fbpx

Posts Tagged ‘Eating Authors’

Eating Authors: Jeanne Adams

8 comments Written on November 2nd, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Tags:
Jeanne Adams

A few weeks back I was on a (virtual) panel at Capclave. The topic was “authorial friendships” and both panelists and audience members had a delightful time. Mind you, I can say the same thing about all the programming I experienced that weekend, and regular readers here won’t be surprised because I have waxed with lyrical praise for Capclave for many years.

But I mention this particular event because one of my co-panelists was someone I’d never met before, and we had such a fine time together that midway through the panel I reached out in a separate chat box (the digital equivalent of passing her a note) and invited her to show up here at EATING AUTHORS and talk about her most memorable meal.

In case you haven’t figured this out yet, that author was none other than Jeanne Adams, aka this week’s guest. She’s been writing for the past ten years, series of books in science fiction, fantasy, as well as magical mysteries that blur the line. You can expect to find a themes of romantic suspense in her fiction as well. A critical element that runs through all her work is a simple rule: in the end, love always wins.

Jeanne lives in Washington, D.C. where when not writing she enjoys books and films that are ripe with explosions. Presumably these two data points are not related to one another.

LMS: Welcome Jeanne, tell me about your most memorable meal.

JA: My father served in World War II in the medical corps of Patton’s Army. As many of you may know, prior to D-Day, the US moved troops steadily and stealthily into England. Rather than build barracks, however, which would expose the troop build-up to German spies, soldiers were billeted with families all over England. The subterfuge disguising the sheer number of US troops actually worked.

It also spurred some amazing, life-long friendships.

The Slip Traveler's Fate

That Thanksgiving, twenty years ago, we were gathered ’round the table at my sister’s house. My 81-year-old father was still alive, and hearty (and newly remarried, but that’s another story!). We had a guest as well. Dr. Kenneth Russell was my father’s friend from Leicestershire, UK. He’d grown up there, and my father had billeted with Ken and his family for several months prior to D-Day. Ken was just enough younger than my dad that he couldn’t yet serve. Daddy, a young man from rural South Carolina, wide-eyed and worried to find himself living among strangers in a strange land, instead found a haven with the Russell family.

That Thanksgiving, my brothers, sister and I heard stories we had never, ever heard. We learned that Ken’s mother would write long chatty letters to my grandmother. The soldiers couldn’t write home lest they give away where they were. Mrs. Russell would write and say, “Concerning a young gentleman of our mutual acquaintance, you needn’t worry. He is well and eats heartily.” I also hadn’t known, until this conversation, that rationing meant many went hungry in England during the war. However, those with billeted soldiers got extra rations. Ken told us that his mother managed to stretch those rations to improve the whole family’s diet. He said they were forever grateful for that.

Welcome to Outcast Station

Ken and my father reminisced about black-out curtains and bombing runs as the rest of us listened in rapt attention. My father was always reticent about the war years, but that day Daddy and Ken talked of my dad’s stand as a conscientious objector, and how hard it was to be a non-drinker and nonsmoker in the Army. Ken spoke of the little town of Brierly Hill where they’d lived, and both men were grateful it didn’t take much damage during the war. Daddy then talked about how the soldiers had barely celebrated Thanksgiving in the field. (He’d been in Belgium, freezing his butt off.) That led Ken to wax rhapsodic about this most American holiday, Thanksgiving.

“What a concept,” he said. “A holiday devoted solely to eating. To gratitude.” He was so enamored of it, from that year on he joined us for Thanksgiving. Every year, he and Daddy would talk a bit more about their experiences during the war. What little I know about my Father’s service, I know from these dinners.

When my father died, Ken was one of the first people we called. He wept on the phone with me, and told me he’d never had a better friend. The next Thanksgiving, he brought his whole family to join us for the holiday. He told us other stories of those long ago days, and those stories were made even more precious because of my father’s absence.

While we won’t be able to get together this year, and Ken, now in his 90s, doesn’t travel, I know I’ll get a call or an email on Thanksgiving wishing us well. Ken will also, most likely, wax rhapsodic about how fabulous it is to devote a holiday just to eating.

Thanks, Jeanne. I can’t think of a better start for November than to create a sense of appreciation for the relationships in our lives. Here’s hoping it carries us through to the holidays and beyond.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Ella J. Smyth

1 Comment » Written on October 26th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Tags:
Ella J. Smyth

It’s been a busy week since I was here last, much of it spent on the EATING AUTHORS Kickstarter which is almost ended. I admit, I’m feeling very pleased with the success of this, my first campaign. And I’m extremely chuffed that the book will soon be generating income for two important charities.

Speaking of charities, the Hellcats anthology that launched back on September 1st has been promoting a different contributor every day since, and with 70 authors they’re still not done (my day was back on October 1st). I’ve been doing my part to help by featuring some of those same authors here at EATING AUTHORS, and today I’m happy to present yet another hellcat, Ella J. Smyth.

Ella writes urban fantasy romance, full of adventure and excitement and no shortage of steam. Her character often endure a lot, but as with any good love story it all ends happily. If that sounds like the kind of thing you want to read, then you’ll probably appreciate the motto that drives her fiction: “unapologetic romances because love needs no excuses.”

Her latest work is Second Chance Fate, which will be released later this week on October 30th. It’s the first book of a new a Reverse Harem Academy series entitled Second Chance Academy.

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

EJS: I grew up in Southern Bavaria, Germany, and as far back as I can remember, my father took the whole family on vacation to Italy every summer.

