grandmothers into an apartment in a-less-than-desirable part of an already less-than-desirable town. But here was a hundred dollars. And a week’s worth of food. In my memory I held the still-warm pot like a buoy and cried, but that may be a trick of a decade’s distance and my dramatic imagination. But it felt like that. It felt like I was holding onto something that was the difference between drowning and not-drowning.

For the next week, every desperate, panicked I’m hungry or I don’t have any food was met by a different, calmer voice from my childhood answering: There’s the chili.

Thanks, Micaiah. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of chili, and while I’ve never lived in a trailer, I vividly recall starting grad school and only being able to afford to eat ramen noodles, three meals a day for several months. Chili tastes better, and it also keeps you warm.

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: Marcus Alexander Hart

No Comments » Written on June 7th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
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Marcus Alexander Hart

Welcome to the first Monday in June. As it happens, yesterday was the 34th National Cancer Survivors Day. Want to know more? Just click that link.

I have to say, June is looking pretty good already. I put a book on sale yesterday; through Sunday Pirates of Marz is 99¢ in the US and £0.99 in the UK. Also, Ace of Thralls — the long awaited third book in my Freelance Courier series — is available for pre-order and will be released on the 15th.

But wait, there’s more! I’ll be meeting with my oncology team today to discuss what (if any) options exist given my resistance to COVID vaccines, and tomorrow I’m going on a road trip (my first in over a year) where I will check into a hotel, dine on out-of-state takeout, and have socially distanced meetings with several author colleagues and friends for two days. As if that wasn’t enough, I’ll return in time to be part of the programming for all three days of SFFCon, an online convention organized last year by my friend (and past EATING AUTHORS guest) A.K. (Amy) DuBoff. So, yeah, and all of that is just this week. There’s so much going on in June that I’ll have to wait until next Monday to tell you more.

But that’s okay, you’re not here to get the scoop on me, you want to read about another author’s most memorable meal. And a good thing too, because this week I invited Marcus Alexander Hart to be the guest for EATING AUTHORS. I first met Marcus a year and a half ago at 20Books Vegas, an Indie Writers’ conference, where he was organizing a meet-and-greet of authors who self-identified as creating humorous SF. Naturally, I wanted to learn more about him.

Once upon a time Marucs was working in computer animation, but he walked away from the video game industry to, in his words, “write the Great American Post-Nuclear-Apocalypse Adventure Comedy Novel.” Alas, things rarely work out as we plan them, and some might say that Marcus wandered in the literary desert trying his hand at some very different kinds of books before returning to his true love, the intersection of space and comedy. The proof of this can be found in his latest novel, Galaxy Cruise, a sci-fi comedy that follows that classic strategy of piling on more and more, like a SF version of a Marx Brothers film. The book will be released in a mere two weeks, but you can pre-order it right now (and you should).

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

MAH: Have you ever heard of a thing called Rental Car Rally? On a random Friday in July, forty or fifty cars full of costumed maniacs gather in Los Angeles for a madcap, all-night, road trip/scavenger hunt/moving violation. When the starting gun sounds at the stroke of midnight, each team is given a list of ten top-secret checkpoints they must visit on the several-hundred-mile journey to the finish line. Whoever hits them all with the most style and the lowest odometer reading wins eternal glory and a gas pump handle poorly spray-painted gold.

Galaxy Cruise

If you can imagine a Cannonball Run with less speed and more poor life choices, you’ve got the basic idea.

My wife Amanda and I once ran the Rental Car Rally in a white Dodge Grand Caravan that we had modified to look like an ice-cream truck, complete with a huge, illuminated strawberry cone on the roof. Among the other teams competing that night were a black SUV full of Secret Service agents, a 1980s stretch limousine kitted out with Ben-Hur-style gladiators, and a fifteen-person van dressed like Noah’s Ark and loaded with college students in provocative animal onesies. Each vehicle hurled insults and eggs at each other as we thundered through the night up the California coastline.

Checkpoint one involved hopping the fence at a community college to molest some ugly cowboy statues. Number two had us trespassing on a defunct Nike-Ajax missile base. Three was an abandoned oil refinery where we stomped through puddles of God-knows-what and probably shortened our lifespans by several years. But the fourth checkpoint challenge took it down a notch—we were to converge on Solvang, California to “acquire and consume aebleskivers.”

If you’re not familiar, Solvang is a Danish village/tourist attraction, complete with a downtown rendered in medieval-style, half-timbered buildings. It has a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, and one of his Little Mermaid. As you drive into town you pass a full-sized windmill. Then another. Then another. It’s adorably quaint. And that morning it became ground zero for a cavalcade of automotive chaos.

