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Eating Authors: Leanna Renee Hieber

Written on December 31st, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Leanna Renee Hieber

Congratulations. We’ve made it through to the last day of another year. High fives all around. I’m not going to comment on 2018. Nope. Just point it toward the exit and focus on the potentials that lie ahead in the new year. And yet, even as we move forward, EATING AUTHORS returns home, specifically with this week’s guest, Leanna Renee Hieber, whose meal occurs here in Philadelphia.

Leanna is not merely an award-winning (four Prism awards as well as RWA’s author of the year), bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy, but also a playwright and actress (performing her one-woman show as 19th century designer Clara Driscoll). But wait, somehow she also finds time to be a licensed ghost tour guide in New York City.

Her most recent book, barely a month old, The Spectral City, sports the tagline “Solving crime isn’t only for the living” and offers up a teenage medium helping the police in turn-of-the century NYC. Best of all, it’s only the first book in a promised new series!

LMS: Welcome, Leanna. Thanks for being here to close out the year. Please share your most memorable meal.

LRH: I’m a historical fantasy author focusing on the 19th century. I’m also a vegetarian. So, whenever I can mix my love of history with my passion for vegetarianism, it’s a really great day.?

The Spectral City

One of the most memorable meals I’ve had was at the City Tavern in Philadelphia with one of my dearest friends. We discovered, to our delight, that there was a Tofu dish on the menu. City Tavern, one of Benjamin Franklin’s old haunts, a building and history dating to the pre-revolutionary period, prides itself on authentic Revolutionary Era cuisine, being so near to Independence Hall. This isn’t a cuisine known for particularly adventurous offerings. When I excitedly asked about the Tofu, our waiter, matching my enthusiasm, told us that in examining letters from Benjamin Franklin, the Tavern staff recently discovered an entry about enjoying a Tofu dish in France that he wanted to bring back to America and include in new dishes here. Due to this historical account, City Tavern created a flavorful, filling, breaded tofu dish stewed in a rich tomato base with fresh vegetables.

Paired with the warm, powerful goodness of a Tavern Warmer, a heated alcoholic beverage rich in brandy and spices, it was an incredible meal in a very historic space that admittedly felt a bit haunted. Considering I write historical supernatural suspense, this is a welcome perk. The warmth of the food, the cozy atmosphere of candles and fireplaces and the rosy cheeks created by the Tavern Warmer together provided a dynamic contrast to the allure of the building’s spectral chill.

Given that my latest novel, The Spectral City, a Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy full of ghosts and mystery set in 1899 involves a vibrant historic East Coast, I love taking the opportunity to do a bit of time travel in my work and research, and this meal at City Tavern was exactly that.

Thanks, Leanna. Franklin and tofu… I have no words. I’m completely agog. I’ll never look at Poor Richard’s Almanac the same way again.

Next Monday: Another year, another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Jeremy Finley

Written on December 24th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Jeremy Finley

As part of the year winding down, last week I blew out a tire on my new car. When I bought the car a couple months ago, I sprang for the ten-year, bumper-to-bumper package. Alas, this does not cover tires. The whole affair, completely with replacement tire scheduling stupidity, has left me feeling sour. This is not how I want to end the year, which admittedly, has been one of both highs and lows. So instead, I’ll draw your attention to something else that happened last week, the release my novelette “The Rule of Three” in the premiere issue of Future SF. Give it a read; I think you’ll like it.

Segueing now into other things I think you’ll like, allow me to introduce you to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Jeremy Finley. Those of you from the greater Nashville area already know Jeremy, as he’s the chief investigative reporter at the NBC affiliate there. His many accomplishments include eighteen Emmys and Edward R. Murrow awards, a national Headliner award, and two IRE awards. In 2016 the Tennessee Associated Press named him journalist of the year. How this man doesn’t have as wikipedia page I’ll never understand.

And now he’s turned his powers to fiction. His debut novel The Darkest Time of Night was released this past June to rave reviews. The sequel, The Dark Above is already schedule for July.

LMS: Welcome, Jeremy. Tell me about your best meal.

JF: I don’t remember what I ate during the best meal I’ve ever had.

To explain, I have to liken meals to books, and writers and chefs may not appreciate the comparison.

