Eating Authors: Curtis C. Chen

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Curtis C. Chen

As you know, Bob, I joined the SFWA Board of Directors back on July 1st. It’s good work and I’m proud to be a part of the organization. I mention it because this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Curtis C. Chen (陳致宇), just ran unopposed for the position of Secretary, giving him a seat on the Board. He’ll be stepping into some big shoes to fill as he steps into the job currently held by Canadian author and three-time Prix Aurora Award finalist, Susan Forest. But now that I’ve learned about his most memorable meal, I’m especiallylooking forward to working alongside him.

His debut novel,Waypoint Kangaroo, is that wonderful blend of fast-paced spy thriller and smartass science fiction. It came out last year, and you should go read it now because the sequel, Kangaroo Too comes out in June.

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

CCC: In March of 2008, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary with a very fancy dinner at
Chez TJ, a Michelin-starred restaurant in an historic Victorian house in Mountain View, CA. The dinner itself was fantastic, though the specific courses are a bit hazy in my memory. (There was some wine involved. Maybe a lot of wine.) The service was also excellent — we had to send back a scallop dish because my wife has a food sensitivity issue, but the kitchen very quickly whipped up a tasty replacement. And our desserts (multiple courses of them!) were diverse and chocolatey.

But the thing that really made the meal special was what we were celebrating: not just three years of being married, but also two years of planning for the next stage of our lives together, and one month before we began that future.

Waypoint Kangaroo

In 2006, for our first anniversary, we’d taken a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train. There wasn’t much to do for three hours except eat, drink, watch scenery go by, and talk. And we ended up talking about some real big-picture stuff, like what we wanted to do with our lives.

A précis of that conversation:

ME: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I just don’t have the time right now. Maybe when I’m retired and don’t have a day job anymore…

HER: Why wait until retirement? We’ve got well-paying jobs. Maybe we can save up some money and take a few years off. Let’s figure it out!

My wife loves to plan things, and she’s very good at it. After we got home, we sat down and budgeted how much we could afford to sock away every month, how long it would take to accumulate a decent-sized nest egg, and where we could live to stretch those savings the most. We then researched a bunch of cities in the lower 48 states — that’s another blog post — and ended up in our current home near Portland, Oregon, which we love.

Kangaroo Too

I don’t know if we would have had that conversation in 2006 and done all the things that followed if we hadn’t been enjoying a fancy dinner out. Even now, when we’re dining at home, one of us always asks the other: “Table or TV?” Because when we’re stuffing our faces with food, it’s easier to watch something than carry on a conversation. But if we sit together face to face, we don’t just eat; we make time to talk. And that’s always better than passive entertainment. (Unless it’s Orphan Black. OB is dope, yo.)

Back to 2008. Even while enjoying a gourmet meal and celebrating a special occasion, we were still planning. We had yet to pack up our house — after we ran our last puzzle hunt in the Bay Area. We were figuring out the best ways to help our two cats endure a multi-month road trip around the US. (That’s another blog entirely.)

My sister, the family gourmand, thinks about her next meal while eating the current one; my wife and I seem to plan a lot of future adventures while we’re out and about. We recently returned from our twelfth anniversary trip to O’ahu, where (among other things) we spitballed places we might live if we someday decided to split our time between Portland and a warmer locale in the winter. We’re always looking forward to what’s next.

Thanks, Curtis. It’s a little unnerving to me the parallels I’m seeing between our lives. With luck, I’ll get a chance to share them with you (ideally over dinner) so you can be unnerved too.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

author photo by Folly Blaine

#SFWApro

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