Eating Authors: Gregory A. Wilson

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Gregory A. Wilson

Regardless of what’s been happening outside your door, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere (and I do) then this past weekend marked the autumnal equinox and the start of a new season. So, welcome to the first Fall installment of Eating Authors, 2012 edition.

Our author today is Gregory A. Wilson, an English Professor in New York City, bravely attempting to teach creative writing and literature at the undergraduate level. In addition to his genre fiction he’s also been known to pen plays and academic texts, but as both of those are a bit outside the scope of this particular blog, I’m going to point you toward his first novel instead, a book entitled The Third Sign.

When not writing novels, Gregory is working the other side of the street as co-host of the popular podcast Speculate! – the Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans (along with fellow author Bradley P. Beaulieu who recalled a meal with us back on May 7th of this year). Maybe after you read about Gregory’s fondly remembered meal you’ll give a click and a listen, or run out and get his book. Because, you won’t just be supporting him, you’ll be helping New York freshmen learn to write!

LMS: Welcome, Greg. So tell me, is there a particular meal that sticks out in your memory?

GAW: I’ve always been a restaurant kid. My mother was a good cook with a number of great meals to her credit, like a phenomenal turkey tetrazzini casserole and a spectacular combination of ground beef, vegetables and spices so ubiquitous at family gatherings it became known only as “food.” Despite that, I’ve always enjoyed the adventure of trying a new place and discovering a new favorite dish, taking in the different environments, and even just people-watching, all without having to clean dishes afterwards. But I’m probably going against the grain a bit by saying that although I’ve been lucky enough to eat at a couple of super-fancy restaurants–like The Herb Garden in Washington or Per Se in New York, neither one on my (would have been thousands of!) dimes–none of those meals, or places, match one specific restaurant in my memory.

Friendly’s.

The Third Sign

I know, I know–that’s a chain, it’s ordinary American food, the place went bankrupt and barely survived a couple of years ago, etc., etc. I wouldn’t argue that Friendly’s is a gourmet paradise. But one of the fondest memories of my childhood was going to Friendly’s after school with my father, probably a little less than once a week. We always ordered the same thing: a chocolate Fribble (milkshake) for me, black coffee for my dad, a Fishamajig and Big Beef (fish sandwich and hamburger respectively, for those not up on Friendly’s lingo) which we split. And then we’d stay there for a couple of hours, me doing homework as my father graded papers from his college classes, chatting about what had happened to me that day in school, laughing or gnashing our teeth at something happening in politics, talking about sports, making plans for the summer. The food was mostly forgettable, but to this day I can’t order a fish sandwich without thinking about my father. And the first time I walked into a Friendly’s after my father had been killed in a car accident, only a couple of weeks after we had made our usual pilgrimage to one near my graduate school, I’m not sorry to admit that I cried.

Traditions like this have a way of taking on an almost mythic quality after they’ve passed into history. No doubt there was nothing particularly special about a weekly visit to an ordinary restaurant chain. But my four year old daughter and I are starting to establish our own routine at the local coffee shop now, where we go once a week to sit, enjoy a piece of coffee cake, and talk.

Normal and ordinary as it is, I’d like to think it’s something she’ll remember many years from now, when she’s asked to think about food or her father. I’d like to think it grounded her as it did me, gave her a foundation of memory as it did mine; and that every time she sees that coffee shop, she’ll remember what’s been lost and gained as she’s grown older and (a little) wiser.

Most of all, I’d like to think it mattered as much as Friendly’s, and those conversations with my father, did to me.

Thanks, Greg. I’ll never look at another Friendly’s without wistfully thinking about somewhere a parent spending quality time with a child.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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