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Eating Authors: Jane Yolen

2 comments Written on December 28th, 2020 by
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Jane Yolen

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

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

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

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

Did I mention she’s written nearly 400 books?

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

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

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

The Devil's Arithmetic

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

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

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

Next Monday (and next year): Another author and another meal!

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

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Eating Authors: Christopher D. Ochs

No Comments » Written on December 21st, 2020 by
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Christopher D. Ochs

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Friend Jackson

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

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

Pindlebryth of Lenland

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

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

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

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

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Karen Osborne

No Comments » Written on December 14th, 2020 by
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Karen Osborne

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know. Sounds weird, right?

Stay with me.

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

Architects of Memory

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

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

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

Engines of Oblivion

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

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

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

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

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: James S. Aaron

No Comments » Written on December 7th, 2020 by
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James S. Aaron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galactic Law

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

“You put avocado in the cake?”

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

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

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

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

The Proteus Bridge

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

Then she handed me the cake wrapped in tinfoil.

I was surprised. “It’s still warm.”

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

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

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

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

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

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

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: Rick Partlow

No Comments » Written on November 30th, 2020 by
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Rick Partlow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Front

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

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

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

Absolution

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

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

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

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Kate Pickford

No Comments » Written on November 23rd, 2020 by
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AUTHOR

It was a wonderfully busy weekend spent reconnecting with members of the author community. On Saturday I had three panels and a reading at Philcon, and Sunday saw me recording a panel for the folks at Con-Tinual. Somewhere in there I also found time to attend a couple readings performed by friends. It did my heart good to hang with these peeps, even if only virtually.

The aftermath of the successful Kickstarter campaign for the EATING AUTHORS book is going well. By the time you read this I’ll have mailed out all the physical rewards that are due (saving one exception because I’m still waiting for an address) and about half of the virtual stretch goal rewards have also gone out. As for the book itself, it’s complete and currently being proofed for typos, now that the last meal has been added.

Believe it or not, that’s a segue into this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest because Kate Pickford provides the book’s one hundredth meal!

I believe I’ve mentioned her (both directly and indirectly) over the last couple of months because she was the editor, instigator, and driving force behind the charitable Hellcats anthology (two massive print volumes or one nearly endless ebook).

But here’s the thing: up until quite recently, you’ve never seen her name because she’s been writing under a pseudonym. Fortunately, I have Kate’s permission to blow the lid off that secret and reveal (for those that didn’t already know) that she is also JJ Pike, co-author of the fabulously successful Melt series of post-apocalyptic survival books. How successful? Well, as of this writing, Kate was finishing up her work on book #10.

Kate describes herself as a displaced Briton writing for an American audience. Not only is she returning to writing under her own name, but she’s back to writing science fiction. Maybe all those post-apocalyptic books and the current global pandemic started to blur and she needed to shift gears. Either way, it’s really nice to see the result.

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

KP: My wife, Ginger, and I have always written together. By 1998 our award-winning film career was going so well, I took a job on Wall Street. I know, a writer’s dream come true. In fact, the job was at a strange boutique hedge fund which hired people with “smarts” rather than “a proven track record.”

The CEO of this burgeoning hedge fund believed there was an arbitrage opportunity in hiring Liberal Arts Graduates who would otherwise be earning pennies in a publishing house or 501(c)3. He wasn’t wrong. When my mother heard what I was making she gasped then muttered (low enough that I had to strain, but loud enough to be heard), “Your father never made that much money…”

Yes, women’s lib, mother. I guess that swung right by you in the swinging sixties, along with Rock and Roll and the Hippies.

Hellcats

But, I digress.

My new boss, a self-made billionaire, offered “a 40-hour work week and the opportunity to do as you please in the balance of your time.”

Sounded like I’d be able to write, right?

Wrong.

Turns out being an overachiever who likes getting gold stars on her chart is “not good” for a career in the arts. To say nothing of the fact that my wife developed an “adult onset temporal lobe seizure disorder” which episodically robbed her of language.

