Posts Tagged ‘Eating Authors’

Eating Authors: Terri Favro

No Comments » Written on August 13th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Terri Favro

As you know, Bob, yesterday was World Elephant Day. Tomorrow is the release of The Moons of Barsk, my second novel featuring anthropomorphic elephants. But let’s stay in the present and talk about the elephant in the room (for want of a better segue), which is this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Terri Favro.

Terri lives and writes in Toronto, Canada. She produces copy and content for everything from direct mail ads to websites to print and radio. She’s writes essays and graphic novels and novels. Last month, her novel Sputnik’s Children, landed her on the short list for the Sunburst Awards, which are given out in recognition of Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Really, that’s all the endorsement you should need to go pick up a copy.

Earlier this year she released Generation Robot, a nonfiction volume looking at the history of our ever-changing relationship with robotics and technology that will change the way you envision the future (not to mention your household appliances).

LMS: Welcome, Terri. Let’s talk about your most memorable meal.

TF: I’m Italian. Okay, not a real Italian: I was born in Canada – near Niagara Falls – to parents from the Old Country who grew up (as my relatives in Torino liked to put it) “under the Queen”. Our status as British subjects was their way of distinguishing us from my mother’s American cousins, who ran a restaurant in (ironically) Queens, New York: all of us in the New World were, to the Italian way of thinking, “Americans.”

Sputnik's Children

But other than a taste for Red Rose Tea (a brand only available in Canada, so Mom was in the bizarre habit of carrying tea bags in her purse whenever she and Dad travelled to Italy), my parents were, as all real Italians are, food snobs. My mother judged people by what they cooked and what she saw in their kitchens. A jar of mayonnaise or a potato salad marked you out as déclassé. We lived in an immigrant neighbourhood of Italians, Poles and Ukrainians, and Mom was not above making snide remarks about the neighbours’ perogi and cabbage rolls. Outside of a nice, hot cuppa tea, British cuisine was marked out for particular scorn. Yorkshire Pudding was a mysterious menu item we saw on our occasional trips to restaurants in the big city (Toronto); I assumed it was a dessert until I was invited home for Sunday dinner by an English-born boyfriend in university and discovered it was a cream puff full of gravy. I found it exotic.

Because of my Italian-ish-ness (and despite the Britishness of the long-lost Canada of my youth), life for me has been a series of spectacular meals. My Nonna’s tortellini al brodo and penne arrabbiatta were so good that they set a high bar below which my Nonno refused to limbo: any meal served to him that he judged inferior to Nonna’s, he would throw out the nearest window – and yes, I actually saw him do it. My mother’s polenta with sauce, risotto Milanese, minestrone, creamy Alfredo sauce and the salads she made from dandelion leaves picked near our backyard vineyard were amazing. And those were just day-to-day meals. A special occasion meant she hauled out the big guns, like stuffed manicotti, baked cannelloni or a big, crazy lasagna that was an all-hands-on-deck enterprise for everyone in the family.

Once Upon a Time in West Toronto

So my most memorable meal is not one of the great ones, but the first truly tragic one. It was the one I ate after my grandfather died and my mother was too upset to cook. Neighours rushed to our door laden with home cooked meals (mostly the aforementioned perogis and cabbage rolls) as well as delicacies I had never had before, jello salad being a standout. (Peas and carrots suspended in green transparent slime, like sea monkeys in the backs of comic books – I thought this was very cool an space age-y, if devoid of actual taste.)

But at some point in the grieving process, possibly before the neighbours arrived with real food, we did something that we had never done before: we ordered a meal from a take-out chain: a bucket of Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In the midst of all the sadness, the appearance of the bucket was thrilling. The greasy, bony, stringy chicken eaten with my fingers. The fake-tasting coating. The French fries – chips were a rare treat, something even my mother approved of, but never made.

After consuming all that greasy deliciousness, I was made to wash my hands, put on a scratchy dress and go to the funeral home. I was seven years old. I was shocked by the sight of my grandfather’s corpse stretched out on white satin with a rosary snaking through his fingers, even though he wasn’t particularly religious. Nonno was a much loved storyteller in our family whose recounting of grisly, magical and strangely sexy Italian fairytales probably set me on my way to becoming a writer of grisly, magical and strangely sexy novels. The room was a fug of roses, holy water and old lady perfume.

