Eating Authors: Gwendolyn Clare

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Gwendolyn Clare

My apologies, but as I prepare this week’s EATING AUTHORS post I’m grappling with a fever, chills, aches, cough, mild hallucinations, and the certainty that someone has stuffed ground glass into my throat. So, I’m going to keep this introduction brief.

I’ve said it before and I hope to be get to say many times again, I really like using these blog posts to promote a writer’s first book. Why am I telling you this now? Because Gwendolyn Clare’s debut novel, Ink, Iron, and Glass, comes out tomorrow. It has mad scientists in it, what else could you possibly need to know?

Gwen lives in Central Pennsylvania and possesses a doctorate in Mycology (that’s the study of fungi, in case you weren’t sure). This strikes me as beyond cool (and not just because I recently wrote a story with algae). I’d tell you more about her but, 1) I can barely see to type, and 2) I really want you to get right into her most memorable meal because it is beyond awesome.

LMS: Welcome, Gwen. Talk to me about your most memorable meal.

GC: Since my debut novel takes place in Italy and stars a bunch of mad scientists, here’s an unforgettable meal involving both Italian food and Italian science.

One summer in college, I went on a field course to Italy through the Geophysical Sciences department at my university. We spent the majority of the trip in the Umbria-Marche region of central Italy; our home base was an old villa converted into a field station by an Italian geologist who seemed inordinately fond of yelling “Andiamo!” at American students.

One of our scheduled field trips was to visit a roadcut outside the small town of Gubbio. The strata of sedimentary rock exposed by that roadcut includes the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, when dinosaurs went extinct. While the K-T boundary can be found in places all over the world, this particular inch-thick layer of clay yielded the samples which led rockstar-geologist Walter Alvarez to theorize that an astroid impact killed the dinosaurs.

Ink, Iron, and Glass

So we’re riding in our borrowed vans along the twisty, unlined country roads. We’re excited because we’re giant nerds, and for geologists seeing the Gubbio Layer is a bit like a film afficionado winning passes to visit a historic movie studio — this is where it all happened. We pull over to the side of the road and pile out of the vans only to find that there are people already visiting the site. An older Italian gentleman with a couple of grad students.

The gentleman, we quickly learn, is none other than Walter Alvarez.

He knows our host from the field station, and before any of us Americans can really believe what’s happening, we’re making lunch plans with the dude who discovered how the dinosaurs went extinct. While standing at the historic location that made the discovery possible. So many people have wanted to take a piece of the Gubbio Layer that the exposed rockface is deeply indented above and below the stratum — the sign of scientists and collectors chipping away at it over the years.

For the better portion of midday, we effectively colonize a nearby restaurant, sitting around one long chain of pushed-together tables so Alvarez can regale us with a firsthand account of his now-famous research.

The food itself was probably excellent. (All the food we ate in Italy was excellent. By that time we’d been spoiled by our nightly dinners, which were long multi-course meals served family style with the requisite local wine.) I believe the lunch was pizza, but I wouldn’t swear on it — when you’re at lunch with your hero, you’d hardly notice if they served you sawdust.

Alvarez made scientific discovery sound wonderous — even magical. And the magic of science is what the Ink, Iron, and Glass universe is all about.

Thanks, Gwen. You now tie with Gregory Benford for having the most nerdgasmic meal story in the history of this blog.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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