Eating Authors: Sherwood Smith

1 Comment » Written on May 11th, 2015 by
Categories: Plugs
Sherwood Smith

The EATING AUTHORS blog feature has been running for about three and a half years now. Sometimes, when I reach out to an author everything falls instantly into place. Other times — and this is far and away the more typical situation — the author’s schedule is jammed with commitments, deadlines, travel, and other obligations such that we may spend months playing email tag. And then, once I have the author’s most memorable meal in the can (so to speak), it can be quite the ordeal to find a spot in the calendar to actually post it.

I mention these behind-the-scenes issues because this week’s guest, Sherwood Smith, very graciously provided the following meal back in early February and I’m only getting to sharing it with you now. That’s on me, and I am heartily embarrassed that it’s taken so long to fit it into the schedule. But Sherwood’s a pro, and she understands that despite the best intentions, stuff happens.

And I think you’ll agree that it’s been worth the wait, because Sherwood’s been a finalist for the Nebula Award, as well as the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. She’s co-written books with Andre Norton, written several new books in the tradition and world of Frank Baum’s Oz, published work under three pseudonyms, tried her hand at media tie-in novels, and best of all blown away readers with the many volumes she’s set on the world of Sartorias-deles. If you’re not already familiar with her work, click any of the covers below to immediately correct this oversight!

LMS: Welcome, Sherwood. And again, my apologies for the delays in having you here since I first asked you to tell me about your most memorable meal.

SS: Due to the fact it’s been pretty much non-stop running through the holidays until now, I’ve had a lot of time to think about Lawrence’s question. When you’re over sixty, what do you pick as your most memorable meal? First of all, I decided I’d rule out memorable in the train wreck sense. What are the good memories?

A Stranger to Command

My childhood memories about glorious meals come straight from the intensely felt, uncomplicated hunger of the young. There are also meals shared with sweeties wherein the joy of emotional connection adds its grace note to what might have been a simple home-cooked meal as much as a gourmand’s delight at a fancy restaurant—in both cases, the details of the meals have faded, leaving memories of the people themselves.

In that sense, meals I’ve shared with other writers, often delicious meals, became that much more enjoyable because of the fast wit, the headlong literary explorations, the group commiserations over the grunt labor part of the writing life, the joy of talking shop without fear of boring others. When I think back over many of those, I can’t always recollect what we were eating at any specific meal, though I can recollect portions of conversations.

In all those situations the experience trumps the food, so I had to search my mind for a memory in which the food at least matched the experience, and ah, I finally found it. This was in the mid seventies, when I was in Paris with a friend.

The Emerald Wand of Oz

I had just finished up three years of grad school, waitressing six days a week. Because I hadn’t had a day off between school and the restaurant (in those days we worked double shifts on holidays and liked it, or they’d replace you in a heartbeat), to save my sanity, I had lived off my tips and squirreled away three years of my (minuscule) pay, to blow on this month-long trip to Europe as my reward.

So there we were in Paris during the glorious days of October. After a magnificent day of visiting Cluny and tramping for miles on the streets, we chose an Italian restaurant for an early dinner. The place was less than half full, but the waitpersons ignored us, going to everyone else. That was okay with us—our feet were tired, and we had so much to talk about, an hour flitted by before the waiter finally came around.

Wren to the Rescue

We soon sipped a delicious local red, and then came the meal. I’d ordered ravioli, and what did I get? I have to pause here to admit that though I love to eat I am not much of a cook, and I’ve never managed to get to Italy, so for all I know the ravioli is just as good there, if not better, but what I tasted was what I thought of as Italian food with a French sauce: light, with a hint of wine, a perfect blend of fresh herbs, and of course the tomato. It was so delicious the experience of eating it made me headier than my half-glass of wine.

Something had changed for the waiter—I don’t know what—but suddenly he became friendly, brought us more wine unasked, then recommended dessert after asking what we had seen and done so far in our Paris stay. I don’t remember what I chose of the recommended deserts, but that, too, was excellent.

The experience was so perfect—fine wine shared over multivalent conversation amid Paris’s ineffable charm, then the superlative meal, and capping that the moment of friendly connection. Yes, I can live with that as my most memorable meal!

Thanks, Sherwood. It’s often said that “hunger is the best sauce,” but I think you can make a good case for being happily footsore and having great company being a contender as well.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



One Response to “Eating Authors: Sherwood Smith”

And Sherwood is co-author with Dave Trowbridge of the Exordium series, my all-time favorite (sorry David!), which is currently being reissued in an updated edition though Book View Cafe.

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