Generation Robot: A Century of Science Fiction, Fact, and Speculation

The sight of my dead grandfather, the heaviness of the air, the sweetness of the flowers – I didn’t throw up exactly – well, maybe a little bit in my mouth – but I must have looked ill because someone ushered me into the foyer where there were fewer smells and less people. No one comforted me: I was left to cry it out alone, a bundle of queasy grief. And at the back of my mouth was the unmistakable aftertaste of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

There have been two long-term consequences from this experience. One was that the scene in the funeral home imprinted itself not only on my memory but on the work that I would write as an adult: a meal of take-out fried chicken, followed by a funeral, has appeared more than once in my fiction, non-fiction and even a digital storytelling series on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).

And the other thing: not surprisingly, I can’t eat KFC. I can’t even pass one of their stores and smell that distinctive fragrance of grease and artificial spices without feeling that a tragedy of operatic proportions is about to take place.

Thanks, Terri. Just goes to show, there was a time I did my writing, five or six days a week, at a corner booth of a KFC. This went on for more than two years. So, I think I’ve eaten your share.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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author photo by Ayelet Tsabari.


Eating Authors: Ryan Campbell

No Comments » Written on August 6th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Ryan Campbell

Welcome to August. As chaotic as last week was, this month promises an even bigger theme park of rides and attractions including such highlights as my wedding anniversary, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, and the release of The Moons of Barsk.

And speaking of anthropomorphic SF, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is no stranger to furry fiction. Ryan Campbell has twice won the Cóyotl Award, once for Best Novel (God of Clay) and once for Best Novella (Koa of the Drowned Kingdom). And of course he’s penned other novels and short stories. Rumor has it that he’s hard at work on the third book in his series The Fire Bearers.

Ryan is an alum of the Clarion workshop, and for the last three years has been “paying it forward” as an instructor at RAWR, the Regional Anthropomorphic Writers Retreat.

Meanwhile, back in San Jose, CA, you’ll find Ryan there in November as the Author GoH at PAWCon.

LMS: Welcome, Ryan. Would you share the tale of your most memorable meal?

RC: My husband and I were exploring California, driving through the hills of gold country and sampling all their wine. Napa and Sonoma are fine trips for wine tasters, but the wineries tend toward the crowded and highly commercial – Disneyland for adults, and all the rides are alcohol.

Now I’m worried I’m overselling it.

God of Clay

The point is that if you go wine tasting in Napa, the wineries that you visit are all trying to be Tourist Destinations: a Tuscan castle with a dungeon and torture chamber; a stuccoed palace mainly accessible by sky tram; a museum to the movies of Francis Ford Coppola. And they are constructed to encourage mass numbers of tourists to flock in, cough up the $25 tasting fee, and purchase as much overpriced merchandise as their wine-addled judgment suggests is appropriate before they all hop on the wine train to the next major attraction.

But if you travel to eastern California, into Sonora or Calaveras, you’ll find wineries unmobbed by group tours, where the tasting rooms are tiny, and sometimes don’t even charge fees, staffed by people genuinely excited to talk about their wines, answer questions, and supply extra pours to the enthusiastic. The wines aren’t always as high-end, but the people are real, and the experience is almost always better.

We’d made a day of it, exploring Angel’s Camp, where Mark Twain’s Celebrated Frog performed its jumping, and where the town still hosts a frog jumping contest every year. (We’d had no idea it happened and had missed it by one week.) Down the winding highway a few miles sat another small town called Murphy’s, and the main stretch of street was lovely: shady in the summer and lined with tasting rooms for at least a dozen of the local vineyards.

So yes, by the time we had staggered to the far end of the commercial strip, we had tasted a lot of wine. A lot. And we didn’t use a spit bucket; spitting out wine is an unforgiveable act of sacrilege and anyone who does it should be surreptitiously castigated in an author blog.

Forest Gods

What I’m getting at is that at the point that we encountered the person wearing a costume of a large, purple bunch of grapes with a cartoon smirk and one eyebrow raised in some kind of unspoken social challenge, we had achieved a level of marination that made us highly susceptible to whimsy. I know that I said scornful things previously about Disneyland, and now I’m confessing to have been successfully seduced by a giant cluster of foam fruits, but please remember that wine had happened.