One year, we found a campsite in Umbria in central Italy, above the tiny village Colle di Nocera Umbra. We loved it so much, we returned year after year until my father died eight years later. No-one there spoke German, so we learnt Italian quickly. By the time I was twelve, I was fluent.

Rural Italy is full of summer traditions — one of which are celebrations that involve the entire village. In Colle, the event was the Tripe Festival, or Sagra della Trippa. We’d seen the posters but had no clue what it entailed.

Second Chance Fate

When I was seventeen, a friend from the village knocked on our caravan door and said, “Come on, there’s a big party happening tonight. You must help.” We walked through the vineyards until we arrived at Colle where we were greeted by a group of excited old ladies. Full of smiles, they ordered my mom and me to sit down and get busy rolling gnocchi. My dad was dragged off by the local priest for a cigar and a grappa.

For hours, we rolled lumps of spiced mashed potato mixed with flour over the back of a fork to create the typical gnocchi-shape. The women would sometimes break into song, and we were offered wine mixed with water as refreshment.

As I sat there, doing the repetitive action, my mind was free to soar. The August sun in central Italy is pitiless, but we were in the shade, surrounded by joy and anticipation of the festivities to come. Crickets chirped, and a gust of wind stirred up puffs of yellow dust in the main road. The dirt had the same color as the medieval church and the brown-shuttered houses that huddled around the plaza.

By the time we were done, we had produced huge piles of perfect little doughy balls, ready to be dumped into boiling water. In the meantime, the village men had erected a stage and decorated the street with bunting and church flags.

When the sun set, the sagra began. There were bowls of steaming tomato sauce, heavy with garlic and herbs. Volunteers handed out cups of local red wine. A band took to the stage, and under a warm Mediterranean moon, I learnt to dance from a man sixty years older than me. The accordion dueled with the clarinet, sometimes reminiscent of Eastern European polkas and mazurkas, other times closer to Viennese waltzes.

Spirit Hunger

By the time we sat down at long communal tables, it was nearly midnight, and I was starving. My friend Maurizio put a bowl of food in front of me. “Mangia, mangia,” he said.

I heaped a chunk of meat, smothered in tomato sauce, onto my fork and ladled it into my mouth. It was delicious. Spicy, aromatic, garlicky—the only thing different was the texture of the meat. Rather than fibrous, it was chewy. Very chewy. The taste was unfamiliar.

Ch’è questo?” I asked. What is this? I was uncomfortably aware that everybody had stopped eating within earshot.

Maurizio grinned. “Trippa.”

Smartass. “Lo so. Ma che cosa è trippa?” Now I really wanted to know.

They tried to explain, pointing at their stomachs, but I didn’t get it. Maybe my Italian wasn’t as good as I’d thought. In the meantime, my mom was leafing through her pocket dictionary. Her eyes grew wide. “Found it. It’s tripe.”

I was seventeen years old, way before the internet was invented. I had no clue what tripe was.

“It’s the inner lining of a cow’s stomach.”

I thought I deserved a medal for not spitting the food all over the table. My face must have looked horrified because the villagers around the table burst out laughing. One woman gave me another glass of wine, and Maurizio slapped my shoulder.

Spirit Elfen

“You liked it before you knew what it was, no?” he said in Italian.

I nodded. Under the expectant gazes of the men and women next to me, I took another bite and finished my bowl of food. It was delicious once I’d gotten over my initial revulsion. I even used some bruschetta to wipe up the last dregs of tomato sauce.

Signora Teresa two seats to my left nodded. “Brava tedescha,” she said, which translated to “Good German girl.” She proceeded to tell me how poor the region used to be. How she’d grown up on one meal a day, sometimes only a meal every second day. How meat had been a privilege for the rich, and that the farmers had counted themselves lucky if they had a pig to slaughter once a year.

My father died not long after, and the village Colle di Nocera Umbra was largely destroyed in the earthquake of 1997. I’ve never been back, but I still remember this meal. The camaraderie of preparing food for the whole village. The fun dancing through the night, lifted by the wails of the clarinet. The acceptance and hospitality of people who even back in the 80s had precious little to share, but did so anyway. Non li dimenticherò. I won’t forget them.

Thanks, Ella. You’re made of sterner stuff than I am. I don’t like putting something else’s stomach in my stomach. Likewise, I don’t tend to eat cow tongue. There’s just something weird about tasting meat that is tasting you back.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Alex Shvartsman

No Comments » Written on October 19th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Tags:
Alex Shvartsman

I spent the weekend virtually attending a convention, giving a reading, answering questions at a Kaffeeklatsch, and holding forth on panels at Capclave. In other years, this is my favorite regional con, and only in small part to the opportunity to stop at a Waffle House on the way there. I also typically put together a dinner party one night at La Canela, an incredible Peruvian restaurant a short drive from the convention hotel. Alas, an online event meant I was foraging for my meals at home rather than the usual haunts, but even so I had a fine time at Capclave, checking in with fans and friends and colleagues whom I have not seen for a year or more, which is often how things go at the in-person version of the convention.

It’s only fitting then that this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest is Alex Shvartsman, who has not only joined me for Peruvian cuisine in the course of the convention, but has on several occasions been my roommate. I am here to tell you that Alex is a terrible person to share a room with. After a long night of schmoozing and socializing and party-hopping at the convention, every time I have shared a hotel room with Alex we have wound up talking for hours — literally, hours — despite our best intention to get some sleep and regardless of how exhausted we were from the day’s events. Good times.