Alexis vs. the Afterlife

As the first light of dawn illuminated the horizon, the picturesque curve of Copenhagen Drive was bumper to bumper with filthy rental cars covered in food-fight detritus and the most puerile graffiti this side of a truck-stop bathroom stall frequented by seventh-grade boys. Thanks to our smartphones, every Rally team knew they could “acquire and consume aebleskivers” at the appropriately, if not creatively, named Solvang Restaurant. Unfortunately, we rolled into town about an hour and a half before they opened.

Rowdy weirdos started to gather in the street outside the restaurant, rattling the door handles and peeking in the windows. By an amazing twist of fate, someone happened to be at work early that day. And by an even more amazing twist of fate, instead of calling the cops, he welcomed the invasive rabble inside.

The intimate eatery was quickly packed with grimy costumed maniacs, giddy with that special kind of delirium you get when you’ve been awake for more than thirty hours. Intricately carved, Bavarian-style booths filled with haggard heavy-metal rockers. Hockey-masked serial killers loitered near hutches displaying neat rows of local jellies and jams. 1920s bootleggers smuggled brown jugs of hooch under shelves of Delftware plates. And all of them wanted aebleskivers.

Aebleskivers (alternately ebleskivers, or Æbleskivers if you’re Danish AF), are basically golf-ball-sized, spherical pancakes smothered in raspberry jam and dusted with powered sugar. And when you’re crashing after a long, stressful night of high-stakes rabblerousing, they are the most delicious thing you’ve ever eaten.

One Must Kill Another

Despite the “closed” sign still hanging prominently in the window, more Rally teams kept appearing, filling the place to its exposed wooden rafters. Every time another group of dusty luchadores or sexed-up fairy-tale characters walked in, the solitary waitress would slump in defeat with a groaned, “Let me guess. Aebleskivers?”

That early morning respite of sugary dough balls gave the teams a chance to regroup and share stories of the adventures we’d survived through the night. Aebleskivers and black coffee paved the way to new alliances and friendships. For the next six checkpoints, the ever-present sabotage turned less aggressive and more joyous. We drove rental cars on an ATV beach. We ate terrible barbecue in a Korean-War-era airplane. We threw water balloons out of a seven-story treehouse. We escaped monotony. We lived life.

Eighteen sleepless hours after leaving Los Angeles, Amanda and I crossed the finish line at an unsuspecting ski lodge high in the Sierra Nevadas. Our fake ice-cream truck was covered in a hard shell of sun-baked mustard and dog food and cake mix. Our bodies weren’t in much better condition. But when all was said and done, we walked away from the wreckage with eternal glory and a gas pump handle poorly spray-painted gold.

To this day, winning that award remains one of the top achievements of my life. Which really says more about my slate of life achievements than it does about the Rental Car Rally. But whatever. My point is, if you have a chance, try the aebleskivers. They’re terrific.

Thanks, Marcus. Somehow, despite growing up and spending my formative years in the greater Los Angeles area, I have never heard of this rally before, and though I have been to Solvang on several occasions, I’ve never tried aebleskivers. I’ll have to go looking for them here in Pennsylvania.

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: DJ Cooper

No Comments » Written on May 31st, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
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DJ Cooper

I very much do not want to be one of those people who is always going on and on about the weather, but a week ago we were touching the bottom of the 90s and this weekend the high was about 50°. C’mon, spring, get with the program.

And I say that as someone who has also finally gotten his act together. Last week, after more than a month’s delay, I completed another novel. It’s off in the hands of my hardworking Typo Team, and soon I’ll incorporate their kind feedback and let the folks at Amazon have their way with it. By that time, I expect to be well underway writing a new Barsk novella, and after that I have even bigger plans — but hey, no spoilers.

Instead, let me direct your attention on a much-warmer-than-yesterday Memorial Day to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, whose latest novel builds off that classic quotation from Alfred Henry Lewis, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.” It’s a chilling line, an ironic choice for this blog, and a snapshot into the work DJ Cooper. She’s taken Lewis’s point seriously, not only as an author of post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction but also as a prominent figure in the preparedness community where, among other things, she is both the executive producer and host of Surviving Dystopia from the American Preppers Radio Network.

DJ lives in New England and when she’s not writing about the end of all things she is working to complete a Master of Science in Marketing, which will surely come in handy if all her fiction turns out to be just, you know, fiction. I should note that the meal she is about to share also makes an appearance in her latest novel, Terminus State, so the lines are already blurring.

LMS: Welcome, DJ. If you wouldn’t mind, please share the story of your most memorable meal.

