Eating Authors: Bud Sparhawk

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If it’s Monday, it must be time to ask another author to reveal his favorite mealtime memory.

In the hot seat this week is Bud Sparhawk. Bud is perhaps best known as a short story author, and is a long time member of the Analog mafia. He’s put out two compilations, Sam Boone: Front to Back and Dancing with Dragons, as well as a novel, Vixen. I’ve had the pleasure to share anthology space with him in Breach the Hull (Bud had two stories in that one book). More recently, he’s been exploring the world of ebook publishing. Bud is also the treasurer of SFWA, having stepped up to serve after doing time as the organization’s Eastern Regional Director. I won’t mention his three Nebula nominations because I don’t want him to get a swelled head.

Vixen AuthorName Dancing with Dragons Breach the Hull

LMS: What’s the story, Bud? Tell us your most memorable meal!

BS: An easy answer. While stationed on Okinawa, Japan, my wife and I signed up for a trip to Hong Kong. One of my daughter’s friends’ father was Chinese translator working for VoA. He scribbled Chinese characters on five numbered index cards and instructed me to give the first to hotel clerk, the second to the taxi driver and the third to the restaurant. The other two cards were to get us back to the hotel. We assembled a coterie of ten companions and presented the first card to the clerk and the second to the taxi driver. The other cabs were to follow us through the dark, narrow, and winding corridors deep within the old city to deposit us at an red door containing only two icons midway along an otherwise deserted “street.”

With some trepidation we heard the hubbub of animated conversation from above and climbed the narrow staircase to emerge in a room whose ceiling was barely six feet high. The place became silent as we entered, every head turning in our direction. We were the only westerners present.

I presented the third card to the host as one of our taller members hit his head on the door frame. The restaurant owner read the card, looked at the group and escorted us to an alcove large enough for all ten of us to comfortably sit on cushions. Almost immediately bottles of beer and kettles of tea were placed before us and, a few moments later, dishes of unfamiliar but tantalizingly aromatic food began filling the table. There were noodle dishes, cranberry colored eggs, meat on skewers, creamy soups, and vegetables that were occasionally recognizable. We ate and ate as more dishes appeared. Everyone in the restaurant peered into the alcove, nodded, and grinned. Some even waved goodbye as the left. Plates and bowls we emptied were refilled. The beer and tea flowed until finally, after what seemed like hours of unrestricted gluttony we waved; “No more, no more,” only to be presented with bowls of oranges and unfamiliar white and red fruits. To this day I do not know what we ate but can still recall the wonderful smell of that food, the friendly ambience of the small restaurant, and those wonderful smiles we had from everyone.

The host, who seemed to assume that I was the leader of this group bowed and presented me with a slip of paper containing lots and lots of Chinese writing and, at the bottom two numbers – the total cost of the huge meal and, separately, the beer. “This can’t be right,” I protested indignantly and pointed at the first number. Misunderstanding, the host recalculated the bill and returned it to me. “The meal’s ten bucks apiece,” I said and immediately translated that into Hong Kong dollars. “The beer is twenty.”

= = = = =

Thanks, Bud. Now, the question I’m sure on everyone’s mind is… what was on those freaking cards???

I’m a huge fan of Chinese cuisine, and this is going to bug me, I just know it.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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