Eating Authors: Susan Dennard

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Susan Dennard

I first met this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest last January at the amazing Michigan convention known as ConFusion. Tor Books had arranged a mass signing — some ten authors strong — at a nearby bookstore. I was a part of it, along with folks like Tom Doyle and Cherie Priest, Wesley Chu and John Scalzi. But we quickly discovered that 90% of the hordes of readers and fans who had come out were there for Susan Dennard (most of the remaining 10% were there for Victoria Schwab), all of them armed with copies of one or more volumes from her Something Strange and Deadly series as well as Truthwitch that had come out just days before.

After the signing and back at the convention I had a chance to chat with her and found her to be absolutely delightful. When I got home I read some of her work and found the same spirit and personality came through there too. If you’re not familiar with her books, here’s my endorsement. And if that doesn’t convince you to give her a read, maybe her meal will do the trick.

LMS: Welcome, Susan. Thanks for coming by to share your most memorable meal

SD: The most memorable meal for me was while I was working in the Arctic in March of 2008. This was, to set the stage, during a field work trip for my Masters. While the rest of my team was there for the Greenland sharks, I was working with an Inuit fishery for Greenland halibut, studying the effects of all sorts of different factors (fishing rates, predator-prey density, water temperature, weather conditions, sea depth, etc.) on the fishermen’s catch. Additionally, I was doing a separate study on the halibut’s local diet.

Truthwitch

To gather data, we lived with fisherman on the sea ice, catching halibut via longlines dropped through holes in the sea ice. The sharks are frequent bycatch in that fishery, so our days were spent dissecting the enormous beasts (to look at what was inside their stomachs and take samples of various organs/flesh for later lab analysis). Then, since I was working with the fish as well, I would do my own separate dissections and tissue sampling.

It was a simple (if freezing) life. Wake up with the sun, catch fish and sharks all day, then go to bed when the sun set and the aurora borealis rose. But oh man, the food–the food. Every meal was the most amazing, buttery fresh-caught halibut. We’d toted a mad amount of lentils with us, so after tossing those into the pot, we’d add some snow off the ice. Then the pot was set over our cooking stove’s lone flame, and once the snow became boiling water, we’d add the fresh halibut filet. A few rounds of poker later, and BAM! Warm, delicious, fish stew.

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I still remember, eight years later, how good that stew tasted. How much it warmed me from the inside out. How fresh and surprisingly flavorful it was, despite having all of three ingredients. And of course, how incredible the company I shared it with was! My four fellow scientists and two Inuit guides became my family for the weeks that we lived out there. It was a simple, productive daily life, and undoubtedly, those were my most memorable meals.

Thanks, Susan. I want you to know, I tried to resist the pun, but I’m weak. So I have to ask, while you were playing poker, was it for the competitive thrill or just for the halibut?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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