DJC: I call out from the open refrigerator door. “Would you like some breakfast? I have eggs. Wait, there’s no bacon; maybe an omelet?” The crisper drawers open and close one at a time. “Dang there isn’t much to put in an omelet either.” Looking up at him sheepishly smiling I shrugged. I quickly realized I’d forgotten to stop at the grocery store for even the staples. There was nothing in the fridge worth eating, I’d not gotten any food for the weekend at all, let alone stuff for a good breakfast; and on the only morning we actually could spend some time together. “What do you say we try that little place up at the circle? I just love small diners, they have the best food.” Coyly winking at him as I closed the door to the fridge. As usual, he just smiled and said, “It’s your call, you know I’d eat a bowl of cereal.” Anyone who knows me knows there is no cereal in my house. Yuck!

I must admit we often look like a mismatched pair. I stood in front of him, all of five foot, five… “and a half,” of me. He readily agreed and twenty minutes later we were dressed in our winter gear— for the weather had gone from cold to arctic overnight. Me in heeled boots and a long black wool coat with a scarf that wrapped about my neck. Him in a hooded sweatshirt and work boots. The sight of us may have made you question our compatibility. Lady and the Tramp never seemed so poignant and yet fascinating as you observe his devotion and gentle nature.

The lot was full, which I took to be a good sign. Sliding into a tight space with his big red truck he hurriedly came round to the passenger’s side and opened the door for me, offering me his hand to help me down from the cab. He even opened the door for me to enter the diner, and as he did a warm breeze flowed from the opening that carried on it a scent of bacon with a hint of something baking. Oh, the wonderful smells that hovered in the air as we entered and found a small table in the free for all seating. I sniffed the air as we considered our favorites from the menu. At this point one might think that my poor choice of skipping the grocery store might have turned out for the best and in we went.

The Beginning of the End

The pancakes seemed like just the thing on such a chilly day, and they were to be garnished with real maple syrup? Perfect. This combination of buttery and sticky sweet would be mouthwatering. Anticipation is evident, waiting for the savory tastes of the tart blueberries and sticky sweet real maple flavor. The smells made me crave bacon with my fluffy blue flecked disks. I was ready, I knew exactly what I’d order, and I could just imagine the greasy kitchen, the hot stove littered with eggs, pancakes and bacon splattering its greasy rain as it danced atop the grill.

The waitress approached placing her hand on the back of his chair and leaning over him, she seemed pleasant asking, “Can I start you guys with some coffee?”

“Yes please,” I piped up. “And could I also get a glass of water?”

Still considering the menu, he just nods to her. I interject, “Make it two.”

She rolled her eyes, turned and retreated to the waitress station.

Once we’d ordered I felt full of optimism, ready to take on the day and start it off with the kind of wonderful food you can only find at such little local establishments such as this. The homecooked goodness of real food. My face was alight and mood high.

She’d returned and brought his dish. Across the table his spread held a man-sized steak with a couple of eggs, some home fries and pristine toast laid across the massive platter neatly segregated, yet gently brushing each other as though it were doing a ballet across the plate for his enjoyment.

The imminent arrival of next order was at hand, and for sure this platter of pancakes would be steaming hot slabs of fluffy, lightly browned, gently flavored with vanilla, heavenly pancakes. Donning those sweet-smelling disks would be telltale dark blue spots of the largest ripest blueberries. The napkin laid out neatly in my lap, for it was the ladylike thing to do, I waited mouth waterning. Like an opera, the older blonde waitress strode, gliding across the floor; plate in hand, coming straight for the table. A broad smile emerged as she approached and laid the plate on the table. Any smile swiftly diminished when I looked down at the single pat of butter sitting atop the two flat slabs with black specks.

Sun's Fury

My disappointment was evident with the change in my expression. The flaccid pancake drooped lazily off one side of the plate as the small pat of butter disappeared into a hole dead center. No matter, it was a lovely day with breakfast and conversation to enjoy. Trying to disguise my disappointment I looked to her and asked, “Could I please have some extra butter?”

She glared in my direction, huffed, turning on her heel, and without a word, she retreated from whence she came. A bit later she returned, the scowl on her face had not changed. A single piece of her stringy blonde hair hung across her furrowed brow as she pulled two small containers of Country Crock Margarine from her stained white apron. She dropped them on the table. They rolled like dice, tumbling in my direction. Her demeanor changed when she turned to le’ boyfriend, and she smiled asking him. “How’s your coffee, sweetie?”

He grunted at her without looking up and pointed to the two small cups on the table, “Babe, that’s margarine. You don’t eat that.”

