Eating Authors: K. Moore

No Comments » Written on February 10th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
K. Moore

As I may have mentioned before, February is my month for time travel. And if I didn’t mention it before, that’s probably because either it hasn’t happened yet, or I did but you don’t recall because that version of your timeline has been erased. Time travel is like that.

If temporal paradoxes give you headaches, perhaps it’s simpler to believe that I’m setting today’s post up a couple weeks in advance because I expect (have expected? will have been expecting?) being in the hospital on this date and wanted to make sure you’d have something to read today. Yeah, let’s go with that.

In a perfect world, I’d have a very cool, time travel-related segue here to introduce you to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Mind you, in a perfect world, I wouldn’t have gone into the hospital two weeks ago, so suck it up, buttercup, no segue for you. Which is a shame because there’s not really all that much I can tell you about K. Moore other than that she’s from Australia, and that when we met last November at the 20BooksVegas conference she plied me with imported (to me) chocolate. And yes, now you know, chocolate is a surefire way to get an invitation to be featured here.

Having already traveled the world, K. now lives in Alaska with her family and a Karelian bear dog. She writes thrillers, which is a bit of a departure from most guests here. I blame the chocolate.

Her next book, All For Mother comes out in November.

LMS: Welcome, K. Got any more chocolate? No? Okay, that’s fair. How about you tell me about your most memorable meal?

KM: In mid-2002, months after the Taliban fled Kabul, I joined a French non-governmental organization (NGO) that was supporting a mix of humanitarian programs in the country. Based in Kabul I traveled extensively across the country, and was given the opportunity to experience the hospitality and warmth of various Afghan communities — sharing a meal was key to building good will.

With the Taliban in retreat, Kabul and the surrounding provinces had a new and exciting feel. UN and NGO workers rushed around trying to understand what they could do to assist, with talk of reforms and freedoms for the people the language of the day. Sadly, this early hope has since foundered, but it was very heady days.

The influx of organizations providing aid and assistance saw the opening of cafes and restaurants to cater to the growing international community. These places were safe, behind razor-wire covered walls, and offering western fare for exorbitant prices. Alcohol could be bought on the black market, cheap Russian vodka going for USD 50 a bottle. Hashish was also readily available. While I did visit such places on occasion, the true joy was in the village, breaking bread with Afghans on their terms.

Desert Rose

On this one occasion, we were driving north from Kabul into the then heavily mined Shomali Plain for a meeting with a group of Afghans to discuss their community’s needs. The green of the Shomali in the spring was breathtaking, belying the reality of injury or death that could occur with one wrong step. Our convoy of white vehicles caused interest as we traversed the pock-marked, dusty roads.

Arriving at our intended destination, the children scampered away, chasing clucking groups of free-range hens out of the way as we parked alongside a high mud wall. They hesitantly came back, curiosity winning over their fear, to peer at the group of foreigners. My presence, the only female in the entourage, was especially interesting to them. Local women wore burqas in public, the full head to toe covering, while I — as a Western woman — could get away with a headscarf and modest clothing that covered my arms and legs.

We were ushered into the village leader’s hall, and asked to sit on cushions and wait. Earthen walls and wooden beams surrounded us, silent witnesses to much of the community’s history. Plied with both dark (Chai Siyaa) and green tea (Chai Sabz) and sugar-coated almonds, I relaxed on the floor from the journey waiting for our hosts to arrive, watching a mulberry tree sway gently through a hole in the wall. As was their custom, the men of the village didn’t want to discuss business immediately. They just talked — about the weather, the village, daily news, and only afterwards about the business at hand. My input was minimal, but when I did ask a question or raise a point, I would note the furrowed brows of the Afghan men.

Following the initial conversation, a large mat was brought out and laid before us. Before long, mounds of Afghan naan bread and a mix of local dishes were spread across it by the women; no dishes or silverware apparent.

It was a simple fare; Kabuli palaw, a national dish, rich with rice and meat and topped with fried raisins, slivered carrots, and pistachios. A light coating of caramelized sugar on the rice gives it a golden-brown colour. Taking cues of our hosts, I used the naan as a spoon to scoop the communal food to my mouth.

All For Mother

The bread, though simple, was amazing, the flavours of earthen wheat chasing the rice and chunks of roasted lamb. The palaw, a lovely blend of savoury and sweet, with the delicate, sweet, flavour of fried carrots and raisins plus the caramelized sugar going well with the salty richness of the rice and meat. Almonds, pistachios and cashews offer additional texture and richness to the dish.

