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        Eating Authors: Barry J. Hutchison

        No Comments » Written on September 16th, 2019 by
        Categories: Plugs
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        Barry Hutchison

        This is my buffer week. Last week I was trying to take it easy, convalescing following my surgery and bingeing on TV shows that had been piling up on my To Be Watched list. But now I’m in the last few days of what future-Lawrence might look back on with a wistful sigh. Later this week I’ll be meeting with my oncology team and begin chemo. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing, but it’s also a benchmark of sorts, and in this case one with a certain gravitas to it.

        Which is all more reason to have Barry J. Hutchison as this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, because he knows how to bring the ridiculously funny. His Space Team series is so over the top that you’ll forgive him for destroying everyone on Earth in the opening pages of the first book. The thirteenth volume, All The President’s Space Men, was originally planned for an October release, but that may be delayed as Barry had a run in with a cow in late August, totaled his car and broke his wrist.

        His humorous SF also includes series such as Dan Deadman, Space Detective and The Sidekicks Initiative (for those of you who want funny with superheros and less space). But lest you think he’s all hilarity and nothing else, please note that Barry also writes scottish crime thrillers under the name J. D. Kirk, the latest of which, The Killing Code, was released late last month.

        LMS: Welcome, Barry. I’m sorry to hear about your wrist. And the car. And, well, the cow. But let’s not lose focus. What’s been your most memorable meal?

        BJH: I suppose there are two answers to this question. Arguably the most memorable meal I’ve ever eaten was the one I had on a flight from the UK to the US when, aged 14, I first discovered my severe allergy to red peppers, and had to receive emergency medical treatment to stop myself choking on my own tongue and/or vomiting myself inside out.

        But I prefer not to dwell on that one.

        Space Team

        Instead, I like to think back to the meal I had while a guest at a book festival on the remote island of Islay, off the west coast of Scotland. I was over for a few days to talk to kids around the island about my children’s books, and was staying at a big old manor house with a handful of other authors.

        On the first night, we were invited to a big group meal. Like a lot of writers, I’m not a huge fan of large social gatherings full of people I don’t know, and because I was pretty tired, I tried to make my excuses. The host was having none of it, though, insisting I attend. And so, with teeth gritted and a stomach full of butterflies, I wandered down the ancient staircase and into the dining room.

        The sight that I was met by stopped me in my tracks. An enormous banquet table was set up in the dining room, overflowing with fresh seafood caught earlier that day just off the island’s coast. Lobster, langoustines, clams, mussels, shrimp, crab – you name it, it was there. There was roast salmon, red mullet, rainbow trout, and several other varieties of fish, all expertly prepared.

        The Killing Code

        The chairs had been set out casually around the room, and the idea was that you could help yourself to this vast seafood buffet, then go and mingle with the other guests. In reality, most of us spent the evening camped around the table, hungrily stuffing the food into our faces, hardly able to believe our luck.

        Dessert arrived at some point, too, and while we all initially resisted out of politeness, we soon descended on it like wolves, scavenging at the home-made pastries, chocolate cake, and other sweet treats.

        I remember chatting to a lot of people and having some very interesting conversations, but can’t recall who they were, or what was said. Instead, I remember the smell of that fresh seafood bounty as I stepped into the room, and the feeling of relief that I had given in, and hadn’t insisted on hiding away in my room with a cheese sandwich and a can of Coke.

        Thanks, Barry. I hope you’re happy. Your meal is going to haunt me every time I have to settle for a cheese sandwich.

        Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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        Eating Authors: Alix E. Harrow

        No Comments » Written on September 9th, 2019 by
        Categories: Plugs
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        Alix E. Harrow

        I reached out to this Alix E. Harrow back in April when I saw the news that her first novel would be coming out in September, because there are few things I like more for this blog than to use it to boost the signal of debut novelists. She expressed pleasure at the invitation, and then it was just a matter of getting on her calendar because requests for blog posts have a habit of falling off most authors’ To Do lists. In mid-August I sent her a reminder. A couple days later, she won the Hugo Award for her short story “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” from Apex Magazine. There’s a very nice interview with her in the same issue with talk of libraries that I suspect most readers of this blog will relate to.

        Alix’s resume reads like an actor’s, which is to say it shows a wide range of experiences and thus endless fodder for a writer’s imagination. Past jobs included being a farm-worker, a cashier, an ice-cream-scooper, and a 9-to-5 office-dweller. She’s lived in tents, cars, cramped city apartments, lonely cabins, and for one summer in in a really sweet ’79 VW Vanagon.