The waitress glared at me as though I’d made her look bad in front of her boss or something. I wondered what I’d done to make her so disagreeable towards me. I just grimaced and said, “It’s fine every once in a while.” We’d discussed the differences while shopping only last week. He liked Country Crock, but I refused to buy it calling it “practically plastic.”

Looking down at my very flat pancake-like food and then up again, I smiled. He’d not cared what she’d done, only that my food was what I’d wanted. Being the quintessential optimist, I was not going to allow any of it to spoil the day. After all, I didn’t have to cook or clean up.

I poured the roughly two tablespoons of real maple syrup onto the pancakes and tried to stretch it out. After eating about a quarter of one pancake, the maple syrup had disappeared. I sat there considering the possibility of requesting more from this surly woman who’d chosen to stand but twenty feet away and chat with another and laugh, while watching my obvious displeasure. Or… I could just live with the brown colored corn syrup that was offered at the table.

I’d only wanted a pleasurable morning, and this was turning out to be a serious detriment to my psyche. Rather than face off against the gruff waitress, I opted for the lesser of miseries by choosing the table syrup. Grasping the clear plastic ketchup bottle with the brown sticky syrup in it, I tipped it upside down and prepared to squeeze out a string of this thick ooze onto my flat slabs flecked with black spots. Thinking to myself how this was not how I’d intended to have breakfast. As I awaited the agonizingly slow descent of the ooze toward the opening of the container, again I thought at how I’d not gone shopping. Resolving that after this I would not be remiss in this task again, or I’d likely face another bout of waitress rage.

Terminus State

The ooze had made its way to the cap and was ready to be applied to the slabs. Grasping the bottle, I gave it a squeeze. Plop! The top had not been screwed onto the bottle properly and I now had a deluge of gelatinous brown sticky liquid oozing over the sides of the plate onto the table and headed for my lap in a slow creeping motion. Looking about the room of tables, searching for a savior with those ever present white soggy towels. There was none to be seen… Anywhere. The waitress was suddenly missing as I sat looking at the floating rafts in my plate and contemplating how to avoid the wave of ooze headed for me in a slow-motion slide toward the table edge.

After what felt like an eternity of panic, the realities of these consequences of my failure to obtain the proper food items had again flashed before my eyes. She sauntered over and asked my man if his food was ok; ignoring my precarious position with the ooze closing in on me. I was becoming angry, thinking to myself “Is his food ok?” I interrupted her and asked, “Can I get a rag for this?” Feeling as though I’d done something wrong, I continued, “The top…it popped right off.”

She rolled her eyes as she wadded up the placemat and told me to lift my plate, so she could wipe. You know… the one with the floating pancake rafts and syrup dribbling over the side? I handed it to her and said, “I’m finished, thank you.”

She wiped some of the brown ooze but left the mat and a huge swath of sticky goo on the table in front of me never to return. When rising to leave I said, “I’ve got the tip.” He stopped and turned, looking at me shocked, “Really?”

I pulled a bill out of my wallet, grinned, and slapped it hard onto the table. Right in the sticky mess she’d left, turning it over, making sure the entire bill was well covered. Wiping my hands, I smiled at him, winked, and took his arm to go. I was still hungry but a bagel from Dunk’s would surely be better than this.

An old woman who’d been at the table beside us witnessed the whole ordeal. Smiling at me with pure white hair and tiny crooked fingers, she pointed her tiny finger at the bill, giggled and said, “That’s how it’s done honey.”

Thanks, DJ. You’re far more forgiving than me. Fake butter or fake syrup, one or the other, but both? No, it’s just too much. Sure, everyone (even surly waitrons) are allowed to have a bad day, but there’s got to be a limit if we’re to save civilization!

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: Anna Mocikat

No Comments » Written on May 24th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
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Anna Mocikat

The days have been heating up, and my response has been to start my daily walks earlier and earlier to avoid the worst of the heat. It’s not a bad plan, assuming I’m able to get to sleep earlier too (so far, not so much). But it’s a work in progress.

Other plans going forward involve me just getting in my car and driving away, preferably where I can sit down at a picnic table in some park somewhere, and share a bucket of chicken with a friend or colleague, because I’ve not gone anywhere or shared a meal with anyone (other than my wife) since January of last year. Please note, it doesn’t have to be an actual bucket of chicken, that’s a metaphor, okay? Though, it probably will be a bucket of chicken. But the point is to regain a sense of connectivity and slip in at least the illusion of travel.

Speaking of travel, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is no stranger to going from place to place. In addition to the particulars she recounts below in her meal, Anna Mocikat started out in Poland, moved to Germany for film school where she wrote award-winning screenplays before branching out into video games, and writing books. In 2016 her travels took her to the United States and she now makes her home in South Carolina.

