Eating Authors: Jaine Fenn

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Jaine Fenn

Welcome to the first Monday of 2014. As EATING AUTHORS moves into the new year, Jaine Fenn has joined us, bringing with her as harrowing a tale of memorable meals as has ever graced this blog.

I’ll admit that part of my delight in having Jaine here is that she studied linguistics during her university days (also astronomy, but don’t distract me). She’s a British author who began writing as a child — age seven as she tells it — and never looked back. She graduated into fandom before becoming a professional writer, publishing her first novel, Principles of Angels, in 2008. That marks the debut of her Hidden Empire series, which saw its sixth book, Queen of Nowhere, appear in January of last year. She’s also quite adept at shorter fiction, and you’ll find her collection, Downside Girls, well worth your time as well.

LMS: Welcome, Jaine, and Happy New Year! Now, let’s get right to the soggy tale of your most memorable meal.

JF: It’s said that nothing sharpens the appetite like a brush with death. I like my food, and when our host was kind enough to ask me to blog about my most memorable meal my initial thought was ‘but which one? There have been so many.’

Queen of Nowhere

Then I remembered the river-surfing-and-sushi incident.

Back in 2005 I went round the world with my husband. It was the gap year (well four months) we never had, and we enjoyed some amazing experiences. Several of them were in Queenstown, New Zealand, which is the mad sports capital of the world relocated to a quiet corner of Middle Earth. On one day we split up: he went gravity-biking while I tried river-surfing, which is like white-water rafting without the raft. You have a body-board and a wetsuit and, on this occasion, an instructor mad enough to take his charges out after a solid day of rain had raised the level of the river to dangerous levels.

Downside Girls

At first I was having too much fun to be scared. I shot through the Pillars of the Kings (well, the gorge CGI’ed into the Argonath) on the crest of a wave. But when we reached the final 800 yard stretch I began to have my doubts. This part of the river was normally ‘type 4 rapids’ where ‘type 5 rapids’ is your actual waterfall. And it had been raining non-stop for the last twenty-four hours.

I just about managed until the dog-leg halfway down, at which point I got caught in a vertical eddy. Suddenly I was under water with no idea where my board, or ‘up’, was. Oddly, I was more annoyed than afraid, at least until I broke the surface and realised I had to breathe right now, before the current pulled me under again. Rinse and repeat, as they say. Then someone had hold of my arm and was shouting in my ear and now I was panicking because if I didn’t do as the instructor said – ‘Swim now if you want to live!’ – then I really was going to die.

Principles of Angels

Which, patently, I didn’t. When I finally crawled ashore, the minibus drove me back to town in a state of shock. Here, I met my husband for dinner. He too had come face-to-face with his mortality on a narrow track high up in the innocuously named but lethal Skippers Canyon.

By now it had sunk in that I wasn’t dead. I had nearly died but I wasn’t dead. This is not a high I recommend seeking out, but once felt you won’t forget it. And unexpectedly not being dead certainly gives you a lust for life. Which in our case meant going into one of the many excellent Japanese restaurants in Queenstown and ordering their ‘special’, a sharing plate (for 2 to 4) piled high with nigiri, sushimi, seared tuna, and various other seafood delicacies. It tasted amazing, every mouthful an affirmation of how wonderful it was to be alive. We ate the lot. Then we ordered extra sushi.

Thanks, Jaine. I have to say, I’m a big fan of sushi as well. I don’t think I’m quite willing to almost die for it though.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

author photo by James Cooke

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