In addition, whoever the person wearing that grapes costume had been, they had clearly been preparing their entire lives for this job, and perhaps studied at some esoteric specialized institution, because they were far too good at it. “You’re hot, tired, and soused,” they communicated through a complex, semaphore-like series of arm and hip gestures, “and you know—you know­—deep down in your life-worn, beaten soul that the restoration you require lies within, just where my confusingly opera-gloved hands are pointing, nay, enticing you to enter.” The costume’s eyebrow somehow raised higher, like some kind of dancing, botanical Mr. Spock. “No, do not look away. Do not walk past. Do not snicker to your friends and thus belittle only yourself. This is where you belong. I challenge you to disprove me.”

I have often thought about that stupid, confusingly sexy bunch of dancing grapes, and how it lured me into a restaurant called The Wild Grape. We have returned to the spot since that day and while the building remains, the restaurant is gone, like one of those stores that sells exactly the magical item you require and then vanishes when you turn around.

But I also think about the meal—not specifically the meal, since I no longer remember the exact food I ordered. I remember my husband, who was flirting with vegetarianism in the same way that an armchair quarterback flirts with church on Sundays, ordering bacon-wrapped shrimp in the same breath that he told the waiter he was vegetarian. And I remember the subsequent mockery from the actually vegetarian waiter that shoved my husband back into abashed omnivorousness.

Koa of the Drowned Kingdom

I remember that the food, whatever it was (I think I ordered a chicken pasta) was amazing; fresh, satisfying, balanced, rejuvenating. I remember how the wine list was populated exclusively with all the local wines we had spent the day tasting, and how their flavors melted into each bite like missing but recently rediscovered ingredients.

The restaurant was part of a house, but no one ate indoors. There were tables behind the house, under the shade of enormous oaks, and so we were all dining outside, in someone’s back yard. A small platform had been put up near our table, and musicians played banjo and mandolin music at a perfect volume to entertain and soothe without drowning out conversation.

And I remember tilting my head back, full of the day–of great food, great wine, and great music, sharing the moment with my husband and friends. And the breeze gently curled around me, carrying away the heat of the day, and shifted the leaves of the oak tree above me, making leaf-shadows swim across the tables, and I was completely, perfectly happy.

The food, probably, wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. Certainly not the most high-end experience. But everyone around me seemed happy and glad to be there. We shared a moment of music and food and peace.

It’s a moment that I hold onto when times are bad, a talisman to ward off dark thoughts and fears, a reminder that life can be good. And a reminder that sometimes, no matter how stupid it seems, it doesn’t hurt to obey a cartoon fruit with an MFA in Mascotting.

Thanks, Ryan, sounds like a idyllic combination. Though I’m left wondering if your anthropomorphic cluster of grapes was real, or a manifestation of your own inebriation? Grapes. Huh. Me, I tend to see elephants, pink or otherwise.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Chris Kennedy

No Comments » Written on July 30th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Chris Kennedy

The last week has been a blur. You’d think that I’d be entitled to recovery time after spending the previous week hanging out with fifty Klingon speakers from around the globe, but no, too many deadlines coincided with this end of the month. Most of them were publishing related, including releasing three books: the Klingon translation of Sun Tsu’s The Art of War, the fourth volume of the novella anthology Alembical, and book two of my collaboration with Jonathan Brazee entitled Scorched Earth.

That last provides a segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Chris Kennedy. Ever since my collaboration began, I’ve been getting educated on military SF, and as a result inviting more military SF authors to talk about there meals. And so here we are. Chris is a former naval aviator which probably goes a long way to account for the realism in even his most far future military epics. Somewhere in there he also picked up a doctorate in educational leadership and has been a school principal, which probably goes a long way to account for the realism in his fantasy novels (that’s supposed to be a joke, please laugh here; thank you). Nowadays, he’s a full-time indie author, building an empire, publishing not only his own work but that of eleven other authors as well!

He released his latest book kicks off a new series, the Worlds at War Saga. Book one, The Replicant War was released last Friday.

LMS: Welcome, Chris. So, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

CK: The best meal I’ve ever had? It would have to be a dinner I had in Key West, Florida, in the summer of 2005. At the time, I was an officer in the U.S. Navy, and I was stationed at a NATO command in Norfolk, Virginia. As part of my duties, I was on a NATO working group, where we helped develop policy for technology that the NATO nations were implementing. Each of the members of the group took turns hosting the quarterly working group meetings, and it was my turn. I took a poll of the members, and they decided they’d like the meeting to be held in Key West.

