Eating Authors: Claire McCague

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Claire McCague

I am recently returned after spending over a week in Kansas City, where I celebrated my 11th wedding anniversary and also ate phenomenal meals at French, Austrian, German, and American fine dining venues, among others. And yes, there was also a night set aside to experience the city’s historic barbeque.

Oh, and I also spent five days of blur that correspond to the 74th World Science Fiction Convention that also happened to be going on in the city at that time. In my experience, the WorldCon is the best example we have of temporal distortion. So many days, so many panels and readings, so many people to meet and hug and shake hands with and speak to for far too short a time. And poof. How did it possibly go by so quickly. I feel I can barely recall any of it.

Well, that’s not quite true. I vividly recall doing a panel with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Claire McCague. The convention had assembled five scientists (four of us had PhDs!), covering the span from geology to rocket science, and we spent the hour answering questions from the audience and solving all of the world’s problems.

Claire’s first novel, The Rosetta Man, came out from EDGE Publishing a year ago. It’s exactly the sort of book you’d expect from a Canadian who produces nanostructured materials by day, works for a university, and plays in a string band. Which is to say, it has a lot of squirrels in it. You’d be nuts not to pick up a copy today.

LMS: Welcome, Claire. Tree-dwelling rodents aside, what’s your most memorable meal?

CM: I have the good fortune to frequently gather with musician friends to play for hours and partake of potluck contributions prepared by skilled cooks and gardeners. However, for my memorable meal, I’ll draw from the science side of my life.

The Rosetta Man

Last fall, I attended a research conference in Belarus—a long flight from the western edge of Canada. The conference banquet was at Traktir na Parkovoy, a log and brick carnivores den with bear skins mounted on either side of the hearth. I was the only member of my research group who’d bought a ticket for the closing event. I walked there through the center of Minsk along the calm Svisloch River. The entrance to the restaurant was hidden in a courtyard up a wide broken staircase. I arrived to find long tables ladened with three tiers of meat. There wasn’t a radish in sight. Plates were decorated with cold-cuts spiraled into rose shapes. There was caviar on quail eggs mounted on little pointed sticks, slices of beef in squares of gelatin, chicken salad, shrimp salad, herring and salmon.

I can’t say the meal was memorable for the camaraderie or the music. I sat in a pocket of language barriers next to an absolutely exhausted Japanese scientist. A nearby Russian graduate student condemned the accordion player (“He’s not even trying.”) There were great volumes of vodka, but little for me, as I knew I’d eventually be walking back to the hotel alone.

Just as I thought I’d eaten as much meat as possible, the lights were dimmed and server after server brought in the main course—more meat, spitted and stacked—illuminated by sparkler cannons! Each platter was rocketing columns of sparks tall enough to dust the ceiling. Twelve points for the pyrotechnics! And embedded in that final, flamed slab of pork, I found one cooked carrot to complete the meal.

Thanks, Claire. Wow, I hope the chef didn’t lose his job for letting that carrot sneak in there.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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