Nowadays, Alex is well known as the editor and publisher of the Unidentified Funny Objects series of anthologies. In recent years he’s also applied his editorial skills to running the online magazine Future Science Fiction Digest which (full disclosure) published my own work in their #1 issue. That would surely be enough bonafides for anyone, but there’s more. Back in the day Alex was a professional Magic: The Gathering player, and at one time held the record for the most top eights on the Grand Prix (21!).

He also owns and operates Kings Games, an internet cafe and gaming store in Brooklyn, NY, is renowned for his expertise in crafting Kickstarter campaigns, frequently works as a translator, and despite all of that somehow also finds time to write fiction of his own. His short stories have graced the usual range of magazines and markets, and last year he self-published the novel Eridani’s Crown.

This tine of year, before making the drive down to Capclave, Alex would usually stop and pick up a nice assortment of fine New York bagels to share with friends at the convention. Alas, that treat has been another victim of the current pandemic.

LMS: Welcome, Alex. I’ve been waiting a long time to have you tell me the tale of your most memorable meal. What is it?

AS: I used to travel extensively when I was younger, having visited over thirty countries and every inhabited continent. I’ve dined on fresh vegetables grown on site at an Israeli kibbutz, and exotic fruits from the Amazon River basin; chicken satay at the Kuala Lumpur night market in Malaysia and springbok steak in South Africa. In those travels I’d learned the golden rule of gastronomic tourism: get away from the tourist traps and ask the locals to direct you to their favorite eating establishments. But it wasn’t this plethora of fancy dishes that is evoked when thinking of my most memorable meal; it was a humble burger with fries from McDonald’s.

Before you foodies boo me off this virtual stage and pelt me with rotten chicken nuggets, hear me out, for I’m with you. As a resident of Brooklyn I’m surrounded by amazing food and could dine in (or order out in these pandemic days) at a different great restaurant every day for a year without ever running out of quality options. The only times I recall eating at McD’s in the past two decades were in Japan, where fast food actually looks like what’s displayed on the menu photos. But this meal predates that by another decade, and there’s a story to it besides.

Eridani's Crown

The year was 1990, and I was a fourteen-year-old kid growing up in the port city of Odessa, USSR. The past few years had been an amazing time. I watched as the newfangled policies of perestroika and glasnost literally transformed Soviet society. It was suddenly possible to say controversial things without the risk of being questioned or arrested by the KGB. It was permissible to attend a church or a synagogue. It was okay to open a business—or, as it was phrased back then, “join a cooperative.” My father, an engineer who earned a meager salary until then, had done so and we were suddenly on the upward financial trajectory from lower middle class well into its center. We could afford a VCR and were even dreaming about possibly buying a car (but really, that was upper middle class talk!)

The most important change for me personally was the sudden influx of books. With new independent small presses flourishing, there were suddenly far more than a handful of science fiction translations published each year, and I gorged on Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton.

While I largely experienced the positive aspects of the changes, my parents were far more concerned. The Soviet Union began breaking apart. Several Baltic states had already seceded, and many other republics and even smaller regions were also planning to. There was plenty of separatist talk even in the Russian-speaking Odessa, let alone other parts of Ukraine. As ever, the rising nationalism stirred up the racist and Anti-Semitic elements of society. There was much speculation of various civil wars brewing across the vast territory once under the firm grasp of Russian communists. Popular wisdom was that the country would be engulfed in war or multiple smaller wars in the next five years.

Worse yet, I was a few years away from becoming of age to enter military service. Draft was mandatory then for anyone who didn’t get into a university. Higher education institutions had strict and racist quotas, making it difficult for Jewish kids to enroll, even if their grades warranted it. So the odds were I would have to serve in the military, and possibly go to war.

We had distant relatives in America, but even a few years prior, it was impossible to legally move from the USSR to the United States. A complex process had to be followed by anyone who desired to do so.

Unidentified Funny Objects

A Jewish person could apply to immigrate to Israel—it was difficult but not outright impossible to receive government permission for this. At the time the USSR did not have diplomatic relationships with Israel, so anyone leaving the country for Israel would travel to neutral Austria first. In Austria, one would request political asylum and refugee status at the American embassy and then travel by train to Italy where they awaited the American government’s decision. People lived in Italy for many months, and sometimes over a year, as stateless refugees. Ultimately though, most gained access to the preferred promised land of their choice.

My mother was the driving force behind our family’s efforts to emigrate. My father reluctantly agreed, only because of looming potential danger they perceived for me in the coming years. We were prepared to follow the complicated path described above when the game changed and it was suddenly possible to apply for refugee status at the American embassy in Moscow. No more months spent in uncertainty, but instead the potential to board the plane at Sheremetyevo Airport for a direct flight to New York!

And so, our family booked an appointment at the embassy and boarded an overnight train to Moscow.

Prior to and during this trip my mother drilled us on how and what to say to our interviewer. This person literally held our future in their hands; they would decide whether we experienced sufficient hardship and qualified for refugee status, so there could be no mistakes.

I never understood the need for this preparation. The idea of being a persecuted minority was not hypothetical to us. In first grade I had my nose broken by a bully for the crime of being Jewish. My father’s colleagues in Western Ukraine, where he frequently traveled for work, had unironically said to him on numerous occasions, “You’re one of the good ones. When the pogroms start, we’ll hide you.” The way I saw it, all we had to do during this interview was tell the truth.