We have multiple bookshelves in our house, all stacked mostly with novels that carry significance. A high percentage have already been read once, and I cling to them, pausing occasionally to look at the spine, the font of the title, the color of the jacket. It was only when my family made our latest move did my wife, Rebecca, who has spent eighteen years hauling books from one house to another, gently suggested, perhaps, it was time to thin the herd.

It should have been easy, as I pride myself in not getting attached to physical objects, not houses, not furniture, not cars. The parting from the books, though, was like ripping off a band-aid each time a novel went into the library donation pile.

The Darkest Time of Night

“But you’ve already read them,” my wife mentioned, certainly fighting the urge to smack me on the back of the head with the three volume collection of Michael Crichton’s novels that weighs more than she does.

What I didn’t explain was that I know exactly how I feel about the book, but not much else.

Which is how I feel about meals. Nashville, the city in which we’ve lived in for fifteen years, has become a foodie town, so much that restaurants pop up like musicians on open mic nights trying to score a record deal. Even after we sample them, even if I truly enjoy the food, I don’t remember what I ate. It drives Rebecca nuts, as her brain is wired to remember exact details of most things (translation: she’s much smarter).

“How can you not remember that delicious chicken we ate at the 404 Kitchen?” she’d ask.

I’d probably just stupidly grin, thinking that I definitely recall how you can sit on the front patio of the restaurant and watch the bachelorette parties cruise by on party barges screaming at people on the street. I remember laughing with her, and how the towering office buildings and condos capture the kind of constant breeze reminiscent of downtown New York or Chicago.

Like books, I remember how the restaurants made me feel. I love to eat out, just like I love to read. I do both as often as I can. But it’s the details I’m hazy about. I will talk for hours about my love for certain books, but unless I’ve re-read them several times, the names of characters, major plot twists and developments, are foggy. It honestly bugs me, as I want to be able to rattle off the fine details of the work that a writer has toiled so repeatedly over. Just as I want to remember the spices, the seasonings, the presentation of the meals, a lingering homage to the chef’s work.

The Dark Above

I do wonder if, in these extremely tense and volatile times of ours, that when we have a great experience, and we are so relieved and thrilled to find something that brings us joy that we become so deeply entrenched and we let our minds relax. For that moment, all we know is that what we’re eating or reading is really, really good.

Which is why I don’t recall a single detail about the food during the meal that I believe was the best I ever had.

But I de remember the place, and the cooks, and the people who gathered. How my wife was nine months pregnant with our first daughter, and our doctor didn’t want us to travel to go home to Illinois for Thanksgiving. With no family in town, our friends down the street invited us into their home.

We lived in East Nashville at the time, a neighborhood filled with baristas with curled mustaches in skinny jeans; where people smoke and drink wine by candlelight on their front porches, held aloft by 100 year old Victorian pillars in desperate need of painting.

It’s the kind of urban image completed that the Thanksgiving invitation was from a lesbian couple universally adored on our street. From the moment we entered, there was laughter and booze and the smell of turkey. We sat at their large dining room table, next to our neighbors with their young son who repeatedly rested his head on our shared fence to discuss Star Wars trivia. Our British friends, from a few streets over, regaled us with stories of their favorite horror movies to watch on Christmas.

I do wish I remember the food, but it’s OK that I don’t. I actually don’t need to. I just know that afterwards, I was full, I was content, and I was happy.

Which is exactly how I felt in the completion of certain books, why they remain on my bookshelf, and in dark times of uncertainty, I can walk by them, see their titles, and briefly remember how it feels to be truly nourished.

Thanks, Jeremy. I understand completely, and I’m much the same way. A fine meal, like a fine book, is the very definition of feeling replete for me. But yes, it’s hard, particularly when one’s wife is a chef and friends are all authors.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: N. J. Schrock

Written on December 17th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
N. J. Schrock

Most years at about this time, I’m chomping at the bit for the calendar to finish so I can move on and start all over again. But instead, as the last of my major obligations has just been completed, I’m wishing the remaining days could stretch out further. I long for lazy days punctuated by the occasional nap. Why is it that our perception of time is so relativistic and kooky?

Which is not the best of segues to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, because N. J. Schrock is neither relativistic nor kooky. She was a Ph.D.-carrying chemist with a quarter century experience in the private sector before deciding she wanted more, went back to school and picked up a Master’s in English. The combination shows in her writing, and is on fine display in her debut novel Incense Rising, though, I confess, she had me from the very beginning by naming a scientist Incense Rising.

