One of the things I like best about EATING AUTHORS is when I get to introduce you to a new writer, particular when her first novel is just being published. That’s the case with this week’s guest, J. Kathleen Cheney, author of The Golden City, which comes out tomorrow from Roc.
I’m especially happy to have J. here because I had the privilege of publishing her Nebula Award-nominated novella “Iron Shoes” back in 2010. I’m brutal when I’m wearing my editor’s hat, and she completely won me over with her lyrical style. So believe me when I tell you she’s an author you’re going to want to keep your eye on. You can begin by putting her new book on your To Be Read list right now.
LMS: Welcome, J. Ready to share the memory of your best meal?
JKC: The best meal? Since I’m from the border, one would expect me to pick a Mexican feast, and I have to admit, I could eat Mexican food for every meal. Especially tamales… and habañero salsa… and nice thin crispy chips…
But the best meal I ever had would have been determined by the situation.
Back in 2004, my daring husband and I went on a camel safari — a week in the Stony Desert (in the Outback) with a string of camels and other strange people who wanted to spend a week in the desert with camels. Although a few of us could ride the camels, the actual purpose the animals served was to carry the water for the group. The rest of us walked.
They don’t call that place the Stony Desert for nothing. The ground is littered with stones. Not gravel. Stones. Ankle-twisting stones. And it is a desert. On the first day we passed the desiccated carcass of a feral donkey, and we had to hope we didn’t end up the same way. (I mean, seriously, that continent is crawling with nasty things. The donkey had probably been killed by a dingo bite. The dingos carry a bacteria that infects their victims. A single bite, if left unattended, can turn into a life-threatening infection.)
After our first day of walking through this wasteland, our job was to remove all the supplies from the camels, unsaddle them, and then watch them as they ate. That sounds kinda weird, but camels have to be watched while they graze (on yummy eucalyptus!) or they may wander quite a distance from the camp site. When they’d had an hour to eat, we led them back to the camp, hobbled them, and picketed them for the night.
And when we’d finished that chore, the sun had almost set. Our guide and cook, Sam, opened up a canvas bag that had been hanging on one of the saddles and withdrew…oranges. He tossed one to each of us, and I asked whether the orange was for me or the camel. (My camel was named Wally.) Sam suggested we share. We could eat the oranges and give the peels to the camels.
I did so, and it was the best orange I’d ever had.
Not because it was the best orange I’d ever had… but because we were thirsty, footsore, and exhausted. All of us. Those were magical oranges, a communion feast binding campers and camels together into a unified group under the Outback sky. As strange as it sounds, I don’t think I will ever forget sharing a piece of fruit with a camel.
Camels and oranges. Huh. There’s a powerful metaphor there, J. Mind you, I haven’t a clue what it means. Meanwhile, can you pass the tamales, please?
Next Monday: Another author and another meal!
Tags: Eating Authors