Anna has eight books out, in German and English, some through traditional publishers and some self-published — which is another way of saying she’s a hybrid author. Shadow City , released in 2019, was her first novel written in English.

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

AM: I’m an avid traveler and love backpacking through Southeast Asia. My favorite country in the world is Thailand, and I’ve been there ten times. I even learned how to speak Thai because I love it there so much. Why? That’s another story for another day, but the food is certainly one of the reasons. I love Thai food.

I traveled through the whole country multiple times and can tell dozens of stories of amazing meals, sometimes in fancy restaurants and sometimes on the street, served from a small stall, hidden somewhere in between the skyscraper canyons in Bangkok or in a small village far away from the usual tourist paths.

Behind Blue Eyes

But I want to talk about my very first trip almost 20 years ago and one of my first meals in Thailand. My travel companion and I went to a small restaurant only frequented by local people. There I ordered a seafood glass noodle salad. The waiter informed me that the dish is very spicy and asked if I really want it.

Sure, I said. I can handle spicy! In fact, I love spicy food. I always pick the spicy dishes back at the local Thai restaurant at home.

The waiter smiled and informed me that the dish is really spicy and if I was sure, I wanted it.

Yes, yes, of course! I said, like the clueless first-time Thailand tourist I was.

Then the dish came, and it was incredible! It tasted sooo good… fresh seafood, coriander, glass noodles, fish sauce… and chilies. The infamous red Thai chilis. Many of them.

Now here comes why the waiter warned me and tried to convince me to pick another dish. The chilis were chopped into tiny, almost invisible pieces and mixed into the food. And there’s something particularly nasty about those little red chili-bastards. At first, when you start eating them, they hardly burn. Yes, you taste that they’re spicy, but it’s not that bad. Only after a couple of spoons full, you will realize the full extent of the drama taking place in your mouth. Once it starts burning, there’s no stopping it.

Shadow City

I started sweating and coughing, it felt as if I would burn from the inside. Stupid tourist as I was, I tried to fight the heat with beer… which made it even worse. It was like fueling gasoline into an open fire.

Then I tried water, and it didn’t help either. I thought I would die.

After watching my struggle for survival for a moment, the waiter was overwhelmed by compassion and saved my life by showing me the one and only remedy against Thai chili burn: sugar.

When you visit a Thai restaurant, you’ll always find little packets of sugar on the table. It’s not meant for your coffee. It’s the secret weapon against chili burn.

If you happen to be as stupid as I was, all you need to do is fill your mouth with sugar and it will neutralize the heat immediately. Yes, really!

I’m happy to report that I survived, and after many more trips to this wonderful country, I now can eat a spicy glass noodle salad without dying. But I will never forget this very special meal.

Thanks, Anna. I envy you all your trips to Thailand. I’ve never been there, though I have a nephew (and a niece I’ve yet to meet) living in Chiang Mai. Coincidentally, they run a chicken wing restaurant called Hot Hot Hot. Next time you’re passing through, check it out and say “hi” for me.

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: A. K. Larkwood (Astounding Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on May 17th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
A. K. Larkwood

You’d think with a pandemic going on, it would be easier than in past years to make contact with the current cohort of Astounding Award nominees and invite them here to EATING AUTHORS — as I have done for years and years. However, the past month has demonstrated quite the opposite.

This year the nominees are Lindsay Ellis, Simon Jimenez, Micaiah Johnson, A.K. Larkwood, Jenn Lyons, and Emily Tesh. As you can see by the link, Jenn has been a previous guest here. Of the remaining five, I’ve only successfully made contact with three, but I remain ever hopeful. And in that spirit, it’s my pleasure to present the first of this year’s nominees, A.K. Larkwood.

She’s landed her nomination on the strength of her debut novel, The Unspoken Name, Book One of The Serpent Gates (Book Two, The Thousand Eyes, is scheduled to be released next February), a fantasy about a young priestess slated for sacrifice, who escapes her fate and becomes an assassin. Or, as Arkady Martine described it in a blurb, “In the vein of Le Guin’s magnificent Tombs of Atuan ― if Arha the Eaten One got to grow up to be a swordswoman mercenary in thrall to her dubious wizard mentor.” Yeah, that’s a “shut up and take my money now!” line, right?

As for A.K. herself, she lives in England with a wife and a cat. Beyond that, it’s worth noting that on the list of things she says she likes to write are “human sacrifice, immortals behaving badly, and fraught banquets where someone gets murdered.” That last one seems like a good place to stop this intro and get on to her meal (though, spoiler, it’s not a banquet and no one gets murdered).

