Eating Authors: E. Catherine Tobler

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E. Catherine Tobler

This week’s guest is E. Catherine Tolber and she occupies a special place in my heart, not because she was a finalist for the Sturgeon Award back in 2013 (she was), but because she bravely accepted the challenge to create a story for an anthology I was publishing. An anthology, I might add, with the gimmick that all the stories began with the same three writing prompts: watermelon, turtle, sex worker.

Having recovered from that experience, she’s gone on to write novels. Her first book, Rings of Anubis was released by Masque Books (a digital imprint of Prime Books) in late July and her second novel, Watermark, comes out tomorrow.

Many writers also know Elise not for her writing, but for her editorial prowess. She’s the senior editor over at Shimmer. So, if you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong end of one of her rejection letters, in addition to her own short fiction, you now have a pair of novels to study to learn how to get it right. And too, her remarks on her most memorable meal may also prove instructive.

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LMS: Welcome, Elise. Tell me about the absolute best, most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten.

ECT: If you live long enough, you get to eat a lot of fabulous things in a lot of fabulous places. I haven’t lived near long enough to have eaten all the fabulous things, but when Lawrence asked me about the best meal I’ve had, it got me to thinking.

Rings of Anubis

Was it the fresh haul of fish (and baby shark? We tossed him back!) friends and I brought from the Gulf of Mexico over the course of a summer afternoon and brought back to the rented beach house for grilling, frying, and boiling? Those crabs were so blue!

Was it my first spread of sushi on a smooth bamboo board, complete with the smallest, orangest fish eggs I had ever seen balanced in a blossom of pickled ginger? I had barely a smidge of wasabi and remember the burn even now. Later adventures with sushi involved pale, raw scallops topped with cherry slices.

Was it salty pink shrimp consumed with gallons of sweet tea consumed in a sweltering Savannah restaurant that became a haven after a long day walking over cobblestones, or was it the sticky-sweet of a pecan praline eaten in an underground shop redolent with butter? Maybe it was the dive bar where friends and I drank gin and tonic and gobbled the only food to be had, nachos running with golden cheese, or the way my neighbor and I once ate a savory pie straight from the pan I’d baked it in, on her couch, in our yoga pants.

The more I pondered, the more I realized it was none of these. It was something from my childhood.

Watermark

I spent many summers at my grandparents’ lake house in Washington State, dangling off the dock with a fishing pole. I wasn’t catching anything exotic–just lake perch (though one summer, my cousin caught something huge that looked like a trout and oh, I wanted to catch one too!)–but the best part came after the long hours spent in the sun fishing.

I gutted the fish on the dock and carried them up to the house. I never had many, three or four tiny perch at the most, and while my grandparents were pretty strict about mealtimes and snacks, it never seemed an issue when someone brought freshly caught fish. My granny always fried them up for me and let me eat them right then and there. No worries about spoiling appetites for dinner; no worries about other grandkids getting jealous. If you caught the fish, granny would fry them up and you’d be allowed to eat them standing barefoot in the kitchen.

That’s probably my best meal. How could it not be?

Thanks, Elise. I’m aching with envy of having a granny fry up some freshly caught fish just for me. It completely pushed the image of the buttery shop out of my head.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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