Eating Authors: Jasmine Gower

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

A Study of Fiber and Demons

Haggis is outlawed in the United States.

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

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

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

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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: Jason Franks

2 comments Written on March 19th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Jason Franks

Please pardon me for saying so, but Real Life has been kicking my ass of late. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but suffice to say that I’d really like things to calm down and let me catch my breath, maybe even get a little writing done.

In times of stress, most people tend to retreat into familiar routines. Fortunately, after more than 350 authors coming by to share tales of their meals, EATING AUTHORS is as welcome a diversion as comfort food. And so by way segue let me introduce this week’s guest, Jason Franks.

Jason writes a range of things, from comics to novels to code. His first book, Bloody Waters, was a finalist for the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel. And he’s never looked back.

He started the year releasing Faerie Apocalypse, telling stories of 21st century crossovers to and from the Faerie realm. It’s a long way from reading Edmund Spencer.

Jason’s next project is a graphic novella tentatively entitled “Gourmand Go,” which he describes as the ongoing adventures of a starship crew on a mission to boldly go; to seek out new life —and eat it. Basically, Star Trek cannibalism. Yeah, it’s like he’s writing it just for me!

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

JF: Tough question. I am tempted to talk about some meals I had where something funny happened, like the time I went for an early dinner in Istanbul. Because I was alone and the weather was awesome, I found a seat on the end of a long empty table on the terrace, so I could look at the Blue Mosque as dusk fell. It was a beautiful evening and I was enjoying the quiet when four police cars screeched up. A dozen cops climbed out and crowded into the restaurant. I was the only patron there but of course they came and sat down at my table, which was the only one big enough for all of them. The staff brought out glasses of tea for everyone, including me. The cops drank theirs and five minutes later, just as suddenly as they arrived, they got up, jumped back in their cars and drove away. I guess it was an emergency tea stop. If it was a regular event I think the restaurant staff would have moved me to another table. Or maybe they thought they just wanted to see what I would do.

Faerie Apocalypse

But the problem with that anecdote is that I don’t even remember what I ate.

Another fine meal that springs to mind one is the time my late great Aunt Celia Franca took me to La Strada on Bank Street in Ottawa, where I ate a moose fillet. It was a lovely dinner, but there’s not much meat on a story about dining out with an elderly relative.

So I guess I’m going to talk about hamburgers.

In 2011 I quit my job and I went to Japan with plans to propose to my girlfriend Yuriko (now my wife). I rented a furnished apartment in Yuri’s town in northern Japan for a few months, which I spent improving my language skills and writing fiction. On weekends, when Yuri was off work, we’d go on road trips, which usually involved seeing a gallery or a museum and eating at some off-the-beaten path restaurant, cafe or road station.

Now, I love Japanese food but I’m quite a big eater and I just don’t find it very filling. I think I’d been in-country for a good couple of months when the meal in question took place and I was hungry.

Bloody Waters

We were on the road and it was lunch time when we arrived at our destination: a cafe up in the woods that was kind of like a two-level tree house. We went in through the door and down the narrow, knotty staircase. Low ceilings. Everything made out of handcut wood. It was gorgeous and the food smelled amazing. The staff found us a tiny table and gave us menus and… there wasn’t a single dish that didn’t have pork in it. I’m Jewish and, while I’m not especially observant (see earlier comment about eating moose), I am phobic about eating pork. I felt a little bit of my soul break off and flutter away as we left the restaurant with empty bellies. No treehouse dining for you, Mr Franks!

Yuri and I got back in the car and drove back the way we’d come, passing through a town called Obihiro, which Yuri told me was famous for its beef. Yuri had heard about a place there so we pulled into a parking lot near the race track, where a pair of white-gloved senior citizens, who directed up to a parking spot, even though the lot was 3/4 empty. There was a horse race in progress, although few people were there to see it because the weather had turned bad. We trudged across the gravel through the drizzle to a micro-mall called Tokachimura, which contained a souvenir shop, a produce market, and a couple of cafes and restaurants. I was hungry and probably sulking about the tree house incident.


The place Yuri had heard about in the micro-mall was called Bistro Komni. Despite its name it was not a bistro, it was a kind of retro American diner at 3/4 scale. We sat at the counter. The menu was as you’d expect in such a place, so I ordered a hamburger, fries, and a coke. I wasn’t expecting anything much better than Mosburger takeaway fare, but, man alive, they served up an amazing meal.

