Eating Authors: Patrice Sarath

1 Comment » Written on March 21st, 2016 by
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Patrice Sarath

More and more it seems to me that, as I write the introductions for each week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, I’m doing so from the road. That impression is particularly strong today because I recently had dinner with Patrice Sarath a few week’s ago when I was in Dallas, Texas, and because I’m writing this from a hotel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Then again, it could all be a side effect of a bit of altitude sickness. Who can say?

But let’s shift focus to more important things, and talk about Patrice. In addition to being a delightful dining companion, she’s the author of the Books of Gordath (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl) trilogy, with a fourth book planned.

Her most recent novel, The Unexpected Miss Bennet, is a solid jump away from the fantasy elements of Gordath and into the romance genre. It’s a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Taking on such a classic is a pretty daring thing, which probably tells you more about Patrice than I ever could.

LMS: Welcome, Patrice. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

PS: There have been a handful of meals in my life that have been the best food I’ve ever eaten, and all of them could have been the “right” answer to your question. Sure, the meal at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago was fabulous, every bite a revelation in gastronomy. I have never eaten such elegantly prepared, gorgeously presented, originally conceived food in my life.

Gordath Wood

Or maybe it was the single bell pepper, scrawny and shriveled, that I paid the equivalent of six dollars for during my year abroad in Reykjavik. I was a foreign student at the university, surviving on student rations, and I had been eating cod and potatoes for weeks before I happened upon that bell pepper in the grocery store. Now, in America, I hated bell peppers. But when I saw that brave little green veggie, all alone in the bin, all that was forgotten. I fished out the 100 kronur and rushed home with the tiny scrap of green, and ate it in three bites, loving every moment of the bitter-tasting vegetable. I’ve loved bell peppers ever since.

But no — there is only one meal that was the best, most transformative, life-changing meal I’ve ever had.

That would be the bouillabaisse made by Patrick, the Irish French chef, a friend of a friend of a friend, in a tiny country house, on a small farm where the caretaker was my Indian friend’s French boyfriend.

Red Gold Bridge

Lakshmi and I worked briefly together at a business information company and even though she moved on to other things, we stayed friends. Her boyfriend Alain was the caretaker of this small farm outside of Austin, where the owners kept their horses and their rescue animals. There were always goats, ponies, donkeys, chickens, guinea hens, cats, etc., at the farm, and whenever Alain had dinner parties, there were always people of all nationalities. It was a United Nations of conviviality.

It was Lakshmi’s birthday, and Patrick, a chef friend of theirs from Ireland, had taken command of the stove. Just the aroma coming from the kitchen was amazing, and I still had no idea what was in store. So we were all drinking and chatting, and playing petanque, and drinking, and throwing the ball for the dogs, and petting the horses and drinking, and my son, who was two at the time, managed to fall and hurt himself, and I was sitting with him on the sofa trying to soothe his tears, when it was time to eat.

The Crow God's Girl

My husband brought over a bowl of soup for me since I had an injured two-year-old who had exhausted himself into sleep, and I took the first sip.

I don’t even remember anything else. I think I may have inhaled it. Manners be damned, I made sure I got a second bowlful, and tried to savor it this time around. I can’t even describe how good it was.

I’ve had bouillabaisse since then, but it’s never been that good. I’ve tried making it, but there’s always something not quite right. The closest I’ve ever come to getting it to match my memory was this past Christmas, when it came out pretty damn good. But it still wasn’t right, and it will always be impossible to recreate. That’s because the essential ingredients can’t be found in any market.

They are: time; nostalgia; a small boy’s tears; good friends; and a farmhouse under a big Texas sky.

Thanks, Patrice. And yes, I agree, some ingredients just can’t be found at your local market, but hey, isn’t that we we have the internet?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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