The first attack left her prone outside the international terminal at JFK, with no pulse to speak of and an ambulance crew who were visibly panicking. She was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital in Queens. Word to the wise, never go there; the woman who was strapped to the bed-board next to her bled out and died while we were waiting for a doctor.

During my wife’s three-day stay at St. Mary the Immaculate, the billing department rang her bedside three times. The specialist didn’t appear until her final day in the hospital. Test, test, test. Life has now changed. This seizure disorder meant two things:

1) I needed the health insurance my “day job” paid and
2) Making films had to be temporarily halted. You can’t direct if you can’t talk. Actors are fussy that way.

But that’s another story for another day. The upshot was, I was making oodles of money which meant we could eat like kings.

And we did.

There was the seven-course truffle meal at Jean-Georges. (Meh. We’re peasants. Our palates weren’t sophisticated enough for this $300+ plate meal.)

Then there was steak so tender it cut like butter at Peter Luger’s.

We enjoyed romantic, candlelit dinners on the East River, with views of the Manhattan skyline from DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Trust me, it’s more romantic than it sounds.

There was authentic crispy Peking duck in Chinatown, slammed down on your table just as it has been in Beijing.

Little Italy offered up pasta like mama used to make. (Not my mother, you understand. She hated to cook. But someone’s mother.)

And the food carts that roamed the streets had some of the tastiest crepes, burritos, Philly sandwiches you’ve ever tasted. New York isn’t just a melting pot, it’s a yummy-scrummy pot of world cuisine.

Melt

But the capper for us was Nobu, the Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine which was the brainchild of Matsuhisa Nobu (funded by none other than Robert DeNiro).

Japanese cuisine had a special place in our hearts. Long before marriage equality, Ginger and I had LIVED IN SIN (add an evil cackle here so we’re clear on how much fun sin can be) in Japan. She’s an American, you see, and I am a Briton. I couldn’t live and work in her country and vice versa. We’d gone to the only place we could both land jobs. Five years in Japan had left us with a taste for sushi, ramen, and gyoza.

But there was another call on our loyalty. Although Ginger was episodically aphasic, she could remember (and write down) Japanese words. Kanji, which makes up part of written language in Japan, is comprized of pictures. These pictographs were stored in a different part of her brain. We were able to communicate, during her wordless spells, in Japanese pictures.

It was a kind of magic.

As was Nobu.

From the initial greeting IRASHAIMASE! to the perfectly presented actor-waiters and the dim hush of the bamboo-like interior, everything about Nobu was perfect.

We invariable treated ourselves to the Matsuhisa signature salad, with its perfect cuts of toro and the daikon-lime dressing, followed by rock shrimp tempura (both the ponzu and the creamy-spicy dressing, please), then our special order: umeshiso-maki, pickled plum puree wrapped in shiso leaves (a kind of Japanese mint), matched with tuna sushi, rice, and a seaweed wrap. It wasn’t on the menu, but it was an abiding favorite of mine, so we talked the maître’d into having a word with the chef.

Late one afternoon, we were sitting at our favorite corner table when a couple were seated two tables from us. The spacing in Nobu is very “Japanese,” so this romantic couple were close. Close enough that we would have been able to hear their conversation. If they had spoken to each other. Which they did not.

Mr. Smooth was on his BlackBerry, while Mizz High-as-a-kite stared at dish after dish while she slammed cocktails. Did I mention it was late afternoon?

I can’t tell you why, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a motion which caused me to turn my head RIGHT as Mizz High projectile vomited all over the table.

Title

Mr. Smooth didn’t even look up.

The maître’d rushed over and covered the reconstituted meal with several napkins, which didn’t stop her recycled cocktails from dripping off the edge of the table.

It was only then that Mr. Smooth looked up and barked, “Duuuuuuuuuuude! What the f**ck!”