I’m sure that my appetite on the day, coupled with a craving for some dirty Western food partly account for it, but I am also certain that they served me a perfect burger. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked and garnished. That burger was assembled with the painstaking craftsmanship for which Japan is famous, from the finest, freshest local ingredients. I had forgotten that Yuri told me that Obihiro was famous for its beef. It wasn’t a huge meal and I left the diner hungry for more–but blissfully sated on some existential level.

I have wanted to go back to Obihiro and eat there again ever since, but Yuri tells me that Bistro Komni has closed down. And so it has passed from memory into legend.

Thanks, Jason. You’re braver than me for ordering a burger at a horse track. And what’s this about moose not being kosher? Is it a hoof thing?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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: Kelly Robson

No Comments » Written on March 12th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Kelly Robson

And now for something completely different. Or, not. Well, kinda. You see, one of the policies I’ve always embraced on EATING AUTHORS has been a “one and done” that meant writers only got to come by once, to share the details of one meal. The focus has also been on authors of books (as opposed to those writing short stories for magazines or anthologies). The exception has been the annual round up (coming soon!) of Campbell Award nominees, many of whom had never had a novel or (more recently) standalone novella published, because it’s been my personal mission to see more attention given to that award. As such, it was bound to happen, a former Campbell nominee known for her short work has her first “book” coming out. And because it’s my blog I get to bend the rules and invite her back to share a second meal (and boost the signal for her new work).

Last month, Kelly’s novelette “A Human Stain” was nominated for a Nebula Award. Tomorrow, her novella Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach debuts from Friends and neighbors, humanoids of all flavors, please welcome Kelly Robson back to this blog.

LMS: Welcome back, Kelly. Tell me about another memorable meal.

KR: For Eating Authors last year, I told you about my most embarrassingly memorable meal. This time, I’ll go a bit more gourmet.

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach

Alyx and I had just gotten off the overnight ferry from Athens to Crete, landing in Heraklion, which is nobody’s favorite Greek town. Heraklion was bombed to bits in World War II, and was rebuilt in the 50s as a warren of concrete low-rises. It’s not beautiful, but it’s a wonderful, vibrant, busy city. I adored Heraklion from the moment my feet hit the ground.

We were only there for one night. Like every other tourist, we visited the spectacular Minoan palace of Knossos and the Archaeological Museum, then it was time for a late lunch.

In Greece, eating is easy. There’s none of the constrained opening hours of Italy, where it’s impossible to get a meal between 3:00 and 8:00 PM. I adore Italy, but for Alyx and me, the perfect meal is served at 5:00 PM at the latest. This is not a problem in Greece. Sure, the locals eat after 10:00 PM, but they’re happy to feed tourists at whatever weird time they walk in.

The Archaeological Museum is surrounded by restaurants, but we were savvy tourists and knew to avoid the obvious choices. We entered the littlest alley off the square and five minutes of hiking through a residential district brought us to a quiet little family restaurant. Five tables served by the twelve year-old daughter of the family, with mom and dad in the kitchen. The only other customer was an ancient fellow dressed in black who looked like he’s just stepped out of the Middle Ages.

A Human Stain

Nobody spoke English, but a helpful customer had written up an English version of their menu on a piece of foolscap. We ordered snails, sardines, and beets. If you think that might not sound like the most inspiring meal, you’d be wrong. It was heaven.

The snails were brought to the table still simmering in a rosemary-lemon broth, dusted with some type of flour that didn’t dissolve in the broth, but added just the tiniest hint of crispy texture to the tender gastropod flesh. The juicy, caught-that-morning sardines had been grilled over an open flame that charred the skin crispy. The boiled beets were washed in olive oil, lemon, and herbs. All this served with warm, fluffy pita bread to soak up the juices.

To this day, even after having eaten gourmet meals in fancy restaurants around the world, this modest little meal of snails, sardines, and beets remains my one of most treasured memories.

Thanks, Kelly. While you and my wife may agree that “tender gastropod flesh” could ever be anything better than a good band name, in your place I’d have eaten the sardines and fed the beets to the snails.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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: Sue Burke

No Comments » Written on March 5th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Sue Burke

Whoosh, and it’s already March. Seriously? I’d have thought my cutting back on convention travel this year would have meant that time passed more slowly. Nope. Clearly a flawed premise. And as proof of the ol’ time and tide line, here’s another installment of EATING AUTHORS.

