Eating Authors: Barbara E. Hill

No Comments » Written on November 30th, 2015 by
Categories: Plugs
Barbara E. Hill

As you read this, we’re less than a month from the release of my novel, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, and my excitement and anxiety levels are at an all time high. This week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Barbara E. Hill appreciates this more than most, because she’s the editor and publisher of my last Amazing Conroy novella, and is likewise overseeing my work on the novella currently in progress. So much so that she insisted I break off working on the novella as focusing on the promotion work for Barsk (blog tours, etc) was a better use of my time and she’d be happy to wait until sometime in 2016 for the next Conroy tale.

It also probably helps that I’ve known Barbara for quite a few years. She was one of the founders of NobleFusion, a writer’s workshop that began in Kansas City. Later, when Barbara moved to the greater Philadelphia area, she established an Eastern Court of this same workshop (luring in not just me, but other authors such as Catherine Petrini, Tim W. Burke, and Arthur Dorrance).

Barbara has been honing her craft for a while now, having studied under the legendary James Gunn, and more recently climbed the mountain to partake of Walter Jon Williams’s master class. She’s currently finishing up the second book in her Erebis series that she began with Song of the Lamkee

LMS: Welcome, Barbara. Are you ready to share your best meal?

BEH: Now that is truly a trick question to ask since my husband is a professionally trained chef who did his externship in Daniel Boulud’s kitchen in NYC, no less. I am a total foodie, of course — it comes with the territory — and it may, in fact, be a requirement called out in the fine print on my marriage certificate.

So. In the interest of marital bliss, I will share my most MEMORABLE meal rather than the BEST meal.

In 2004 I was fortunate enough to attend the Explorer’s Club Annual Dinner as a VIP. It was a black tie event hosted at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

It started with the usual cocktail hour: masses of bejeweled women and tuxedo-clad men gliding elegantly from table to table, their glasses of champagne balanced expertly between their fingers as they ate and chatted with each other. Caterers darted from group to group with massive trays of hors d’oeuvres. Your standard upper-crust New York City gala.

Except that it wasn’t. These were explorers — the real deal. Between them all, they’d been to the summit of Everest, the North Pole, five miles under the ocean. And yes, the moon.

So you can’t just have shrimp cocktail and cheese platters for these folks.

My husband, with a grin akin to a child stuffing his hand into his stocking on Christmas morning, snatched a deep-fried bumblebee off a tray as it passed by and popped it into his mouth. Mesmerized, I watched him eat it. He guided me to a table where the carving chef sliced him a portion of roasted alligator and placed it on his small plate. Every table and tray was filled with exotic foods one could only consider to be explorer’s fare: black widows, roasted ants, tarantulas, and ostrich were some of the crowd’s favorites. We took a pass when the mealworms were offered.

Then the real meal began – the meal of the non-human guests. We were ushered into the Grand Ballroom, an incredible room with three terraces covered in baroque plaster work with gold detailing. It had an enormous domed ceiling easily another two stories high. As VIPs, we were seated at the front of the room, only a few rows from the raised stage where the Guests of Honor sat at their own table. Among them were James Cameron, Chuck Yeager, and Jim Fowler.

Song of the Lamkee

I honestly don’t recall the food we ate with our mouths. My husband assures me it was wonderful for a “plated banquet” but I was feasting my senses on the show. Jim Fowler had brought a cadre of critters that made my mouth water with excitement just to be that close to them. If you know me, you know that I am ALL about the animals.

My eyes devoured the King Cheetah, a magnificent creature who truly sat like a king holding court a scant 4 feet from the edge of the guest table and Chuck Yeager’s plate. Sitting, the cat was nearly 5 feet tall. Lethal, gorgeous, stoic – and hungry. As Jim fed the cheetah cubes of raw meat from the end of an 8-foot long wooden spoon Chuck Yeager slowly backed his chair up. Couldn’t blame him.

I consumed every movement of the Peregrin Falcon as the handler released the bird into the open ballroom filled with over 100 people eating dinner. The Peregrin is the fastest bird in the world and has a steep dive speed of over 200 mph – a speed the human eye cannot track. This small and elegant bird flew swiftly around and around the graceful curve of the ballroom as the handler swung a lure from a rope where he stood on stage. I couldn’t breathe, but never took my eyes off of the falcon. And then he disappeared. The handler had dropped the lure and the hawk was on the ground eating. It was impossible. It was magic.

Then we watched as a Black Bear inhaled the contents of a garbage can filled with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Jim confessed it was the only way to keep him occupied in the kitchen elevator while waiting for his cue to come on stage.

There were more amazing creatures, too numerous to recall – although feel free to ask me about the vulture who could eat faster than any other bird in the world (including other vultures).

But the best course was meeting Jim Fowler. Why Jim and not Chuck Yaeger or James Cameron? If you’ve never seen Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom then you wouldn’t understand. I mean – wow. Wild animals and touching them and being next to them?!?! My dream life. But mostly, it was because Jim and my father had become friends during the days my dad worked for Mutual of Omaha. And then my dad passed away from an aggressive cancer in 2001.

So I devoured every single surprising and fulfilling word Jim told me about my dad and their friendship. It’s really something to see your parent through the eyes of a stranger – someone who only ever saw your dad as someone they admired: an adult, a friend.

I’ve been a vegetarian nearly all my life, so technically I only ate a salad that night. But I left the banquet sated in a way I’ve never been before and I am still warmed and filled by that meal to this day.

Thanks, Barbara. The only thing missing was Matthew Broderick and Marlon Brando.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!


Leave a Reply