        Her debut novel is a book within a book. The Ten Thousand Doors of January comes out tomorrow.

        LMS: Welcome, Alix. Congratulations on your recent Hugo! Now, please tell me about your most memorable meal.

        AEH: I never ate my most memorable meal, but I remember it clearly: candied chestnuts in the deep woods of Mossflower. I remember other foods in the Redwall books—the cordials and creams, the cheeses and tarts—but mostly I remember the chestnuts, because I’d never tasted them. They became a kind of mythical, unattainable sweet, a dream dessert better than any real-life Smarties or Twix bar (later, I would feel the same way about Edmund’s Turkish Delight).

        The Ten Thousand Doors of January

        This is a recurring problem for me: fiction infiltrates my reality so thoroughly my own memories are compromised. I remember emotions that were never mine and homes I never lived in; I have intense nostalgia for magic that never was. When asked what my most memorable meal was, I thought first of something I’d never eaten.

        I want you to know that I tried to think of real meals instead. I tried to write this blog post about the last meal I ate before morning sickness cut in, and how I still can’t stand the smell of pomegranate chicken or baklava. Or maybe the red ICEE I shared with my Dad at my grandmother’s funeral and the murderous brain freezes that left us laughing and crying on the floor of a gas station in our fancy black clothes. Or the first dinner I tried to cook myself in college, when I didn’t have milk for the potato soup and figured vanilla soymilk would be a fine substitute (it was not).

        TITLE

        But then I figured—surely fictional food matters, too. Those real meals fed my body (well, not the pomegranate chicken, which I barfed up, or the potato soup, which I mercy-composted), but what about the meals that fed my heart?

        What about pumpkin juice and butterbeer and lembas bread? The jelly-like goo they ate on Xena: Warrior Princess to become gods and the spicy hot cocoa from Chocolat and even the oatmeal and blue cheese dressing from Cordelia’s Honor? Or even the deeper, older things we eat in stories and myths—the six pomegranate pips and the gingerbread houses and cursed fairy foods?

        Catherynne Valente’s short story collection is called The Bread We Eat in Dreams, which is a line from her 2011 story in Apex:

        “And in her long nights, in her long house of smoke and miller’s stones, she baked the bread we eat in dreams, strangest loaves, her pies full of anguish and days long dead, her fairy-haunted gingerbread, her cakes wet with tears.”

        In the end, those are the meals I remember best: the strangest loaves, fairy-haunted, wet with tears.

        Thanks, Alix. Speaking as an author who frequently events alien meals for my fiction, I’m hard pressed to imagine a greater tribute than for a reader to remember fictional food with such fond intensity.

        Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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        Eating Authors: Juliet Marillier

        No Comments » Written on September 2nd, 2019 by
        Categories: Plugs
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        Juliet Marillier

        I celebrated my 60th birthday near the end of July, and every year I’m always delighted to be reminded that I share that birthdate with a number of other writers including E. Catherine Tobler (who’s up for two World Fantasy Awards this year), Kate Elliot (who I’m hoping to lure to this blog early next year ), and this week’s EATING AUTHOR guest, Juliet Marillier.

        She was born in New Zealand but resides in a suburb of Perth, in Western Australia where she divides her time between caring for a crew of rescue dogs and writing. As much as I’d like to go off on a tangent about the rescue dogs, this blog is about writing, so let’s focus on that. Juliet writes historical fantasy for adult and young adult readers, at both novel and short fiction length. She credits her lifelong love of mythology and folklore as a major influence on her writing. Her work has won her five Aurealis Awards, four Sir Julius Vogel Awards, three Tin Duck Awards, as well as the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Prix Imaginales, and the Sara Douglass Book Series Award.

        Juliet’s newest series is Warrior Bards, and Book One, The Harp of Kings, comes out on September 3rd. C’mon, it’s got undercover, traveling ministrels, what more could you want?

        LMS: Welcome, Juliet. Please, would you tell me about your most memorable meal?

        JM: In 2006 I travelled to Romania accompanied by one of my sons as driver/minder. At that point I was writing Wildwood Dancing, a novel based on a combination of two fairy tales, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Frog Prince. My story was set in Transylvania and featured a group of sisters (five, not twelve) who find themselves looking after their father’s trading business when he is taken sick far from home. Alongside their struggles with an avaricious cousin and the prejudices of a male-dominated society, they must also conceal the secret of their full moon visits to a magical kingdom deep in the forest.