This weeks guest is Sue Burke, a journalist for forty years, translator, poet, and short story writer. Sue currently lives in Chicago and last month saw the publication of her first novel. Semiosis is a tale of first contact, alien plants, and language in all its vastness. This is my favorite kind of science fiction (okay, so I’m biased). It’s going to change the way you think about meaning and communication.

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

SB: My most memorable meal is a mere snack – memorable for what it proved.

In the mid-1990s, my husband and I visited Paris, where we had a delightful time enjoying the art and history, two of our favorite things. Of course, one of the first stops we had to make was to visit the Eiffel Tower – to see for ourselves its astonishing size, understand more deeply its architectural and cultural importance, and enjoy the view. And we needed to be able to say we’d been there and done that. Who could visit Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower?

We were there in fall, though, and the weather was … autumnal. We spotted a little pastry café while we were up in the tower and thought we could get a snack there and brief shelter from the drizzle and wind. On the level just below, however, we had seen a souvenir stand with some disturbingly third-rate offerings, so we expected the food and hospitality to be on a par with a yellow foam-rubber replica of the tower. We were at a tourist trap, n’est-ce pas?


Instead, the café offered stereotypical French charm with a staff that welcomed a pair of slightly befuddled non-French-speaking tourists. I had arguably the finest cup of coffee and the finest apple pastry of my life, so good that I still remember them a couple of decades later: fragrant fresh coffee and especially flaky pastry surrounding not-too-sweet spiced apple slices, commonplace food made to standards of uncommon quality. It was not what I expected. (Sometimes it’s a relief to be proven wrong.)

Part of the duty of a good tourist is to be attentive and learn. We had heard, as everyone does, that the French put pride and care into their food. It turned out to be true. Even when they didn’t have to, they served a superb little repast. What did that tell us about the culture and the character? Why were they selling crappy souvenirs and perfect pastries almost side by side?

We puzzled over that as we ate, and we could reach no conclusion, which was part of the fun. We had done what tourists long to do: we had caught a glimpse of the real France. We’ll always have Paris – and the memory of a small perfect snack at a grand iconic place in a city that made sure it lived up to one of the best parts of its reputation.

Thanks, Sue. So much of human perception is defined by contrast. I wonder, perhaps the placement of that souvenir stand was deliberate, just to heighten the experience of the pastry?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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: Michael Moreci

No Comments » Written on February 26th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Michael Moreci

The past week has been a blur, owing in large part to the worst bout of flu that I’ve ever experienced as well as the news that I’d been nominated for a Nebula Award for my novella, Barry’s Deal. The mix has been chaotic, but fortunately for me, EATING AUTHORS is here to provide a touchstone and keep me on track.

And so, with no more segue than that, let me introduce you to this week’s guest, Michael Moreci. If you read comics, you’re probably already familiar with his work on a range of DC titles from Superman to Green Lantern, Wonder Woman to the Flash, as well as his own original and compelling series like Roche Limit and Burning Fields. And really, I’ve barely scratched the surface of his comics work.

Michael’s debut novel, Black Star Renegades, was released on January 2nd from St. Martin’s Press. It’s the tale of a guy with the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders and the “ultimate weapon” in his hand. Add in an evil empire, a few creatures, some exotic locations, and a cast of misfits, and you know you’re going to have a good time.

LMS: Welcome, Michael. What stands out for you as your most memorable meal?

MM: You know what’s funny? When I think about my most memorable meal, I honestly can’t recall what, exactly, I ate. Which sounds…weird. But when I think the best things in life — the things I’ve experienced — they’re about the comprehensive encounter, and that’s what I’m thinking when I consider my best meal. It wasn’t just the food, but everything that went into it.

That said, here goes:

Black Star Renegades

My wife and I got married ten years ago, and for our honeymoon we decided to travel to Montreal–Canada being the only foreign trip we could afford — by way of Burlington, Vermont. It was just a one-night stayover, but it was a memorable one. Because of, you guessed it, the food!