The Replicant War

In addition to the “nuts and bolts” part of the meeting, including a number of face-to-face conferences where the actual policy was hammered out, at these types of meetings the host normally arranges an evening social engagement, where all the delegates to the conference can come together and get to know each other in a less-formal environment. As we were having the meeting in Key West, I put together a deep sea fishing trip one of the afternoons, and we had enough participants to fill two boats. We went out, had a great afternoon, and returned with a huge amount of fresh fish.


The rest of the attendees met us at the restaurant located at the docks, where we turned over all of our fish to the waiting server, who asked how we’d like them prepared. When told to use his best judgement, he said they’d fry certain ones, grill some of the others, and blacken the rest. They would then serve them with hush puppies and a couple of sides. We sat down with a number of pitchers of beer to await our feast–and boy, was it a feast! Everything was incredible! I’m not a big fried fish fan, but it was the best I had ever tasted, as were the rest of the dishes. Everything was perfect, the camaraderie was awesome, and the weather was perfect to sit in the open-air portion of the restaurant as the sun set.

Many friendships were made that night, which would help smooth the way forward with our meetings both then and in the future. The word “perfect” is often overused, but that evening, that day, and that meal were just that. Perfect.

Thanks, Chris. It’s a rare thing for a fishy story to be perfect. Usually it’s the perfect meal that ends up being the one that got away. (insert snare drum)

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Delilah S. Dawson

No Comments » Written on July 23rd, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Delilah S. Dawson

I’ve been away for most of the past week, hanging with dozens upon dozens of Klingon speakers, arguing points of grammar, singing songs in a made-up guttural language, and enjoying the fellowship of this unique family that I began bringing together back in 1992. Switching gears back to English and EATING AUTHORS is hard, but bringing you this week’s guest, Delilah S. Dawson, makes it easier.

I’ve only met Delilah once. It was last January during the most excellent convention known as Confusion. Our paths kept intersecting during the weekend, but I think we really bonded as we trudged alongside one another on Diana Rowland’s Frost Fun Run Walk Roll Crawl Gasp Flail. We survived (I have the medal to prove it) and along the way she told me about the book she was working on with Kevin Hearne (which came out last week) and I shamelessly played upon her hypothermia to get her to send me a meal for this blog.

You probably already know her work. She’s the best selling author of several Star Wars novels, the Blud series, the Hit series, and short stories in a wide range of anthologies. She also writes comics, including Ladycastle, Adventure Time comics, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth 2017 Special, to name just a few. Under the name Lila Bowen she’s written the acclaimed Shadow series. And along the way she’s won the Fantasy Book of the Year from RT Book Reviews and the Steampunk Book of the Year, and more starred reviews than there’s space to go into.

Whether it’s media tie-in SF, Young Adult, Steampunk, or Paranormal Romance, Delilah S. Dawson delivers the goods.

Something new for this blog: Trigger warning: suicide

LMS: Welcome, Delilah. Tell me about your most memorable meal.

DSD: Once upon a time, I flung myself into the sea, and the sea threw me right back. It seems strange to condense a suicide attempt into one simple sentence, but I’m a writer, and that is my job. It was over twenty years ago while I was part of a student exchange program in France, and although I know my reasons were justified, I can definitely see the flaws in my proposed solution. When I crawled back onto that beach in Biarritz, squeezing water from my lungs and surprised to persist in existing, I had returned from a very dark, primal place, and I have never been the same since.

My exchange family had no idea what I’d tried to do, what I’d almost done. They were happy on their summer holiday and enjoying themselves, lounging and reading under the colorful umbrella, whereas I had undergone a seismic shift down to my bones. It’s very strange to choose death and then find yourself alive again, especially when no one else is aware that a tragedy was barely averted. There is no guidebook for how to go on living.

Kill the Farm Boy

I flopped on my back in the sun and realized I had to learn to go on. With my arms flung out, I practically begged the world for clues, but no answer was forthcoming. And as I lay there, I began to catalogue sensations, noticing and appreciating things in a way I never had before. The wind in my hair. The scent of suntan lotion and salt water. The sound of children laughing in the waves and calling to one another in different languages. The world felt entirely new, as if it were suddenly in focus after years of being unrecognizably blurry. When we left the beach that afternoon and walked along the boardwalk to find dinner, I was overcome with gratitude for being alive.