The interview itself was anti-climactic. It lasted less than ten minutes and we were asked a few standard questions by a bored clerk who must’ve had asked them, and heard the same or very similar answers, many times each day. To be honest, I don’t remember that much about it, but I remember what happened afterward.

Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma

We went to McDonald’s.

At the time, this was the first and only McDonald’s in all of the Soviet Union. It opened its doors in January of that year, and people—Muscovites and visitors alike—lined up to sample exotic American food.

Soviet citizens were not exposed to a wide range of international cuisines. Although I grew up in a multicultural port city, by the time we left the USSR I had never tried Chinese food, not eaten a bowl of cereal. Bananas were imported by ship once or twice a year and everyone had queued up and bought green bananas, then enjoyed them as they ripened and really made them last for the next few weeks; it was a big deal. The concept of pizza was very new, and what enterprising restaurateurs served would likely never be mistaken for pizza elsewhere.

No one we knew had ever tried burgers.

The concept of meat patties was, of course, familiar. Cutlets of all kinds are a staple of Russian cuisine. But an actual burger, prepared and served the way you think of it, that was altogether new.

Even after several months, the interest hadn’t died down. We spent upward of an hour in line before we could get inside the McDonald’s. What few tables the place had were occupied—we got the food to go, which was also a rather novel concept for prepared food in Russia (at least to my teenage self!). We bought various burgers and fries, and we bought ketchup packets—the sauce wasn’t free the way it is in American restaurants. Like most things, ketchup was difficult to get in stores and most customers purchased extras to use at home.

We returned to the apartment we were staying at and unwrapped the food. I remember the meal vividly. The rich, unfamiliar flavor of Big Mac sauce. The texture of French Fries—so unlike the commonplace potatoes fried on a skillet. I remember it not because it was necessarily better than other meals, but because of how different it was from anything I was used to. It was the glimpse at the wide range of possibilities that were about to open up to me. It was my first taste of America.

Thanks, Alex. There’s something both disturbing and perfect about a Big Mac as a metaphor for America. Special sauce indeed.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Robert J. Sawyer

No Comments » Written on October 12th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Tags:
Robert J. Sawyer

October has not exactly been kind to me thus far. First I gavorched my back, and just as that was healing I somehow managed to wrench my left arm. I can only assume that I have a dissociative disorder and late at night when I should be sleeping I enter into a fugue state and put in a shift on the docks as a longshoreman. This might also explain why I’m always tired. Though I suppose the extra money is nice…

The big news is that the EATING AUTHORS Kickstarter is doing quite well. We hit the initial funding before the end of the third day, guaranteeing there will be an ebook. We’ve unlocked the first two Stretch Goals and are closing in on the third, and there’s more than two weeks left so I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll reach the fourth goal, which will mean a trade paperback of the book.

I’m going to call that a segue, because one of the last meals that’s going in to the book is the one you’re about to read from none other than Robert J. Sawyer, whom some have called the hardest working SF author in Canada. That may be so, but I prefer to just call him my friend.

Rob hasn’t just won the Hugo and the Nebula, he’s taken home the Seium, the Prix Aurora, the Campbell, the Smith, and the Heinlein awards too, as well as others too numerous to mention here. His fiction has been adapted for television. He’s taught science fiction writing at several universities and colleges, taken on the post of writer-in-residence multiple times, and done frequent television commentary and public speaking. He has received two honorary doctorates and served time as the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Oh, and there’s the small matter of his having been awarded both the Order of Canada (the highest honor given in the country) and the Order of Ontario (the highest honor given by his province). And he’s the only other author I know who owns a replica Neanderthal skull.

Rob is also generous with his time, always supportive of newer authors, and writes one heck of a blurb. It’s inconceivable to me that you might not have read his fiction, but if that’s the case I’m confident that reading his most memorable meal will inspire you to click a link and correct that oversight.

I confess, I’ve been waxing a bit nostalgic writing up this introduction. One of the last conventions I appeared at had me sitting next to Rob on a panel. It was a glorious time, and a room full of people heard him repeatedly threaten to kill me, but that’s another story…

LMS: Welcome, Rob. You’ve been a difficult man to wrangle for a meal, but my dogged persistence has paid off. Please tell me about the dinner that stands out in your memory.

RJS: Twenty years ago, in the summer of 2000, my twelfth novel, Calculating God, had just come out. The publisher was Tor, headquartered in New York, but they contracted out their Canadian distribution to a wonderful firm called H.B. Fenn and Company, based just north of Toronto, where I live. The fine folk at Fenn very much took me under their wing: as distributor of foreign-published books, they rarely had a local author to work with, and I became part of their family.

And when family calls and asks a favor, you say yes. So when Heidi Winter, my publicist there, called to say she had an author coming in from out of town who had nothing to do the evening before his public event, and she hoped I wouldn’t mind taking him out to dinner, I agreed at once. She hastened to add that, of course, I should send the bill to Fenn for reimbursement.

The Oppenheimer Alternative

No problem, I said. Happy to help. And who might the author be?

Heidi and I were talking on the phone, but I can just picture the grin she must’ve had on her face when she told me: Buzz Aldrin.

We didn’t say OMG back then; we said all three words and we sometimes threw a fourth that started with F in there for emphasis. I can’t remember for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s precisely what my response had been.

The man born Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., was the second human being to walk on the moon, and, as Heidi told me, he’d collaborated on a new Tor novel with my pal John Barnes: The Return, about the future of human spaceflight, particularly space tourism, a topic, as I learned over that dinner, that Buzz was very much an advocate of.

