Eating Authors: Sara King

5 comments Written on December 11th, 2017 by
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Sara King

Last week about this time, I was on a plane coming back from Hangzhou, China. It’s one of the longest trips I’ve ever taken, particularly when you factor in that I was only in China for four days. Crazy. But it’s why I’ve selected Sara King to be this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest because the meal she writes about below is predicated on travel to foreign lands and speaks to the expectations one has about food. That, and because I think I may have flown over her house.

Sara, as she’ll be quit to inform you, is from Alaska. She writes SF. She writes Fantasy. She writes Romance. And she does this in a remote part of America where outdoor plumbing, grizzlies, and firearms are all just a part of daily life.

She’s an indie author extraordinaire, with multiple series running, though you most likely know her wrok from her Legend of ZERO series. And if you don’t, well, after reading her meal you’ll want to. Fortunately, I’ve provided some links for you.

LMS: Welcome, Sara. Please share a few words about your most memorable meal.

SK: So I’m pretty much a country bumpkin from Alaska, except maybe a little more uncivilized. (Outhouses, generators, community mail day, bears, Breakup, and honeybuckets anyone?) Alaskans are pretty much the least civilized people in the USA—ask any of my friends in the Lower 48. We’re kind of crazy.

I do, however, really enjoy a good burger. Pretty much like every other American out there, slap a burger on my plate and I’m gonna wolf it down (though mine were often made of moose meat when I was a kid). I’ve probably eaten close to three thousand burgers in my lifetime. McDonald’s was my go-to fast food joint in my youth, mainly because it was the only affordable ‘restaurant’ our town had for about a decade. I’m definitely not saying that McDonalds is the ideal example of burgerdom, but I ate a lot of them because fast food was considered a treat to my lower-middle-class family.

Fast forward 20 years. I was still living in the Bush, Alaska, but we now had internet [read: hamster-powered satellite cup-and-strings], and I was falling madly in love with a Scot that I’d never met in person. I decided to remedy that and fly, alone, from Bush, Alaska to Edinburgh, UK. It was a big step, because the most I’d seen of another country up until that point was traveling through Canada at eighty miles an hour on a road trip. Everything I knew of Scotland I had basically read in romance novels.

Let me tell you right now: Romance novels are wrong.

Alaskan Fire

Before boarding that first international flight, I thought maybe I’d learn that men in Scotland have big calves that they like to show off with a well-placed kilt. Those book covers of Fabio posing with his huge sword and bulging muscles had me picturing all sorts of hunky guys wandering around, showing off for the ladies. Hear me, ladies: romance novel covers are grossly misleading. Grossly. Misleading.

On average, Scots are stick-skinny in skintight tube jeans, with fugly faces ground up from a lifetime of fistfighting and barroom brawls. The slow, sexy Sean Connery accent is a myth—you’ll be lucky if you can understand your cabbie as he’s telling you about his passion for punching asshole Americans in the face in an incomprehensible brogue as he’s weaving the taxi through death-defying stunts on tiny, half-lane roads. About the only enormous, burly Scots you’ll see are the ones dripping with gold, waiting to ambush you in a dark alley or trying to trick you into handing them your cell phone. The mystique of buying handmade ‘Celtic’ silver designs will quickly wear off, once you see that every stand on the entire street is selling the exact same stuff, as are a bunch of sellers on Ebay, direct from India. They don’t tip over there, and when Americans do it, they nod and smile and take your cash and behind your back will give you that pitying look like you’re a little slow in the head. You kind of end up feeling like a rube, the dumb townie that walks into a camp of carnies.

But in the end, despite the false advertising of an entire youth of bad romance novels, it was actually the food that shocked me the most. Sausages are mostly bread inside. Lamb was as cheap as chicken. Most restaurants in Scotland pan-fried their steaks to a nice gray color (imagine my horror). Blood is an acceptable ingredient in Scottish cuisine, and if anything black appears on your plate, it’s probably made of it. Kebabs are a kind of taco sandwich. Chips are homefries. Crisps are potato chips. Bacon is ham, and if you want real bacon, you have to ask for ‘crispy bacon’. Prawns are tiny shrimp. ‘Rocket’ on a menu is a delicious leafy green, not a type of missile. Entrails, when properly boiled in a sheep’s stomach, are delicious. ‘Nachos’ are a can of boiled beans dumped on top of tortilla chips with some cold cheddar cheese grated on top. They use too many forks/knives/spoons for the task at hand. And lemonade is Sprite, and the waiter will look at you funny if you look at them funny and say you wanted lemonade, not Sprite.

It was the burgers, though, that really impressed on me why it is good to live in the USA.

Fortune's Rising

Which brings me back to me arriving in Scotland after my very first trans-Atlantic flight. Imagine my awe, wonder, and general Twilight-Zone feeling when, after having spent my entire life in the land of guns, wilderness, and grizzly bears, I found myself in one of the biggest, most civilized cities in Scotland after a 36-hour international, 3-layover journey. Even before I got out of the airport, I was gaping at everything around me like a hillbilly seeing a big city for the first time—which, of course, didn’t go unnoticed by the UK customs agents. Apparently, a lone woman from the U.S. doesn’t usually travel from Nowhereville, Alaska to Edinburgh, Scotland with absolutely no stamps on her passport, because the gate agent grilled me like I was ferrying drugs. And she, like just about every other Scottish person I was to run across from that point onward, had a multiple-time broken nose and missing, twisted teeth. I couldn’t stop staring. It was pretty obvious she’d spent her life brawling and was proud of it, and was hoping I’d give her the excuse to do the same to me. By the time I got my bags and found my Scot waiting for me, I was pretty damn stressed out. My Scot wanted to know where I wanted to eat. Already aching for a taste of home, I suggested a burger. He gave me a look like I was goddamn crazy and took me to a fancy restaurant, instead.