We went into Burlington knowing nothing about the city or the area. Neither of us had been there, neither of us knew a thing. All the wedding planning dominated our lives, so when it came to thinking beyond the big day, we had no focus. So, we went into Burlington with a few hours to burn and not a single thing in mind to do. We stayed at a bed and breakfast, and the kind woman who ran it offered us some advice: Eat dinner at a farm to table restaurant that was only a thirty minute drive away.

Now, we come from Chicago, and this was around the time where farm to table restaurants were kind of the rage. Plus, my wife is a chef, so we’re spoiled with the latest and greatest in culinary pretty regularly. With that in mind, while we were excited to try out the place we’d been directed to, we weren’t over the moon. Again, we were spoiled. I fully admit it.

But then we arrived at the location — which was an actual farm, and my mind was blown. I mean, here’s the thing: I was born in raised in Chicago, and my family — who had limited income — didn’t travel. Which means I was never exposed to much nature. Like, ever. Hand in hand with that is gazing up, say, on a camping trip and seeing stars. I never did that. I looked up at the sky over my house on the South Side and saw the haze left behind by the planes flying in and out of Midway Airport. Stars? Those were for country folk.

Roche Limit

Driving up to this farm in Vermont, I saw, for the first time in my life stars. A sky full of them, shining right above my head. I’d never seen anything like it in my entire life, and it was transcendent. Beautiful. Awe-inspiring.

And that was just the start of the dining experience at this restaurant, which only got better and better.

It’s weird, because like I said before, I don’t recall what I ate — not exactly. I believe the dish was beef-centric, of some kind? What mattered then and what especially matters now is the feeling the entire experience elicited. I don’t believe, until this point, that I’d ever eaten in farmhouse. And I’d certainly never eaten on the property of an isolated farm. As I look back on it all, I remember it being so peaceful. And I know — I know — I sound like a city slicker and all that. But being at this place, being wrapped up in stars like I’d never seen before, having just been married to the love of my life, it made the meal the most memorable of my life. And while I don’t remember the food, not specifically, I remember being brought course after course and being dazzled by each one. By the end I was completely full, utterly satisfied, and I was about to embark on the greatest journey of my life — the journey of being married to the best person I know.

Thanks, Michael. You know, it’s almost like we’re the same person (if I were a brilliant comics creator),
because I too was born on Chicago’s south side, married a chef, and count a nearby farmhouse restaurant as one of my best dining experiences. Go figure.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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: Gwendolyn Clare

1 Comment » Written on February 19th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Gwendolyn Clare

My apologies, but as I prepare this week’s EATING AUTHORS post I’m grappling with a fever, chills, aches, cough, mild hallucinations, and the certainty that someone has stuffed ground glass into my throat. So, I’m going to keep this introduction brief.

I’ve said it before and I hope to be get to say many times again, I really like using these blog posts to promote a writer’s first book. Why am I telling you this now? Because Gwendolyn Clare’s debut novel, Ink, Iron, and Glass, comes out tomorrow. It has mad scientists in it, what else could you possibly need to know?

Gwen lives in Central Pennsylvania and possesses a doctorate in Mycology (that’s the study of fungi, in case you weren’t sure). This strikes me as beyond cool (and not just because I recently wrote a story with algae). I’d tell you more about her but, 1) I can barely see to type, and 2) I really want you to get right into her most memorable meal because it is beyond awesome.

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

GC: Since my debut novel takes place in Italy and stars a bunch of mad scientists, here’s an unforgettable meal involving both Italian food and Italian science.

One summer in college, I went on a field course to Italy through the Geophysical Sciences department at my university. We spent the majority of the trip in the Umbria-Marche region of central Italy; our home base was an old villa converted into a field station by an Italian geologist who seemed inordinately fond of yelling “Andiamo!” at American students.

One of our scheduled field trips was to visit a roadcut outside the small town of Gubbio. The strata of sedimentary rock exposed by that roadcut includes the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, when dinosaurs went extinct. While the K-T boundary can be found in places all over the world, this particular inch-thick layer of clay yielded the samples which led rockstar-geologist Walter Alvarez to theorize that an astroid impact killed the dinosaurs.

Ink, Iron, and Glass

So we’re riding in our borrowed vans along the twisty, unlined country roads. We’re excited because we’re giant nerds, and for geologists seeing the Gubbio Layer is a bit like a film afficionado winning passes to visit a historic movie studio — this is where it all happened. We pull over to the side of the road and pile out of the vans only to find that there are people already visiting the site. An older Italian gentleman with a couple of grad students.