Although John had done the lion’s share of the actual writing, Buzz was the one Tor sent on tour — and not only was I to wine and dine him on his first night in town, but the next night I myself was to be the on-stage interviewer for his appearance at the Indigo bookstore in Toronto’s Eaton Centre.

Hominids

Toronto is a vastly multicultural city — there really is no cuisine you can’t get here — and, despite my own pedestrian taste in food, I would have been more than content to take Buzz anywhere he might have wished to go. But even a space travelers gets jet-lag, apparently: he said he just wanted to eat in the hotel restaurant, and so Carolyn and I had an amazing two-and-a-half-hour dinner with him at Accents, the steakhouse at the Sutton Place Hotel, sadly now defunct.

Buzz is a real raconteur, and he regaled us with stories. But he’s also a real salesperson, and spent a lot of time on his pitch for a modular space-vehicle design geared to bring average citizens into orbit. At seventy years old, the guy had more energy than I, just forty then, had.

I asked him if the rumor was true that he’d performed Holy Communion at Tranquility Base, and he, a devout Roman Catholic, said absolutely yes.

Although Buzz noted that he loved visiting Canada, he was pissed that he couldn’t use the airport lounge he’d wanted to. He thought all airport lounges everywhere should welcome astronauts, but the airlines had apparently balked, saying there were too many astronauts now. Buzz had an answer, though: fine, he said, limit it to real astronauts: those who had undergone TLI. A lifelong space buff, I knew that this was trans-lunar injection — leaving Earth’s orbit and blasting off to our neighboring world. Apparently, though, Buzz said, John Glenn, who had spent more time in space than Buzz had, but only had made it to low Earth orbit, rejected this distinction.

Calculating God

When I said John Barnes and I are pals, Buzz pulled out his flip cell and called up John, saying to him, by way of hello, “I’m having dinner with an illegal alien” – a little reference to my then-recent novel Illegal Alien. John and I chatted for a bit — always a pleasure — but I’m sure I rushed him off the phone, eager to get back to Buzz. Even so, Buzz’s phone, well, buzzed a fair bit during dinner — there were negotiations going on about trying to place the movie rights to The Return. This was long before our current era of cheap international roaming, but I suspect such trifles didn’t occur to a man who’d taken a call from the White House while on the surface of another world.

The bill for the three of us came to Cdn$221.59, including tip. I sent the receipt to H.B. Fenn, but, really, I’d have gladly paid for this opportunity. A writer hopes for a certain immortality — that his or her books will live on — but Buzz has real immortality. At Tranquility Base, on the lower stage of the Lunar Module, is a plaque that says, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon,” along with his John Hancock. I didn’t ask Buzz for an autograph that night, but whenever I look up and see the Mare Tranquillitatis, I know his signature is there and always will be. That knowledge, and my memories of that wonderful dinner, are all I need.

Thanks, Rob. One of the perks of our business is the occasional opportunity to meet and chat with people who have gone into space. I’ve met three astronauts, and even dined with one myself — and I count myself incredibly fortunate for that meal. But dinner with Buzz? I’m just agog. Seriously.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

author photo by Carolyn Clink

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Mary Fan

No Comments » Written on October 5th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Tags:
Mary Fan

For the past several days a lot of my focus has been on my first ever Kickstarter campaign, an attempt to raise funds to allow the publication of an an EATING AUTHORS book, a selection of 100 meals from the ten years I have been running this weekly blog feature. The project launched last Wednesday, and hit its basic funding level in less than three days, which ensures that there will be an ebook at the very least and that all backers will also receive a *bonus* ebook of short stories by some of the authors who are featured in the main book.

That leaves several weeks to keep raising funds that in turn will open up additional stretch goals of free novelettes, novellas, and novels for all backers, as well as firming up the likelihood for trade paperback and even hardcover versions of the book. Best of all, once the campaign ends and the book becomes available for purchase (regardless of the format), 100% all profits from sales will be donated: half to Cancer Research and half to the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund.

Here’a link so you can check it out: kickstarter.com/projects/schoen/eating-authors. Oh, and did I mention there are some incredibly cool rewards you can lock in, like one-on-one Zoom chats, online Kaffeeklatsches with assorted authors, autographed books, and more? Many of these are available in limited quantities and going fast so don’t delay!

And speaking of delays, I’ve been holding on to this week’s guest’s meal for a while now, because I wanted to focus on the recent string of authors I’ve featured who are contributing to the Hellcats anthology. But Mary Fran has waited long enough, particularly when you consider that I invited her back around the time that Pangaea: Book III: Redemption came out (we both have stories in it).

Mary currently resides in New Jersey, but she got there by way of North Carolina, Hong Kong, and Beijing. She has a B.A. in Music from Princeton and a day job in financial marketing. In addition to her own fiction, she’s co-edited the excellent Brave New Girls series, five volumes of stories featuring heroines who fix robots, build super suits, hack interstellar corporations, mess with alien chemicals, and work on time machines. And in keeping with this week’s theme of charity projects, all revenues from this series are donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers, cause that’s just how Mary rolls.

LMS: Welcome, Mary. At long last I can ask you to talk about your most memorable meal.

MF: When I was 24, I took my kid sister, Angel, on a vacation to Universal Studios Orlando to celebrate her 17th birthday. This was back in 2012, when the Harry Potter attraction was still novel and before JK Rowling devastated countless fans with her offensive attitudes toward marginalized communities. I don’t recall exactly how I got it in my head that I was going to take the two of us on a parents-free sister trip — our first ever — but I remember I’d initially hoped to do so for Angel’s Sweet Sixteen.