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

NJS: In the late 1980s, I was working as a research chemist on a product development project, and I was invited to go to Italy to meet the customer and witness how a plastic product was manufactured. I met up with two colleagues in technical service, one from the U.S. (Nick, a Midwesterner), and one from Belgium (Paul). In the hotel lobby earlier in the day, Paul proposed that we meet at 9:00 p.m. to go to dinner. Nick was adamant that 9:00 was way too late for dinner, but Paul knew the Italians, and we agreed to a compromise of 8:30. The late hour was only the first of many things about this dinner that made it unique.

The Italian salesman, who I think was named Giorgio, drove us to the venue on winding, narrow roads. I sat in the passenger side back seat and kept expecting the passenger-side mirror to be taken off by the sheer rock walls. The road had no shoulder, and the driver’s speed seemed excessive for the road, but he knew what he was doing. Nick sat in the driver’s side of the back seat and was visibly edgy and probably glad he didn’t have my side. But the proximity of the cliff and the speed that it was passing us was not what made it so memorable. At places along the wall, people had made memorials to dead loved ones. When we pulled off the road into a small parking lot, we had a chance to examine one. Pictures, votive candles, and statues filled a recess in the wall, connecting us with the people who had spent their lives in this place. Their presence was almost palpable.

Incense Rising

Looking around, I wondered where the restaurant was. We were high above the lake. The sun had set, and the lights across the lake reflected in the water, making for a beautiful scene. What I soon learned is that we had to walk to the restaurant, which was down the slope and through a Medieval-looking village. The houses were stone and set into the slope, and people were going about their evening lives. I would like to have seen it in the daylight.

When we arrived at the restaurant, it was a cozy family-run business. I don’t recall what the dishes were, but we had several, brought out in small portions and not in the order that we might typically expect in the U.S. If I recall correctly, the salad might have been last. The weather was perfect, the food and wine were excellent, and the lights on the other side of the lake came across the water and mingled with the congenial company.

After dinner, we toured a Medieval chapel on the property. I was struck by how little the structure of a chapel has changed in hundreds of years. I felt the connections through the years from the chapel, to the village, and to the memorial all the way up the cliff as we climbed back through the dark village at about midnight to the place where the car sat waiting for us and our lives spent in other times and places.

I’ll never forget that meal even though I don’t remember what I ate. Someday I’d like to try to find that restaurant again if it’s still there. Through a quick google search, I did find a website that warned Americans not to try to drive that road. And rightly so, it’s probably a road I’ll never see again because the most memorable meals are not repeatable. They’re caught in a time and place like the memorials in the cliff walls.

Thanks, Nancy. It’s probably a bit morbid or me, but I wonder how many of those roadside shrines were to people who met their end either coming or going to that restaurant.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Brian Trent

Written on December 10th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Brian Trent

As the Festival of Lights comes to an end, I’m feeling very blessed. The year is winding down and despite more than a few troublesome bits, I’m still here and the universe still smiles upon me. A recent reminder of that was last week’s return of my tablet which went missing when I passed through TSA on my way home from a conference in Las Vegas a month ago. Perhaps most incredibly, the device still had about ten percent power. There’s an obvious metaphor tying back to Hanukkah, but instead of going down that path let’s get on with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest.

Every once in a while an author of my acquaintance reaches out to me and says something like “hey, there’s this new writer who’s really awesome and I think you should have them over to your blog and ask them about their most memorable meal.” This doesn’t happen often, but when it does I’m usually so moved by the level of enthusiasm that I’ll check out that new writer and extend an invitation. Which is how Brian Trent, comes to be here.

Brian is a blend of journalist and genre novelist, and his keen interest in science and society pervades his writing in both domains. He appears equally at home in science fiction and fantasy and brings a fresh voice to them. Sampling his work I can see why he was recommended to me and I’m very glad I listened. You should too.

LMS: Welcome, Brian. What stands out in your memory as your best meal?

