Eating Authors: Jim Meeks-Johnson

No Comments » Written on June 3rd, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Jim Meeks-Johnson

In theory, I have returned successfully from being a GoH at APSFcon and staying on for a few days to explore Beijing. It’s only a theory because I’m using the internet as my personal time machine to write this post in advance because I anticipate being swamped when I get home (not to mention severely jetlagged).

Speaking of time machines (he said, segue-ishly), I’ve been reflecting on certain events in my past, among them the two weeks I spent at 10,000 feet under the tutelage of Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress as part of the 2010 Taos Toolbox masterclass. In addition to teaching me the value of hydration at high altitudes, that workshop gave me the skills of plotting and storytelling that made it possible for me to write Barsk and I’ll be forever grateful.

Which is why that as soon as I learned that another graduate of the Toolbox had just published his first novel my immediate reaction was to invite him to EATING AUTHORS. Please say hello to Jim Meeks-Johnson. He lives in Indianapolis, and as I’ll be there next month for the annual KLI conference, maybe I can lure him over to learn a little Klingon.

Like so many of us, Jim got sucked into reading SF courtesy of the works of Robert A. Heinlein. He’s used his degrees in psychology and mathematics to write software for medical research and for the past decade has been taking curious ideas from contemporary science to spin SF short stories. About five weeks ago he released Enemy Immortal, and if you like ten-ton blobs, immortal aliens, equine dance communication, sapient plantlife with laser vision, or superpowered heroes with their own rock band, then this is the novel you’ve been waiting for.

LMS: Welcome, Jim. Congratulations on your first novel. Let’s celebrate by you telling me about your most memorable meal.

JMJ: I like to travel and try new food. I’ve had many great dishes–from Fettuccine ai Frutti di Mare in Venice, to Cowboy Beans at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, to fresh-from-the-oven Crème Brule at Binkley’s in Indianapolis—but the best meal I’ve ever had? Nothing has ever surpassed Thanksgiving dinner on my grandparents’ Iowa farm.

Looking back, I can see that the preparation for Thanksgiving began before the snow thawed in March, when seed catalogs flooded the mail and farmers selected the varieties of each vegetable most loved by their family. Spring, summer, and fall, they watered and weeded the garden until the vegetables were picked at peak ripeness and canned the same day.

Enemy Immortal

Grandpa raised chickens, pigs, and cattle mostly, but he would fatten a turkey or two every year. And on Thanksgiving morning their house was rich with the steamy, mouth-watering goodness of roasting turkey and homemade sage dressing.

After everyone sang the doxology together, we sat down, and grandma sliced the juicy turkey and distributed it according to everyone’s preference–light or dark meat. I chose the dark. It always seemed to me to have more flavor and a smoother texture than the breast, and I was more likely to get a generous portion of the crispy brown skin.

The vegetables were from the garden outside. Heirloom gardeners understand more than most of us how much difference in flavor the variety of potatoes, corn, and green beans makes. The mashed potatoes were served lumpy, hearty, and flavorful, with a dollop of cream and butter from the cows in the barn stirred in. The gravy from the turkey drippings had a delightful roast turkey flavor. Acorn squash baked golden brown with butter and brown sugar was mashed and served beside the potatoes.

The salad consisted of the old Midwestern favorite, 7-layer Jello. The medley of colors and flavors was fun, as was the contrasting flavor and texture of the alternating transparent and creamy layers. Even more though, I loved the tart, crispy deliciousness of limed pickles, a rare treat because they were labor intensive even for our clan, requiring multiple baths of pickling solution.

Dessert was pumpkin pie, of course, with a heady clove smell and topped with plenty of homemade whipped cream from the cows outside.

I suspect all great chefs know this, but a lot of the goodness in food comes from selecting the perfect ingredients. Nothing beats great farm food prepared simply.

Thanks, Jim. Thanksgiving on the farm sounds like the perfect meal. Well, maybe not for the turkeys, but maybe they got to sample some practice pies before the big day.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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