A Girl Called Firedragon

However, graduating college on the heels of a recession meant that jobs were scarce, and I was desperate enough to take one all the way in Beijing, a city where I knew nobody. Having grown up Chinese American, I felt as much a foreigner as if I’d just arrived from Mars. After over a year, I made it back to the US feeling adultier than I had any right to. I had actual money in my bank account—enough to pay for plane tickets and hotel rooms, not just a few bucks from working at the campus café. When I got back to my home country, I wanted to celebrate in the most American way possible: by going to a theme park in Florida. Angel’s 17th birthday was the perfect excuse to jet off to a tacky resort and blow all my savings.

Even though there’s a nearly eight-year age gap between us, we’ve always had a lot of fun together. I think it’s because I never outgrew the “kid stuff.” Stories of magic and adventure and daring quests. Stories like Harry Potter. It took me no effort at all to relate to a little kid’s whimsies when I was a teen, and just as little to relate to a teen when I hit my mid-twenties.

“What are you going on about, Mary?” you might be thinking at this point. “Wasn’t this supposed to be about a meal?”

I promise, I’m getting to that.

By this point in her life, Angel had developed a very adventurous palate and self-identified as a foodie. In fact, we briefly tried to start a lifestyle blog together, and her nickname was Foodie Fish (“Fish” was — and still is — my nickname for her… originally it was “Angelfish”). We’d spend hours watching Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain eat their way around the world on TV, fascinated and envious.

Starswept

When we arrived in Orlando, we were filled with exuberant, almost manic energy. We were staying at the park’s resort, which was full of themed restaurants and other fun ways to part you from your money. We’d chosen a long weekend known unofficially as “New Jersey week” at the Orlando theme parks. This was the week that the NJ teachers’ associations met, thereby giving the kids Thursday and Friday off from school — and families an opportune timeframe to go on vacation in November, after the summer rush and ahead of the holiday madness. Hurricane Sandy had also recently hit, and all of us Jerseyans in town were relieved to get away from that mess.

It was in this enthusiastic spirit that we entered the Central American-themed restaurant at the resort. I don’t remember what it was called or much of what it looked like. Only that it was dark with blue-tinted lighting. Because it was the off season, we were among the very, very few guests at the resort. In fact, when we entered the restaurant, there was only one other occupied table: a couple having an elegant meal.

When the menu arrived, we wanted to try everything on it. Especially since the offerings went beyond the usual tacos and burritos and resembled some of the amazing dishes that Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain got to eat on TV. Though Angel’s actual birthday had passed a month earlier, this was to be her celebration dinner. I was feeling rich and generous now that I had my first year’s income in my bank account, and I was more than ready to splurge. So I told Angel to order anything and everything she wanted. All she had to do was show the mildest interest in a dish, and I’d say, “Yeah, let’s get that too.”

Artificial Absolutes

Reader, we ordered enough food for 10 people. I don’t remember the exact number of appetizers and entrées, or even what they were — I recall there was a ceviche in there, which at the time was novel to us. But we amused the waiter with our unending list of orders.

When the food arrived, it took half the waitstaff to bring it. The food almost literally overflowed off the table. Everyone was laughing — including the elegant couple at the other table, who glanced briefly at our foods’ arrival, did a double take, and grinned widely. I don’t think anyone expected two small-ish Asian girls to order enough food to feed a large family.

Or to finish most of it.

And when the waiter said, “Are you ready for dessert?” with a joking tone, clearly expecting us to say we were full, we instead said, “Yeah!” and proceeded to order two. I think his eyes were about two millimeters from popping out of his head.

I don’t know if that was the best meal I’ve ever had, but it was certainly the happiest.

Thanks, Mary. It sounds like a memory as much of joy as it is of food. Which is to say, perfect!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Rebecca Gomez Farrell

1 Comment » Written on September 28th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Tags:
Rebecca Gomez Farrell

The Autumnal Equinox as well as National Elephant Appreciation Day fell on the same day this year and I hope you remembered to celebrate both. For unrelated reasons, I’ve been under stupid amounts of stress this past week and it’s likely that I will continue in that vein for another week or more, but the specifics are not my story to tell. Suffice it to say I have not been sleeping well, or exercising, or getting as much work done as I’d like.

Fortunately, things that I had set in motion are coming to fruition despite my stress levels. I refer of course to my first-ever Kickstarter, which was approved just the other day and will be going live on Wednesday. This is a bit of crowfunding to allow me to publish a book of one hundred of the best meals from the ten years of this very EATING AUTHORS blog. I promise I’ll be posting about it far and wide and sharing a link so you can get in on some of the amazing swag being offered.

Meanwhile, let me introduce you to this week’s guest, Rebecca Gomez Farrell, who resides out on the west coast of California where, when she’s not writings short stories or novels, she fills her time with a variety of author-adjacent activities. She co-organizes the East Bay Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Meetup Group, as well as heading up her local chapter of the national Women Who Submit Lit organization, which encourages all writers who identify as women and/or genderqueer to submit their work out for publication. As if that wasn’t enough, she recently stepped up and took on the responsibility of being the new Communications Manager for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)!

Having spent years myself in service to SFWA and seeing how the sausage gets made, I was impressed and immediately reached out to invite her to share a meal with all of you.

LMS: Welcome, Becca. Please talk to me about your most memorable meal.