Sitting back on our cushions, sipping even more tea, contemplating the lines on every face, the food took on even more meaning. I realized that the village had all come together to prepare the meal, each family offering something, their honor and dignity as Afghans at stake. We were guests, and we were to be treated well even if it meant some might go without.

Looking for a bit of fresh air, I walked outside and a group of young girls whispered and giggled as they waved me over to another building. Hesitantly, I headed over, with a quick look over my shoulder to the rest of our contingent as they milled outside the hall. Stepping around a small wall, I came face to face with three women around a well. They smiled and made washing motions, handing me a well used cloth to clean my face and hands. Realizing no men were about, I took off my headscarf and used a small bucket to draw water to wash the meal’s remnants from my face.

Small hands reached out to touch my hair, rolling the sun-bleached ends between their fingers. The older ladies shooed them away, giving me an apologetic look. I remember laughing and stumbling over words in my limited Dari vocabulary to tell them it was okay. In broken English one of the older women asked me if I enjoyed lunch.

With the meeting having concluded, I smiled and quickly returned to where the vehicles were parked. Upon arriving it struck me, as always, that there had been no women in the hall. But the meal was theirs, prepared by their hands, born of care and a timeless skill that gave nourishment as well as pleasure. Here with these women, there was no thin fabric to separate us, we were the same, if but for an all too fleeting moment. In sharing the meal they prepared, they were in that hall, even if I was at first too blind to see.

Thanks, K. That’s a wistful and haunting image, those women present by the grace and skill of their hands, in the room where their presence was not permitted. I’ll be pondering that for a while.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

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Eating Authors: Juliette Wade

No Comments » Written on February 3rd, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Juliette Wade

Full disclosure, I’m writing this more than a week before you will see it. Why? Because last Monday I was admitted to the hospital for my bone marrow transplant procedure, and based on several lines of probability, the odds were pretty good that I might be feeling like crap by today or maybe just completely brain fogged. So, we instead fall back on time travel.

One of the problems with time travel is that it creates unrequited anticipation. Which is almost a segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, because I feel like I have been waiting for ages to feature Juliette Wade here.

Like me, Juliette loves languages. Over the years we’ve indulged in many conversations about English, assorted foreign languages (especially Japanese), and the way language is used, misused, and represented in science fiction. We done this in private chats, in groups, and even on panels at conventions. So, yes, I’ve wanted to have her for a long time, and now that her first novel, Mazes of Power, is being released tomorrow, she’s finally here!

LMS: Welcome at last, Juliette! Tell me, please, the tale of your most memorable meal.

JW: Choosing a single memorable meal was quite a task for me, I guess because I love seeking out interesting dining experiences! I love to explore the world and experience the way that food reflects the culture and people surrounding it. Today I’m going to tell you about a meal I had that reminds me of a meal depicted in my novel, Mazes of Power. In the book, one of the protagonists goes with his father to an exclusive club and dines in a private room with a cadre of specially assigned servers.

Our meal took place in 2001. I had been living in Tokyo with my husband for about a year, while he worked at Office Depot Japan and I did research on cultural clashes in Japanese language instruction for my Ph.D. My parents came to visit us. We decided we were going to host them and pull out all the stops, so we reserved a room at this fantastic sukiyaki restaurant in Asakusa, called Chin-ya.

Chin-ya is one of the most amazing restaurants I’ve ever been to. It’s been in continuous operation as a restaurant for 130 years, but before that it was a pet shop. If that change of mission seems surprising, yes, it surprised me, too! I can’t do better than to quote from their self-description: “In the Edo period (1603-1867), our shop was commonly known as ‘Chin-ya’ (‘The Pekingese shop’) because we supplied daimyo feudal lords and wealthy merchants with pets, including Pekingese dogs, and also operated a veterinary service. When the shop became a restaurant in 1880, we decided to retain the nickname ‘Chin-ya.’ We became a specialty sukiyaki restaurant in 1903.” Perhaps needless to say, Chin-ya has turned surpassingly good sukiyaki into an art form.

Mazes of Power

One of the things I love about this restaurant is that you can walk into it off the street and eat in their dining room quite easily as a tourist. That was how we originally tried the place. On this occasion, though, we got the private room.

We were escorted in and we had our own team of servers who were very formal about how they seated us, and also had a particular method of entering and exiting the room. Our family sat around a large table, one large enough to contain heating elements so we could cook our food on it. Sukiyaki involves large, beautiful plates of thinly sliced raw beef and vegetables, and you cook it on the table in front of you.