Our lovely waiter moved us from our table to another that wasn’t downwind of the lovely couple, but the night was not over.

We were presented with langoustine (one of the most expensive plates on the menu; see earlier comment about our peasant palates) and the restaurant had filled up. A large group, probably businessmen entertaining clients, had taken a 10-person table behind our delightful couple. They studiously ignored the escalating argument Mr. Smooth was having with the maître’d.

Apropos of nothing, Mr. Smooth leapt from his chair, knocking it to the ground, and got up in the maître’d’s face. “I want what we ordered,” he shouted.

“Sir,” said the actor, “If you don’t pay for what you’ve eaten and leave I’m going to dial 911.”

If this had been a film, punches would have been thrown, chairs busted up, perhaps even windows broken. But no one moved a muscle. Instead, all ten of the brave businessmen who were sipping Japanese beer and popping $50 rolls of sushi kept their eyes on their table.

Mizz High was weeping gently into her napkin.

I approached her. Her date was still screaming and beating his chest. “Can I help you to the bathroom?” I asked.

She looked up at me, her eyes limpid pools of grief, and said, “I’m not drunk or anything.”

It was the “or anything” that confirmed what I already knew. The two of them had been snorting coke all afternoon and this meal was supposed to cap off a wild, indulgent day.

I suppose it did. Though, not in the way she’d expected.

Mr. Smooth collected her — grab to the arm, romantic as hell — and left Nobu with his tail between his legs.

We asked for a doggie bag and went home.

I don’t know if Mr. Smooth or Mizz High remember that night, but it’s one for the books as far as I’m concerned. And their bad manners and self-indulgence didn’t deter us from going to Nobu again and again. When you’ve found your favorite foods and, for the first time in your peasant life, you can afford to order without looking at the prices, you bet your ass you’re going back.

Thanks, Kate. I’ve experienced the traditional “dinner and a show” in Japan, where the chef dazzles the diners, but I’m surprised you didn’t have to pay extra for projectile vomiting. But as Pacino (as opposed to DeNiro) tells us, “nothing exceeds like excess.”

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

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

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Eating Authors: Jeremy Fabiano

No Comments » Written on November 17th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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Jeremy Fabiano

Come Saturday, I’ll be participating in the online version of Philcon, holding forth on a few panels and doing a reading. It will be odd not to be there in person, but such is the world we live in. I honestly don’t understand how we can be halfway through November already. I’m not complaining, mind you, I want to race through the rest of 2020 because surely crossing into 2021 will lift the curse that we’ve all been grappling with these many months and through some magic or sleight of hand everything will be better.

I was supposed to be at the 20Books conference last week, but like all of the year’s travel those plans fizzled. But it got me thinking about the many incredible authors I’ve met at that event over the last two years, which as it turns out includes this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Jeremy Fabiano. How’s that for a segue?

Jeremy’s an IT guy by day, but for the past few years he’s been producing fiction across multiple genres, everything from LitRPG to Space Opera, Fantasy to Post Apocalyptic (and even something he calls Medieval Post Apocalyptic).

Like a lot of indie authors, he has elaborate plans involving releasing dozens and dozens of new titles over the next few years. From my conversations with Jeremy, both at past 20Books conferences and more recently through email, I had little doubt that he’d make that happen. After reading his most memorable meal, I changed my opinion from ‘little doubt’ to ‘no doubt at all’. The man has drive and determination. I’m just going to stand back and watch him do his stuff.

LMS: Welcome, Jeremy. Since we didn’t get to meet up in Las Vegas this month and actually break bread, would you mind telling me the tale of your most memorable meal?

JF: Like most stories, this one starts on a dark and stormy night. No, seriously. Hear me out real quick. I lived in Edgewater, Colorado at the time. November 28th, 2008. It was nearly three in the morning. Snow fell in sheets, blowing sideways in the wind. The magnesium chloride the snowplows dumped over the road was keeping it from sticking. It was beautiful, really.