RGF: In addition to writing fiction, I’m what the kids call an influencer, particularly of food and drink. So I’ve had a ton of memorable meals, from maple-walnut pie served a la mode with horchata ice cream to manhattans made with smoked bourbon. It’s a hobby that absolutely contributes to the sensual aspects of my writing. What’s most powerful to me, however, is the emotional memories a meal can trigger.

chilaquiles

Which is why my favorite meal is not the near perfect Dungeness crab roll I had last week on a dock in Sausalito, though I admit, it comes close. My favorite meal is chilaquiles, something of a tortilla casserole that originated in Mexico but can be found in much of the Americas.

I didn’t know it as chilaquiles growing up. My family called it shipwreck, and they taught my mother how to cook it when she married into our particular Gomez branch. My burgeoning horror-writer heart reveled in the gruesome details of shipwreck, for this was a dish with a story. We cut corn tortilla chips into strips and fried them for the wooden planks of the wrecked ship. We drizzled canned tomato sauce over the chips in a casserole dish to recreate the blood, or the ocean, depending on whom you asked. Diced onion stood in for the poor sailors’ bones. Finally, we rained down flames of cheddar cheese on top. Two layers fit in a pan. Bake at the universal 350° for about 30 minutes. Then slather sour cream and guacamole on top, the true signs of a properly assimilated Mexican American dish. My family may loudly proclaim us to be Spanish, despite the first of my ancestors making that Atlantic trip over half a millennium ago, but we’ve been proudly Americans since Mexico ceded the Southwest.

Wings Unseen

Imagine the surprise of my college self, when in Santa Cruz, CA, I ordered a strange-sounding dish called chilaquiles for brunch. Out came a bowl of tomato salsa-dipped tortilla chips topped with scrambled eggs, salsa verde, and yes, crema and avocado. One bite, and I knew I’d met shipwreck’s true ancestor. Like my Gomez predecessors, its origins had been obscured to me. And sure, maybe it lost some of its flavor along the way. It certainly had morphed into a dinner meal rather than a breakfast feast sometime during our centuries in New Mexico and Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Yet it’s just as delightful both ways.

The last time I ordered chilaquiles was a few weeks ago from a local joint here in Oakland named Chica. They dip their chips in homemade enchilada sauce and top them with carnitas hash, cotija, salsa roja, chimichurri, and two fried eggs. Each bite triggers delight for me, in the freshness of their ingredients and the heartiness of homestyle Chicana cooking. A bite takes me back to my childhood love of shipwreck and its macabre ingredients, cherished memories and flavors I’ll never forget.

But if I ever write a seafaring tale and name the ship the SS Chilaquiles, well, I think you can guess what that poor vessel’s fate will be.

Thanks, Becca. I’ve been living on the east coast for too long, and I miss the authentic cuisine I grew up with in southern California. I don’t think I’ve ever had chilaquiles though, I’m pretty sure I’d remember the screams of those shipwrecked sailors as I consumed them.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Bokerah Brumley

No Comments » Written on September 21st, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Tags:
Bokerah Brumley

As often happens, I’m prepping this week’s EATING AUTHORS installment in advance, which could be seen as the act of a very responsible person or an exercise in cat vacuuming because I don’t want to work on some other thing I’m supposed to be doing. I’m pretty sure it’s one or other.

By the time this goes live, I’d like to think I’ll have turned in (and maybe actually pulled the trigger on) the Kickstarter to fund the 100 Writers’ Most Memorable Meals book — celebrating ten years of this blog. And too, Soup of the Moment will have burst out into the world. I’ll also have had a follow-up visit with my orthopedic oncologist as well as my primary care physician. And with a little luck, I’ll have inched ever closer to finishing a draft of Ace of Saints, the second book in the Freelance Courier series. As you can see, September is an especially busy time.

Other bits since last week’s post have included my appearance on a virtual discussion of “why we love SF” alongside Jody Lynn Nye and Chuck Gannon (both pasts guests on this blog), and pimping two anthologies that have included my work: The Expanding Universe 6 and Hellcats. That last, as you may have guessed given the pattern emerging from the last few weeks, is your segue to this week’s guest, Bokerah Brumley, who is also a contributor to the anthology.

Bokerah lives in Texas where she’s a permaculture farmer on ten acres of land that also includes her husband and five home-educated children. This is not the usual background of most writers who drop by to share meals, nor the string of jobs that often attend authors as they struggle to finish their novels. Instead, Bokerah comes across as an expert multi-tasker, doing a dozen different things at once, making steady progress in all of them.

Her fiction ranges not just between short stories in a host of anthologies but also to novels that cross genres from fantasy to science fiction, paranormal academy to shape shifting romance, Mom adventures to Texas romance. I’d be remiss if I didn’t call special attention to her participation in as unique a themed anthology as I’ve ever seen: CRACKED: An Anthology of Eggsellent Chicken Stories .

LMS: Welcome, Bokerah. I had to look up the term “permaculture,” and now I’m more eager than ever for you to share your most memorable meal.

BB: My answer is different than most, I think. It involves sweat and tears and muck.

It’s not about eating a place out or going away from home.

It’s not even exotic. It was some greens, a chicken leg, and a glass of milk.

Book of Power

Our family has been making movement toward sustainability for years. Not because it’s particularly easy in this sun-scorched, perpetually-droughted, bad-soiled part of West Texas, but because participating in the creation of food brings about a mindfulness that’s hard to get in any other way.