BT: The best meal I’ve had was in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Rome. The city–and indeed the country itself–had already been surprising me with its constant generosity and commitment to delivering memorable culinary experiences. That might sound obvious: it’s Italy, right, so of course the food would be great! Yet my dining experiences in the country had included places I wouldn’t have thought to have dining experiences, like a wine shop in Assisi, where the proprietors plied me with remarkable cheeses, delicious pastries, rich olive oil, and local black truffles over crispy bread while I sampled their Chianti. I have yet to be fed at any liquor store in America.

Ten Thousand Thunders

In Rome, I was already on a natural high from seeing the millennia-old ruins. My explorations of the city had been so relentless, in fact, that I had forgotten to eat that day, and was suddenly exhausted, hungry, ravenous. Having freshened up at my hotel and realizing how late the hour was, I sprinted off to see what was available in walking distance of the hotel. There was, alas, little to find. Apparently, my little rented corner of the Eternal City was situated in some Twilight Zone borderland where restaurants were somehow rare.

I did end up discovering a small, unassuming place. Upon entering, the proprietor greeted me, and I quickly exhausted my paltry knowledge of Italian in those opening seconds. Studying the menu, I decided on a seafood appetizer (as in, a single appetizer) and a pasta-with-mushroom main dish. Trying to place my order, however, yielded a great deal of confusion with the waiter. I pointed to the item I wanted. He nodded uncertainly, and left.

When he returned, he was accompanied by a phalanx of other waiters bearing what must have been a decent sample of the existing life in the Atlantic. I blinked, bewildered as the table vanished beneath all the plates. What was going on here? Was I being swindled? Had my wonky knowledge of the local language unintentionally invoked Neptune Himself, resulting in this startling bounty of the sea in gratitude for summoning Him? Before I could protest, the waiters were gone. My stomach, already hijacking my higher functions, demanded I eat what was before me. When in Rome, right?

Rahotep

Any residual protest I may have felt suddenly dissolved as I indulged in one fresh-from-the-sea dish after another. There was shrimp, there were clams, there was fish, there were mussels. I felt like Commander Riker from that Star Trek episode, when he decides to prepare for his Klingon exchange program by sampling the entirety of Klingon gastronomy. The preparation was simple yet masterful, flavorful and pure.

After a time, the proprietor came by to see if I was pleased. I scraped the bottom of my Italian vocabulary to try expressing that yes, I was more than pleased. He asked if I was ready to order my main dish. I explained that I wanted the pasta with mushrooms. Immediately, he shook his head. “No, no, no,” he said, disapprovingly. I stared at him, brandished the menu, and pointed directly to what I wanted. Again, he shook his head, waving his hand as if wiping away my suggestion from the air itself.

“Si,” I insisted, trying to reconcile what was happening. It was like arguing with a pharmacist over medicinal properties, or challenging a wizard over spell components.

“No,” he countered, and pointed out three alternate menu items that apparently would please the cosmos considering what I’d already had as a starter.

Never Grow Old

“Um, okay,” I said at last, selecting the scampi from his approved list. I liked scampi. Why not have it in Rome? After stressing that I only wanted the scampi (and not a cornucopia of every entrée available), I let him scurry off.

Was the meal that arrived actually scampi? The question deserves better than a binary “Yes” or “No” response. The scampi I had at that Italian restaurant was not mere scampi. One bite in, the scintillating flavors spreading like a prismatic supernova across my tongue, I realized that I had apparently never had scampi before. The thing that passed for scampi in American restaurants were anemic shadows on the wall of this ur-and-ultimate scampi. Each bite was a deeper revelation, a repositioning of myself and what I thought I knew. To paraphrase Mouse in The Matrix: “Maybe the machines didn’t know what scampi tasted like…” and here I was, unplugged from the illusion, eating the best meal I’d ever encountered in the real world.

Lesson learned: Don’t argue with Italian kitchen wizards, and be nice to Neptune.

Thanks, Brian. Imagining the shadows of Platonic scampi on the cave wall of Neputune’s bistro now replaces the scene of the Avengers having shawarma in my mind.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: S. L. Saboviec

Written on December 3rd, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
S. L. Saboviec

If it’s December, then it means I’ve survived the stupidity of doing four conventions in the month of November. I’m expecting this to be a quiet month, where my focus will be on finishing a novel, lowering my weight and blood sugar, and exercising regularly. Today is also the first day of Hanukkah, and for those who celebrate, a hearty Chag Urim Sameach to you. Wow, Kislev sure came early this year. I swear, it seems like only yesterday all the stores were playing traditional Cheshvan music.