LMS: Welcome, A.K. Congratulations on your Astounding nomination. Now, please tell me about your most memorable meal.

AKL: When I was in my early twenties, my best friend and I decided to go on a trip to shake up our ideas. I hadn’t found my feet after university, didn’t really know what to do with my life, and had no idea how to look after myself or anyone else. We went to Paris as cheaply as we could, and I had some idea of sitting around romantically outside cafes working on my novel.

Due to a series of administrative fuckups on my part we ended up staying in different backpacker hostels on opposite sides of the city, with only one working phone between us. The sun was very hot and Paris was very big and we were both as depressed and adrift as ever, except now also lost in an unfamiliar place. I was very aware of my own hubris, and of how much less of GCSE French I had remembered than I thought I might.

The Unspoken Name

After wandering round in the baking heat for several hours we were also ravenous. We found a supermarket across the road from a tiny park and bought lunch. Bread, soft cheese, grapes, and for some reason a family-sized jar of cornichons.

At the time I couldn’t cook. I’d survived on microwaveable soups through university, and was now living in a room in a bizarre shared house where you had to stand on a chair to reach the stove, so the reign of soup looked set to continue. So it was totally accidental that this meal was in fact perfect. We didn’t have any cutlery so we broke the bread into spoon-shaped pieces to scoop up the cheese. The bread was fresh, the grapes were ripe, everything was beautiful. Elsewhere in the park, a group of childminders had formed up a circle of prams so the kids could sleep while they chatted. Sitting on a bench eating bread and cheese in the sun with somebody I loved, I thought, for the first time in a while: well, maybe life is pretty OK.

The rest of the trip wasn’t great. The jar of cornichons quietly seeped brine into our bags for the rest of the day, I did not write a single word of my novel, and I got home with no better idea of what I wanted to do with my life – but I did feel a little better about taking my time to figure it out.

(Also, about five years later my then best friend and I got married, so that helped too).

Thanks, A.K. Bread and cheese and Paris are a classic combination, but true romance is to be found in the brine of pickled cucumbers.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

author photo by Vicki Bailey / VHB Photography

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

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Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Eating Authors: A. K. Larkwood (Astounding Award nominee)

No Comments » Written on May 17th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
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A. K. Larkwood

You’d think with a pandemic going on, it would be easier than in past years to make contact with the current cohort of Astounding Award nominees and invite them here to EATING AUTHORS — as I have done for years and years. However, the past month has demonstrated quite the opposite.

This year the nominees are Lindsay Ellis, Simon Jimenez, Micaiah Johnson, A.K. Larkwood, Jenn Lyons, and Emily Tesh. As you can see by the link, Jenn has been a previous guest here. Of the remaining five, I’ve only successfully made contact with three, but I remain ever hopeful. And in that spirit, it’s my pleasure to present the first of this year’s nominees, A.K. Larkwood.

She’s landed her nomination on the strength of her debut novel, The Unspoken Name, Book One of The Serpent Gates (Book Two, The Thousand Eyes, is scheduled to be released next February), a fantasy about a young priestess slated for sacrifice, who escapes her fate and becomes an assassin. Or, as Arkady Martine described it in a blurb, “In the vein of Le Guin’s magnificent Tombs of Atuan ― if Arha the Eaten One got to grow up to be a swordswoman mercenary in thrall to her dubious wizard mentor.” Yeah, that’s a “shut up and take my money now!” line, right?

As for A.K. herself, she lives in England with a wife and a cat. Beyond that, it’s worth noting that on the list of things she says she likes to write are “human sacrifice, immortals behaving badly, and fraught banquets where someone gets murdered.” That last one seems like a good place to stop this intro and get on to her meal (though, spoiler, it’s not a banquet and no one gets murdered).

LMS: Welcome, A.K. Congratulations on your Astounding nomination. Now, please tell me about your most memorable meal.

AKL: When I was in my early twenties, my best friend and I decided to go on a trip to shake up our ideas. I hadn’t found my feet after university, didn’t really know what to do with my life, and had no idea how to look after myself or anyone else. We went to Paris as cheaply as we could, and I had some idea of sitting around romantically outside cafes working on my novel.

Due to a series of administrative fuckups on my part we ended up staying in different backpacker hostels on opposite sides of the city, with only one working phone between us. The sun was very hot and Paris was very big and we were both as depressed and adrift as ever, except now also lost in an unfamiliar place. I was very aware of my own hubris, and of how much less of GCSE French I had remembered than I thought I might.

The Unspoken Name

After wandering round in the baking heat for several hours we were also ravenous. We found a supermarket across the road from a tiny park and bought lunch. Bread, soft cheese, grapes, and for some reason a family-sized jar of cornichons.

