Eating Authors: Gustavo Bondoni

1 Comment » Written on November 19th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Gustavo Bondoni

Over the weekend I did my third of the four conventions I’d scheduled for this month — and if I ever post here about my intention to do that many events in one month, please shoot me. This was the shortest of them, as I only popped in for Saturday, mostly to socialize with old friends.

It did get me thinking though, about the author community and the many wonderful and talented people I’ve gotten to meet, both in person and virtually. And in this short holiday week (if you’re in the U.S.), it’s a nice reminder of how much I have to be thankful for.

Which is as fine a segue into this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest as I could ask for, as I’ve known Gustavo Bondoni for ages, ever since our paths first crossed when we were both selling short stories to various anthologies from Hadley Rille Books. That’s not so surprising though, because he’s an insanely prolific short story writer and a regular on the anthology circuit.

Gustavo was born in Argentina, but spent a chunk of his childhood in the U.S. (with a stopover in Switzerland) before returning. He considers himself one of the few Argentinian authors publishing primarily in English. I can only hope that his work is also available locally in Spanish. It would be a shame if it weren’t.

LMS: Welcome, Gustavo. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

GB: I’m from Argentina, so I’ve been a part of many epic meals involving large chunks of animals roasting on nearby spits, but my most memorable meal didn’t take place in the country, but half a world away.

In 2005, Syria was one of the most peaceful places one could visit. I was in the south of the country in a city called Bosra near the Jordanian border because there is a brilliantly preserved Roman amphitheater there complete with a lot of dust in the parking lot and a guy with a single camel standing in front of the amphitheater and offering rides for a few dollars.

he Malakiad

But that wasn’t the part of the trip that stood out most. Since this was a work trip, we actually drove north from Bosra to meet with the food supply manager at a military camp who, it turned out, didn’t have time to meet us. This meant that, by lunchtime, my contact and I were free to do as we pleased. My contact in this case was the general manager of the distributor who worked with us, and he was a middle-aged Syrian who well and truly knew his way around the country.

He said he was going to take me to a restaurant that I would like. I nodded. The man had proven time and again that he knew the kind of food I liked.

We took an empty two-lane running through an empty-looking landscape. On the way there, he pointed to the right, to the east. “Over there,” he said, “is the UN.”

“The UN?”

“Blue Helmets.”


“Oh.” He was referring to the UN peacekeeping force. I didn’t know they were in Syria.

“Beyond the UN is the Israeli Army. On the other side of the road,” he pointed west, “is the Syrian Army.”

Ah, we were driving past the Israeli border. Nice. It looked like any road in any arid countryside anywhere, not a place where CNN would have mounted its cameras if there was a heat-up, but, just out of sight, to the left and right, were three armies, all on reasonably high alert. If WWIII started on that day, I hoped any ordnance would fly over the road…

As usual, he was correct about the food. The place he took me to was a semi-abandoned concrete structure by a pond at the end of a wooded road in the middle of nowhere. Literally in the middle of nowhere, as there was not one other structure visible when we parked our minivan. I have no clue how that restaurant could have survived; most people in Syria didn’t drive in 2005.

We walked up the steps onto a tiled terrace where a couple of long plastic-covered tables had been set up, and sat at one of them. I sat right next to the railing and looked down into the pond, which was maybe fifty yards in diameter.


The meal consisted of the typical Syrian salad of chopped vegetables followed by fish, fried and delicious. I had a couple of them. To this day I have absolutely no idea what kind of fish they were, but when the meal ended, my contact urged me to throw a piece of the bread off the balcony and into the pond a couple of stories below.

As soon as the first chunk of bread hit the water, it was snapped up by a fish that looked suspiciously like the ones I’d just consumed. Delightful, and a sign that it was probably the freshest meat I’d ever eaten in my entire life. The fish were probably alive ten minutes before landing on my plate. We spent a peaceful couple of hours talking about life and tossing bread into the pond on a warm, sunny afternoon. With the length of the drive back to Damascus, there was no point in hurrying as we would get back after closing hours.

Every time I see images of the current war in Syria, I’m transported back to that place on that day… a peaceful interlude in the middle of a powder keg.

I’m not likely to forget it.

Thanks, Gustavo. Now I’m going to be haunted not only by the question of how that restaureant stayed in business, but how those fish even got to that pond in the first place!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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