It became a theme. The first ten times or so I wanted to get a burger, I got pretty much the same reaction. “What are you in the mood for?” “Ooh, how about a burger?!” [Look of pity] “How about lasagna instead? I’ll get you lasagna.” [Orders lasagna for the lady.] “There. You get lasagna. So much better than a burger.” Thus began my saga of trying to find a burger in Scotland. I was there for six weeks. It wasn’t until about a week and a half into my journey that my beau finally relented and let me order a burger. He warned me repeatedly beforehand, however. “Burgers suck. Burgers are disgusting. You Americans are disgusting. I must show you what good food tastes like. Burgers are like vomit on a bun. Only heathens and drunkards eat burgers. Burgers are only fit for dogs. Etc. Etc. Etc.” Of course, as an American, I laughed as the Italian waiter sat a huge, delicious-looking burger in front of me and said something to the effect of, “Pffft. You idiot Scots have no idea what’s good.” Then I took a bite.

I stopped laughing as the unmistakable taste of cat food permeated my mouth. I gagged. I had trouble swallowing. I forced it down, somewhat in shock, as my beau watched with rapt attention. Knowing I was only proving his ridiculous point for him, I thought, “This can’t be right. Surely that was just my sinus infection from my trans-Atlantic flight. Burgers can not be that bad.” So I took another bite.

Cat food. The damn thing tasted like cat food. I actually spat it out this time and sat there, staring at my burger in horror. Of course, my Scot was laughing at me now. “See? They’re horrible. Point made. Eat good food from now on. We’ll train you dumb Americans to appreciate fine cuisine.”

Forging Zero

I’m not sure if I ever acknowledged his glee, because I was still staring at my ‘burger’, dumbstruck. It was everything I could do not to call the waiter over to my table and demand that he taste the burger and tell me if they had cut it with cat food. I decided to find out, right then and there, what the hell was wrong with this country that they could screw up something as simple as a burger. With a little detective work, I discovered that meat in Scotland is often cut with bread or other fillers to make it cheaper. Further, because nobody in an Italian restaurant ever orders a burger, the burger meat perhaps sits around a lot longer than it should. Yay.

I refused to believe this was the norm, however. Thus began my quest to find a good burger, any burger, in Scotland. I started insisting on going to every ‘American’ restaurant available, and must have ordered two dozen burgers in the next five weeks. Every one of them sucked. A lot. They were dry. They were stale. They tasted rancid. They were burned. They had a bready consistency. But, overwhelmingly, they tasted like shit. Much like the majority of Scots’ faces and teeth, they were just totally screwed up.

Now, before I alienate an entire country of people, I married my Scot. He proofread this. He laughed. He agrees. The Scots pick too many fights and have shit for burgers, and American burgers are better. (He literally could not believe that people in Alaska carry guns all the time and we rarely have anyone die of a gunfight until he saw it himself—apparently, the Scots do not have the self-control not to kill each other if given access to firepower, another cultural difference that I found astounding but will not go into here.) How does he know this? I brought him back to Alaska with me and made him swear beforehand that he would try one burger made in the USA before he cemented his opinion that burgers were shit. He agreed, and I fed him a bona-fide handmade burger grilled to perfection—barbecuing is something else the Scots abhor, mainly because they get food poisoning 2 times out of 3, so it was really difficult to get him to agree to eat a grilled burger—and slapped it on his plate with all the fixings.

My Scot is a picky eater, so he started with a tiny bite, pinkies extended in civilized pride, face all scrunched up in Scottish disdain, fully intending to take a single bite, then set it aside and eat something cultured instead, like Italian takeout. He ended up finishing the entire thing, wiping the grease off his face, and asking for another. Now, four years later, burgers are his favorite food here. He hasn’t gotten food poisoning once, despite at least fifty barbecues since.

Thanks, Sara. I’m tempted to ask how you know what cat food tastes like to have made the comparison, but I’m really afraid of the answer.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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5 comments “Eating Authors: Sara King”

Kids eat the strangest things when nobody’s looking…

i lived in europe for a short time,burgers are bad outside of u.s. . great writing,great to read as usual.

Mmm cat food burgers. Reminds me of the time my siblings and I stole the dog treats cuz we were hungry. At least the Scot has been shown the error of his ways.

I have read all of Saras books, and am anxious for her next one.
My favorites were Alaskan Fire and Alaskan Fury. Waiting on Alaskan Fang….
Her sense of humor in her books is real, perfect timing. Her writing stule makes the story go forward at a pace that keeps you reading.
I will force myself to stop reading for a day or too so the story lasts longer, I always get very envolved with her characters….
Can”t say enough…she is my favorite author.

I totally enjoy Sara and her writing. She makes a great burnt pizza. 🙂 I can not wait to see what she writes next. This was great!


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