Eating Authors: Kristi Charish

1 Comment » Written on February 23rd, 2015 by
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Kristi Charish

If you’re reading this blog then it’s probably safe to assume you have an interest in what’s going on the science fiction and fantasy community, which means you saw the news about the Nebula Awards ballot that went live this past Friday. Accordingly, I’d like to take a moment here to thank everyone who read my novella, Calendrical Regression, and found it worthy of a nomination. This is my third Novella Nebula Nomination for the Amazing Conroy in as many years and I have been grinning like the village idiot for days.

But enough about me, let’s get back to what Monday on this blog is supposed to focus on, namely, authors and what they’ve eaten. Since the beginning, I’ve been fortunate enough to have some pretty “big name authors” drop by to talk about their most memorable meals. That’s always a delight, but perhaps my favorite thing about EATING AUTHORS is that it allows me to shine a light on new writers, authors who have recently seen their first novel get published. Case in point, this week we have Kristi Charish, whose debut book, Owl and the Japanese Circus, came out just last month from Gallery Books (a division of Simon & Schuster).

But make no mistake, Kristi may just be getting started as a published novelist — she already has her Ph.D. in Zoology and has worked as a scientific advisor on Diana Rowland‘s White Trash Zombie series — but the sequel to her first book, entitled Owl and the City of Angels, is scheduled for a January 2016 release. Also, you can expect the debut book in a second urban fantasy series, Kincaid Strange, sometime in the middle of next year. So, whether you want a modern day “Indiana Jane” caught up in a supernatural world, or a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, Kristi is going to be serving up plenty of adventure.

LMS: Welcome, Kristi. I’m always happy to have folks with doctorates drop by, though I think you’re my first Zoologist. Still, you get the same question as everyone else: what’s your most memorable meal?

KC: Perogies.

Prairie perogies to be exact (no, they aren’t related to prairie oysters…and if you don’t know what those are you’d do well to look them up, otherwise it’s dine at your own peril when next you visit the Canadian Prairies. We Canadians do love our sense of humor).

Prairie perogies. A wonderful concoction of cheddar cheese, onion, and potato tucked into a homemade dough like pastry then boiled, fried, and deposited onto my plate by my mother on holiday visits home.

But, for this post, I was asked to come up with a singular example of a meal. I give you (Canadian) Thanksgiving, 2010. Otherwise known as the year my mother attempted to teach me the art of perogie making.

Now, my background is science, and as a scientist I am relatively capable of following directions. But like most scientists, I suffer from a desperate need to improve on the methods laid before me. We collectively refer to it fondly as ‘experimenting’.

My mother calls it ‘ruining’.

The first step in making perogies is to prepare a batch of boiled potatoes. My mother’s recipe involves boiling said potatoes in a pot of water. This was the first instance where I thought my scientific expertise could be used.

Owl and the Japanese Circus

Me: “I have a much better idea. Let’s microwave them. It will take a fraction of the time so we don’t loose half a day!”

My Mother: “…Maybe next time!” delivered cheerfully after a moments pause. (Translation= “Not a fucking chance.” My mother has issues discouraging her children…probably why I ended up a scientist and an author…)

Now clearly, the problem was my mother didn’t appreciate my innovative genius. That’s ok. As a scientist in a family of non-scientists I’m used to this. I’ve learned many a work around (re: the chilli sauce incident of 1990. 2/4 family members swear I improved it. The third didn’t care and the fourth was my mother).

My plan: wake up the next morning early and microwave potatoes while my mother wasn’t looking, thereby demonstrating my potato microwaving innovative genius.

In reality: I woke up to a pot of already boiled potatoes. My mother beat me to it, rising at the crack of dawn. Apparently she was prepared for my innovations…

Next step. Grating the cheese. That I could handle. Grater + block of cheddar cheese + bowl = mess + grated cheese. Though my mother appeared less than confident in the result.

The side glances full of misgivings my mother kept shooting between me and the bowl of perogie filling didn’t escape my notice.

No matter I’d have the chance to redeem myself soon.