The server started by turning on the heating element under the pans, which were shallow and made of metal. She greased the pans with a piece of beef suet held in a pair of serving chopsticks. Then she added a specially prepared cooking broth called warishita from a small pitcher, and put a first round of food in to cook. After the first round, we were called upon to continue adding raw food to the pan for ourselves. When the food was cooked, we ate it by dipping it in a small bowl of beaten raw egg, and then eating it with white rice from a separate small bowl. It was delicious, and included familiar flavors like beef, tofu, and shiitake mushroom, but also the less familiar flavor of chrysanthemum leaves.

A truly wonderful restaurant experience is about so much more than just the food. It was wonderful to share this place with my parents, who were already fans of sukiyaki, and give them a really special gift for their visit. It was amazing for me and my husband to be in a place in our lives where we could be the hosts. And the full experience of the welcome, the escort, the service that both got you started on your meal and taught you how to continue it, and the experience of being drawn into continuing a practice that has been ongoing for over 100 years, just turned the whole thing into something multi-dimensional and legendary.

Thanks, Juliette. It sounds like a legendary experience. Still, I feel like they should have given you a Pekingese on the way out.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Bre Lockhart

No Comments » Written on January 27th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Bre Lockhart

If you’ve been following along, you know that last Monday I had a trifusion catheter installed in my chest. The next day was the first of three scheduled opportunities to harvest the desired eight million stem cells, with the plan being to arrive by 7:30am for bloodwork, then hooked up to the harvesting machine for fix or more hours, and then waiting around until 5:00pm for the an injection to facilitate the next day’s harvesting. Except, I blew it. My cells were working overtime, and the hospital harvested 15.2 million on the first day. So, not only did I get to go home early (no lingering for that injection), but I was done for the rest of the week and could stop various other meds that were all a part of the harvest regimen. Yay.

Today, I’m being admitted to the hospital and given the massive chemo (aka Poison). Tomorrow, last Tuesday’s cells will be reintroduced to my body, to jumpstart replacing all the bits killed off by the today’s treatment. This is not my idea of fun.

However, it’s a bit of a segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, because Bre Lockhart is the personification of fun. I met her last November amidst the chaos of the 20BooksVegas conference and from the moment she announced on social media something to the effect of “Find me, I’m wearing these red glasses!” I knew she was someone who would have an interesting meal to share.

Bre lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which doesn’t explain her aggressive dislike of cereal, but I’m not brave enough to inquire further. She’s making her fiction debut with her University of the Fae series. It’s your classic tale of sorority hijinks with the requisite bitchy mean girls, except that magic is real and the protagonist just found out she’s fey! The first book, Rush Week, came out last Thursday.

LMS: Welcome, Bre. So, what stands out as your most memorable meal?

BL: When you asked me this question, a specific memory immediately popped into my mind.

And then I read some of the previous answers to your question written by authors with backlists and accolades. I paused. My story was far removed from grand quests and world travels. My story was small town with zero Michelin stars.

Rush Week

My story was about coneys.

Heathens might call them chili dogs. Yep. Chili, cheese, hot dogs, and a bun. To be clear, not just any cheese; it has to be the kind that squeezes from a bottle. Judge me if you must.

We’ll pretend I don’t care about that while I tell this story.

When I was four or five, my grandfather would pick me up from daycare. He was a tobacco distributor for convenience stores — very glamorous — so he always had tons of boxes in his very uncool maroon van. Fortunately, at five, I didn’t yet care about cool. What I did care about was squeeze cheese. And he knew this.

Every few weeks, he would pick up an order from this fantastic place that had pealing particle board on the walls next to posters of Greek landmarks. He would hide the styrofoam container amongst the boxes in the back seat. My five-year-old nose would sniff out the treasure like a bloodhound. The game was to see how long it would take me to notice. Whether it was thirty seconds, or we made it all the way home, my grandfather was always equal parts excited. His eyes would light up the moment I asked, “Papa, did you get coneys?” in my tiny, innocent but thrilled voice.

Pledge Class

Then we would laugh and eat hot dogs on something similar to bread topped with cheese that has no nutritional value and very few easily identifiable ingredients. It was heaven.

After I started driving and well into my twenties, I would pick up our usual and sneak it into the house, waiting for my grandfather to scent the greasy goodness. The dynamic had changed, but his eyes held that same mirth after all those years.

My grandfather might be gone, but that tiny location still serves a mean coney and a solid dose of nostalgia.