Up until last year, we had five kids at home. Between us, we worked the horrible dirt and mixed chicken/turkey/guinea/peafowl/sheep/goat manure into it. We’ve killed so many plants. I swear, I must have a black thumb. I’ve added lady bugs and praying mantids above ground and composting worms beneath.

It hasn’t been easy.

For instance, a few weeks ago, we had a wildfire on our property. My hubs fought it for fifteen minutes with a broom and a shovel until the volunteer fire department could get out here.

Our county has been hurting for rain. Don’t worry, though. September came and brought five inches of rain and cooler weather (it’s not 105 degrees Fahrenheit now), and I was able to put 700 new composting worms into our soil without them baking away to nothing.

Curse of Aerie

We take our failures, but we’re always building for tomorrow. Adding carbon to lifeless soil, running creatures over the ground… Every time we get a shipment from any place, we break down the box, put it on the ground and put old hay over it.

We’re growing dirt. Not for today, but for next year or the year after.

So, what makes the most memorable meal I’ve ever had? I’m glad you asked.

A couple of years ago, as a family, we ate the first meal that we produced ourselves from start to finish. We had chicken that we grew up from chicks to poults to adult. And then we processed the chickens ourselves.

We cared for the needs of each of the birds, minding what they ate. They received grit and fermented feed with apple cider vinegar in their water. We kept them safe, and we gave them the best existence on fresh pasture that we could. In all of their life, they only had one bad day.

Admission

We drank milk from the goats and water from our well. Then we ate boiled eggs (sloppily peeled) and veggies we’d harvested from our own garden.

There’s something unifying about food. A home-cooked meal has a way of bringing people together, and producing that same food amplifies that tenfold.

It was a hard-earned meal, as each of them are, but it was the most memorable one, I think. It gave every member of our family a sense of pride.

We fail often in this journey, but we’re always trying to fail forward.

“Someday, it’ll be easier,” we sigh. Maybe not. Probably not, if we’re honest.

But EVERY DAY, we leave these acres better than they were yesterday.

It’s never easy. But it is good. It is satisfying, and it makes the best meal.

And we did that. Together.

Thanks, Bokerah. I envy the satisfaction that such a meal must surely bring, though not the effort necessary to achieve it. But that’s probably because I’m just old and lazy. Also, I kept wondering if you make your own cheese. I may have to travel down to Texas to find out.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro

Eating Authors: Efthalia

No Comments » Written on September 14th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Tags:
Efthalia

We’re all but midway through September, and at least here in southeastern Pennsylvania the weather has broken and it is feeling like autumn. Gone (for the most part) are the too warm temperatures, and while the sun is rising a bit later in the morning, I’ve been loving my morning walks again now that I begin them in the mid-50’s and low 60’s.

In other news, this looks to be a busy week for my fiction: The Expanding Universe 6 comes out today, and includes my story “Remora Immortal.” On Thursday, the Barsk prequel novella Soup of the Moment will be released. And of course, we’re two weeks into the campaign for the massive, sixty-nine story Hellcats charity anthology that includes my short story “Cat Futures.” This last book also provides a nice segue into this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, as Efthalia is also a contributor to the anthology.

Efthalia is the author of the Phi Athanatoi series (the second volume of which, Phantasia: A Bad Day On Olympus, came out this past May), a blend of modern day police action with demons, Greek gods, and assorted witches, werewolves, and vampires.

She lives in Sydney, Australia, and with luck I can leverage her appearance here to score some violet crumble or tim tams (both of which I became addicted to when I visited Sydney years ago). It should come as no surprise that she’s currently studying Classics and Archaeology at the local university.

LMS: Welcome, Efthalia. Please tell me about your most memorable meal

E: Food for me has always been one of those things that means more than just eating to live. It brings people together, opens up discussions and gives us these perfectly glorious moments that become painted portraits in our mind. Food isn’t always about the plate that arrives at the table, it’s the location, ambience and the people you are with.

Phantasma

I love trying different things and I think one of the most memorable dishes I ever had was one when I was feeling a little adventurous while on vacation in Fiji. We had decided that it would be a good idea to check out one of the other hotel’s restaurants. Why not? We were on holiday and this is something you do, look for new places to eat when you’ve grown tired of what is available at the resort you’re staying at. The restaurant we visited is no longer there, but what I do remember is that when I sat down my eye was drawn to the ‘Lobster Bisque’, for like ten minutes that was all that I could read from the menu. I was in a lobster bisque trance. Hypnotized. Everything else around on the menu was blurry. I had heard people raving about lobster bisque over the years, this was my chance to earn more foodie stripes, by diving straight into bisque territory. I took the plunge and ordered the bisque. While we waited, I contemplated silently, what if my ‘spur of the moment,’ decision had been the wrong choice? Well, my fears were put to rest when a big bowl of aromatic bisque arrived. I took one spoonful and my tastebuds just exploded. This dish was worth every penny. It was perfect and well balanced, the way a good meal should be. It exceeded my expectations and it confirmed my belief that we should all be a little daring when it comes to different types of cuisine.

Food has always been a big part of my life that when I’m writing I tend to put food scenes in my stories or mention food, because I figure our characters have to eat too. Especially if we want them to be well rounded and three dimensional, right?

Thanks, Efthalia. Speaking as a certified hypnotist, I can’t tell you the number of times I have used lobster bisque as a trancing tool. I can’t tell you because it’s never happened. Maybe I should, but I’ll have to swap out “you’re getting sleepy…” for “you’re getting hungry…”

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.

#SFWApro