As a writer, I believe that all quality fiction deals with some aspect of the human story. How we struggle with the tribulations of life, how we celebrate our successes, how we treat one another, how we summon the future. That may not seem like a segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, but in point of fact following S. L. Saboviec‘s account of her battle with cancer (stage 4, metastatic breast cancer) has been both moving and inspirational in ways that most fiction can only aspire to.

She’s a year and a month a few days past her diagnosis, marking her as a survivor. She’s been maintaining a blog of her journey (a bit less regularly than she’d like), and I highly recommend it for anyone who is or knows someone who is dealing with similar straits. Here’s a link.

She’s also written three novels about angels and demons. When time and circumstances allow, when she gets to draw on the experiences of the past year, I have no doubt that her fourth book will set the world afire. Until then, here’s her take on her most memorable meal. It’s awesome.

LMS: Welcome, Samantha, what’s your most memorable meal

SLS: Sixteen years ago, when I was but a young, carefree college student, I had dreams of saving the world. My ideas, back then, were a jarring contrast to those I currently hold, and indeed, at the time, I wouldn’t have even recognized thirty-seven-year-old me. Time and life experience has a tendency to change a person, but even I marvel at the jarring contrast between myself now and myself then.

I would describe myself presently as a liberal, feminist, trying-to-be-woke, supporting-marginalized-people, almost-socialist. Then, I was a conservative, small-town-living, born-again Christian, raised to believe the world needed the message I carried in my heart. This impelled me to go on summer mission trips at 18, 19, and 20; this story concerns the mid-summer after my junior year at Iowa State University.

I, along with about one hundred other students and leaders from across the United States, spent a month in southern Africa. We prepared in Maun, Botswana, camped outside a small village called Nxamasere for the bulk of the trip, and finished up with a couple days in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. We built huts, ran a week-long Vacation Bible School for local children, and helped teach locals how to stop the spread of AIDS.

Guarding Angel

Africa.

Any words I might choose seem overwrought, cliché, or both. It is exactly as you see on TV, only more real, tangible, and beautiful than a picture can convey. Merely seeing the landscape changed me; interacting with the locals sent me on a path toward who I am today.

My most memorable meal happened on the last night we were in Victoria Falls. Our leaders took us to a buffet with a spread of many different kinds of breads, meats, and desserts. I filled my plate with kudu, warthog, and ostrich. My fellow missionaries urged me to try their signature dish: Mopani worm.

I did it. I put the worm in my mouth. I bit into it. It squished apart, and I swallowed it.

I even kept it down.

The meal was a culmination of the whirlwind I’d been through those past few weeks. Yes, people exist who eat insects was a concept that encapsulated my experience. Before then, I knew people like that existed. But I didn’t know know. Eating the worm was as much to solidify the reality in my mind as it was to do something I would not normally do. If I hadn’t eaten it, I was certain, I would regret it for the rest of my life.

But eating a bug wasn’t the most life-changing thing that happened that week. As I sat around the table with the strangers-turned-friends I had made, my thoughts returned to one small occurrence that morphed my entire worldview.

Nxamasere had no electricity. The villagers lived in dung huts and hauled water from one of two wells at opposite ends of their town. My mission group slept in tents about a mile away. One of our projects was to build a latrine for them—with no running water, mind you. Our bathroom was just north of us, a giant sandbox that looked no different from where we pitched our tents.

At night, I sat under the stars and marveled at how brilliant the Milky Way was. Once again, words fail me: we’re all jaded by television and movies, surround sound and IMAX. But something about truly seeing the sky and breathing the African air touched my soul, straightened out my crinkled corners, and gave me new life.

The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé

The children who came to the Vacation Bible School ranged in age from three to eighteen. Their skin was obsidian, their hair cut short. They were curious and shy, most of them both at the same time.

During downtime, our translator would allow questions from them to us. They’d heard stories of the Western world, but they’d never been outside their small villages. Where would they go, and how would they get there? As a village, they owned an old jalopy of a car that they would use for emergencies—I never asked where they got gas nor where the car itself came from.

A little boy about seven years old was bursting to ask a question. The translator, who seemed mostly bored by the entire experience, was half-heartedly translating. The boy was bouncing, his hand in the air, so I pointed at him.