To summarize, my most memorable meal was a one-dollar hot dog eaten in the front seat of a cigarette box-filled 1985 minivan.

Thanks, Bre. For the record, I could have sworn that coneys were rabbits. Which, now that I think about it, might taste good with chilli and cheese on a potato bread hound roll.

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.


Eating Authors: Sarah Kozloff

No Comments » Written on January 20th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Sarah Kozloff

I find myself racing toward my impending bone marrow transplant, or maybe it’s racing toward me. For several days now I’ve started my morning sticking myself with a pair of syringes, administering a med that should increase my stem cell production.

Today, I’ll have a trifusion catheter (as opposed to a port) inserted into my chest. I’ll test it out tomorrow when they start harvesting my stem cells. And over the next several weeks it will also spare me being stuck for blood draws, and stand in for any IV line I might otherwise need (and be a lot easier to deal with than a needle taped to my arm). That starts tomorrow. Still ahead this afternoon, I’ll get a dose of a drug to encourage my perky new stem cells to leave their happy home in my bone marrow and venture out in greater numbers into my blood stream, which will facilitate harvesting them tomorrow. Science!

You might think this has nothing at all to do with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, but actually, you’d be wrong. Because of all this pesky bone marrow transplant stuff, I’ll be hospitalized for several weeks and miss the February session of Galactic Philadelphia, which will feature Sarah Kozloff. So it’s a real good thing I have her here now.

I don’t need to tell you Sarah’s backstory, she does that below as she talks about her most memorable meal. Instead I’ll let you know that she has a new Fantasy series, The Nine Realms. It’s coming out as a quartet of books, to be released over the span of the next four months. It’s the kind of rapid release that’s used by a lot of Indie authors, but this series is being published by Tor Books. This makes it great for the reader who gets hooked on the first book and doesn’t have to wait a year or more for the next installment. But after April, you’re on your own.

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

SK: My most memorable meal occurred about forty years ago, at the historic Clam Broth House in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, the restaurant was a NY area landmark, established in 1899/1900. I don’t recall the famous sign of a hand with a pointing finger, but I do remember that the wooden floor canted and the ceiling was low. We’d gone early and they’d seated us at a center table, covered with a red and white cotton tablecloth. The dining area was crowded enough to seem festive, but empty enough to converse and get good service.

A Queen in Hiding

I knew very little about New York history and even less about seafood. I was only twenty-two, recently graduated from college, and spending a few years working freelance in film production in the city, before graduate school.

Back in those days seafood was not as widely distributed as it is today. Growing up in Denver, rainbow trout—caught wild in Colorado streams—comprised the bulk of my previous exposure to fish.

But I’d met a man on a shoot a few weeks earlier. He was the gaffer, the person who designs and sets up the lighting. I was a production assistant, basically a “go-fer,” fetching coffee, keeping pedestrians out of the frame, watching the expensive gear to make sure nothing was stolen. The first thing Bob asked me to do was to “bulb the fluorescents.” I had never heard “bulb” as a verb (and I had no experience with these filaments and the way they had to be inserted) so I was just befuddled. However, I found someone else to ask: I didn’t want to show Bob my ignorance because he was so handsome.

The Queen of Raiders

Amazingly enough, he was just as smitten. He invited me to go hiking at the Mohonk Mountain Preserve. Actually, what he said was, “A bunch of us are going hiking on Saturday,” would I like to come along? When he pulled up in his van “a bunch of us” turned out to be only Bob.

I think the Clam Broth House was our second date. I found it so charming and exotic that out of the all the eateries in the New York area he was taking me to… Hoboken.

We started with steamed clams, which I had never had before. It was a big adventure to peel off the skin and dip them in broth and butter. For entrees we had crab legs. I had never cracked crabs and the work to pry out the sweet meat with the special little forks made it taste even better. I imagine there was also alcohol along the way; I know that something about the evening lifted it above prosaic reality.

You know where this story is headed. Reader, I married him.

A Broken Queen

In our lives together we have had kids, houses, pets, careers, tragedies and triumphs, and we’ve now, simultaneously, launched second chapters. After 30 years as film professor at Vassar College, I have re-invented myself as a novelist, with a four-volume epic fantasy, The Nine Realms, being released by Tor in monthly installments, January-April 2020. Meanwhile, after decades as a gaffer and then a director of photography, Bob has become a glass artist. You can see his beautiful work at

For a long time I was the chief cook of the household because Bob was working longer hours or on the road. But some years ago I hung up my hot pads in a huff, declaring that cooking was tiresome and unrewarding. So Bob took over all the culinary duties. He chops much more deftly than I ever did; he bought more professional cookware and cookbooks; he stocks up on fresh herbs and exotic spices. Always open-handed, he’s willing to spend money on quality ingredients.

