Eating Authors: Forrest Aguirre

No Comments » Written on January 21st, 2013 by
Categories: Plugs
Forrest Aguirre

By the time this week’s installment of EATING AUTHORS automagically posts to this blog I should be safely returned from what the glory that surely was Immortal Confusion. In the interests of saving some bucks, my flight will have taken me the long way home from Detroit, and with luck I’ll actually get to sleep about 1am.

None of which is Forrest Aguirre‘s fault, but someone should take the blame and as implied above, I’m probably asleep. In addition to being inappropriately scapegoated with my convention travel, Forrest is a past winner of the World Fantasy Award for his editing of Leviathan Three (which also earned him a Philip K. Dick Award nomination). Not content to win prestigious awards for editing, the man also writes, committing fiction both short (as evidenced by his collection Fugue XXIX) and long (check out the novel Swans Over the Moon). At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before he decides he wants his own small press too.

LMS: Welcome, Forrest. Sorry about blaming you for my travel woes. Will you let me make it up to you by asking about your most memorable meal?

FA: I’m an unashamed foodie. This makes for some difficult calculus when I have to throw my limited income up against the many wonderful opportunities made available in my city, Madison, Wisconsin, to partake in all of its foodly goodness. To make matters worse, my wife is a high school foods teacher, with all sorts of connections to local chefs. Thus we are happily compelled to spend more than we ought in order to *ahem* support the community.

One more bit of trivia: I’m an Air Force brat. I was born in Germany and was, over the course of my childhood, exposed to many different cuisines. My tongue has tasted a wide range of food the world over. Again, Madison has a surprising variety of international foods and some menus that are truly unique.

Enter Muramoto, my favorite restaurant in Madison. Muramoto prepares what has been called “Asian Fusion,” a jazzy mixture of traditional Japanese cuisine and American zest, along with your “typical” sashimi and nigiri. For example, Muramoto is well known for the “Duck Roll,” a sort of sushi roll made of duck breast rolled around mango and avocado and drizzled with a duck soy reduction (say that five times fast). The food is truly amazing.

But my most memorable meal ever was only partially due to the menu. Mostly it was due to my friend, Jim, and his wife, Cat, with whom we went to dinner at Muramoto one night. They had brought another friend with them (for the life of me I can’t remember her name) and my wife and I joined them on a beautiful summer night. This wasn’t our first time at Muramoto – we kind of knew what to expect – but it was our first time at Muramoto with Jim and Cat, which provided the intangibles we couldn’t expect.

Muramoto has since moved from its original location, but when we went there that night, one long wall was lined with what seemed to be a single bench, maybe 40′ long. Small, square tables were set out from the bench with chairs facing opposite. My wife and I took the chairs, Jim, Cat, and friend took the bench. We started right off by ordering the duck rolls, which came quickly, and half a dozen other plates such as spicy-peanut yellowtail, seared pork loin, and curried lamb ribs, among others. As we waited for the waiter to bring our food, a pair of women sat at the table next to us. They were obviously out-of-towners, from their thick southern accents and the way they shivered after coming in from the not-very-cold-for-Wisconsin autumn night. Not long after they sat down, the duck rolls arrived.

Jim, being the most outgoing of the group, asked where these ladies were from. They were business people who had traveled from Atlanta, Georgia. They had received a recommendation from their hotel clerk to come to Muramoto. Good call, hotel clerk!

Leviathan Three
Fugue XXIX
Swans Over the Moon

These ladies were obviously unfamiliar with the menu, but were game to try something new. They were discussing the many choices between themselves, but couldn’t seem to come to consensus as to what they should order. So Jim, being the gentle, yet outgoing person that he is, picked up a slice of duck roll with his chopsticks and said: “Here, try this!” Upon which he fed one of the women straight from his own plate. Her eyes got big, like she couldn’t believe she had actually just eaten this food off of a stranger’s plate, then she just melted. “Mmmmm!” She tried to talk, but couldn’t – too busy chewing. After swallowing she said, in her (very cool) drawl, “That’s really good!”

Then her friend said: “Wait, now that you’ve had that, you’re going to have to order something different!” They were on some kind of quest to try new tastes, it seemed.

By this time, the other dishes had started arriving at our table. It only took a few seconds before we were feeding our neighbors with our own chopsticks, they, eating like little birds, we, carefully pinching the food between our utensils so as not to create a mess. The waiter, amused by our sharing, proceeded to take the couple’s order, assuring them that “everything on the menu is good”. So they ordered several dishes that we had not with the intent to share with us as we had with them.

Before too long, they were feeding us back. There were moments when we had to dodge each others’ arms as we fed each other. It was as if a bunch of Iron Chef fans had inadvertently stumbled onto the set of Caligula. A kind of food-enthusiast orgy.

Then, in walked a mother and daughter (we later learned) visiting from Houston. How could they avoid being caught up in our tentacular morass (well, there was squid involved, after all)? Soon, they were enmeshed in the same game, with us and our new friends from Atlanta feeding our new friends from Houston, and our new Houstonians feeding both of us.

I looked over my shoulder at the Chef, expecting to get an uneasy glance or that “should I really let people do this at my restaurant? What if the city food inspector walks in?” sort of look.

I was wrong. He was laughing. Laughing out loud and chopping away at the cutting board. I think he was having almost as much fun as we were. I think I might have seen tears in his eyes, and he wasn’t chopping onions.

Our nine-headed monster then decided that each table should order a different desert sampler so that we could all trade food to everyone’s satisfaction. After getting more than my share of black sesame ice cream, strawberry spring rolls, and honey ginger ice cream, I was completely satisfied, body and soul, with a new-found hope in the sharing of great food as the last, best hope for humanity.

I shall never, ever forget that night or that meal. It is one of my, no pun intended, sweetest memories.

Thanks, Forrest. I think you’ve hit on something, possibly a new religious order that will bring about the redemption of all mankind. It’s certainly worth a shot, if for no other reason than so we can all get some honey ginger ice cream!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!


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