Eating Authors: Gregory Frost

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Gregory Frost

Welcome to another Monday morning session where I ask authors about their favorite meals. Not a bad way to start the week, all things considered.

Today our guest is Gregory Frost. I’ve had the great good fortune to know (and learn from) Greg for years, back when we were both members of The Nameless, a Philadelphia-area writers’ group, and more recently at the first annual In My Pants workshop here in Blue Bell, PA. And I’m not alone in benefiting from his insight. He’s been a repeat instructor at the legendary Clarion workshop, as well as Odyssey. His fiction has been nominated for every major award that the fields of Science Fiction and Fantasy have to offer. And when not writing brilliant, literary genre fiction (and no, that’s not an oxymoron) he directs a fiction writing workshop at Swarthmore College.

Gregory Frost’s latest story, “The Dingus”, opens the anthology, Supernatural Noir (edited by Ellen Datlow). His Shadowbridge duology (Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet) was voted one of the best fantasy novels of the year by the American Library Association. And of course, I’m happy to have shared a Table of Contents with him in The Stories in Between.

LMS: Greg, I know you appreciate a fine meal. What’s the best you’ve ever had?

GF: The best meal I have ever eaten took place in July of 1979 at an Indian restaurant in Salisbury, England. I had a perfectly spiced lamb vindaloo, and buttery pooris, a soothing raeta to offset the hot curry, and beer. Oh, yes, most excellent porter and ale. It is possibly the finest Indian restaurant in the world, and I wish I could remember its name, but alas that information is gone. But allow me to explain why I consider this the finest restaurant in the world.

It was my first visit ever to the U.K. I’d arrived at Heathrow early in the morning days before after a near-sleepless flight over, linked up with my friend, Patrick Crowley, reassembled my bicycle out of its shipping carton, and set off. We swept down through Staines and headed south. I think I was riding on auto-pilot that day, but near dusk we pulled in at a tavern in the middle of somewhere, and ate a wonderful meal, and drank bitter, followed by some serious cider. Camped in the woods, where something huge and invisible crashed around our tent at 3 a.m. (And let me tell you, in movies when they show people running through the woods at night and we can see everything? Total tosh. Real woods on a moonless night where there are no streetlights is like a cave 5 miles under the earth. Stumbling correctly presents a challenge.

Shadowbridge
Lord Tophet
Supernatural Noir

Now, we had paused that first day to shop for food in a hiking & camping store in some city center–don’t ask me which one. That part of the brain sailed off with the cider. As we were going to be camping at lot, we bought a number of packets of Raven Food.

Raven Food can be categorized as an “all-in-one-meal” brick made of freeze-dried laminate mixed with ostensible rice, which you dumped in a pan of boiling water over a cooking stove, simmered until done, and ate. “Done,” it turned out, was really an abstraction.

I’d cooked camping meals in the states while cycling. What neither Pat nor I knew was that the Raven variety was intended to kill you. Seasoned bits of real objects poured over a bed of gravel disguised as rice. If we’d dropped it into the core of a nuclear reactor it would have plunged straight through to the center of the earth. And still not have been soft enough to chew.

So you see, after three days of something like 60 mile rides, and two nights of eating a meal of very small rocks, whatever restaurant I came to in Salisbury that didn’t serve Raven Food was going to be by default the greatest restaurant in the world.

That it turned out to be a superb Indian restaurant on top of that is what makes me believe it was the best meal I ever ate. I’ve been trying to cook comparable vindaloos ever since. That quest continues.

Thanks, Greg. A noble quest indeed. And if you ever find yourself needing someone to fill the role of Sancho Panza, feel free to invite me over for dinner.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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