        The Harp of Kings

        Having decided that Transylvania, with its wooded hills and ancient castles and its rich folklore, was the perfect setting for this story, I wanted to make everything as accurate as I could — not only the history and geography, but also the traditions and old stories of that region. Reference books and online research can take you only so far. So we made our way via Bucharest to Transylvania, accompanied by a Romanian guide who specialised in history. One of the first things he said when he learned I was writing a historical fantasy set in Transylvania was, ‘Don’t include cliché vampires.’ I did my best to avoid them.

        Our guide took us off the beaten track to some fascinating places. A lot of quirky details found their way into my book. For instance, the village cows, which belong to individual households, are collected and taken out to graze every morning by a designated cowherd and brought back in the early evening. Each cow knows the high wooden gate of its home and heads off on its own to be let in by the householder. It was harder to get local people to talk about folk traditions and practices involving the uncanny; I think I would have needed to stay longer and earn people’s trust before they would consider opening up about such mysteries.

        Pickle Moon

        One memorable experience involved food. Our guide took us to visit some of his extended family who lived in a traditional village. House, barn and workshop were grouped around an open area which I remember as quite muddy from recent rain. They provided us with lunch set out on a long outdoor table. It was clear we were considered honoured guests, and when I gave our guide a gift I had brought from Australia (an outfit for his new baby) our hostess responded with a beautiful piece of local pottery which I managed to bring home intact in my suitcase.

        The meal was clearly the result of much work on our hosts’ behalf. It was also rich with foodstuffs challenging to my palate. Warm unpasteurised milk fresh from the family cow, offered as a special treat. Spicy home-made sausages containing several types of meat. M?m?lig?, which is a polenta dish topped with melted cheese and often featuring a layer of whipped cream over the cheese — great fuel if you’re about to head out for a hard day’s work in the fields, especially in a cold climate. To finish, some delicious doughnut-like pastries dusted with sugar. Our generous hostess put some of these in a bag for us to take back to our accommodation. And of course we couldn’t leave without sampling ?uic?, the local plum brandy. Everything on that table was either made on this couple’s own property or somewhere in their village. Even more striking than that was the warmth and generosity of our hosts to these complete strangers from the other side of the world. Perhaps that day we learned something about the true heart of Transylvania.

        Thanks, Juliet. My maternal grandmother used to make m?m?lig?, but it was the Romanian version (not the kind made by vampiric farmers and travel guides).

        Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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        Eating Authors: Sean Grigsby

        No Comments » Written on August 26th, 2019 by
        Categories: Plugs
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        Sean Grigsby

        August is finally winding down, and I’m anticipating the arrival of September and the autumnal equinox in a month. In three days, the next installment in the relaunch of my Amazing Conroy series comes out, the Nebula-nominated novella Barry’s Deal (which is also the launching point for the spinoff Ace of Space series featuring Angela (Gel) Colson, a human-seeing alien variant who can teleport almost anything almost anywhere.

        Okay, end of commercial plug, let’s get back to this week’s installment of EATING AUTHORS. I want to introduce you to Sean Grigsby, an author who epitomizes that classic line of of advice, “write what you know.” Because Sean is also a professional firefighter. Of course, the firefighters in his books are fighting dragons (which I’m fairly confident is not the case at his dayjob in central Arkansas).

        And yet, even when not writing (or fighting fires), he’s still got this thing about dragons. By which I mean he the host of the Cosmic Dragon Podcast, where he discusses the state of SFF and interviews up-and-coming writers in the genre.

        It’s surely worth mentioning that he’s eligible for the 2020 Campbell Award. I’m just sayin’.

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

        SG: This is not a happy story.

        It was the 90s. Bush Senior was president, the US was entering the Gulf War, and my Air Force dad had to move our family to Japan. I was four. Three years later, my parents were divorced, I had to learn the Tokyo train system in order to get to and from school, and I lived under the tyranny of my mother’s new boyfriend, Satoru.

        Growing up in Nippon impacted me deeply. I loved the people. I loved being able to ride my bike anywhere and discovering ancient shrines or a blazingly bright arcade. The smells will never leave me and that goes double for the food.