The gentleman, we quickly learn, is none other than Walter Alvarez.

He knows our host from the field station, and before any of us Americans can really believe what’s happening, we’re making lunch plans with the dude who discovered how the dinosaurs went extinct. While standing at the historic location that made the discovery possible. So many people have wanted to take a piece of the Gubbio Layer that the exposed rockface is deeply indented above and below the stratum — the sign of scientists and collectors chipping away at it over the years.

For the better portion of midday, we effectively colonize a nearby restaurant, sitting around one long chain of pushed-together tables so Alvarez can regale us with a firsthand account of his now-famous research.

The food itself was probably excellent. (All the food we ate in Italy was excellent. By that time we’d been spoiled by our nightly dinners, which were long multi-course meals served family style with the requisite local wine.) I believe the lunch was pizza, but I wouldn’t swear on it — when you’re at lunch with your hero, you’d hardly notice if they served you sawdust.

Alvarez made scientific discovery sound wonderous — even magical. And the magic of science is what the Ink, Iron, and Glass universe is all about.

Thanks, Gwen. You now tie with Gregory Benford for having the most nerdgasmic meal story in the history of this blog.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!


Eating Authors: Jane Lindskold

No Comments » Written on February 12th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Jane Lindskold

One of the things I like most about the internet is how it can bring people together. I first became acquainted with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Jane Lindskold, because of her work completing two novels by one of my favorite authors, the late, great Roger Zelazny. Then my wife discovered Jane’s Firekeeper Saga, which in turn led to her Breaking the Wall series, and soon the house was full of her other books as well.

Yet despite this, Jane and I had never met, never shared a panel at a convention, never spoken or corresponded. Not until the day she showed up with a comment on my Twitter feed. Then it happened again. Then I commented on hers. And soon we were trading remarks and then email and naturally I then invited her to this blog and here we are.

Jane lives in New Mexico, land of green chiles and phenomenal authors. There’s a mythic quality to much of her fiction, particularly when she compares and contrasts the lives and societies of talking animals and legendary creatures with our own. And hey, talking animals! Okay, so I’m a little biased.

She self-published her latest book, Asphodel, less than a month ago. It’s a bit hard to describe in a few words, other than to sqy that I think you’ll really like it.

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

JL: Trying to single out my most memorable meal would be pretty much impossible. Why? Because both my parents were talented cooks who loved to experiment in the kitchen. They passed on their love for cooking to me, and I brought that love with me when I moved to New Mexico to live with Roger Zelazny back in 1994.


When Roger and I moved in together, he was already suffering the effects of the cancer that would kill him not quite a year later. He’d lost a lot of weight – not a great thing for a man who started out rail-thin. He also had a fair amount of anemia. My natural reaction to this was to roll up my sleeves and start cooking. What I never anticipated was that Roger would decide that learning more about cooking could be fun.

Before I moved to New Mexico, Roger tended to eat most of his meals out. In Santa Fe, this is not a hardship. There’s a wide variety of excellent, healthy food. Still… honestly, I’d rather cook than eat out. I don’t remember what we started making: steaks and green veggies to deal with the anemia, certainly. Roger remembered having had steaks with bacon around the edges, so we figured out how to attach thick strips from the deli with toothpicks.

Then, one day, probably on one of our trips, we dined at a restaurant that bragged on its crepes. I had some but was underwhelmed. Sure they were good, but they didn’t match up to the delicate Russian version we called “Baba’s pancakes” that my dad made us for breakfast almost every weekend.

Through Wolf's Eyes

I offered to make some at home. Roger was fascinated. Before long, he wanted to give cooking them a try. Once he had learned the trick of getting the batter to spread evenly yet paper thin, he decided that nothing would do but learn to flip the crepes. I’d never done this, but soon I was making batter by the bowlful. Side by side at the range in our narrow kitchen, we took turns until both of us could pull it off.
Some we ate fresh out of the pan, but others we filled with chocolate mousse (I make a very good one) or asparagus. It was great. Also, all that fresh dairy, egg, and all put weight back on Roger. At that time, I didn’t realize that this was close to miraculous.

My dad lived in Colorado. Eventually, he drove down to stay with us. In his luggage he brought a bag of Key Limes he’d picked from a tree in my great-uncle Svenn’s garden on a recent visit. Now he and Roger decided they’d make Key Lime pie. Since I’ve never been a fan of the stuff, I left the guys to it and prepared the rest of the meal.