At the time I couldn’t cook. I’d survived on microwaveable soups through university, and was now living in a room in a bizarre shared house where you had to stand on a chair to reach the stove, so the reign of soup looked set to continue. So it was totally accidental that this meal was in fact perfect. We didn’t have any cutlery so we broke the bread into spoon-shaped pieces to scoop up the cheese. The bread was fresh, the grapes were ripe, everything was beautiful. Elsewhere in the park, a group of childminders had formed up a circle of prams so the kids could sleep while they chatted. Sitting on a bench eating bread and cheese in the sun with somebody I loved, I thought, for the first time in a while: well, maybe life is pretty OK.

The rest of the trip wasn’t great. The jar of cornichons quietly seeped brine into our bags for the rest of the day, I did not write a single word of my novel, and I got home with no better idea of what I wanted to do with my life – but I did feel a little better about taking my time to figure it out.

(Also, about five years later my then best friend and I got married, so that helped too).

Thanks, A.K. Bread and cheese and Paris are a classic combination, but true romance is to be found in the brine of pickled cucumbers.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

author photo by Vicki Bailey / VHB Photography

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: Steven Brust

No Comments » Written on May 10th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
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Steven Brust

If you’re reading this during the daylight hours on Monday, then the odds are good that I’m off at Jeans Hospital (or, as I believe they’re now branded, the Jeans Campus of Temple University Hospital) playing routine oncology games, most of which involves needles and the extraction or injection of fluids. On my way out, I’ll stop for a bite in the hospital cafeteria, which is the closest I’ve been to sitting in a restaurant since my transplant at the hospital back in January 2020.

But in relativistic terms none of that is important because this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is one of my all-time favorite writers, and I am beyond excited to have him here. Ideally, I am conveying a frothy, over-the-top level of fanboy exuberance (which I’m happy to do here but would be mortified to do in person) because this week I bring you Steven Brust.

Steven is most known for his Vlad Taltos books, a planned nineteen book series (of which fifteen have been published) concerning a human living in the Dragaeran Empire, making his way in the alien society of long-lived, much taller beings as an assassin. That description does not do it justice. Nope, not even a little bit.

But wait, he has another series set in Dragaera. The books of the Khaavren Romances are a breathtakingly brilliant mashup of classic fantasy and the swashbuckling works of Alexandre Dumas. The deliberate verbosity of the writing style may be an acquired taste, but he has so much fun with it that it’s infectious (and surely influenced a couple characters in one of my own recent books).

I should also mention The Incrementalists, a two volume series co-authored with Skyler White which has a breathtaking underlying concept that is reminiscent of the works of Roger Zelazny, which isn’t surprising when you consider that Zelazny is considered by some to be both Brust’s literary hero and mentor.

Over the years Steven has written numerous stand alone novels and assorted short stories, and you should check them all out. Seriously. Sure, I’m biased, but I told you that at the beginning. Now go check them out.

It’s worth noting his musical talent: He’s also a singer-songwriter and drummer, and was a member of the band Cat’s Laughing (which enjoyed a nice shout-out in X-men comics back in the day) that also included authors Emma Bull and Adam Stemple.

Honestly, I want to gush more, but I’ve probably gone on too long already. I’ve only met Steven a couple times, and the last was twenty-some years ago at some convention where he was holding court at a party in someone’s hotel room, playing guitar and singing, pausing only to toss back shots of alcohol and smoke cigarettes and make sure everyone present was having as good a time as he was.

There is karma, and I like to think the universe has rewarded Steven for all he has given to the world. He recently got a puppy.

LMS: Welcome, Steven. I’m happy to have you here and ask you to talk about your most memorable meal.

SB: There used to be a restaurant in Chicago called The Bakery. Continental cuisine by chef Louis Szathmary. Back in the days of the federally mandated 55 MPH speed limit, it would take us 8 hours to get there from Minneapolis. We’d leave in the morning, drive 8 hours, eat, turn around and drive home. We never regretted the trip.

Jhereg

There’s a name for that style of restaurant, but I don’t know it. There was no menu. If you were there, you were having a 5 course dinner, of which you could pick the entree and the desert. Some of his standards were pork stuffed with Hungarian sausage, an amazing fish stew, and (what I usually got) a perfect Beef Wellington; but what he prepared would vary from day to day. It was never disappointing. Oh, and then there was the pate mason. To die.

The Chef — an immense, fat man, as Hungarian chefs ought to be — would come out a few times during the shift to say hello to the guests, and chat. On one of these occasions, it emerged that we had driven from Minneapolis just to eat there, and would be driving home after. He seemed touched, and offered to cook us a special meal.

