Eating Authors: Laura Anne Gilman

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Laura Anne Gilman

The Eating Authors segment this week is the second visit to this blog from Laura Anne Gilman who joined us back in June of last year for a bit of Q & A. Back then I mentioned that she was the author of two urban fantasy series (the six books of Retrievers, and four more books that make up Paranormal Scene Investigations), the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy, as well as another series under the pseudonym of Anna Leonard. In addition to other projects, she’s adding another pseudonym to her business card, the first of several new mysteries from her begin appearing in November under the name L. A. Kornetsky.

Laura Anne is always working, always busy, always under deadline (or so it seems). So recently, when she wanted to write about one of the supporting characters from the world of her Cosa Nostradamus, and her publisher wanted her to focus her efforts in another direction, she followed the contracts and went to work. Except, that character (let’s call him Danny) wouldn’t leave her alone. Which would be fine, but that’s not the book the publishers wanted, and unasked for books don’t pay the rent. The pragmatics of the situation would have stopped another author. Instead, Laura Anne has embarked on a KickStarter project, leaving the viability of the book in the hands of her many fans. It’s just this kind of audacity that you can always expect from her. Oh, and by the way, there’s still plenty of time for you to click that link and participate in the effort.

LMS: We’ve known each other a while, enjoyed a few meals together. I know firsthand how much you appreciate fine food shared with friends and family, and so it’s probably no surprise that I’ve been eager to get your answer to this question: What’s your most memorable meal?

LAG: Now there’s a question that can make me go silent. The best meal? Ever?

I love food. Not the “nom must eat” aspect, although there’s that, too. I love the cooking of it, the presentation of it, the social aspect of it… I make a point, every trip I take, to find something local, something I haven’t tried before. I drag my friends with me to new – and old, favorite – restaurants, and cook for them as often as I can.

So, really, I could come up with a half-dozen meals that could, for various reasons, qualify as “best” – the food, the presentation, the company – and they’d all be equally valid.
But the meals I keep coming back to, time and again, aren’t the elegant, fabulous meals, with the expensive wines and white-glove service (although several of those rank high on my lists). They’re the meals I’ve had with my family, when we gather together, especially when we’re on vacation. Because I did not come by my love of meals by myself: it was – you should pardon the pun – fed by my surroundings, growing up. And there, you get the sense of discovery, of culinary exploration – and it’s shared.

One of those meals took place in Italy. My parents and I, and my then-husband, were in some small hill town – I can’t even remember the name of the town, only that the restaurant was at the V of two roads, and it looked…unprepossessing. But it was lunchtime, and we were starving, and how bad a meal could you actually, get, in Tuscany? The main requirement was that they not have a “tourist menu” out front, in English. Check.

Flesh and Fire

Hard Magic
Bring It On

So we went in, the four of us, and were seated, and “oh,” my father said. “They have boar on the menu.”

Wild boar ragu, over pappardelle pasta.

I’d never had boar. Neither had my father. It’s not something you come by often, in the US – more often now, but still not common.

My mother and then-husband declined, going with something more familiar. We ordered a bottle of the local red – house reds were a safe bet for a good value – and waited. And I don’t remember any specifics of the conversation, but it was casual, and contented, in the tired-and-happy way that people get on vacation.

And then they brought out our meals, and my first thought was ‘that’s it? That’s all we get?” because it was a small white bowl, with a bed of pasta, and this lump of something brownish in a brown gravy. Unadorned, unappetizing.

And then I shrugged, and picked up my fork, and my dad did the same and…

Oh. My. God. It was sweet and savory and tender as you could imagine, and rich like Midas, and the broad pasta underneath soaked up exactly the right amount of sauce, and gave a starchy firmness to the delicate intensity of the meat.

And that small amount of food? Utterly defeated me. I couldn’t finish it.
(My dad did. His, and what was left of mine. Even now, we stand in awe of his ability to eat All The Things.)

To this day, although I’ve had boar often enough, nothing has ever matched the perfect blend of savory, sweet, and starch, of that meal. The moment of dubious hesitation, then discovery. My dad and I look at each other, every time we see it on the menu, and we smile, remembering…

Okay, now I want you to pay close attention to this, because it’s very important. We can’t ever let Valerie read this blog post, or talk to you about Tuscany. Ever. Do we have a deal?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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