They found a recipe in one of my cookbooks and set to work. Thing is, Key Lime pie is tricky because it relies on how the acid in the limes reacts to the other ingredients to set properly. No matter what they did, it wouldn’t set. Did this beat them? Nope. They carefully placed the pie in the freezer and, when cold did the rest of the job, decided they liked their frozen version better than the original.

Artemis Invaded

They’re both gone now, but in my recipe file, I have a card with John and Roger’s Key Lime pie on it.

Then there was the time that I’d made sixteen bean soup with ham. Roger, very pleased that these things were being made in his own kitchen, offered some to his son Trent and his friend Matt when they dropped by for a visit. I’ll always remember the look on those two teenagers’ faces as they asked, “Are you sure there’s enough?”

Sixteen beans, you see…

These days, I’m lucky to be married to a great guy who enjoys experimenting with cooking. Together we make my family’s traditional recipes for sausage, homemade pasta, his mother’s lemon bars. Right now, Jim has me teaching him how to bake but, even as I appreciate how lucky I am to live with someone who shares my interest in cooking, still I’ll always keep a warm spot for my memories of Roger’s joy as he learned to flip crepes or his pleasure in that frozen Key Lime pie.

Thanks, Jane. My wife and I have fond memories of exploring Santa Fe’s dining options. Just thinking about it has me longing for green chiles.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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: Richard Baker

No Comments » Written on February 5th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Richard Baker

February has begun, which means it’s time to settle into 2018 and get on with it. I’m preparing this post two days earlier than you’re reading it, which means it’s quite possible that I’ve been killed by last night’s riots or celebrations, depending on how the Super Ball went. Though, as I’m not in Philadelphia proper, the odds are pretty good that any chaos won’t reach me (but my DayJob venue may have been burned to the ground). What can I say? Philly’s sportsfans are an exuberant bunch.

From football games I need to segue to role playing games, because this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is none other than Richard Baker. If you grew up playing D&D (or AD&D for those who came along a bit later), then you’ve probably been swept up in his work for Forgotten Realms, Planetscape, Ravenloft, and many other Dungeons & Dragons adventures and source books. Not to mention his work with Alternity and Axis & Allies.

You might think that’s enough, but Rich wasn’t content to stop there. No, he’s also written numerous novels set in the Forgotten Realms universe and beyond. Last November he branched out with an original science fiction novel. Valiant Dust, volume one of his proposed Breaker of Empires series, has been described as an action-packed military SF adventure that combines the best of Horatio Hornblower and Honor Harrington. Right? Got you attention there, didn’t I? So, go read his most memorable meal and than go forth and read this book!

LMS: Welcome, Rich. Assuming you haven’t succumbed to the Superbowl, please talk to me about your most memorable meal.

RB: My most memorable meal? That’s a tough one! I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to partake of many wonderful meals—family celebrations, visits to outstanding restaurants, romantic dates with my wife—but to my surprise choosing a single standout is turning out to be pretty hard. I can’t really point to any brushes with celebrity or greatness at the dinner table. I’m sure that, for some readers, gatherings of Forgotten Realms authors or noted game designers would be considered pretty memorable, but to be honest, most of these folks are friends and colleagues. They’re good company, but I just don’t recall any of these occasions as the sort of once-in-a-lifetime experience you’d expect for your most memorable meal.

So let’s try a different kind of memorable—say, a disaster. And that definitely suggests a very memorable meal. The place: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The time: the last night of GenCon, 1992 or so. The restaurant: Let’s just say it’s a Chinese restaurant not far from the downtown convention center.

Valiant Dust

GenCon in the early ‘90s was a very busy show for me and my colleagues at TSR, Inc. We routinely worked 12- and 14-hour days to cover everything we knew we needed to do for the show, so by Saturday night we were pretty well punch-drunk from sheer fatigue. Back in those days, our spouses often took a few days off from their own jobs and pitched in to help out—my wife Kim actually helped out with the costume contest for a couple of years, for no other reason than the fact that she was at the show and she was willing to lend a hand.

