Eating Authors: J.R.H. Lawless

1 Comment » Written on January 18th, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
J.R.H. Lawless

I’m a bit distracted today, as it’s almost one year since my bone marrow transplant and I’m “celebrating” by having another bone marrow biopsy. I think this is my fifth, and unlike the last three which involved anesthesia, an operating room, and a full surgical team, I’m opting to do it old school in an exam room with just a local and one physician. The whole thing will be quicker, cheaper, and I’ll be able to drive myself home afterwards.

Distraction is good, but it only goes so far, and the real world (or what passes for it) keeps intruding despite my best efforts. Polarization and stupidity, frustration and anger, these are the things that are driving so many people. Me, I’m just trying to stay alive and keep busy. So even though it’s not just the USA that seems on fire, there are certainly other nations that are behaving a bit better.

Which provides my segue and part of why I’m turning to Canada for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, J.R.H. Lawless. Not only is he statistically nicer, living as he does in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces, but as an attorney and Secretary General of a Parliamentary group at the French National Assembly, Lawless (hint: not his real name) seems the prefect person to go to this week as here in the USA we wait to see if we’ll enjoy a peaceful transfer of power or descend into civil war.

Last year he found time away from his legal pursuits to publish both his debut novel and a sequel, the first two volumes in his series The General Buzz, a quirky blend of humorous and dystopian SF. I confess I’m very curious to see where he’s going to take this next, but a starting point of game show participants competing to be labeled as having the world’s worst life is a fresh and compelling beginning.

LMS: Welcome, J.R.H. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

JRHL: I love good food and drink, and a wide variety of it — it shows up more often than I intend in my work. But I didn’t choose the story I’m going to be sharing because of the food itself — even though it was, as you will see, very nice indeed. This meal is one of my most memorable (and the most memorable I feel comfortable sharing) because it took place at the height of my career as a head of a parliamentary group at the French National Assembly, and featured both political tensions and manoeuvres worthy of the Red Wedding, and some of the finest drinks I’ve ever had — and which I’ve drawn on directly to craft some of the drinking my main character shares with the audience in my novels.

Always Greener

As part of my functions as secretary general of the parliamentary group at the Palais Bourbon, the seat of the French National Assembly (and also the birthplace of the terms “left wing” and “right wing”, incidentally), I was expected to attend our yearly “journées parlementaires”, or start-of-year seminar, held by one or another of our MPs, in their corner of France. This one was held deep in the heart of the French Sud-Ouest, in a locale I won’t specify, in the seat of one of our MPs who had taken over from their predecessor, who was now President of the Département, the French equivalent of a county. After a day of workshops, a luncheon cruise down the local canal, and a tour of the ultramodern Département offices including an incredibly proud display of an original Napoleon bust in the President’s office (a local hero), we retired to the literal castle near to the offices, where the Département President received guests.

Now, even though I was always cautious during any function like this, since that was the nature of the job, I was particularly wary that evening. The President in question and the MP who had replaced them at the Assembly were very influential within the party, to say the least, and had actively campaigned against my nomination to secretary general of the group. This had included the aforementioned President, who was no longer an MP, coming to the Assembly to campaign against me, under pretext of needing to visit the Assembly hairdressers, despite being completely bald. The head MP of the group and the others who had backed me were there as well, but a large part of the event would inevitably be either a trap or an exercise in reasserting domination after a phase of rebellion, which I’d been at the heart of. We had a lovely apéro down in the reception room, then the staff invited us up to the dining table for the meal itself.

The Rude Eye of Rebellion

The food was gorgeous Sud Ouest fare — duck confit and magret, basted roast potatoes, amazing deep red wines including beautiful Cahors, my personal favorite, and everything you would expect from the heart of the French South West. That being said, as a vegetarian who refused to compromise my personal principles even in the face of a major culture shock, I had to rely on the goodwill and sympathy of the serving staff, who managed to adapt on the fly and sort out a combination of sides which turned into a lovely vegetarian meal in its own right for me.

But the most memorable bit for me, at the end of a stressful evening of politicking and playing nice with folks who had done everything to get rid of me just a few weeks earlier, was the bottle of fifty-year-old Armagnac they broke out of the castle’s reserves for the occasion, at the end of the meal. I’d had Armagnac before, but not often, and this golden-amber bulb blew all my previous experience of liqueur out of the water.

Thanks, J.R.H. That does sound like a swanky and memorable affair. And though your hosts were playing power games with you, at least they shared the Armagnac. That’s got to count for something.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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One Response to “Eating Authors: J.R.H. Lawless”

Thanks for having me over, Lawrence! I’m happy to chat about Armagnac or anything else readers want to have a virtual chin-wag about! *grin*

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