The 2014 Hugo ballot came out over the weekend and there is much hooplah in the streets of our genre right now. Congratulations to the many fine people who were nominated; I’m looking forward to seeing you in London. But that’s months away, and we need to focus on more immediate concerns, such as this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest!
Like me, Daryl Gregory was born in that city that led Carl Sandberg to wax poetic about its many aspects, and thus doom thousands of junior high students to painful memorization (I’m talking about Chicago here, in case that was too obscure or bizarre a reference). Unlike me, his parents didn’t haul him west. I’m sure there are other differences too.
And unlike some writers who find they can work at only one length or format, Daryl writes novels and short stories, comic books and graphic novels, and he does them all well. His first novel, Pandemonium, won the Crawford Award, and was short-listed for the World Fantasy Award, the Mythopoeic Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award.
Daryl’s latest novel, Afterparty, hits bookstores everywhere tomorrow. Go buy a copy, because there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing it on next year’s Hugo list!
LMS: Welcome, Daryl, thanks for coming by. Now, would you tell us about the best meal you can remember?
DG: The best meal I’ve ever had was composed of equal parts love, youth, and poverty.
It was 1987, and I was twenty-two years old. Kathy and I had just married. We were living in East Lansing, Michigan, in a U-shaped apartment about the size of two bowling alley lanes. Kathy was in grad school at Michigan State, and I was commuting 40 minutes each way to teach high school in the small town of East Jackson.
The next year I’d go to the Clarion Writers Workshop, six weeks that would make this dream of being a writer seem a lot more possible. But in ’87 I talked about writing a lot more than I did any of it. I was only teaching half time, which was supposed to leave half a day for writing, but it took all day to prepare lesson plans and stay one chapter ahead of my English students. In the afternoons and at night I was the advisor for student council and the director of the school play. Kath’s schedule was much crazier than mine.
We were also stone broke. Kath’s stipend and my half-time, first-year teacher’s salary were barely enough to pay the rent and keep our crappy cars running. When we ran out of cash, we’d eat popcorn for dinner. Our big splurge every week was to go down to the Peanut Barrel tavern for burgers and beer. So it was a big deal when we decided to blow a chunk of our budget on a weekend visit to Toronto, a few hours’ drive away.
Then one of Kathy’s fellow students, an older woman who had a house and kids and everything, gave us an amazing wedding gift: A Canadian hundred dollar bill, in ridiculous colors. She told us to spend it all at a restaurant she recommended, the Bangkok Garden.
I’d never been to Toronto. I’d never eaten Thai. And now I was going to eat Thai in Toronto with my wife.
I loved the city. The streets were humming with strange languages, the air alive with the steam of food carts. Yet it was easy navigate, and we never felt unsafe. It was like finding a slice of Europe in the middle of Wisconsin.
I still remember sitting at that table in the darkened restaurant, feeling a bit like a kid who’d snuck into a theater. We ordered strange appetizers. One of the items was Chicken Satay, and that first taste of peanut sauce was amazing. I’d grown up on peanut butter and jelly, but no one had told me about this.
I don’t remember exactly what else we ate that night. A couple different kinds of curry. A pad thai. Something with shrimp. We even bought dessert. Then at the end we handed over our hundred dollar bill with its ridiculous colors and walked into the night.
I’ve since eaten a lot of Thai food, some of it excellent. I’ve also eaten in some world-class restaurants—Emeril’s in New Orleans, Alan Wong’s in Honolulu. I’ve had dessert and coffee in Austria at the same café that Mozart lounged in. I’ve had a hot slice in New York at 3AM after a drunken night at the Nebula Awards.
But I’ve never had a better meal. We were young and broke and in love, and the world was opening before our eyes.
Thanks, Daryl. I think you’ve hit upon one of the secrets of the universe: meals purchased with weird, foreign currency just taste better!
Next Monday: Another author and another meal!
Tags: Eating Authors