Eating Authors: R. J. Theodore

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Rekka Jay

Back in May during the Nebula Awards Conference, I was sitting in the hospitality suite and chatting with a small press publisher and a couple of her authors. One of them, Rekka Jay, writes under the ambiguous pseudonym of R. J. Theodore.

There was an energy about Rekka that convinced me then and there I had to ask her alter ego to come by EATING AUTHORS and I’m very glad she accepted, not least because I truly believe you need to read her stuff!

Her first novel, Flotsam, came out in March from Parvus Press, and introduces us to the complex world of Periodot. This is my favorite kind of worldbuilding. It’s lush with races and cultures. Also aliens. And alchemy. Did I mention the airships? There’s a kitchen sink in there too, I’m sure, but Rekka makes it all work. Most importantly though, this is not a standalone novel. The second book in the Periodot series, Salvage, is expected in the first quarter of 2019.

LMS: Welcome, R. J. What stands out as your most memorable meal?

RJT: “I don’t like chili,” I told the man who was already my best friend and, years later, would become my husband. That we went on to marry after I could say such a thing is probably a testament to the strength we’d already found in that new relationship. “My mom makes chili for my dad occasionally but it’s just not my thing.”

He looked up from the grocery list he was penning at the kitchen counter. “How does she make it?”

“I don’t know. It has beans and meat and veggies and stuff.” Eloquent as ever.

Flotsam

“Let me make you my chili. Trust me. If you don’t like it, I’ll order you a pizza.”

Jackpot. Challenge accepted. It was less about trusting him than about being certain of my declaration. I looked forward to my imminent Hawaiian pie.

But we never ordered the pizza. He was right. I was twenty years old and learned with some shock that I had missed the point of cooking. I knew it was a special and loving ritual but had developed the misconception that it was about the physical act of providing food for others. It is this, but it is more. Through cooking, my husband expressed who he was and where he came from. Through eating, I learned something about him that words would never encapsulate. It was not only that it was “not my mother’s chili” but that it was his. Not only that he was skilled at preparing food, but what it meant to him to prepare it for me.

This meal was eaten on the couch in our apartment, probably cradled in my lap, legs pretzel-crossed, while a movie played on the TV. A half-opened plastic sleeve of saltines positioned between us on the coffee table. No candlelight or linen napkins, just companionship and paper towels. I went back for a second helping.

The Bantam

I found later when I tried to follow his recipe, my chili does not turn out even remotely like his. I once might have been confused and frustrated by this and disparaged my own skill or comprehension but I could now understand. An individual flavors the dish with as much of who they are as what they put in it. How they chop. How they stir. How long they simmer. Such things and more are the fingerprints of a chef and cannot be forged.

The creation of a meal is a highly personal and artistic act, the modification of a lineage of lives and lessons. After this experience, human connection became, to me, the most important ingredient. One spoonful of chili opened my eyes to look for other people’s experience of the world, right down to the ingredients in and preparation of a recipe.

Thanks, R. J. I have to say, that’s some philosophically powerful chili. Just imagine if he’d made you something like, umm, Beef Wellington?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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