Eating Authors: Suzanne Palmer

No Comments » Written on April 15th, 2019 by
Categories: Plugs
Suzanne Palmer

How is it already mid-April? Seriously, I don’t understand it. Every day I get up and go off to write, and little by little the books take form as I scatter my intention across half a dozen different projects. Possibly because I work every day, I often lose track of what day of the week it is, only being reminded when my wife asks me what movie I’d like to see that day (which means it’s Tuesday) or texts me to say that I need to drive her to a hair appointment (usually a Friday). But that doesn’t explain how we’re suddenly halfway through April. It is a puzzlement, some mystical working of the universe that, like the wind, we cannot observe directly but merely experience its effect on the things around us.

Let’s go with that notion as a kind of literary segue to introduce Suzanne Palmer, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Suzanne does art. By which I mean, she doesn’t merely write fiction — she does, and she has a shiny Hugo Award from last year for her short story “The Secret Life of Bots” to prove it. No, she also draws. And paints. And sculpts. And creates clothing and coins and manuscripts in made-up languages of cultures that have never existed. She also has been seen building stone walls (which could be seen as kind of ironic, given my earlier wind analogy). As someone who works almost entirely in words, I am envious of others who can create art in other medium, and I’m agog at those who do it across many.

Suzanne’s spread of her art continues. Having demonstrated her skill at short fiction, she’s graduated to long. Two weeks ago, her debut novel, Finder (book one of a trilogy) came out from DAW. You should probably pick up a copy.

LMS: Welcome, Suzanne. I’ve invited you here to talk about a meal that still sings in your memory. What comes to mind?

SP: While I have had better meals in a truly objective measure, the one that stands out as by far the most memorable was in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1995.

I had spent the summer that year living in a castle studying art in Mandelieu-La Napoule, France. There are many wonderful things one can say about living in a castle, from bats swooping through the rooms at night to the gorgeous gardens you could get lost in every day in a new and different way, but the biggest downside of this life was the food. Our cook, who was also American, seemed to have a one word philosophy to all his meals, and that word was “bland.” At that time in my life, I lived for spicy food, and the lack of anything in the offing either in the Chateau or in town nearby with a spice level any higher than “meh” really began to get to me by summer’s end.

When the program ended, my best friend met me in Nice and we took the train up to Paris, the ferry over to Dover, England, and from there up to Glasgow just in time for the 1995 Worldcon. And that very first night there, I went out looking for something fast and cheap to eat, and found some random hole-in-the-wall bar that was selling curry potatoes.


And it was a BIG potato.

And the curry — smothering an enormous pile of cooked onions — was a hot and gloriously spicy vindaloo, and I ate THREE of them.

I would have eaten ten. I would have eaten them every day we were there except my friend declared if I didn’t stop eating so much onions and curry I was going to have to spring for my own hotel room, and I would have considered that a fair trade if I wasn’t too broke to call her on it.

It has been nearly twenty-four years, and I still think about those curry potatoes. Attempts to recreate them at home never, ever, quite captured the taste, and maybe some of the magic was the environment, or the long, preceding drought filled with macaroni-mayo-and-peas dinners as an immediate, experiential contrast. And over the last ten or more years, that fond recollection and longing has had a sharper edge, in that I have now become deeply allergic to peppers, and the vast majority of spicy foods are now permanently off limits if I want to continue breathing.

But damn, those were some really excellent potatoes. And the Worldcon was good, too.

Thanks, Suzanne. Worldcons can often be relied upon to add spice to meals. The rest of the year, it’s comforting to dream of potatoes.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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