Can you imagine us refusing?

The Phoenix Guards

It was his version of Hungarian gulyas, and it was a treat for the gods. Toward the end of the meal, he emerged from his cellar with a coffee liqueur the likes of which I’d never experienced. And then there was dessert. Do you know what a palacsinta is? Basically, the Hungarian version of a crepe. Often filled with a fruit, or with cinnamon sugar, or sometimes with meat and vegetables, baked, and served as an entree. I had known about the palacsinta; I hadn’t know they could be layered.

They can be layered.

Like a layer cake, one on top of the other, cut down like you’d cut a cake. A layer of the most amazing chocolate I’ve ever tasted, a layer of strawberry compote, a layer of walnut ground to a powder, I think there was a layer of cinnamon, and I don’t remember the others. I just remember the experience, and it was transcendental.

The Bakery is gone, and Chef Louis has passed away. But if ever food has achieved the level of art, it did on that day.

Thanks, Steven. Over the years, a handful of guests here have mentioned something in their meals that forever after has haunted my dreams. For good or ill, you’ve added palacsinta to that list. Hopefully, I can convince my wife (the former chef) to make it for me. If she does, you should come over. And bring the dog, we have a fenced in yard.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

author photo by David Dyer-Bennet

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: Elly Bangs

No Comments » Written on May 3rd, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
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Elly Bangs

Welcome to May, which for me means warmer weather and more mornings spent walking laps in a nearby park as I dictate novels to myself. In celebration of this (and in an effort to work smarter) I recently ordered what I hope will be an even better microphone for my walks. The new mic arrived yesterday, and about the time this posts today I should be looping through the park testing it out. Let’s hope it goes well, as I have a lot of books I need to write.

And speaking of books to write, that’s your segue into this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Elly Bangs, whose first novel, Unity, debuted last month. Unity is a post-apocalytic cyberpunk thriller which Elly describes as “evoking the gritty cyberpunk of Mad Max and the fluid idealism of Sense8” to which I can only reply “take my money!”

Elly is based in Seattle and is a graduate of Clarion West. According to bits and pieces on the interwebs she also enjoys tinkering with circuitry, rode a bicycle all the way to the Panama Canal, and likes baking pies. I included that last one on the remote chance that doing so will cause a pie to arrive at my door. Hey, you never know.

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

EB: Around the end of 2011, I was pretty fed up with my life, and I hadn’t seen much of the world — so I decided to quit my job, give away or box up everything I owned, and ride my bicycle as far as I possibly could. I left Seattle heading south, and three or four months later I passed through the beautiful city of Morelia, Mexico. It had been a long day, and now I was dog tired and extremely hungry, but there was a problem: the sun had just set, and the city, at least the part of it that I was in, completely shut down at dusk. Nobody on the street, no open storefronts, nothing. I went out looking for street food, a chain, a corner store with bags of chips, literally anything. I had nearly given up all hope when it emerged suddenly from the darkness: a great yellow neon sign. The last open restaurant for kilometers.

Unity

I went up to the counter, practically salivating, and examined the big chalkboard menu on the wall… only to become confused. I couldn’t figure out what they were serving. My Spanish was okay, but each item on the menu was just a list of ingredients (sausage, pepper, onion; onion, vegetables, tomato; etc.) without saying what kind of thing they would be used to create. The guy behind the counter was giving me a weird look. But what did it matter? I figured nothing with sausage and pepper and onions could be bad, so I chose that one. Then I sat down and waited with a mixture of curiosity, mild worry, and ravenous hunger.

Even when they brought it out to me, at first I couldn’t figure out what I’d ordered. It looked kind of like an omelet, but there was something weird about the eggs. Only when I took a bite did I realize: they weren’t eggs at all, they were cheese! They’d taken a bunch of delicious ingredients and wrapped them up in a great big blanket of fried mozzarella, or something like it. It was the most delicious thing that had ever met my tongue, and it may still be to this day. I couldn’t hope to describe the symphony of flavors, the rich dance of fat and salt, herbs and spices, toasty crust and hot gooey interior. It filled my belly, lifted my spirits, and fortified my soul. I stayed in a hostel down the street for a few days, and each night I told myself I’d go exploring and discover something new — only to be drawn irresistibly back to the same yellow neon sign. Had I stayed any longer, I wouldn’t have been able to leave at all. To this day I don’t know what the dish is called, and I don’t know if I’ll ever taste its like again — and maybe that’s for the best, for the sake of my arteries.

Thanks, Elly. I’m devastated that despite spending days under the influence of the yellow neon sign you never learned the name of this dish. How could you not? And did that oversight haunt you as you pedaled away?

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