Eating Authors: Eugene C. Myers

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Categories: Plugs
Eugene C. Myers

Forget what you know about March being the month of lions and lambs. Over the last several years, for me, March has been the month of a torrent of mail as hundreds of SFWA members send in their ballots to determine the composition of the organization’s Board. It’s my own fault, mind you, as the volunteer head of the Election Committee. Later today I’ll walk down the driveway to check my mailbox and collect the day’s dozens of sealed ballots. None of them will be opened for weeks yet, but for now talk of SFWA Elections provides an introduction of sorts for today’s EATING AUTHOR guest, E. C. Myers, the exiting Eastern Regional Director of SFWA. I mention this because it tells you a bit about the king of guy Eugene is. When the previous Director had to step down, he stepped up and offered to complete the term of office. So, speaking as a card-carrying SFWA member living in the greater Philadelphia area, thanks, Eugene!

Meanwhile, back to the more traditional matters of this blog feature’s introductions. If you’re not already acquainted with Eugene’s work, you should know that his debut novel, Fair Coin took home last year’s Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (which puts him in a very select club alongside such names as Terry Pratchett and J. K. Rowling). I was present at the banquet when his win was announced, and it was only then that I learned that this author, E. C. Myers, lived in Philadelphia, that he knew all the same local area writers that I knew, and yet I’d never heard of him or met him at any of the local gatherings, readings, or conventions. Doh, did I ever feel stupid!

I’m happy to say that this oversight has since been corrected, and in the year since I’ve had the opportunity to hang out and even dine with Eugene on multiple occasions. And as part of my making up for it, it’s a great pleasure to have him here on the blog.

LMS: Welcome, Eugene. What comes to mind when I ask you to recall your most memorable meal?

ECM: For a writer, I have a terrible memory. I often have to refer to my blogs or search through old e-mails in order to reconstruct a particular sequence of events. Maybe that’s one of the allures of social media: It’s an ongoing documentation of my whereabouts and observations and activities to be revisited far into the future, or next Tuesday. People joke about Tweeting what you had for lunch, but how else will I remember today’s tuna salad on spinach? (The answer: There’s an app for that. I’m logging it into Fitbit.)

So although I love food and might revel in its flavors and presentation in the moment, or appreciate the atmosphere and service at the restaurant, I probably won’t be able to recall the specifics in loving detail long after the meal has served its less glorious but necessary purpose of fueling my body. If I’m lucky, I can tell you I had a 42-ounce steak, garlic mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach and whether I enjoyed them (I almost certainly did!), but in the end, the bill may make the greater impression, especially when I’m paying off my credit card the following month.

Fair Coin

What makes a meal most memorable for me is the experience of having it. I am more likely to think of who I ate with, the occasion we celebrated. Something funny someone said, or an odd thing that happened. Perhaps, I will recall that the pie had the flakiest crust I’ve ever seen, but probably not. I remember my meals as I do many things, in moments: Vine-sized excerpts looping in the theater of the mind, or like snapshots on your phone that you only remember, briefly, while you’re swiping past it in search of another photo entirely. Sometimes these snatches of time seem as hazy as long-forgotten dreams. (You know how some people can recall every bizarre detail of the dream they just had? Yeah, I’m not one of those people either.)

The meals I remember most are first dates and bachelor parties and my 30th birthday dinner (when my friends and I took over a small Thai restaurant in Williamsburg), the teppenyaki restaurant in Jamaica where food was thrown at us, my most recent birthday dinner on a boat in Philadelphia. (The name of this wondrous floating restaurant? Ask my wife. Or Yelp.) One time in Italy, my then-girlfriend and I found a cute little shop where we dined on whole fishes and spaghetti. Another time, we ventured into a restaurant in Astoria, Queens that was essentially in an old woman’s kitchen—it was like paying someone’s grandmother to feed you. And weddings, weddings, weddings… I would have to check the invitations or the bill to tell you what I didn’t eat at my own wedding, but other people’s weddings? They have the best food.

In fact, I think the most memorable meal was at the wedding reception of two of my friends in June 2007. It was a Chinese wedding in a banquet hall in New York’s Chinatown, and I had never experienced anything like it, nor has anything quite compared to it since. Mostly, what I recall is the relentless onslaught of food: course after course of delicious, authentic Chinese dishes. There were at least ten courses, and of course I don’t remember them all, but it was the first time I had abalone, and there were many things I like in large quantities such as pork and scallops and shrimp and chicken. Many of our friends’ Jewish acquaintances were seated at our table, and so we had extra helpings of whatever they couldn’t eat. Darn. The event was all the more special because we were celebrating our friends’ wonderful relationship and future together.

Quantum Coin

This meal also sticks in my memory for another reason. The table was loaded with all the geeks our friends knew, so my wife and I were among our people and we didn’t lack for good conversation. How often does that happen at a wedding? There was one Mundane, however, the hapless date of a hardcore geek I’ll call P, who had, I don’t know, tricked her into thinking he was normal or something. I talked to her for a bit about non-geeky things, in between mouthfuls of food, but eventually it came back around to science fiction. Then this happened:

P: If you live in New York and like science fiction, there’s a radio show you should check out. It’s called Hour of the Wolf.

Me: Oh, yeah. Actually, my writing group was on the show recently doing a live critique.

P: … You’re in Altered Fluid?

Me: Yeah?

P: I have to shake your hand!

He shook my hand.

And that was the first time I felt like some kind of rock star and found out that my writing group had our own fanboys and everything. So there it is: a great meal combined with great company and a memorable experience.

As a side note, if you can get yourself invited to a Chinese wedding, I highly recommend it.

Thanks, Eugene. Please remember to invite me along as your plus one the next time you’re invited to a Chinese wedding. Or, failing that, the next time you plan on eating a 42-oz steak!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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