Anyway, on this particular Saturday night, Kim and I join a large group of friends and co-workers heading out for a late dinner: Thomas Reid and his wife Teresa, David Wise and his wife Sue, and a couple of Thomas’s buddies from back home. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others, because I know our party was at least a dozen or so. My apologies to those I’m overlooking now.

Well, the restaurant is also at the end of their rope. They’ve been swamped by convention crowds for three straight days, they’re running out of popular entrees, their staff is beat too, and they’re tired of loud, obnoxious gamers storming the place in giant parties and staying way past normal dining hours. (Every year it seemed that GenCon ambushed this place; you’d think that after a year or two they would have started to watch the calendar and get ready, but they never did.)

Dinner starts off badly with mixed-up drink orders and several trips back and forth to the kitchen as one by one we learn that something we ordered is no longer available. We’re tired and hungry and really we just want something to eat . . . but instead of being cranky about it, we go through this weird transformation of misery into comedy. Each misplaced drink, each dropped order, just strikes us as funnier and funnier, until we’re laughing out loud at each mistake our servers make or new “we don’t have that now” announcement. It’s like we’re now seeing our dining experience as a brilliantly performed parody of a bad meal in a Chinese restaurant, and it strikes us as hilarious. I know, it sounds kind of callous now, but like I said, we’re silly with fatigue and we just don’t care anymore.

Prince of Ravens

At one point, Thomas’s friend Jerry tells an absolutely hilarious story about his experience living in Alaska. It goes like this: one cold winter morning Jerry and his family wake up, look outside, and notice that their swing set is missing—gone altogether. Puzzled, they bundle up and go outside to investigate. There’s no sign of the swing set, but drag marks in the snow lead off into the woods. They follow the tracks, wondering who in the hell would drag off a backyard swing set, and half a mile on they encounter a bull moose with the whole damned swing set entangled in its antlers. A moose just walked off with their swing set, because they live in Alaska and stuff like that just happens there. Well, we all think this is pretty funny, and we have a great laugh about it.

Then dinner is served.

I have no idea what I ordered, but I can tell you what Dave Wise got. He ordered the Volcano Chicken with Lava Sauce. None of us, not even Dave, have any idea what this will turn out to be, so we’re all watching with some interest. The waiter sets before Dave a wooden plank with a big metal spike on it—and on the spike is impaled a whole roast chicken, butt-end down, headless neck up. If you were a medieval warlord trying to scare other chickens away from your lands, that’s exactly how you would display a chicken as a gruesome warning to the rest of its feathered kind. Well, we all think this is about the funniest thing we’ve ever seen. (Punch-drunk with fatigue, remember?)

Then the waiter upends a bottle of brandy over the chicken, and the mystery of the Lava Sauce is revealed. This is some sort of chicken flambé! Well, you don’t usually see that in Chinese restaurants, but why the hell not? The only problem is that the waiter doesn’t have any matches or a lighter handy. He pats through every pocket he has, then wanders off to find something with which to set fire to the chicken. The whole time, the brandy is continuing to soak into the chicken. Minutes later, he finally returns, and ignites the chicken.

It goes up like a bonfire.

The Last Mythal

Seriously, flames two feet tall leap from the impaled poultry on the wooden plank (which fortunately had been removed to a serving tray beside the table, and not left sitting directly in front of Dave Wise). I think the waiter might have lost his eyebrows, but I couldn’t say for sure because I didn’t really make an effort to study his eyebrows for later comparison before the whole presentation began. Needless to say, this is hilarious to us, and we’re just about falling out of our chairs with laughter. And the best part is that the waiter has no idea how to extinguish the Volcano Chicken, because once you let the brandy soak into whatever you’re trying to flambé, it’s not just going to burn off the surface—you’ve made the chicken itself into a fuel source for the fire.

I think the waiter picked up the serving tray, flaming chicken and all, and hurried back into the kitchen to deal with the problem there. Amazingly enough, he brought the now very crisped chicken back to the table and served it to Dave anyway. Dave reported that it was the booziest dish he’d ever eaten and not really edible, which I suppose is about what you’d expect from this whole poultry auto-da-fé. But I’m sure that heretical chickens throughout Wisconsin got the message loud and clear, and watched their step after that.

Great food, no. Scintillating conversation or glamorous company, not really. Memorable? Hell yes.

Thanks, Rich. Though, I think you should have known you were tempting fate ordering something called “Volcano Chicken” during a gaming convention. This is why we have saving throws!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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.