He talked animatedly to the translator, who waved a dismissive hand and gave a curt answer in Setswana.

“Wait,” I said before the translator could move on. “What did he say?”

The boy’s eyes were shining. The translator said, “He wanted to know how many water pumps are in your village.”

“What?” I answered.

The translator had been there to pick us up at the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was a modern, if extremely foreign-seeming, city. He was clearly not impressed with the wide-eyed naivety of the children. He sighed. “He’s very proud because Nxamasere has two water pumps. Most villages only have one.”

My mind stalled, and before I could think of how to explain, the translator had moved on to another child.

Reaping Angel

That was the moment my world opened up.

How do you explain to a proud child that in your house, you had more “water pumps” than all of his surrounding villages combined? One room in our homes has three, including one to flush away waste.

It was such a small and apparently easily-dismissed question. Sixteen years later, I still think of it with wonderment. It isn’t about the technology or the living conditions—it was never about that—it was about how different the world can be. The Batswana I met were happy. They didn’t want to live in the Western world. They didn’t seem to feel that anything was missing in their lives. When I looked at them, I felt something missing. But when they looked at me, I saw curiosity, not longing.

For the first time in my twenty years of life, I realized that the world could never fit my preconceived notions. What I had been taught in subtext was wrong. I didn’t need to go out and force the world to fit into my conservative, small-town-living, born-again Christian beliefs. I didn’t have the word for it at the time, but imperialism irrevocably shattered for me.

The night of the dinner, the culmination of the exotic experiences I was finishing, that memory played over and over with me. It simmered for months. It still simmers.

Such a small, innocent question.

Such world-changing ideas behind it.

Thanks, Samantha. That was some transformational meal. The metaphor that comes to mind is right out of Genesis, only instead of taking a bite out of the apple, you bit into the worm inside that apple.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: David Pedreira

Written on November 26th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
David Pedreira

I’m writing this from over in Indianapolis where I am a guest of the annual Thanksgiving Weekend convention that is Starbase Indy. Everyone is wonderful here, which you’d expect living in the future, though the qagh in the hotel’s restaurant does leave something to be desired.

And speaking of speaking engagements, a couple months back I was down in Maryland for the annual Baltimore Book Festival. While there I met this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, David Pedreira. David’s novel, Gunpowder Moon, is a science fiction thriller about the first murder on the moon. Cool concept, right? Who needs a locked-room mystery when all your suspects on stuck on an airless world?

David is a journalist turned fiction writer. Gunpowder Moon is his first novel but surely not his last.

LMS: Welcomne, David. Can you tell me about your most memorable meal?

DP: Oh man, this is one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked. I’m a food junkie and my tastes run from serious cuisine to burgers and brats on the grill. I did a mental checklist of great meals over the years, and thought of everything from my aunt’s leg of lamb stuffed with spinach and feta cheese to my mom’s homemade marinara, cooked all day on the stovetop with meatballs and hot Italian sausage, and served over linguini. But those are regulars, so I suppose they’re disqualified. I’ve also had many memorable restaurant meals in the U.S. and overseas, particularly in Italy, France, Turkey, and Japan.

But if I had to pick a meal that’s seared into my memory, I’ll go with a campsite lunch of brook trout and fiddlehead ferns at Sawyer Pond, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Sawyer is actually a small glacial lake about 50 acres in size, nestled in between three mountains north of the Kancamagus Highway. It’s about a 4.5-mile hike from the trailhead to the camp site, with terrain involved, so you have to be judicious in what you carry in: tent, sleeping bag, skillet, fishing gear, axe, food, long underwear, toothbrush, and a bottle of whiskey.

Gunpowder Moon

The campsite is at about 2,000 feet of elevation, and the lake itself is gin clear, rock-bottomed, and deep. One of the local universities did a survey and found a maximum depth of nearly 100 feet. The indigenous gamefish include brook trout and German browns, but we were fishing from the shoreline so we couldn’t go after the larger “brownies.” They hang out deep.