        Smoke Eaters

        Oh, the food! I could tell you all about the different wonders the Japanese have perfected culinarily. I could recount bringing my personal bento box to school for lunch, and my favorite Keroppi chopsticks. Tasting pastries and spitting them back out when I realized they were filled with bean paste.

        All of these memories of meals are still with me, but there’s one I can never forget.

        One day, Satoru handed me some yen and told me to go to the store to pick up a box of salad. I was excited, it felt like I was doing a real adult activity. Problem was, when I got to the store, there were too many products to pick from and I had no idea which one Satoru wanted, and he’d been no help in specifics.

        So I just grabbed one. Salad was salad and I thought it would be better than coming back empty handed. I rode back to the split-plan house and entered through the first floor, where Satoru ran some kind of business selling American military paraphernalia. He was obsessed with the US armed forces, and later, I would learn just how much when he’d force my brother and I to do pushups and situps and runs.

        I gave Satoru his change and placed the salad box on his desk.

        When I turned to go upstairs, he said, “What is this?”

        Daughters of Forgotten Light

        “I didn’t know which one you wanted.”

        He opened the box and the smell hit me before the sight of slimy lettuce and seaweed caught my eyes. It was sour and choking, like vinegar mixed with garlic at the bottom of a dumpster.

        “This isn’t what I told you to get!”

        I would have explained that I didn’t know. That I was sorry. But he was yelling and throwing things at that point, and I began to cry.

        “You’re going to eat it. Sit down.”

        I shook my head, even as I sat before the box of sludge. I couldn’t even tell you what was in it. A pile of green putrescence. Holding my nose, I pleaded with him. It was a mistake. I’m just a kid. I thought it would be fine.

        “You wasted money and you’re going to eat it!”

        What did I know about abuse? I’d be taught to listen to my parents and to respect adults. My dad wasn’t around. He was on his way to Australia for his next assignment. I was stuck in hell with my mother and her boyfriend. We lived in his house. What choice did I have?

        I picked up the fork he’d gotten from the kitchenette. The first bite made me want to vomit. My tears fell steadily into the slime salad and it did nothing for the taste. I gagged more than a few times. I never stopped crying, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of quitting. Eventually, he told me to stop and go to my room. He did it with a disgusting frown on his face, but it told me, in some small way, that I’d won.

        Ash Kickers

        Things got worse after that. He held a butcher knife over my hand and threatened to chop it off. He bought boxing gloves and used me as a sparring partner, only he didn’t hold any of his punches. When my younger brother got in trouble, Satoru locked him in the shop, turned off all the lights, and told him that an oni monster was coming to eat him. He then ran upstairs to bang on the floor, laughing.

        He liked using fear, and I still remember being forced to place my ear to the door of an abandoned house where, it was said, a woman had been strangled and kept in a refrigerator. Satoru wouldn’t let me run back home until I’d heard her ghost screaming, suffocating.

        It wasn’t until he punched my mom in the nose that she snuck us out early in the morning while it was still dark.

        I know three things from that meal.

        1. I despise bullies and will not tolerate them.
        2. I’m a stubborn son of a gun and will never quit.
        3. I will always care for my children in a way that is positive and nurturing, and even though I may push them to eat their vegetables, I know I’m doing it from a much better place.

        Thanks, Sean. It’s a wonder you can even eat vegetables, let alone expect your kids to. And salads? Lettuce leave that alone.

        Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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        Eating Authors: Kali Wallace

        No Comments » Written on August 19th, 2019 by
        Categories: Plugs
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        Kali Wallace

        My thanks to the many people who have reached out to me via phone and text and email and social media responses to share their stories, express their support, and offer their positive energies as I begin the journey of medical travails routinely associated with a cancer diagnosis.

        I’m currently in limbo as I await the results of a biopsy performed last Tuesday (and I’m still a bit sore from it as I type this up). Once the results are in, I’m expecting a flurry of activity which may include radiation and/or chemo-therapies, as well as surgery to alleviate the stress on my femur and the current pain.

        But enough about me, I want to tell you about Kali Wallace, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, because I think you need to go out and pick up a copy of her new book (released just last month), Salvation Day. It’s gritty, it’s real, it’s an SF thriller with cultists and a spaceship full of death and if this book doesn’t end up on the big screen from a major studio then there is no hope for humanity. So, yeah, pick this up.

        As for Kali herself, she’s a transplanted Coloradoan now living in southern California. She’s a Clarion graduate and holds a doctorate in geophysics, having done research on Himalayan mountain-building and Indian earthquakes (as one does).

