Eating Authors: S.B. Divya

1 Comment » Written on March 1st, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
S.B. Divya

The temperature has warmed up, the snow has turned to rain, and my days of shoveling have likely come to an end this season. A glorious gift created by a fan of my Barsk novels arrived in the mail. I’ve received my second COVID shot. The deadline for Nebula nominations has come and gone and now I’m anxiously waiting to see if I’ve landed on the ballot again. March has come in like a lion on lockdown, and there is a faint promise of spring in the offing. Life is good.

And while we’re all still living in the pandemic world — still not able to enjoy a Chinese buffet or congregate live with colleagues and fans at a convention — we nonetheless find ways to celebrate as best we can, when and where can. For me that means cheering on this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest on the occasion of the release of her first novel tomorrow.

I’ve known S.B. Divya for years, though our paths only cross at conventions. She’s a past Hugo and Nebula finalist. If memory serves, we first connected over academic specialties — she has degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing, which in turn led me to seek out her fiction, and I was blown away. The fact that we share similar views on the Oxford comma was just icing on the authorial cake.

Divya is also co-editor of Escape Pod (alongside with Mur Lafferty). She does amazing things with short stories and her collection, Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse And Other Possible Situations, is available from Hachette India.

She’s the real deal, and the epitome of the science fiction author of the future right here today. Go purchase a copy of Machinehood , because I promise you you’ll be seeing it on award ballots next year!

LMS: Welcome, Divya. What stands out as your favorite and most memorable meal?

SBD: Before I get to describing my favorite meal, let me set it in context. I am married to a serious gourmand. Back in college (we’re both tech nerds who went to Caltech), we bonded by learning to cook together, I out of necessity as a vegetarian in a non-veg friendly dorm, and he out of enthusiasm. Being starving students without much money, we treated ourselves to meals out once a week, usually some hole-in-the-wall place in Pasadena, which lucky for us had (and continues to have) a vibrant food scene. I was exposed to a great variety of cuisines thanks to him and even tried meat for the first time.


After we graduated and got jobs, we expanded both our horizons and our budgets. At some point, many years and many wonderful meals later, my spouse learned about molecular gastronomy. It became his dream to eat at Alinea, a restaurant in Chicago. At the time, we had a young child, and we lived in Southern California. There was no way we were getting to a high-end place like that, so I filed the idea away under “dream/bucket list.”

In 2015, as a newly published author, I decided to attend the Nebula Conference in Chicago. Not only was I interested in this small, professional gathering, but I had several family members to visit in the area. Whenever I traveled for work, my mom would look after my child, and this trip was no exception. That’s when I had the idea to bring my spouse along. He could relax while I was at the conference, and one night, we could finally dine at Alinea, just the two of us. Naturally, he was 100% on board with this plan.

Rum Time

I was a little apprehensive that the restaurant would be very formal and stuffy after learning that they had a dress code. Coming from a “California casual” culture, it didn’t bode well. Luckily, my fears were unfounded. The formality ended at the couture, and the meal itself was a divine gastronomic experience. Dishes were not plated so much as delivered in whimsical fashion — on a slice of tree trunk, or a concrete slab, or in a glass orb — with accessories like flowers and smoked herbs and hunks of hot coal. The staff were relaxed and chatty. We were invited to explore and play with our food. And dessert was an edible balloon that we had to pop — all over our faces! — followed by an edible “painting” on a mat placed over our table.

Since that night, we have tried to recapture the same magic at other restaurants, but none has ever come close. Not only was Alinea’s food delicious, but the way in which it was presented created a magical experience. It hasn’t spoiled us — we still love to eat at local hole-in-the-wall places — but our visit to Alinea has become the gold standard by which we measure every other special dinner.

The restaurant in its original form no longer exists, having been remodeled and reimagined in 2020. In a way, I’m glad. As the old saying goes, “You can’t go back again,” and I’m pretty sure we’d never recapture that same level of joy, one that we’d earned over decades of exploring food together.

Thanks, Divya. What is it about Chicago and the range of incredible and unique restaurants they possess? Any time my travel schedule brings me to that city I have to immediately inform my wife so she can begin the process of booking reservations. There’s still a list of places we long to visit, but which require more than six months lead time to lock in a table. It’s on our list o’ things to do when the world reopens.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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One Response to “Eating Authors: S.B. Divya”

Ooh, I’d love to try Alinea!

I will say it’s been my (very limited) experience, too, that, at restaurants like this, if you are laidback and there to have fun tasting amazing food, the staff ensures that’s the experience you’ll get. 🙂

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