I was praising his cookery the other day and someone asked me what are his signature dishes?

I had to think a minute.

“Fish,” I answered.

Thanks, Sarah. I’m terribly sorry I won’t be at your reading, and now I’m even sorrier that I won’t get to join you and everyone else for a bite at the pub afterwards. Especially because my favorite thing to order there is the fish.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Robert E. Waters

No Comments » Written on January 13th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs

My days this past week have been very full. I’m done with my chemotherapy and I haven’t yet started the pre-treatments for the BMT. Nor did I have to run off to any medical appointments for a whole week. My cold has been slowly improving and I’m feeling pretty damn good. Basically I’ve been free to work on all the things I’m trying to get done before I head into the hospital in two weeks. The main contenders for the rest of the month include writing a short story for a Kickstarter anthology that I’m committed to, editing the third book in a series, and finishing the first book in a different series. It’s all very Whoosh!

Which is why it’s good to be able to pop in here and write up the introduction for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, because over the year’s Robert E. Waters and I have shared the ToC of several anthologies, most recently Chuck Gannon’s incredible Lost Signals.

Robert is likely best known for his work in gaming, a field he’s been working in for more than twenty-five years. He’s been the Managing Editor at Avalon Hill, back when it was The Avalon Hill Game Company. He’s also been a producer, designer, and writer for several computer game studios, and is currently a designer at Breakaway LTD.

But he’s no stranger to writing fiction, both short (as the reference above to our mutual anthologies indicates) and long. His most recent novel is barely two months old. You should pick up a copy.

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

REW: My first “real” job out of college (circa 1991) was with AutoZone in their corporate office in Memphis. I worked as a document design tech and technical writer. One of the things that they used to do periodically is conduct these so-called “Travel Weekends” where groups of employees from the corporate office would go out to various regions of the United States and tour the AutoZone stores in that area. It was a way to connect with the workers and customers on the front lines, and to understand their needs and problems, etc., and then in our capacity as corporate heads, take their grievances back with us and solve their problems, or if we were lucky, solve their problems right on the spot.

In my time there, I went on two of these travel weekends: one to West Texas and New Mexico (God! Texas is a big place!), and one to New Orleans. It was on the New Orleans trip that I had my most memorable dining experience.

Devil Dancers

I was traveling with a couple guys from corporate and a couple local AutoZone managers. They took us to a restaurant near New Orleans (the name of the place escapes me at the moment). We sat in the corner of a very loud, very active room. Piles upon piles of crawfish were brought in and people were diving into them like crazed dogs. But the first dish they brought us was fried alligator. The alligator is a powerful beast that can roll you to death at the bottom of a muddy river, so it was kind of strange to see one cooked and fried on my plate.

Alligator is a greasy, chewy meat, kind of like a mushy rubber. Good but not great. I could have done without it. But all the while I was eating it, the AutoZone managers at my table kept saying, “You have to suck the head! Make sure you suck the head when the crawfish come.” WTF is ‘sucking the head’? Did I stumble into some perverted food/sex dungeon or something? Everyone at the table seemed to understand what they were talking about but me, and of course, they were not giving me the full story. They were just giggling and winking at each other at my expense. I was a country boy, you understand, but not a true country boy. I was from Tennessee. In their eyes, I might as well have been from New York.

Then the crawfish came, all steamy and covered in spicy juices. Basically, a crawfish is a small lobster, with a thimble-sized piece of meet in its tail, if that much. Most people just eat the tail and discard the rest, but not these guys at my table. No. they insisted that, after I ate the tail, that I needed to “suck the head.” One showed me how it was done. You put the so-called “head” of the crawfish into your mouth, and then take a long, hard suck. They did it and seemed to weather it just fine.

The Masks of Mirada

Now it was my turn.

So, I did. The next thing I experienced was what Jefferson Airplane was talking about in “Go Ask Alice”

That rush of all that cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano and other herbs and spices went right to my nasal cavity and didn’t stop (quite frankly) hurting until about an hour later. To hell with over-the-counter drugs to clear sinuses: just suck the head of a well-cooked crawfish and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I never experienced a burn like that in my life.

I tried it again a couple more times, but that was all. This “country boy” didn’t need any further schooling. The meal concluded and we left, and I’ve never forgotten that trip or sucking crawfish head. It was, indeed, an experience.