        And she’s been busy with fiction, making a solid name for herself with short stories in such venues as Lightspeed, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, F&SF, and Asimov’s. And then there are her two YA novels. If you’ve not read any of her stuff, then remember you heard about her here first, because I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more, everywhere.

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

        KW: About fifteen years ago, when I was a couple of years into my PhD program, I traveled to western China to do some field work. My research was in geophysics, and for this trip my goal was to measure the motion on a massive strike-slip fault that slices across the northern edge of Tibet. I did this by using GPS to remeasure the precise locations of survey points installed by a colleague a few years before–and what that meant, practically, was that I spent a few weeks driving around the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with a Chinese scientist, tracing a branch of the ancient Silk Road along the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert.

        Salvation Day

        Xinjiang is a huge and beautiful place, with towering mountains, vast deserts, ancient market cities, remote mountain villages, and modern industrial towns built and run by the Chinese government. And everywhere–in the signs, the languages, the faces–everywhere there is a visible clash between Han and Uyghur cultures.

        The last part of our field work took us away from the desert and into the Altyn Tagh Mountains, the long, curving range that forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. After two days on rough roads, which included one very exciting ford of a river that was much deeper than we ought to have risked, and three nights spent in smaller and smaller Uyghur villages, we loaded up about half a dozen donkeys with our GPS equipment and ourselves and headed into the mountains.

        It was a cold, rainy day as we climbed through a narrow, rocky canyon marked by churning rapids and banks of crusty snow. About midday we crested a 4000-meter pass and descended into a breathtaking river valley so open and wide it felt like we had stepped into another world. We saw nobody, but my Chinese colleague, passing along reassurances from our Uyghur guides, told me there were people living up here, people we could stay with for the few days it would take us to collect our data. I had my doubts, exacerbated by not one but two language barriers, and those doubts grew into fear when the guides admitted the people were not where they expected them to be. It was growing dark by the time we spotted in the distance two white tents, a small fire, and a scattered herd of goats.

        The Memory Trees

        The Uyghur family was not expecting us; they were a solid day’s travel from any other humans and likely never expected visits from strangers. A man, his two adult sons, and the wife of one son were all living in two large tents on a flat area between a river and a jagged line of mountains. This was where they brought their herd of goats to graze in summer. I have no idea what my Chinese colleague and our guide told them–usually the shorthand was to simply say we studied earthquakes and leave it at that–but they welcomed us into their home in spite of our sudden intrusion.

        They slaughtered one of their goats for dinner, and in the larger of the two tents we crowded around a smoky but blissfully warm fire to eat salty, greasy, sizzling chunks of meat with pieces of dried flatbread softened in cups of hot tea. I was exhausted, frustrated, saddle-sore, tearing up from the smoke, and two languages removed from being able to speak directly to our hosts, yet that meal of meat, bread, and tea was one of the most delicious and satisfying I’ve ever had in my life.

        At one point, the father brought out a wireless radio and switched it on. He spent some time fiddling with the AM stations until he found one that came in clearly. The voice on the radio was speaking Russian–which seemed odd to me, but it wasn’t like there was a lot of choice–but when he gestured to me and said something, my Chinese colleague laughed. He explained that the man had picked the radio station for me. In that part of the world they assumed, naturally, that a random white person who showed up at their mountain camp would be Russian. When he explained to our hosts that I was American, they found an English language station on the radio: the broadcast of a terribly earnest Christian Science program based in Mumbai, well over a thousand miles away across both Tibet and the Himalayas. They had no idea why the unexpected topic of the broadcast amused me, and I had no idea how to explain.

        City of Islands

        I thanked them for thinking of me, for giving us food and shelter, and I hoped they understood, in the twice-translated passage of my awkward words, that what I was really thanking them for was being the light I’d spotted at twilight just when the world seemed distressingly empty, for opening their home to strangers who couldn’t even speak their language, for being a warm sanctuary on a cold, dark night.

        My colleague and I slept in the other tent–I think we took the married couple’s place–comfortably sandwiched between layers of the thick, colorful, woolly quilts that every Uyghur household has in abundance. I was worried that I would have trouble sleeping, as it was such a strange and remote place, and I had so much anxiety about what was ahead, but I drifted off at once and slept through the night.

