Eating Authors: Kate Pickford

No Comments » Written on November 23rd, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs

It was a wonderfully busy weekend spent reconnecting with members of the author community. On Saturday I had three panels and a reading at Philcon, and Sunday saw me recording a panel for the folks at Con-Tinual. Somewhere in there I also found time to attend a couple readings performed by friends. It did my heart good to hang with these peeps, even if only virtually.

The aftermath of the successful Kickstarter campaign for the EATING AUTHORS book is going well. By the time you read this I’ll have mailed out all the physical rewards that are due (saving one exception because I’m still waiting for an address) and about half of the virtual stretch goal rewards have also gone out. As for the book itself, it’s complete and currently being proofed for typos, now that the last meal has been added.

Believe it or not, that’s a segue into this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest because Kate Pickford provides the book’s one hundredth meal!

I believe I’ve mentioned her (both directly and indirectly) over the last couple of months because she was the editor, instigator, and driving force behind the charitable Hellcats anthology (two massive print volumes or one nearly endless ebook).

But here’s the thing: up until quite recently, you’ve never seen her name because she’s been writing under a pseudonym. Fortunately, I have Kate’s permission to blow the lid off that secret and reveal (for those that didn’t already know) that she is also JJ Pike, co-author of the fabulously successful Melt series of post-apocalyptic survival books. How successful? Well, as of this writing, Kate was finishing up her work on book #10.

Kate describes herself as a displaced Briton writing for an American audience. Not only is she returning to writing under her own name, but she’s back to writing science fiction. Maybe all those post-apocalyptic books and the current global pandemic started to blur and she needed to shift gears. Either way, it’s really nice to see the result.

LMS: Welcome, Kate. Talk to me about your most memorable meal, please.

KP: My wife, Ginger, and I have always written together. By 1998 our award-winning film career was going so well, I took a job on Wall Street. I know, a writer’s dream come true. In fact, the job was at a strange boutique hedge fund which hired people with “smarts” rather than “a proven track record.”

The CEO of this burgeoning hedge fund believed there was an arbitrage opportunity in hiring Liberal Arts Graduates who would otherwise be earning pennies in a publishing house or 501(c)3. He wasn’t wrong. When my mother heard what I was making she gasped then muttered (low enough that I had to strain, but loud enough to be heard), “Your father never made that much money…”

Yes, women’s lib, mother. I guess that swung right by you in the swinging sixties, along with Rock and Roll and the Hippies.


But, I digress.

My new boss, a self-made billionaire, offered “a 40-hour work week and the opportunity to do as you please in the balance of your time.”

Sounded like I’d be able to write, right?


Turns out being an overachiever who likes getting gold stars on her chart is “not good” for a career in the arts. To say nothing of the fact that my wife developed an “adult onset temporal lobe seizure disorder” which episodically robbed her of language.

The first attack left her prone outside the international terminal at JFK, with no pulse to speak of and an ambulance crew who were visibly panicking. She was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital in Queens. Word to the wise, never go there; the woman who was strapped to the bed-board next to her bled out and died while we were waiting for a doctor.

During my wife’s three-day stay at St. Mary the Immaculate, the billing department rang her bedside three times. The specialist didn’t appear until her final day in the hospital. Test, test, test. Life has now changed. This seizure disorder meant two things:

1) I needed the health insurance my “day job” paid and
2) Making films had to be temporarily halted. You can’t direct if you can’t talk. Actors are fussy that way.

But that’s another story for another day. The upshot was, I was making oodles of money which meant we could eat like kings.

And we did.

There was the seven-course truffle meal at Jean-Georges. (Meh. We’re peasants. Our palates weren’t sophisticated enough for this $300+ plate meal.)

Then there was steak so tender it cut like butter at Peter Luger’s.

We enjoyed romantic, candlelit dinners on the East River, with views of the Manhattan skyline from DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Trust me, it’s more romantic than it sounds.

There was authentic crispy Peking duck in Chinatown, slammed down on your table just as it has been in Beijing.

Little Italy offered up pasta like mama used to make. (Not my mother, you understand. She hated to cook. But someone’s mother.)

And the food carts that roamed the streets had some of the tastiest crepes, burritos, Philly sandwiches you’ve ever tasted. New York isn’t just a melting pot, it’s a yummy-scrummy pot of world cuisine.