But I think I’ll stick to less adventurous foods. Until, at least, I stumble into another well-disguised trap.

Thanks, Robert. You know, New Orleans is my favorite city when it comes to food. Whether grabbing a Po’Boy at some corner Mom & Pop shop or scoring a perfect brunch at the Court of the Two Sisters, I love it all. That said, I have never — and have no intention to ever — suck the head of a crawfish!

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.


Eating Authors: Lisa Goldstein

1 Comment » Written on January 6th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Lisa Goldstein

Welcome to 2020, or as I like to think of it, the tenth year of EATING AUTHORS. Seriously, that’s a lot of meals under the bridge (or something like that). You’d think I’d have run out of people to invite, but no, I have plenty of folks lined up in the weeks and months to come, and every confidence that others will arrive as needed to share their tales of incredible repasts.

To kick off the new year, I invited Lisa Goldstein to drop by. Lisa has taken home quite a shelf of prizes including the National Book Award (for The Red Magician), the Mythopoeic Award (for The Uncertain Places), and the Sidewise Award. She’s also racked up multiple nominations for the Astounding, Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and other awards besides. She’s also written two novels of high fantasy (Daughter of Exile and The Divided Crown) under the pseudonym Isabel Glass.

Her latest (and fifteenth) novel, Ivory Apples, came out back in October, a book about a book, or more specifically, the author of a book. And also magic, of course. She and her husband and their Labrador retriever live in northern California.

LMS: Welcome, Lisa. Thank you for starting the year for us. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

LG: The most memorable meal I ever had was in Rome, at a restaurant called Grappolo d’Oro. I knew that food in Italy was good, of course, but I didn’t really know how good. I ordered ravioli with cheese and something called tartufi, which turned out to be truffles. Not only had I never had truffles before, I had barely heard of them; if you’d asked, I would have said it was a play by Moliere. They were deep, earthy, full of dark, delicious flavor. And the rest of the ingredients were great too, each one in perfect balance with the others, and tasting as if they’d been created just that morning.

Ivory Apples

After that, I ordered truffles at every restaurant that listed them on the menu. Another restaurant, in Perugia, had truffles in something called scamorza, a kind of baked cheese. This was my second-most memorable meal — the place was called Il Settimo Sigillo, which means “the seventh seal,” and had something of a Knights Templar motif. We never found out why.

When I got back I looked around for more truffles.

Unfortunately, they’re phenomenally expensive here. Black truffles, the kind I like, mostly grow in France and Italy, and they’re hard to farm; usually they’re hunted with truffle hounds. The only solution, I guess, is to go back to Italy.

Thanks, Lisa. This of course brings up the question: can a labrador retriever be trained as a truffle hound. Empiricism demands that you return to Italy with your dog. Keep us posted.

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.


Eating Authors: Marion Jones

No Comments » Written on December 30th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Marion Jones

Christmas has come and gone, Hannukah ends tonight, and the year follows suit tomorrow. This is the last EATING AUTHORS post of 2019. I will spare you any retrospective summaries of the past twelve months, and I’ve long since already filled you in on what the next several weeks is bringing my way. Instead, I think I’ll simply encourage you to take a moment to reflect on what you hold dear, to treat yourself well, to leave the world a little better at the end of the day than when you began.

This blog series has had that last bit at its core from the beginning. Whether you call it “Paying It Forward,” or something else, it’s been my pleasure to use it not only to share with you some insight into many friends and colleagues (and their meals), but also to introduce you to new writers who are at the very start of their careers. It’s a nice thing to give a platform, however small my blog may be, to folks.

One of the quirks of social media is that I’m often stumbling across people I wouldn’t likely meet (or they stumble over me, it can be hard to tell which way the flow runs). Which is how I met this week’s guest, Marion Jones. It happened on some comment thread on someone’s post — the particulars are a distant blur to me now. But I remember thinking, “hey, why not invite him to talk about a meal?” and so I did, and he was kind enough to oblige.

His most recent book, Clipped Angels, continues his Golden Feather Saga.

LMS: Welcome, Marion. Tell me the tale, if you would, of your most memorable meal?

MJ: I was strolling through Manhattan, NY and saw a small queue in front of the Motown Café. I was so blown away by the atmosphere I had to get in line and take a look at the menu. Luckily the wait time was only thirty minutes. I overheard someone behind me say that the establishment was partly owned by Boys II Men.