So the routine is this: you get up when it’s “crackin’” (dawn) and get fishing. By 10 a.m. or so on the first morning, three of us had caught maybe a dozen “brookies”—more than enough lunch for six people. A few of the other campers who weren’t fishing had collected a bunch of fiddlehead ferns. This is a wild mountain vegetable that grows out of the ground like a stalk of asparagus, but with a top shaped like a violin’s headstock. They are delicious; I’d describe them as a combination of broccoli and asparagus, with some artichoke thrown in.

The one camper holding down the campsite had made bacon for breakfast in a cast iron skillet. We cleaned the fish and stuffed them with lemon slices, seasoned them with salt and pepper and a few other spices, and cooked them in bacon fat. Then we sautéed the fiddleheads in the same pan. So, a lunch of freshly caught cold-water trout and wild vegetables, cooked in bacon drippings. It’s hard to describe how good it was. That was about 30 years ago, and my mouth still waters…

Thanks, David. You know, I just like saying “Kancamagus.” Though, it does beg the question, what kind of hocus pocus does a Kancamagus practice?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Gustavo Bondoni

Written on November 19th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Gustavo Bondoni

Over the weekend I did my third of the four conventions I’d scheduled for this month — and if I ever post here about my intention to do that many events in one month, please shoot me. This was the shortest of them, as I only popped in for Saturday, mostly to socialize with old friends.

It did get me thinking though, about the author community and the many wonderful and talented people I’ve gotten to meet, both in person and virtually. And in this short holiday week (if you’re in the U.S.), it’s a nice reminder of how much I have to be thankful for.

Which is as fine a segue into this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest as I could ask for, as I’ve known Gustavo Bondoni for ages, ever since our paths first crossed when we were both selling short stories to various anthologies from Hadley Rille Books. That’s not so surprising though, because he’s an insanely prolific short story writer and a regular on the anthology circuit.

Gustavo was born in Argentina, but spent a chunk of his childhood in the U.S. (with a stopover in Switzerland) before returning. He considers himself one of the few Argentinian authors publishing primarily in English. I can only hope that his work is also available locally in Spanish. It would be a shame if it weren’t.

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

GB: I’m from Argentina, so I’ve been a part of many epic meals involving large chunks of animals roasting on nearby spits, but my most memorable meal didn’t take place in the country, but half a world away.

In 2005, Syria was one of the most peaceful places one could visit. I was in the south of the country in a city called Bosra near the Jordanian border because there is a brilliantly preserved Roman amphitheater there complete with a lot of dust in the parking lot and a guy with a single camel standing in front of the amphitheater and offering rides for a few dollars.

he Malakiad

But that wasn’t the part of the trip that stood out most. Since this was a work trip, we actually drove north from Bosra to meet with the food supply manager at a military camp who, it turned out, didn’t have time to meet us. This meant that, by lunchtime, my contact and I were free to do as we pleased. My contact in this case was the general manager of the distributor who worked with us, and he was a middle-aged Syrian who well and truly knew his way around the country.

He said he was going to take me to a restaurant that I would like. I nodded. The man had proven time and again that he knew the kind of food I liked.

We took an empty two-lane running through an empty-looking landscape. On the way there, he pointed to the right, to the east. “Over there,” he said, “is the UN.”

“The UN?”

“Blue Helmets.”

Branch

“Oh.” He was referring to the UN peacekeeping force. I didn’t know they were in Syria.

“Beyond the UN is the Israeli Army. On the other side of the road,” he pointed west, “is the Syrian Army.”

Ah, we were driving past the Israeli border. Nice. It looked like any road in any arid countryside anywhere, not a place where CNN would have mounted its cameras if there was a heat-up, but, just out of sight, to the left and right, were three armies, all on reasonably high alert. If WWIII started on that day, I hoped any ordnance would fly over the road…

As usual, he was correct about the food. The place he took me to was a semi-abandoned concrete structure by a pond at the end of a wooded road in the middle of nowhere. Literally in the middle of nowhere, as there was not one other structure visible when we parked our minivan. I have no clue how that restaurant could have survived; most people in Syria didn’t drive in 2005.

We walked up the steps onto a tiled terrace where a couple of long plastic-covered tables had been set up, and sat at one of them. I sat right next to the railing and looked down into the pond, which was maybe fifty yards in diameter.

Siege

The meal consisted of the typical Syrian salad of chopped vegetables followed by fish, fried and delicious. I had a couple of them. To this day I have absolutely no idea what kind of fish they were, but when the meal ended, my contact urged me to throw a piece of the bread off the balcony and into the pond a couple of stories below.