Papa chose a tiny seaside restaurant, the kind with maybe two tables and a basement kitchen, where a younger family member tells you what they have and brings it to you piping hot while Maman shouts orders out the window. The meal was so simple: fried haddock, white rice, green beans, and water without ice. But it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. Even the French word for haddock brought me delight: aiglefin. I ate everything on my plate, marveling at the tastes and textures with each mouthful, overcome with the beauty of the sunset and the feel of salt drying on my legs. My host family continued on as usual, and I was filled with love for them, this family that had taken me in for a month, a complete stranger, and treated me like their daughter and sister.

Wicked as They Come

That’s when I realized what I needed to do. On the way back to the hotel, I asked if we could please stop by a stationery shop, where I bought a notebook and began listing all the things that I loved.

I love the sun on my skin. I love the wind in my hair. I love the sound of children laughing in the waves.

I love the taste of fried haddock, fresh and hot, served over fluffy white rice.

For the rest of my trip, I kept writing in the book.

I love Nutella on day old baguette. I love sitting under dappled trees by the river. I love pluots. I love sitting by a bonfire in the middle of nowhere, translating Led Zeppelin lyrics for cute French boys.

And I didn’t stop writing in that book when I got back home. The entries changed, but the love remained.

I love walking barefoot in freshly cut grass. I love curling up in cold sheets at bedtime. I love eating frozen Twix bars on a hot summer day.


That book got me through one of the hardest years of my life. Even when things got dark, even when I might’ve again considered throwing myself into one sea or another, I could read that book and think of all the things that I had loved, all the things that I did love. I could find some small thing each day to write down. I could go on, knowing that I needed to fill that book completely—and then buy another book and fill that one, too. And I could know in my heart that no matter how hard the present moment might seem, I could find something new to love. If not that moment, if not that day, then tomorrow.

I have never tasted fried haddock again. If I did, I know it wouldn’t taste like it did in Biarritz that summer, in the moment when the world came back full force to remind me why I was alive and to show me, fiercely, that love was worth fighting for.

Truly an inspiring and life changing book. Thank you for sharing the tale. But… I draw the line at pluots.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Dyrk Ashton

No Comments » Written on July 9th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Dyrk Ashton

Here in the greater Philadelphia area, the first week of July has been stupidly hot, with multiple days hitting 99°. Being the delicate flower that I am, at times like these I cower inside my air conditioned home. Which surely is why my A/C opted like Elvis to leave the building on the hottest day of the year. We went without for a day and a half before we could effect repairs, the digital thermostat taunting me with the news that it was 89° inside the house.

There’s not much to do in such situations but distract yourself with thoughts of cooler and happier times, which is what led me to thinking about the last time I last saw Dyrk Ashton, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. It was back in January, in Detroit, at one of the best conventions I know of. It’s always a challenge to fly into Michigan that time of year, but this trip went smoothly, and I enjoyed hours of conversation with Dyrk in the hotel’s bar. It was only months later that I came to learn he’d knocked around Hollywood as an actor in an array of films he insists no one has ever seen (including the role of a “truck zombie” in Night of the Living Dead), before returning to his native Ohio and traded his life experience for a doctorate in film studies and a teaching gig at a university. When he tired of that, he noted that brick and mortar schools were so very 20th century and took his teaching online.

The digital academic life agrees with him, and has even allowed him time to write. The result is his Paternus universe, the second book of which, Wrath of Gods, comes out tomorrow.

LMS: Welcome, Dyrk. Whats been your most memorable meal?

DA: Wow. I have had so many incredible meals it’s hard to choose. Reading through the posts from other authors, I saw that most of them describe meals they had while traveling, and realized – it’s the same for me. I’ve had amazing and memorable meals here in the States, including homecooked dinners with family (my mother’s meatloaf with potatoes and carrots is to die for), but they tend to run together in my mind.

The ones that really stand out as individual experiences are indeed those I had while traveling. An unbelievable steak in Rosarito, Mexico while on a trip with a friend celebrating our birthdays, which are only a day apart. A cut of seared grouper with roasted red-skin potatoes and Caribbean slaw in a dockside café while on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra. A simple bowl of lamb stew at a bar in a small town in Ireland. Maybe a half-dozen others come to mind. So difficult!