The smell of old hotdogs assailed my nostrils. They didn’t smell good to me anymore — I was used to them. The buzz of the hotdog machine filled my left ear, Five Finger Death Punch blared in my right. My co-worker tended to customers not five feet away. It was a slow night. The kind where you get your tasks done, pass off to the next shift. Then, go home, shower, sleep, and do it all over again.

It was a rough time in my life. I had rent to pay. And child support. And the gas station was the only place hiring that was near home. And it was a rough neighborhood. We all knew that. The store four blocks away had a bulletproof glass cage around their cashiers. Our store? Four grainy surveillance cameras because “we never had issues.”

Bishop's Gambit

That night, things changed.

I was shoulders-deep in the hotdog machine when, peripherally, I saw my coworker fall over. She was in her early twenties. Not fit, but not overly heavy. Definitely shouldn’t be laying on the cold tiles. She hit the ground hard, landing on her back. How she didn’t hit her head, I can’t remember.

I dropped everything. Spun around, and was about to reach a hand to her when I noticed the expression on her face. Fear. Utter shock. She was terrified. And she was looking past me. I heard a noise behind me and I began to turn.

Someone punched me in the gut. It felt like nothing more than a slap. My thoughts? What kind of pussy punches someone in the stomach? I look down and see a hand pulling a twelve-inch chef’s knife from my abdomen.

Time stops. Thousands of years of instinct flood through my mind at the speed of thought. It all coalesced into one thought: I have less than three minutes to live. See, my dad was a doctor. My mom’s a nurse. And I scored extremely well in my human anatomy classes. I knew the knife had passed through my lower vena cava. I also knew that the assailant had missed my aorta due to my vertical rotation when I spun toward him. That gave me time. Not much, but some. If I was going to die, he was coming with me. He would never hurt anyone again. Ever.

Still, in slow motion, I could feel shock set in. Adrenaline flooded through my body setting my veins on fire. I felt stronger than I’d ever felt at any point in my life. I could have crushed brick to powder in one hand. I’d never killed anyone before. Oh well, first time for everything.

My legs shut off. Literally. Apparently, you need back pressure in your veins to make your fast-twitch muscle fibers, also known as type II fibers, do their magical explosive movements. These muscle fibers let you do all sorts of great things. Vertical leaps. Forty-yard dash. Punch someone in the throat with enough force to collapse their trachea, ending their life. Yeah. None of that happened.

I dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

It felt like half of a second, but several moments later, I stood. My senses reset, and he was gone. The knife lay next to me, discarded. I walked past my co-worker. She was losing it.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, are you all right?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “Not really.” I clutched my side to keep the blood in me. It provided minor backpressure. Enough for my legs to function. I called 911. My coworker was in shock. She was useless for the time being. The phone cut out halfway through reporting what happened. I walked to the back office, called 911 again, and got an ambulance on the way. The adrenaline surge wore off. My body temperature was dropping. Fast. I sank to the cold tile and lay on my side. I was done.

From being injured to the operating table was about nine minutes. The next three days are gone. Memories lost to the void. And I don’t want them back. They put a tube up my nose into my stomach. Five or so out of my stomach. And a catheter. And they intubated me. A million memories I’m happy not having. After two surgeries, both with less than twenty percent chance of survival, and nearly a quarter of a million dollars later, I woke up in the recovery room.

Legend of the Sword Bearer

Every fiber of my being. HURT.

My hair hurt.

My eyelashes hurt.

And I was HUNGRY.

No water.

No food.

Eight ounces of ice cubes per twenty-four hour period.

Hell.

For forty days I didn’t eat. Your stomach shuts down a ways before that. Around the twenty to twenty-fifth day, if I remember correctly. I developed a new ability during my stay. I could tell you precisely what patients on the floor had ordered. With only one nostril — I still had an NG tube in the other.