Clipped Angels

At first, I glanced at the menu, but when my section of the line moved inside, my eyes widened. I looked up and saw a huge spinning record on the ceiling.

To the right of me stood a gift shop that had memorabilia of Motown. The host was very friendly and told me to stick around for two more minutes. Little did he know, I wasn’t going anywhere! Then it happened, the lights dimmed, and four fantastic voices emanated from male singers coming down the spiral stairs. They were singing a Motown song, “Baby I Need Your Lovin.”

I actually thought it was the actual artist, but the artist would probably be in their 50s. These young guys nailed it. And no, it was not lip-synching. They were actually singing. I was blown away by their skills, and so was everybody else in the restaurant.

I saw only one booth that was unoccupied. The host, Ricky took me there. I was very confused as to why there was chicken and waffles on the menu, together.

I asked, “Why would anybody want to buy breakfast and dinner?”

Black Feather

The smiling waitress told, “They got the idea from Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in California. People came out of the club late at night and wanted to eat but they weren’t sure if they wanted breakfast or dinner, so they had both.”

I looked at all of the records, posters and paintings around me. I decided to take a quick tour after I ordered eggs, chicken and waffles. I was so excited that I took my camera out and took pictures. Afterwards, I sat down at the table. Time flew by quickly.

By the time my food arrived, a female quartet made their way to the stage singing another Motown song. They wore sparkly red dresses. I almost fell in love.

My waffles were already buttered, and my chicken seasoned to perfection. I said my grace and cut into the chicken. The aroma made my mouth water as I bit into it. My heart skipped a beat. I had apple juice as my drink of choice.

The Order of the Golden Feather

Even the juice tasted like it was freshly squeezed in their backyard or something. The place blew my mind from the food to the customer service to the memorabilia. Everything excited me! All my senses were tickled. I thought the syrup was made in heaven.

I had no choice but to apply for a job. I wanted to work there until I could taste everything on the menu. I worked as a host there for eight months. I met many celebrities. I even entered a contest for best customer service and became the winner. I was allowed to choose anything from the restaurant store that I wanted, so I chose the most expensive thing I could think of; a leather Motown Café jacket. I still have it.

I was very sad when all of their locations eventually closed down. That was somewhere around 1999. I will never forget the memories I had, the dancing my taste buds did and sometimes I even grabbed the host microphone and sang with the groups!

Thanks, Marion. Like you, I was puzzled by my first encounter with Chicken & Waffles. I never got over it.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

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


Eating Authors: Clark Thomas Carlton

No Comments » Written on December 23rd, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Clark Thomas Carlton

The year winds down. For me that has meant lots of medical appointments, a physical therapist kicking my ass twice a week, writing nonstop like I was Alexander Hamilton, and stealing hours and minutes from all of the above so I can still have time to spend with my wife. Stress levels have been high, but also productivity. And as others have noted, I’d rather have too much to do than too little.

Looking over his resume, I suspect the same can be said of Clark Thomas Carlton, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest (by golly, that was a real segue this time). I invited Clark to share his most memorable meal here because he’s a novelist (check out his Antasy series, Prophets of the Ghost Ants and The Prophet of the Termite God), but he’s also a playwright (having won the Drama-Logue Critics Award for Self Help or the Tower of Psychobabble), a screen and television writer, a singer/songwriter (currently working on a pop opera about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon), and a painter.

None of which explains his current fascination with insects, but he’s on record as appreciating the use of science fantasy novels as the means of illustrating the human condition. Some folks do this going big (e.g., elephants), others take the opposite perspective. Go figure.

LMS: Welcome, Clark. What can you tell me about your most memorable meal?

CTC: Nine of the ten worst meals I have ever eaten were in Russia, and that includes the very worst and certainly the most memorable.

I was in Yeltsin’s Russia, a few years into Glasnost, and about to see Schindler’s List for the 400th time as a quality supervisor in Lucasfilm’s THX program. The first part of my stay was in Moscow at a modern hotel that had just been acquired by an American chain. The hotel’s restaurant served edible western dishes, but as someone who has worked in the industry, I know when I’m being served a boil-in-the-bag. Craving a pizza, I asked the waiter if they were any good and he assured me it was “the best in Moscow.” After serving it to me, he announced, “Your pizza by the Red Baron.”

