Eating Authors: A. M. Dellamonica

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Alyx Dellamonica

Welcome to crazy week. If you have any sense, you’ll steer clear of malls and post offices for the next several days. The internet is your friend this week, and I’m pleased to say that I finished all of my shopping over the weekend and most of it online (though I did have to stand in line Saturday morning to mail one parcel, but I survived to tell the tale).

To ease your weary brow through these trying times of mainstream celebration (both religious and commercial) and visiting relatives (both missed and avoided), I present this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, A. M. Dellmonica, author, photographer, yoga enthusiast, and a survivor of the glories of Clarion West. And did I mention she’s Canadian?

Alyx has written a slew of short stories, including work that resulted in nominations for the Sidewise and Nebula awards. And she’s the author of four novels which can be grouped into two sets. Indigo Springs (which earned her a Sunburst award) and Blue Magic comprise her Astrid Lethewood series, and Child of a Hidden Sea and A Daughter of No Nation (the latter released just three weeks ago) represent the first two books of her Hidden Sea trilogy. Click the links if you’re in need of a last-minute holiday gift!

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

AMD: One New Year’s Eve a few years ago, I had the good fortune to find myself in Naples with my wife (fellow author Kelly Robson). We’d spent a couple weeks in December eating our way through Sicily while taking in the many fantastic ruins, churches, museums, and stunning natural phenomena like the Turkish Steps and Vendicari Nature Reserve and were wrapping up the trip with a quick foray to the edge of Mount Vesuvius before catching our train back to Rome and, from there, heading home to Canada.

A Daughter of No Nation

A good number of businesses were shutting down around about midafternoon, and the narrow streets of the Spanish Quarter were filling up with young people already busily celebrating. Guys who probably lived at home were out on Vespas with their dates, weaving between pedestrians, shouting good wishes.

We had been out to see the ruins of Herculaneum earlier that day, and had a good lunch while we were out. Now, rather than try to find a restaurant on a night when everyone was sure to need a reservation, we had opted to picnic in our room. Earlier in the day we had acquired the basics: salumi, cheese, olives, a crusty baguette, local wine, and flourishes like candied orange peel. Our hostess at the hotel had boiled us a few eggs and we had chocolate from Modica, where we’d spent Christmas. Modica specializes in chocolates made with a crumbly texture that I associate with Aztec-style cocoa products, and we’d got both a sinfully delicious cinammon chocolate and my personal favorite, a mix made with hot chili peppers.

But a quirk of Southern Italy (possibly the north too, but I haven’t been) is that the bakeries there tend to either do bread or dessert, but not both. Despite our adequate chocolate supplies, cookies seemed imperative, too. We had done well with cookies in Sicily; they make a barely sweet, shortbread-crunchy sesame cookie there, and nut based confections that are not only insanely good but which travel incredibly well. Alas, these had run out!

Child of a Hidden Sea

So we were stepping through the streets, which were increasingly a party in progress, the zooming Vespa daters having been joined by a fair number of folks who were standing around toasting (“Buon Anno, Buon Anno!”) and another contingent who were setting off rockets. You can buy really big fireworks in Naples, it turns out. The cap streamers they sell kids look practically military grade, to my eye, and that night there were guys out deploying boxes that looked, at first glance, like a 24-case of beer cans… until you noticed the Wile E. Coyote fuse at the bottom. What these actually were was an entire fireworks show in a box.

Just as we found a woman selling cookies out of a narrow display case that wasn’t quite a food truck, a little clutch of dudes handed us each a glass of champagne before setting off their pyrotechnic show. The box exploded practically at our feet, sending rockets up to barely clear the roofs of the old four-storey walk-ups that formed the walls of the urban canyon. Mini-bikes continued to zoom by, the box jittered on the pavement as it launched rockets. The fireworks exploded overhead and streamed sparks back downward toward the crowd. We toasted, drank our champagne and bought our cookies while the baker scolded the guys enthusiastically for… well, basically for partying in her space while she was trying to extract a last bit of dollar from the tourists before shutting down for 2011.

Indigo Springs

Then, having acquired a perhaps excessive number of cookies — we bought a lot in a ludicrous bid to mollify the baker for having collaborated with her nemeses by accepting their champagne — we dodged our way through the crowd, climbed up to our hotel room, cracked the French doors on the balcony and watched the bacchanal from a comfortable remove. The simplicity of the fare was deliciously romantic just because of where and when we were. Cheese and meat and wine in Italy on New Year’s Eve! It was just like being John Keats, but without that depressing tuberculosis.

The fireworks continued to build in intensity as the night went on, and eventually rockets were going off right outside the French doors. Spent gunpowder, drifting on the breeze, began to create a less-than-romantic haze, redolent of a billion burnt matches, in the room. The only thing to do was shut the doors, toast the New Year with the last of our wine, and turn in with a few of those cookies and an old Western.

Thanks, Alyx. And as fond as I am of a tall glass of cold milk and chocolate chip (with macademia nuts) cookies, the combo of shortbread and sesame seed that you describe sounds like my idea of perfection.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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