        I woke to cold gray morning light and saw what I had not been able to see in the dark: right next to where I’d folded my sweater as a pillow, wrapped up in a plastic bag, was the severed head of the little goat we’d eaten the night before. I was too groggy to be revolted, so I just blinked at it in confusion, eventually mumbled a good morning for no reason other than that it seemed like I ought to say something, and stepped out of the tent to watch the sun rise over the mountains.

        Thanks, Kali. There’s an important lesson here about reframing: when waking up in a strange place and finding a severed goat’s head nearby, rather than freaking out about it, be grateful that it’s been wrapped up in plastic.

        Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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        Eating Authors: A. C. Wise

        No Comments » Written on August 12th, 2019 by
        Categories: Plugs
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        A. C. Wise

        Last week was crazy. It was a medical appointment jamboree involving major tests, injections and dyes, dental cleanings, some minor outpatient surgery, much more serious surgical consults, and I’m pretty sure we more than hit the insurance policy’s stupidly high deductible. Hey, have I mentioned lately that I have a Patreon page to help defray my monthly healthcare costs?

        Anyway, I am desperately hoping that this week is calmer (or at least more focused) and will involve less time spent around doctors and more time spent with authors. Galactic Philadelphia is happening tomorrow, and if you’re able I hope you’ll stop by. Moreover, that seems like a good segue to introduce A. C. Wise, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest who, though born and raised in Montreal, now makes her home here in Philadelphia.

        It’s likely you already know her for her short stories, many of which have been collected in The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves The World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl & Other Stories, or for her column “Women to Read” that ran from 2013 to 2016 at the now defunct SF Signal. Whether crafting stories or essays, she writes smart.

        Her newest fiction is the novella, Catfish Lullaby, which can be pre-ordered now and will be available in three weeks.

        LMS: Welcome, A.C. If you had to pick your most memorable meal, what would it be?

        ACW: Picking my most memorable meal isn’t easy; I’m spoiled for choice. Cooking is my dad’s passion. When he was eighteen, his mother convinced him to take a cooking class with her because she didn’t want to go into the city alone. As far as I know, my grandmother dropped the class after the first one, but my dad was hooked. Over the years I’ve been a willing guinea pig as he tries to perfect various dishes, and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a plethora of truly delicious meals. That’s not even taking into account that my mom is also an excellent cook, as are many of my friends, or that I myself enjoy dabbling in the kitchen, not to mention meals out at restaurants. All that said, one meal that sticks in my mind is the dinner I had the first night my husband and I were in Rome on our trip to Italy eight or nine years ago.

        Catfish Lullaby

        Pretty much everything we ate on that trip was wonderful, but the first night stands out. Not necessarily for the food – the meal itself was actually pretty simple (pasta with mushrooms, and a cheese plate), but for everything around it. We flew to Rome overnight from Philadelphia, and spent the day walking all over the city, part of it carrying heavy bags because we couldn’t check into our hotel yet.

        We were trying to go as long as we could before eating or resting to acclimate to the time zone. Around 5:30 or 6, we finally gave up, which is of course ridiculously early for dinner in Italy. But we were done, so we stopped at the first place that was open. We were the only people other than staff in an absolutely over the top dining room – mirrors, crystal chandeliers, gold-flecked paint, and a spiral staircase winding up to the second floor. We were jet-lagged, exhausted, and probably dusty, disgusting, and sweaty to boot. And in that moment, finally sitting down, knowing we could go back to the hotel and crash soon, that simple pasta with mushrooms and cheese was the best damned thing I had ever tasted. I still think about that meal to this day.

        Thanks, A.C., it’s like they say, “when in Rome…?go to dinner early to kill time, defy jet lag, and then crash in your hotel.” Or something like that.

        Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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        Eating Authors: Susan Forest

        No Comments » Written on August 5th, 2019 by
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        Susan Forest

        I’ve been juggling too many things. While this is my normal state, and indeed how I prefer things, I find myself wearing a little thin (figuratively speaking) of late. I suspect a chunk of this can be blamed on my knee problems and I have an appointment with an orthopedist in a couple hours to explore options (it’s about noon on Friday as I prepare this post). I doubt that there are any immediate miracles in my future, but the forward motion will likely free up some mental space.

        Meanwhile some things must continue as planned, including these weekly visits from authors with meals to share. This week’s guest is Susan Forest, mostly like known to you as a very talented writer from Canada, where she’s several times been a finalist for the Prix Aurora Award for her short fiction, a two-time winner for that award in Best Related Work for her editorial work with Laksa Media. She’s also won both the Galaxy Project and the Children’s Choice Book Award.