For my humble addition to Eating Authors, though, I think I’ll go with the grouper. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. I can feel the warm sea breeze, smell the briny air, hear the waves lapping against the dock… Ahem, okay.

For those who aren’t familiar, Culebra is a small Puerto Rican island only a few miles long, east of the main island, San Juan. It’s a wonderful place to get away to, with beautiful beaches but relatively unknown to tourists, mostly because there are no large resorts. A friend of mine owns a house there that sits on a hill. From his pool patio you can see St. Thomas. I have been there over a half-dozen times, but about six years ago I went down on a mission. My buddy had a sailboat he wanted to sail to St. Thomas for repairs and some renovation, the plan being to then sell it, and he needed someone to sail along with him. When he asked if I’d go along, I hummed and hawed – Not. Of course I leapt at the chance and bought my ticket immediately.

Wrath of Gods

After I arrived and had been there a few days, however, he was called back to New York to take care of some business and family affairs. The sailing trip was off. I had nothing to complain about. I would have the house to myself, in the Caribbean. And so it was for the rest of my stay.

One night I decided to drive into Dewey for dinner – the one and only town on the island, and not very big at that. This was something I did regularly but this particular night I found myself at a small, open-air restaurant right on the water of Dewey Bay. It wasn’t a fancy place. Plastic tables, no table cloths, and plastic lawn chairs. There were only four other people there, all sitting together, so I easily got a table at the edge of the dock, where I could look down and see fish swimming not three feet away from my sandals.

The menu had a few regular dishes, but mostly it was a handwritten list of the several items they had for the day. Grouper is my favorite fish, so I immediately ordered that when I saw it. I also knew they caught their fish right off the island, and I was assured the grouper had been brought in only hours before.


I’ve had grouper many times, but never prepared like this. Instead of a filet, it had been cut straight down through the spine, so it looked almost like a fat U-shaped steak, smaller at the ends. It was over an inch thick, and a sizable hunk of fish. My first thought was I’d never be able to eat it all. I was wrong.

It was served with roasted red-skin potatoes swimming in butter and a side of Caribbean style slaw, which is rather sweet. Those were absolutely delicious, but the grouper itself was heaven. I’m no chef, so I can’t tell you how it was prepared other than on a grill. It came apart easily with a fork, and the first bite nearly knocked me over in my chair.

It still had that marvelous grouper texture and flavor, but other than that, it tasted like fresh lobster. I’d never had grouper like that before. I had to force myself to slow down and enjoy it, and I ate every bite.

Later that night, while I swung in a hammock looking over the moonlit sea, I tried to work out some plot kinks in the novel I was working on. But all I could think about was grouper. Having dredged up this memory, I’m afraid it will be on my mind all week. Come to think of it, it has been awhile since I’ve been to Culebra…

Thanks, Dyrk, I had the pleasure of multiple meals of freshly caught island fish while in Puerto Rico last July. But sadly, no grouper. I’ll happily volunteer to accompany you next time you head to Culebra to rectify this oversight.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Ellison Cooper

No Comments » Written on July 2nd, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Ellison Cooper

This week’s EATING AUTHORS guest and I share an odd bond. She did her undergraduate studies at the same small and eccentric school where I spent my first years as a professor. Alas, I left a couple years before she arrived, but I know the magic of the place well and I’ve no doubt that it affected her in ways both subtle and profound.

Ellison Cooper has a doctorate in anthropology, so among other things she can say she’s conducted research on the island of Yap. That’s some serious and cool-sounding street cred. From archaeology to cultural neuroscience, the study of ancient religions to human rights, murder investigation to wilderness K9 search and rescue, her full resume reads like a better version of Indiana Jones. It was only a matter of time that she wrote a book, once she paused long enough to do so.

Her first novel,Caged, is being published by Minotaur Books, and comes out one week from tomorrow. It features an FBI neuroscientist protagonist, manufactured DNA, near-death experiences, and psychopomps. What’s not to love? If we’re fortunate, it’s just the first of many more books to come.

LMS: Welcome, Ellison. I’m always especially excited to ask this question of anthropologists: What’s tour most memorable meal?

EC: This was a hard question because I’ve had so many amazing meals! But, rather than dwell on the amazing thiéboudienne (local fish and rice) I had in Bargny, Sénégal, or the unounet (coconut molasses candy) in Yap, Micronesia, I thought I would talk about the tomato I had once in Belize because it is honestly the most memorable food experience I’ve ever had.