Another critical component of a perogie is the dough. A boiled pastry made from floor, eggs, salt, etc. and – possibly the most important ingredient – butter. The traditional way of preparing the dough is too mix all the ingredients together and ‘cut’ the butter in. Cutting butter into dry flour and egg is hard. And it takes a long time. Too long in my opinion. Yet another place for my innovative genius to come into play.

Me: “I know! How about we melt the butter first? By the time it dries I’ll have already mixed it in and saved tons of time!” Now…in my defense this was a perfectly reasonable and sound proposal. At the very least, worth a try.

Mother: “…It won’t work.” Translation: “I actually have no idea whether that will or won’t work, but I’m not letting you turn my Thanksgiving into an experiment.”

“How can you know it won’t work? (I chose to ignore the translation this time, my scientific curiosity winning out). It’s a great idea! Come on, haven’t you ever wanted to try just melting the butter instead of slaving away trying to mix it in by hand? I mean, we have the technology-“

Mother: “No.”

Bowl of dough is removed from my hands and taken across the kitchen. Translation: I’m seriously considering banning you from the kitchen for life. Not just the six months you got for the chilli sauce incident.

I stood there for the next twenty minutes as my mother finished preparing the dough. Slowly. I recall a number of ideas for rolling the dough out but held my tongue. The next few steps progress without incident. The circular cookie cutter is used to cut the dough into circular discs and the filling is placed in neat little balls in the center. Now for the folding.

Now, traditional perogies in my family are much larger than the ones seen in the frozen food grocery store isle. They also have a thick dough fringe around the edge marking where they’ve been sealed together, trapping the delectable filling inside. This always struck me as the simplest part. Place filling in dough disc center, fold dough over, pinch edge together, throw in pot of boiling water like my hapless discarded fruit fly tissue goes into formaldehyde.

Little did I know.

My mother: “You need to pinch the edges…”

Me: “I am pinching the edges. They won’t stick together.”

Mother: “You’re not pinching the dough hard enough-”

Me: “That’s because the filling keeps squirting out the sides! Explain to me how to stop that from happening and I’ll gladly do what you want with the edges.”

Mother: “Maybe I should do it -”

Me: “No!”

…Now, I’ll admit I was getting a bit frustrated by this point. I’m accustomed to working with half a million dollar microscopes and designing highly complex and delicate genetic experiments. I’m not emotionally equipped to be outsmarted by pastry dough.

My total perogies: 2.5. I say 2.5 because the dough boiled off the outside of the third one into a cheese and potato tumor-like mess. The other two weren’t exactly prime species examples but at least they were tasty.

My mother’s total folded perogies: 50. Now, I should note that the dough and pastry filling was forcefully removed from me after my third pirogie folding fail.

Apparently my mother’s encouragement and patience has a limit. That limit is three mangled perogies.

Now, after all this you might ask why I chose this as my best meal ever? For starters it reaffirmed my love of perogies. It also reaffirmed my mother’s suspicions that she never wanted me in the kitchen again — I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing in the long run for my self development as an adult capable of feeding myself but it does alleviate stress in the lead up before holiday dinners as I’m now actively kept away from the kitchen.

And even though I had to eat my perogies right then and there in shame as there was no way in hell my mother was going to let my ‘accidents of nature’ anywhere near the holiday dinning table, with their sour cream and cranberry sauce those mangled disasters reaffirmed my love for a family traditional food even I can’t screw up.

Thanks, Kristi. Sharing this story here feels like a confession. By the power vested in my by this blog, I absolve you of any shame or guilt over your perogie ruination. Also, everyone knows that the ones you have to eat secretly in the kitchen taste better than all the rest!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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One Response to “Eating Authors: Kristi Charish”

In case you haven’t done the followup:  You “cut in” the butter because you want it to be in tiny chunks throughout the dough, the idea being that when you then roll the dough out, these flatten out and make the dough flaky,  If you just melt the butter and mix it in, it gets dispersed uniformly and doesn’t lend the flakiness.

(I have a scientific mind and needed that explained to me before I could relax about it. 🙂 )


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