Eating Authors: Jeremy Finley

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Jeremy Finley

As part of the year winding down, last week I blew out a tire on my new car. When I bought the car a couple months ago, I sprang for the ten-year, bumper-to-bumper package. Alas, this does not cover tires. The whole affair, completely with replacement tire scheduling stupidity, has left me feeling sour. This is not how I want to end the year, which admittedly, has been one of both highs and lows. So instead, I’ll draw your attention to something else that happened last week, the release my novelette “The Rule of Three” in the premiere issue of Future SF. Give it a read; I think you’ll like it.

Segueing now into other things I think you’ll like, allow me to introduce you to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Jeremy Finley. Those of you from the greater Nashville area already know Jeremy, as he’s the chief investigative reporter at the NBC affiliate there. His many accomplishments include eighteen Emmys and Edward R. Murrow awards, a national Headliner award, and two IRE awards. In 2016 the Tennessee Associated Press named him journalist of the year. How this man doesn’t have as wikipedia page I’ll never understand.

And now he’s turned his powers to fiction. His debut novel The Darkest Time of Night was released this past June to rave reviews. The sequel, The Dark Above is already schedule for July.

LMS: Welcome, Jeremy. Tell me about your best meal.

JF: I don’t remember what I ate during the best meal I’ve ever had.

To explain, I have to liken meals to books, and writers and chefs may not appreciate the comparison.

We have multiple bookshelves in our house, all stacked mostly with novels that carry significance. A high percentage have already been read once, and I cling to them, pausing occasionally to look at the spine, the font of the title, the color of the jacket. It was only when my family made our latest move did my wife, Rebecca, who has spent eighteen years hauling books from one house to another, gently suggested, perhaps, it was time to thin the herd.

It should have been easy, as I pride myself in not getting attached to physical objects, not houses, not furniture, not cars. The parting from the books, though, was like ripping off a band-aid each time a novel went into the library donation pile.

The Darkest Time of Night

“But you’ve already read them,” my wife mentioned, certainly fighting the urge to smack me on the back of the head with the three volume collection of Michael Crichton’s novels that weighs more than she does.

What I didn’t explain was that I know exactly how I feel about the book, but not much else.

Which is how I feel about meals. Nashville, the city in which we’ve lived in for fifteen years, has become a foodie town, so much that restaurants pop up like musicians on open mic nights trying to score a record deal. Even after we sample them, even if I truly enjoy the food, I don’t remember what I ate. It drives Rebecca nuts, as her brain is wired to remember exact details of most things (translation: she’s much smarter).

“How can you not remember that delicious chicken we ate at the 404 Kitchen?” she’d ask.

I’d probably just stupidly grin, thinking that I definitely recall how you can sit on the front patio of the restaurant and watch the bachelorette parties cruise by on party barges screaming at people on the street. I remember laughing with her, and how the towering office buildings and condos capture the kind of constant breeze reminiscent of downtown New York or Chicago.

Like books, I remember how the restaurants made me feel. I love to eat out, just like I love to read. I do both as often as I can. But it’s the details I’m hazy about. I will talk for hours about my love for certain books, but unless I’ve re-read them several times, the names of characters, major plot twists and developments, are foggy. It honestly bugs me, as I want to be able to rattle off the fine details of the work that a writer has toiled so repeatedly over. Just as I want to remember the spices, the seasonings, the presentation of the meals, a lingering homage to the chef’s work.

The Dark Above

I do wonder if, in these extremely tense and volatile times of ours, that when we have a great experience, and we are so relieved and thrilled to find something that brings us joy that we become so deeply entrenched and we let our minds relax. For that moment, all we know is that what we’re eating or reading is really, really good.

Which is why I don’t recall a single detail about the food during the meal that I believe was the best I ever had.

But I de remember the place, and the cooks, and the people who gathered. How my wife was nine months pregnant with our first daughter, and our doctor didn’t want us to travel to go home to Illinois for Thanksgiving. With no family in town, our friends down the street invited us into their home.

We lived in East Nashville at the time, a neighborhood filled with baristas with curled mustaches in skinny jeans; where people smoke and drink wine by candlelight on their front porches, held aloft by 100 year old Victorian pillars in desperate need of painting.

It’s the kind of urban image completed that the Thanksgiving invitation was from a lesbian couple universally adored on our street. From the moment we entered, there was laughter and booze and the smell of turkey. We sat at their large dining room table, next to our neighbors with their young son who repeatedly rested his head on our shared fence to discuss Star Wars trivia. Our British friends, from a few streets over, regaled us with stories of their favorite horror movies to watch on Christmas.

I do wish I remember the food, but it’s OK that I don’t. I actually don’t need to. I just know that afterwards, I was full, I was content, and I was happy.

Which is exactly how I felt in the completion of certain books, why they remain on my bookshelf, and in dark times of uncertainty, I can walk by them, see their titles, and briefly remember how it feels to be truly nourished.

Thanks, Jeremy. I understand completely, and I’m much the same way. A fine meal, like a fine book, is the very definition of feeling replete for me. But yes, it’s hard, particularly when one’s wife is a chef and friends are all authors.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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