Eating Authors: David Walton

No Comments » Written on March 18th, 2013 by
Categories: Plugs
David Walton

If you’re reading this on the Monday morning that it posted, understand that I may well still be asleep, recovering from a weekend away from home at a convention. I mention this because this week’s guest on EATING AUTHORS, David Walton, was also there. Now, that’s not so extraordinary, plenty of authors were present at this convention. But the thing is, David resides in the next town over from me, maybe all of five miles away, and though we’ve corresponded and hung out in the same online community for years, it required a trip of more than a hundred miles to put us face to face.

David is a native of Pennsylvania and nicely illustrates the traditional lifecycle of a science fiction writer, by which I mean he began as a short story writer (he won the second annual Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Contest with “Letting Go”) and has moved on to producing novels (his first, Terminal Mind won the Philip K. Dick Award). Which bring us up to date because his second novel, Quintessence comes out tomorrow from Tor Books. David’s a colorful fellow, as you’re about to find out.

LMS: Welcome, David. Are you ready to share some thoughts on your most memorable meal?

DW: It’s amazing how the appearance of a meal can affect its flavor. A variety of fresh colors, beautifully arranged, can actually make food taste better. My mother-in-law is particularly good at this. She selects dishes not just by how they taste together, but by how they complement each other visually on the table. As this story will show, however, this principle also works in reverse.

The memorable meal that comes to my mind was not memorable because of how tasty it was; rather the reverse. The setting was a bachelors party for a friend of mine who was soon to be married. I was not the best man, so I was not ultimately responsible, but I was involved in the preparations. We probably should have just ordered pizza, but unfortunately, we had what we thought was a better idea.

My friend had a quirky sense of humor, one that appreciated things that were just a little bit off. We decided to cook a nice meal (to the extent that we single men could manage it), following the recipes assiduously except for a single additional ingredient: food coloring. We added a tremendous amount of reds, greens, blues, and yellows in order to make each dish a bright, and decidedly wrong, color. The drinks were all a neon green. Applesauce? Crimson. Crescent rolls? Purple. The main course was fish inside a braided crust… dyed a vivid orange.

Terminal Mind
Juego Mortal

The meal turned out as brilliantly gaudy as we had hoped. The guest of honor was surprised and amused. When we sat down to eat, however, we discovered something we hadn’t anticipated. We couldn’t eat it.

There was nothing wrong with the food, mind you. We weren’t the most accomplished of cooks, but it was simple enough fare, and we had followed the directions properly. Nothing was burned. It tasted fine.

The problem was the color. The multiple hues were so ghastly that it overturned all of the usual cues to our brains that this was something edible. With every bite, the appearance of the food suggested something entirely different than what we actually tasted, making the flavor seem suspect. It was like taking a drink of what you think is a glass of Coke and finding that it’s milk instead. It tastes disgusting, not because there’s anything wrong with the milk, but because if it was supposed to be Coke, there was something very wrong with it indeed.

Most of us managed to choke the meal down, but we learned our lesson. You can’t change how a dish looks and expect it to taste the same.

Thanks, David. I think this goes right up there with the old adage about judging a book by its cover.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!


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