As soon as the first chunk of bread hit the water, it was snapped up by a fish that looked suspiciously like the ones I’d just consumed. Delightful, and a sign that it was probably the freshest meat I’d ever eaten in my entire life. The fish were probably alive ten minutes before landing on my plate. We spent a peaceful couple of hours talking about life and tossing bread into the pond on a warm, sunny afternoon. With the length of the drive back to Damascus, there was no point in hurrying as we would get back after closing hours.

Every time I see images of the current war in Syria, I’m transported back to that place on that day… a peaceful interlude in the middle of a powder keg.

I’m not likely to forget it.

Thanks, Gustavo. Now I’m going to be haunted not only by the question of how that restaureant stayed in business, but how those fish even got to that pond in the first place!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Eating Authors: Andrea G. Stewart

Written on November 12th, 2018 by
Categories: Plugs
Andrea Stewart

I’m catching my breath today. If all goes well (this post being written in advance) then I’ll have just returned from the second of two back to back conventions. It began with World Fantasy running from November 1st through the 4th in Baltimore, which was followed by a flight out to Las Vegas on the 5th, for a business dinner and then the 20Booksto50K conference from the 6th to the 8th. Tack on an extra day to hang around Vegas and add in a redeye flight and I finally arrived home on 10th, and spent all of the 11th playing catch-up with projects and correspondence.

I should also mention that before heading off on ten days of travel, I started the month by launching my new Patreon page (literally seconds before jumping in the car to drive to Baltimore). So, yeah, I’m a little wiped out today, and I still have two more conventions to do this month. What was I thinking?

Unrelated to any of this (because I’m too tired to provide you with a decent segue) is this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Andrea G. Stewart. Andrea is a fantasist, and expresses this both as a painter and a writer. Back in the day, she took first place in the Writers of the Future contest.

Her Changeling Wars series revolves around a young woman who discovers she’s not human at all, but a changeling left behind by the Fae. Add in that her existence is illegal and you’re off and running through what is currently two novels (the second one, Spare Changeling, came out just last month) and a novella. I’m hoping there’s more to come.

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

AGS: My most memorable meal was actually quite recent. It was a year ago at Thanksgiving. I’m half-Chinese, and big family meals are an event on my mom’s side of the family. Thanksgiving is just a good excuse to spend the day in the kitchen chopping, pan-frying, grilling, and gossiping. That year we’d chosen to cook Indian food.

The food was great, but that was only half of what made it so memorable.

Loose Changeling

It was the first big family function I was bringing my boyfriend, John, to, and I really, really liked him. My mom tends to be an exacting judge of boyfriends. Before I met John, when I’d been dating a car salesman, my mom had paused in our conversation to tell me, “Car salesmen…are not good people.”

“She’ll ask you how much money you make,” my brother-in-law and sister-in-law warned John. “Offer to help out,” my siblings told him, “and when she says she doesn’t need help, offer again. If she still tells you to relax, find something to do.” I reminded him, a couple times, “Never eat until everyone is seated and ready.”

I like to tell people my mom asked John two questions when she first met him: “Do you know how to cook?” and then, the inevitable, “How much money do you make?”

Spare Changeling

Forewarned, John took it all in stride. We ended up making chicken tikka masala; he prepared the chicken while I made the sauce. John was the newcomer to this elaborate kitchen dance–where we traded off cooking stations and asked where the kosher salt was. Despite his confession that he was a mediocre cook, the chicken came out perfectly–juicy, fragrant, and spicy. After a long day, we finally sat down to eat (and yes, he waited). I watched for my family’s reaction and relaxed when they proclaimed the chicken tikka masala “amazing.”

A year later, we’re married, and my parents send him precautionary, parental emails, just like the rest of us. Yes, he too gets to be warned about garage door wires and fish parasites.

And my mom recently paused in our conversation to tell me, “I’m glad you met John.”

I’m glad too.

Thanks, Andrea. Bringing one’s intended to Thanksgiving with the future in-laws is perilous indeed. Been there, done that, and ate the pies. Speaking of which, I hope you had pie at your Thanksgiving. Nothing better with chicken tikka masala than some pecan pie and a little whipped topping. Trust me.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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