The head nurse didn’t believe me. We wagered on it. I was accurate three out of four times. From five rooms away. They were impressed. I still felt tortured, but not exactly hungry anymore. I craved food, but I didn’t need it, per se.

Day forty:

The head nurse walked in. “The doctor cleared you to try to eat today. Are you feeling up to it?”

“Do you even have to ask?” I said with as much sarcasm as I could muster.

She laughed. “I figured I would, just to make sure. We’re going to try something easy.” She had the dietary aide bring in a covered plate. I knew what was in it before it cleared the delivery cart. My mouth watered. I nearly choked on my own salivations.

The platter was placed in front of me and the lid removed. If you’ve ever had hospital food before, you know it’s bland. The least amount of seasoning possible to match the most number of diets possible. It’s generally not great. But it’s fuel. Right?

Pot roast. Mashed potatoes. Gravy.

I took my first bite. Sensations I thought lost to me erupted throughout my body as dopamine flooded my receptors. Heaven. The meat was a gift from on high. As if the heavens parted, and God himself put this meal here, crafted by the hands of angels and delivered unto me by the Creator Himself.

The Bloodwood Forest

It was bliss.

An hour later, I finished eating the delightful meal. My arms were heavy — I was still recovering. And eating exhausted me. It was worth it. There was a side-effect I hadn’t considered. My stomach had shut down some ten-ish days prior. Now with food in it… well… let’s just say I know why a baby cries when it gets solid food for the first time. The cramps of your stomach rebooting are uncomfortable. Excruciatingly so. And the bowel movement afterward? I also understand why baby diapers smell so horrid…

A couple of weeks later, I was released from the hospital. I was septic. I couldn’t work. Bills were due. I’d spent Christmas in the hospital. And new years. My first wife had brought my son to see me. It was time to go…

Now, I did the only thing I could do. At twenty-nine years old, I moved back to my parent’s house in California.

A lot has happened since then. A few relationships. Got married. Getting divorced soon — we’ve been separated for a while, but we’re friends again — bonus. My son (previous marriage) moved in with me a few years ago — finally got custody.

I had started my first book three weeks before I got stabbed.

Two years ago, I published my NEW first book. The original book is still collecting dust. But a new series will be pulling all the info from it and finally putting to use.

I have to be careful about what I eat. There was a ton of internal damage. But I’m surviving. It isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Thanks, Jeremy. Also, whoa! And yet, reading your account, I remember my favorite meal during my weeks in hospital earlier this year. It was actually a hot dog (with cheese). I feel like you and I have come full circle.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

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Eating Authors: Kaaron Warren

No Comments » Written on November 9th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
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Kaaron Warren

Here in the USA most of the past week has been incredibly stressful. I’m not usually that interested in political matters, especially this year when my focus has been on my own health issues. Lateky I’ve been grappling with an increase in fatigue and insomnia, resulting in waking up every couple of hours when I do manage to fall asleep. Since last Tuesday, during those wakeful periods, I found myself turning on CNN to get updates on the election returns. I couldn’t do a damn thing about them, but I had to keep watching. I was tied up in knots.

I don’t know what lies ahead. I hope for good things. The election revealed two critical points (at least as I see it). 1) more Americans voted than ever before, suggesting more are participating in the democratic process, which has to be a good thing. 2) roughly half of them voted differently than I did, and the challenge going forward will be how to lessen the polarization that afflicts the nation.

I wish I had some answers. I wish I knew how to increase tolerance. I wish we could all agree on what constituted common sense rather than giving such things a political spin. But I’m not all that hopeful because people — and I’m talking about all people, regardless of political persuasion — tend to suck. Because I don’t have children but do have an incurable disease, I’m less invested than most when it comes to the future, though even so, my own ego isn’t quite so vast that I want to quote Louis XV, no matter how tempting Après moi, le déluge may seem. I have friends and readers and colleagues, and I want to continue to bask in their company (virtual or otherwise) for the remainder of my time.