When I was in graduate school, I lived way out in the jungles of Central America on a nature preserve right where Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize meet (called the Program For Belize, go if you ever get the chance!). Our camp was genuinely in the middle of nowhere, a two hour drive on rutted old logging roads from the nearest village. We lived in tents without electricity or running water while we were scouting and mapping lost Maya ruins. Because we were on a research grant, our budget only allowed us to make the long drive into town about once a month so we primarily lived on rice, dried beans, and canned veggies supplemented by the meat we (legally) hunted in the area. We would occasionally splurge on peanut butter and jelly or canned tuna, but that was it.

In the summer of ’97, I lived in that camp continuously for six months before I hopped on the back of the monthly truck heading into town. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some beans and rice, and I didn’t even realize how much I’d missed fresh fruits and veggies until a local woman approached our truck in town. She held a basket of fresh tomatoes and, on a whim, I decided to buy one.

The tomato was warm and still kind of covered with dirt, and I remember biting into it and literally gasping at the vivid taste. I swooned so long that I wasn’t able to catch the woman and buy more! Something about sitting on the hot metal of that truck in the scorching Belize sunshine, covered in road dust and months of jungle muck, eating that warm tomato just seared itself in my memory. Which is why a tomato is the most memorable meal of my life.

Thanks, Ellison. You know, I’ve spent my entire life defending the proposition that tomatoes are evil (not tomato sauce, mind you, pulverizing the fruit purifies it), but you almost convince me there might be exceptions. Almost.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: R. J. Theodore

No Comments » Written on June 25th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Rekka Jay

Back in May during the Nebula Awards Conference, I was sitting in the hospitality suite and chatting with a small press publisher and a couple of her authors. One of them, Rekka Jay, writes under the ambiguous pseudonym of R. J. Theodore.

There was an energy about Rekka that convinced me then and there I had to ask her alter ego to come by EATING AUTHORS and I’m very glad she accepted, not least because I truly believe you need to read her stuff!

Her first novel, Flotsam, came out in March from Parvus Press, and introduces us to the complex world of Periodot. This is my favorite kind of worldbuilding. It’s lush with races and cultures. Also aliens. And alchemy. Did I mention the airships? There’s a kitchen sink in there too, I’m sure, but Rekka makes it all work. Most importantly though, this is not a standalone novel. The second book in the Periodot series, Salvage, is expected in the first quarter of 2019.

LMS: Welcome, R. J. What stands out as your most memorable meal?

RJT: “I don’t like chili,” I told the man who was already my best friend and, years later, would become my husband. That we went on to marry after I could say such a thing is probably a testament to the strength we’d already found in that new relationship. “My mom makes chili for my dad occasionally but it’s just not my thing.”

He looked up from the grocery list he was penning at the kitchen counter. “How does she make it?”

“I don’t know. It has beans and meat and veggies and stuff.” Eloquent as ever.


“Let me make you my chili. Trust me. If you don’t like it, I’ll order you a pizza.”

Jackpot. Challenge accepted. It was less about trusting him than about being certain of my declaration. I looked forward to my imminent Hawaiian pie.

But we never ordered the pizza. He was right. I was twenty years old and learned with some shock that I had missed the point of cooking. I knew it was a special and loving ritual but had developed the misconception that it was about the physical act of providing food for others. It is this, but it is more. Through cooking, my husband expressed who he was and where he came from. Through eating, I learned something about him that words would never encapsulate. It was not only that it was “not my mother’s chili” but that it was his. Not only that he was skilled at preparing food, but what it meant to him to prepare it for me.

This meal was eaten on the couch in our apartment, probably cradled in my lap, legs pretzel-crossed, while a movie played on the TV. A half-opened plastic sleeve of saltines positioned between us on the coffee table. No candlelight or linen napkins, just companionship and paper towels. I went back for a second helping.

The Bantam

I found later when I tried to follow his recipe, my chili does not turn out even remotely like his. I once might have been confused and frustrated by this and disparaged my own skill or comprehension but I could now understand. An individual flavors the dish with as much of who they are as what they put in it. How they chop. How they stir. How long they simmer. Such things and more are the fingerprints of a chef and cannot be forged.