Near Red Square, I found a Chinese restaurant, but it was Chinese in name only. A chicken dish featured some tiny bits of meat mixed through a mass of cooked cabbage. The dish was devoid of anything like spices or even soy sauce. Some spaghetti at a so-called Italian place was topped with a couple of teaspoons of tomato puree. Parmesan cheese was not a possibility much less fresh burrata or focaccia. I loathe McDonalds, but I came to understand why there were three new ones in Moscow with very long lines because food in Russia was terrible. Under Yeltsin, Western products were flooding the country and Russians were rejecting everything made by their state industries, even their own vodka. Bananas were the latest, exotic arrival, and every trash bin in the city was piled high with their peels.

Prophets of the Ghost Ants

The Russian film lab, also of poor quality, was an hour outside of Moscow in a woodsy village that was a mix of industry and farming. The one and only hotel was bleak and boxy and built in the Stalin era, but it was surrounded by izbas, the little country houses made of logs bound with river mud. These were on tiny family farms with livestock, vegetable gardens and a few fruit trees. Perhaps here I might eat some genuine native dishes. The Russian food I had enjoyed in New York and San Francisco included pelmeni, the Slavic cousin of the ravioli, as well as Veal Prince Orlov, and good soups like barley mushroom and root vegetables with dill. My own dinner parties had included blinis with creme fraiche and caviar as well as that standard go-to, Chicken Kiev, which was always a crowd pleaser with its gushing puddle of chive flavored butter.

The food served in this hotel was both strange and awful and was not selected from a menu. The restaurant was a barren hall with wooden chairs, wobbly tables and grease stained table cloths. My first meal was a breakfast that I shared with my interpreter, Vasily. At some other tables, we noticed men dressed in running suits that smoked Benson and Hedges as they counted piles of pink Ukrainian money. When I asked who they were, Vasily told me they were “gangsters” and we should not make eye contact with them. “Russia is now like your Chicago in the Twenties,” he said, referring to an epidemic of gun violence.

I was served my first of a daily bowl of milky gruel, the ingredients of which I never identified. The table had two kinds of sliced gummy bread, white and brown, neither of which had flavor or a crust. Unstrained tea, swirling with leaves, was poured from a pot into glasses instead of cups. I watched as the gangsters poured Swedish vodka into their gruel, stirred it, then ate it up. “They are drinking vodka in the morning,” I whispered, but the interpreter shrugged. “We have Russian expression,” he said. “A drink in the morning and you are free all day.”

Dinner that night was difficult. I was the only diner and arrived to find the gummy bread and a plate with a thick smear of ground mystery meat. Next to it were some hard, greenish tomatoes that were blemished and irregular, like troll noses. Beside them were some juiceless and stunted cucumbers, popping with rubbery warts. I tasted the mystery meat and found it gritty and greasy, a throwback to my high school cafeteria. I went back to my room and ate some of the Snickers bars I had been advised to bring as gifts for the Russian people.

The Prophet of the Termite God

On weekends, I was back in Moscow and my host and his lovely daughter, Nadia, were kind enough to show me Gorky Park. At that time, the park was a spectacular mess that had never seen the likes of a lawn mower. It stank from subterranean bathrooms with broken toilets that still had to be used for the usual reasons. My hosts had been informed that I wasn’t eating and tempted me into trying shashlik, the Russian version of shish kebab. They promised me it was delicious.

We picked a shashlik vendor whose grill and tables were in a circle of unkempt bushes. I offered to pay for the meal but never bothered to ask if it was lamb or beef. As we waited for our meat to cook, I saw the first of the feral dogs of Gorky Park. They weren’t a threatening pack, but were shy with sad eyes and they seemed in need of a handout. Nadia brought us paper plates of shashlik and on the side of each was a glop of sauce that stood on end that was the color of a fresh scab.

I tried to bite through the first chunk of meat and could not — it was like trying to chew through a bicycle tire. I gripped one end of the chunk with my fingernails then tugged the other with my teeth, and still it would not tear. “This shashlik is not fun,” said Nadia, a frown on her face, as she gave up. We had been served lumps of gristle that none of us could eat much less enjoy. The dogs, looking at us longingly, were waiting for just this moment. They gently took the meat from our fingers and quietly wolfed it down. As I wiped my fingers clean, I pondered that Communism had been a noble, maybe even necessary experiment in human progress, but clearly it had failed as badly as our shashlik.

A few days later, I learned what kind of meat we had eaten when I picked up the English language newspaper and read the headline: Shashlik Vendors in Gorky Park Arrested for Serving Dog Meat.

Thanks, Clark. Clearly Russia was not kind to your palate. I’m afraid to ask what that 10th worst meal might be, because is something exists more horrible than gobbets of dog gristle I don’t want to know about it.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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

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