But the capper for us was Nobu, the Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine which was the brainchild of Matsuhisa Nobu (funded by none other than Robert DeNiro).

Japanese cuisine had a special place in our hearts. Long before marriage equality, Ginger and I had LIVED IN SIN (add an evil cackle here so we’re clear on how much fun sin can be) in Japan. She’s an American, you see, and I am a Briton. I couldn’t live and work in her country and vice versa. We’d gone to the only place we could both land jobs. Five years in Japan had left us with a taste for sushi, ramen, and gyoza.

But there was another call on our loyalty. Although Ginger was episodically aphasic, she could remember (and write down) Japanese words. Kanji, which makes up part of written language in Japan, is comprized of pictures. These pictographs were stored in a different part of her brain. We were able to communicate, during her wordless spells, in Japanese pictures.

It was a kind of magic.

As was Nobu.

From the initial greeting IRASHAIMASE! to the perfectly presented actor-waiters and the dim hush of the bamboo-like interior, everything about Nobu was perfect.

We invariable treated ourselves to the Matsuhisa signature salad, with its perfect cuts of toro and the daikon-lime dressing, followed by rock shrimp tempura (both the ponzu and the creamy-spicy dressing, please), then our special order: umeshiso-maki, pickled plum puree wrapped in shiso leaves (a kind of Japanese mint), matched with tuna sushi, rice, and a seaweed wrap. It wasn’t on the menu, but it was an abiding favorite of mine, so we talked the maître’d into having a word with the chef.

Late one afternoon, we were sitting at our favorite corner table when a couple were seated two tables from us. The spacing in Nobu is very “Japanese,” so this romantic couple were close. Close enough that we would have been able to hear their conversation. If they had spoken to each other. Which they did not.

Mr. Smooth was on his BlackBerry, while Mizz High-as-a-kite stared at dish after dish while she slammed cocktails. Did I mention it was late afternoon?

I can’t tell you why, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a motion which caused me to turn my head RIGHT as Mizz High projectile vomited all over the table.


Mr. Smooth didn’t even look up.

The maître’d rushed over and covered the reconstituted meal with several napkins, which didn’t stop her recycled cocktails from dripping off the edge of the table.

It was only then that Mr. Smooth looked up and barked, “Duuuuuuuuuuude! What the f**ck!”

Our lovely waiter moved us from our table to another that wasn’t downwind of the lovely couple, but the night was not over.

We were presented with langoustine (one of the most expensive plates on the menu; see earlier comment about our peasant palates) and the restaurant had filled up. A large group, probably businessmen entertaining clients, had taken a 10-person table behind our delightful couple. They studiously ignored the escalating argument Mr. Smooth was having with the maître’d.

Apropos of nothing, Mr. Smooth leapt from his chair, knocking it to the ground, and got up in the maître’d’s face. “I want what we ordered,” he shouted.

“Sir,” said the actor, “If you don’t pay for what you’ve eaten and leave I’m going to dial 911.”

If this had been a film, punches would have been thrown, chairs busted up, perhaps even windows broken. But no one moved a muscle. Instead, all ten of the brave businessmen who were sipping Japanese beer and popping $50 rolls of sushi kept their eyes on their table.

Mizz High was weeping gently into her napkin.

I approached her. Her date was still screaming and beating his chest. “Can I help you to the bathroom?” I asked.

She looked up at me, her eyes limpid pools of grief, and said, “I’m not drunk or anything.”

It was the “or anything” that confirmed what I already knew. The two of them had been snorting coke all afternoon and this meal was supposed to cap off a wild, indulgent day.

I suppose it did. Though, not in the way she’d expected.

Mr. Smooth collected her — grab to the arm, romantic as hell — and left Nobu with his tail between his legs.

We asked for a doggie bag and went home.

I don’t know if Mr. Smooth or Mizz High remember that night, but it’s one for the books as far as I’m concerned. And their bad manners and self-indulgence didn’t deter us from going to Nobu again and again. When you’ve found your favorite foods and, for the first time in your peasant life, you can afford to order without looking at the prices, you bet your ass you’re going back.

Thanks, Kate. I’ve experienced the traditional “dinner and a show” in Japan, where the chef dazzles the diners, but I’m surprised you didn’t have to pay extra for projectile vomiting. But as Pacino (as opposed to DeNiro) tells us, “nothing exceeds like excess.”

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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