Eating Authors: Brooke Bolander

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Brooke Bolander

Regular readers of this blog know that Marco Palmieri was the editor on two of my novels in which elephants were prominently featured, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard and The Moons of Barsk, both at Tor Books. What you probably don’t know is that he was also the editor of Brooke Bolander‘s novelette, The Only Harmless Great Thing, which also happens to feature elephants. Whether or not typecasting exists in the publisher world, it makes a good story and I like imagining that Marco will forever be known as the elephant editor. But, you know, in a good way.

Other than this connection, you’re not likely to mistake me for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Oh, wait, there’s one other thing we have in common. We’re both up for the Nebula for Best Novelette. And much as I’d like to win, if I have to lose I hope it’s to Bo, because, elephants.

If you’re not already familiar with her work, crawl out from whatever rock you’ve been hiding under, because it’s powerful and compelling and raw. Brooke has two previous Nebula nominations, two Hugo nominations, a World Fantasy nom, and a Locus nom. So, yeah, it’s not just my opinion here.

LMS: Welcome, Brooke. Talk to me about your best meal!

BB: The best meal I ever ate was more honestly a series of meals at a restaurant that no longer exists in Dallas, Texas.

Dallas, as you’re probably unaware unless you actually live in Dallas, has one thing and one thing only going for it, and that is a rather amazing food scene. The nightlife is shaky, the museums are sparse, but if you want to drink like it’s still illegal, eat like an epicure, and purge like Roman nobility, spend a week in DFW. I currently live in Brooklyn, and the weirdest thing in the world about it is how lackluster the food seems after spending several years in Texas. I think it has something to do with how fast restaurants have to find their feet here–no room for risks–but that’s a story for another day.

The Only Harmless Great Thing

Our home was located off a stretch of East Dallas known as Lowest Greenville. For a long time nothing much was there. Then a little chain called Trader Joe’s decided to drop its first location about two blocks from our front door, and suddenly the area became restaurant central. Before TJ’s, the biggest food spot on the block was a Taco Cabana. I once saw a cockroach the size of a baby’s foot steadfastly tugging a discarded fry into a crack in the curb by the drive-thru. Anything would’ve been an improvement, but we didn’t get just anything, we got Remedy.

(Note: That Taco Cabana is still there, long after many of the newer joints have folded and moved on. I hope it stays there forever, if only to piss off the neighbors.)

Remedy was, at first glance, your standard “New American” hipster rigamarole. The concept was “upscale soda shop”. Their menu consisted of fancy gin fizzes, fried bologna sandwiches, cheeseburgers, mile-high slices of pie, and grilled cheese sandwiches–only, y’know, done fancy. My eyes rolled as hard as anybody’s. But here’s a rule people like to tout in writing circles that’s just as valid in every other area of life: You should never ever do a thing, unless you can actually do that thing. The rules only apply to you so long as you can’t pull it off.

No Flight Without The Shatter

Remedy did the Thing.

Everything head chef Danyele McPherson put her hand to came out so perfectly executed it made your teeth grind a little. Did bologna sandwiches need perfecting? I would have said hell no, but she made them a thing you would willingly pay twelve bucks for. I have been lucky enough to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants and fancy-schmancy paycheck-munching establishments all over the globe that couldn’t touch this place for consistent quality, inventiveness, and service. The staff became our friends. Every meal was completely satisfying. Do you have any idea how rare that is–that feeling of complete satisfaction after a meal? Let alone a series of meals?

The time came for us to move from Dallas. We were pretty damn happy about it for any number of reasons. One of the few things we mourned having to leave behind was Remedy. I think we hit them up about three times a week for the last three weeks we were there, and half the time the staff was comping items. Like I said, we were pals at this point.

Remedy Sundae

Our last meal there actually came a year or two later. They closed on New Year’s Eve 2016 to “reconceptualize” and we were in town for the holidays and managed to snag brunch on their final morning open. Their brunch, of course, was the kind of menu that only exists in my vivid technicolor dreams. It made the word “brunch” worth every sub-par Brooklyn joint shoveling stale brioche & undercooked omelette onto your plate after a two-hour wait the concept has resulted in. Flavorful fried chicken coated in batter that crunched audibly when you bit into it. Waffles that somehow maintained their structural integrity beneath the weight of those crispy-ass thighs and a stream of maple syrup. Johnnycakes that were less like the sweet corn pancakes many places like to attach that name to and more like thin, creamy slices of toothsome fried grits. Perfectly cooked bacon and eggs. And then there were the ice cream sundaes, which looked as close to the platonic cartoon ideal of a sundae as I’ve ever seen without tipping over into hammy Instagram-ready overkill. We had it all. We hugged the staff. We took photos and swore blood oaths never to forget that a meal like that was possible.

I’m still looking for a place that matches up, five years and a world-class city on. I’m afraid I may be looking for the rest of my life.

Thanks, Brooke. Recollections like this one are cruel — glorious meals from restaurants that only exist in memory, or, if we’re lucky, in an author’s fiction. Get to work on that, okay?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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