Eating Authors: Saladin Ahmed

2 comments Written on July 29th, 2011 by
Categories: Plugs

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of asking this year’s Campbell Award Nominees about their favorite meals. Because we ran out of Mondays, we’re sneaking this one in on a Friday. Fortunately, you still have a couple days before ballots are due, assuming you have a membership to this year’s World Science Fiction Convention in Reno, NV.

To wrap things up for us, we have Saladin Ahmed. Saladin is no stranger to being nominated for awards. Last year his short story, “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela,” was a Nebula Award finalist. He’s making the jump from short fiction to novels, and his new book, Throne of the Crescent Moon will be on shelves in February.

Throne of the Crescent Moon Saladin Ahmed The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011

LMS: Okay, Saladin, so what’s your best, most memorable meal?

SA: I suppose my answer here depends on what we mean by ‘memorable meal.’ All-time best-tasting? Most luxurious overall experience? Most traumatizingly, unforgettably unpleasant dinner company? Meal with the most distinct-in-memory circumstances surrounding it?

I had the best piece of beef of my life in a hole-in-the-wall Paris bistro years ago. I spent ten years in New York City and had jaw-dropping hours-long dinner experiences at Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin, Grammercy Tavern, Babbo, and other celebrated restaurants. And from Vigevano, Italy to Taos, New Mexico, I’ve had wonderful wine-soaked meals with other writers, artists, and musicians that I’d pay good money to re-experience.

But when I think about my most memorable meal, it really boils down less to a single meal and more to one restaurant’s versions of two dishes. I grew up blocks from Detroit proper in Dearborn, Michigan, which is equal parts factory town and Arab immigrant enclave. Artery-clogging Midwest meets world-class Mideast here in all sorts of ways, from Big Boy chain restaurants that serve Arabic food to coney dogs made with halal meat. And here, amidst industrial parks and strip clubs, is the original La Shish restaurant. For my money it’s the best Lebanese restaurant in the universe. And when I close my eyes and think “good food,” the aroma of La Shish’s hummus with chicken and their shish tawook are what waft through my olfactory memory. If I went twenty years without tasting these dishes, I’d still recall their mouth-watering scents.

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Thanks, Saladin. I’m feeling completely gobsmacked that you can rattle off some of the best restaurants in NYC and then turn your back on them all and order up some hummus. Hmmm… maybe on the way to next year’s Worldcon, I can stop over in Detroit, catch a cab, and order a combo. Or at the very least, some baklava.

That’s it for our batch of Campbell nominees. In just a few weeks one of them will be wearing a tiara, and the other four will be gathering at the Hugo Losers’ party for some consolation and snacks. Been there, done that, and enjoyed it immensely.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!


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