Eating Authors: Michelle Lowery Combs

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Michelle Lowery Combs

Here at EATING AUTHORS we like to make a point of featuring the most memorable meals not only of the super famous, multi award-winning authors that you’ve loved for years and years, but also the newcomers as well. Those authors who have just had their first novel published and show the bright potential to be that next generation of writers that will go on to become your absolute favorite. It’s in that spirit that I welcome this week’s guest, Michelle Lowery Combs, a self-described book blogger whose new YA novel, Heir to the Lamp, debuted last month from World Weaver Press. It’s the first book in a promised series called the Genie Chronicles, and rather than wallow in the more obvious jokes about “three wishes” and “lamp rubbing” let’s move on instead to the question of the week!

LMS: Welcome, Michelle. Tell me about your most memorable meal, if you please.

MLC: I consider myself to be energetic and adventurous. So when my mother suggested that I take my five children on a Caribbean cruise—without benefit of reinforcement from my husband, who was unable to travel—I said, “Why not?” My parents would be there, after all, so the chances of me losing any of the little beasties at sea couldn’t be that great. Right?

It was as I struggled to pack no less than forty-two pairs of underwear— and the many other essentials I would need while traveling with my progeny for a week—into the mere three suitcases I’d been allotted by the cruise line that my mother excitedly gave me the news. “I’ve booked us for the Formal Dining every evening!”

I paused, fists full of Fruit of the Looms clinched tightly. “Why in God’s name would you do that?” The woman had seen my brood at a dinner table, and it wasn’t a sight known to stoke an appetite. They ate like a tiny pack of ravenous wolves, devouring their food in haste and gnashing their sharp little teeth at anyone who came too near their portion of the kill. “I thought it would be nice for the children. The linens and crystal and china in the ship’s dining room are so lovely, and they’ll be able to experience dishes they’ve only ever see on television.”

I imagined the hideous rubber place mats I’d been serving my kids their meals of hotdogs and macaroni and cheese on for years in a failed attempt to protect the wood finish of my dining table. “They’ll throw us overboard, Mother,” I said, slumping to my bed beside a small mountain of swim masks and snorkels.

For perhaps the first time in my life, my mother agreed that maybe I had some clue as to what I was talking about. “We’ll practice. We’ll eat at some of the best places in town this week before the trip.”

Heir to the Lamp

It was a decent plan, made possible by my mother’s generosity when she offered to pay for the meals. Eating out with five children—three of whom don’t even qualify for the kids’ menu discounts anymore—is an expensive endeavor and the Biggest reason my family eats at home as opposed to restaurants, nice or otherwise. Besides, after shelling out Big Bucks for a cruise for six, I didn’t exactly have an additional week’s worth of fine dining in my budget.

We started with a quaint Tuscan grille that served up delicious plates of safe and familiar spaghetti with real linen napkins and glass water goblets. It wasn’t pretty. More than once I wished to melt into the Italian porcelain under our table where so many fat meatballs rolled around after having been knocked from their mounds of noodles by my heathens.

Two nights later we sat at a swankier place, this one with delicate crystal centerpieces illuminated by candlelight. The kids made a big show of not being able to pronounce anything on the leather bound menus written in calligraphy, but they behaved considerably better. I only had to extricate one pudgy little hand from a water goblet. We deemed the evening a moderate success.

We visited another local upscale restaurant before embarkation, and by now most of my children were at least holding their heads up and out of their plates for the majority of the meal. We were out of time but reasonably ready…or so I thought.

We sampled many savory culinary delights on our cruise to the Bahamas: Baked Alaska, lobster bisque, fillet mignon and the like. I tried very hard to appreciate the experience for what it was for my children, an adventure into the kind of meals and plating they’d only ever seen on episodes of Top Chef and other cooking shows. I mastered the art of communicating with them across the elegant table in subtle ways. Get that spoon off your nose—now! No, you can’t order one of every desert on the menu. Spit that snail out at this table and I will kill you. I learned to say all this and more with my eyes so as not to be the screaming lunatic in the dining room every evening—w e were stared at enough what with my eight-year-old son insisting on tucking the end of the table cloth into the neck of his starch collared shirt to protect the very first silk tie he’d ever owned.

We returned from the Caribbean sun-kissed and relaxed, some of us with better table manners, our practice meals and the main events themselves by far our most memorable meals to date. We’ve since put away the rubber place mats and cut back on the hotdog suppers, too. We’ve graduated to table cloths and silverware and finally resemble a human family when we gather at mealtimes.

Thanks, Michelle. Going on a cruise with five kids and no spousal support… you’re clearly the bravest author we’ve had on the blog.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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