The creation of a meal is a highly personal and artistic act, the modification of a lineage of lives and lessons. After this experience, human connection became, to me, the most important ingredient. One spoonful of chili opened my eyes to look for other people’s experience of the world, right down to the ingredients in and preparation of a recipe.

Thanks, R. J. I have to say, that’s some philosophically powerful chili. Just imagine if he’d made you something like, umm, Beef Wellington?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Nick Wood

No Comments » Written on June 20th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Nick Wood

[[a glitch in the software kept this from automagically posting when it was supposed to. Sorry about that. Just pretend everything you see below actually came out on Monday. -LMS]]

This past Tuesday was my last day at the DayJob where I have parked myself for the past seventeen years. The next day, I flew to China. In theory, I’m still there and this is posting automagically because I set it up before I got on the plane (according to a related theory, I’m flying home tomorrow). So, yes, lots and lots of change happening here, some of it scary, some of it exhilarating. Bottom line, I am committing myself to the proposition that I am now a full-time writer. I’ll keep you posted as to how that all works out.

Meantime, you came here to read about yet another author’s most memorable meal. And you’re in luck, because this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is Nick Wood and his meal begins with murder!

Dun dun dun! Insert commercial break here.

Before we get to that, you should know that Nick has done a fair amount of travel himself, in a wide range of cultures and societies. He was born in Zambia, and lived there and in South Africa for more than three decades. He also worked extensively in New Zealand. Currently, he and his family reside in England where, when he’s not writing, Nick works as a Research Tutor on a Doctoral Training Course in Clinical Psych.

Nowadays, that writing tends more to short fiction, including stories set on the moon which reach both into the future and into the past.

LMS: Welcome, Nick. Talk to me about your most memorable meal.

NW: On a hot summer morning, I watched my most memorable meal be murdered in front of me.
Four men stood around, holding the cow’s upper thighs, one also holding the head, while a fifth man cut the mottled brown cow’s throat. They held her body up as her legs buckled, trying to keep her head steady enough to bleed mostly into the bucket placed beneath her neck, but some blood sprayed onto the grass in the paddock, where I stood nearby.

As the flies moved in, I moved out.

This was all happening on a farm near umGungundlovu (or Pietermaritzburg) in the kwaZulu Natal Midlands, South Africa, during the State of Emergency under apartheid in the late eighties. The farmhouse was rented home to (mostly white) local University students, who, like me, were doing postgrad studies and were opposed to the political status quo.

Azanian Bridges

Next to the farmstead was a local village headed up by an induna (traditional leader) and they were collecting the cow as part payment for work they had been doing on the farmer’s land. (We were not sure about the details of labour and their residential arrangements, but in the Western Cape/Cape Town where I had come from, local ‘coloured’ farm labourers had been paid via the ‘dop’ system. Essentially a bottle of wine to keep them happy and servile – and, needless to say, domestic violence and foetal alcohol syndrome were rife in those communities at the time.)

We had approached the induna about a party we were having that night, to tell him that if any of the villagers wanted to join us, they would be welcome. He had just laughed at us, as if we were crazy. The party itself was a subdued affair for the first couple of hours, the eighties Afro-fusion music good, but the food and company generally not keeping up with it.

And then there was a commotion down by the arch leading up onto the property – a dozen or so men and two women had arrived, some men carrying drums and guitars, the women carrying meat and mealie pap in Tupperware containers. I joined Chris, our own house ‘induna’, while he persuaded some of our current guests that the group of villagers had indeed been invited, and were to be made welcome.

The Stone Chameleon

Eventually, several of our white guests drove off in a huff and the villagers came into the house, offering us well cooked beef and pap – which is a Zulu maize meal, a variation with texture and look akin to, but not quite like, mashed potato.

I had to ask, though.

Yes, it was the cow we had seen being killed earlier – but she had been well cooked.

“Yum yum,” said one of the women, offering me a piece in foil, with a twinkle in her eye.

I took the warm piece of meat, hesitating for a moment.

But you know what – it was indeed ‘yum yum.’

The tape machine got switched off, as four of the villagers took up band positions with their instruments on the patio and started to play mbaqanga music.

People danced and ate – and danced and talked.

A cow has never tasted so good since then.

Thanks, Nick. I’ve sworn off beef for more than a year now, but I suspect if I were present at a cow’s demise, I’d feel obligated to have a taste if it were offered to me.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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