Which is about as much of a segue as I can manage today to introduce Kaaron Warren, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, whom I met last month when we both appeared on a panel at a virtual convention. Say what you will about the pandemic, the rise of online cons has allowed me to ‘meet’ other writers that I’d otherwise be unlikely to encounter.

Kaaron lives in Australia where she is well known as an author of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. Her novels and shorter works have been finalists and winners of a vast number and range of awards, possibly more than any other author I can think of. It’s truly staggering. And, she was a delight to share a panel with. I can only hope our paths — virtual or otherwise — cross again soon.

LMS: Welcome Kaaron. If you would, tell me about your most memorable meal.

KW: There are a hundred meals I could have chosen. The one in the secret French restaurant. The all-afternoon meals that used to happen when you worked in advertising. That time I recreated my paternal mother’s recipe for kefke and the look on his face as he became a five-year old again, just for a minute.

But I’m going to talk about a meal that was so memorable my son, who is now 22 but was 8 at the time said to me the other day, “Remember when…”

Slights

We were living in Suva, Fiji, on a three-year diplomatic post. Much of this time was wonderful, and very different from our lives back home in Canberra, Australia. There were odd little shops to explore, like the hardware store that used to be a theatre. There were events to go to every night just about. Embassies and High Commissions celebrating a National Day of some kind, showcasing their nation’s food. At one event, they passed around a massive platter piled with chunks of parmesan cheese… I can still summon up that perfection in my mind’s eye (mind’s stomach? Tastebuds?). These were often lavish affairs.

None of these are the one my son remembers.

It was good to get out of Suva every now and then, travelling to other parts of Viti Levu, or visiting the smaller islands, reachable by boat or ferry. Once, we went inland, to stay at the village of a friend of a friend. This was an amazing few days. We were welcomed and cared for, although our host (who was supposed to be our guide) got sick almost as soon as we arrived, leaving us floundering to understand some of the protocols. I still feel bad about our first meal there. We ate on the floor of the village hall, on a long, colourful piece of material, all lined up on either side. We lingered over the meal, because that’s usual for us, and polite, until I realised there was a second shift of people waiting to finish so they could take our spots and eat. Once I realised, we moved out quickly, but these differences are the things I tried to be more aware of.

That wasn’t the most memorable meal, though.

Into Bones Like Oil

As part of our visit we (my husband, kids, cousin and his kids) were taken on canoes on a ride down the river. This was incredible in many ways; the greenery on either side was lush, dark green, dense, and the flowers we saw were huge, bright and so vivid I thought they might be able to swim over and join us in the canoes. The Chief travelled with us and honoured us with story after story of the village and the river. All this was wonderful.

But.

The journey went for a very long time. I would say maybe three hours, although we had no watches or phones with us. And as it went on we got wetter, and colder. There were no dry clothes, no blanket. My daughter was shivering so much she nearly shook out of her skin; I tried to hug her close to give her body warmth but that didn’t help much. We didn’t like to ask when we’d ‘get there’ because we didn’t want them to think we didn’t appreciate the journey. But we were hungry, so hungry as well.

Then there were shouts of greeting, and the canoes pulled onto shore. There on the beach were the villagers. They had a fire going!

As we’d travelled, the young men had dived into the water to catch fish, entertaining us greatly. Now, they gutted those fish before throwing them into the coals for a few minutes. We were given steaming mugs of black, sweet tea. The sand was wet but so were we so we sat down as we were handed banana leaves, then that fish, white and flaky. They squeezed fresh lime juice over it and some salt and then…

That fish remains the most delicious food I’ve eaten in my life. The care of preparation, the freshness, the delight they took in our enjoyment, all of these things are what I remember.

Thanks, Kaaron. Having spent a few years as a pescaterian, your description of the coal-fired fish served up on banana leaves with salt and lime had me salivating. Summon the canoes!

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