        I first became aware of Susan’s fiction when our terms on the SFWA Board of Directors overlapped (she served as Secretary in 2015 and 2016). I owe her a great debt, because with only a couple exceptions, I’d somehow managed to be oblivious to incredible talent coming out of Canada in our field. I’ve since rectified that short-sightedness and sampled the fare from most provinces.

        Susan’s new novel, Bursts of Fire—Book One in her Addicted to Heaven series (slated for seven volumes!)—comes out tomorrow.

        LMS: Welcome, Susan. What’s your most memorable meal?

        SF: The first thing you need to know about me, is that I come from a family of mountaineers. My father was the first person to climb all the peaks in the Canadian Rockies over 11,000 feet and the oldest person to climb Mt. Logan, Canada’s highest mountain. My older sister was part of the first all-woman team to attempt Mt. Logan, and my younger sister is a full mountain guide. So, as a far less accomplished climber tagging along on easier trips, some of the meals I’ve had were unique.

        Meals taken on backpacking trips have to be well planned. My brother was unfortunate enough to be on a ten-day canoe trip once, when the woman in charge of food decided it was a good time to be on a diet. It wasn’t. My dad missed supper one night when his climbing party of eight was benighted on a mountain and had to finish their climb the next morning. Starving, they threw two meals into one pot to cook a quick breakfast of beef stew and fish chowder. My sister, stranded on Mount Cook in New Zealand, shared a chocolate bar with two friends for dinner—or would have, if the man who brought it out of his backpack hadn’t dropped it down the mountain. Yes, part of planning your meals is remembering to bring food.

        Bursts of Fire

        But those were the exceptions. Many times, when mountaineering with my father, we would make camp after a full day of climbing around 4:00 or 5:00 PM, and have the long twilit summer evening to cook and eat. And when you pack only one pot, it is a multi-course meal. The one I remember in vivid detail was eaten after climbing Mount Tupper in the Rogers Pass area of Canada’s Glacier National Park.

        The climb, itself, was not technically difficult (though it had its moments), and the day was blessed with a spectacular bluebird sky and fantastic views from the exposed rock ridge, but the five of us had risen early, and were pretty tired by the time we came down off the climb to our backcountry campsite in Hermit Meadows.

        After shedding our backpacks and swapping out climbing boots for camp booties, our first course was tea. We set up a kitchen of flat rocks a little distance from our tent so cooking smells wouldn’t attract wildlife to the sleeping area: a single large flat rock pushed well into the bracken to be stable as a platform for the stove. We snuggled our sleeping foamies into nooks in the sloping ground to create backrests for reclining, where we could view the panorama of peaks, pink with alpenglow. Of course, it takes an inordinately long time at altitude for the water to boil, but once it did, we sat back with hot, sugary tea topped with a splash of “take-off” –Triple Sec and overproof rum—for relaxation, conversation, and stories of past adventures.

        The sun disappeared, leaving an immense cobalt-blue sky, and we made soup (dried food is light to carry) with crackers with antipasto. There’s something deeply soul-satisfying about sitting in a mountain meadow with the crisp scent of juniper and knickinick and heather, the hush of the wind, and the bite of crisp air as you sip hot, salty soup. We finished every last bit of soup, from hunger, from thirst, and from the need to empty our bowls before the next course. Of course, stories continued.

        Immunity to Strange Tales

        Noodles were next, and once they were doled out, the meat sauce was heated and added. By this time in the evening the light was beginning to fade, creating a haziness over everything. We put on warm sweaters and built a small campfire, adding the smell of wood smoke and the mesmerism of flickering flames to the spicy Italian fare.

        Finally, deeply satisfied, dishes licked clean and washed in the stream with a bit of sandy moss, we finished with another cup of tea. The sky had shifted to deep blue and indigo, and the stars were visible. My dad recited poetry; Robert Service: The Shooting of Dan McGrew, Barb Wire Bill, and The Spell of the Yukon.

        That day was a long time ago. My father has since passed away (a heart attack, cross-country skiing with my older sister and her husband), but our family still hikes and backpacks, though not as often as before. But when we do, we know the rituals of dining in style, with one pot and a plethora of stories.

        Thanks, Susan. I’ve never climbed mountains, but I used to hike and camp and can attest to the perfection of quietly sipping from a cup, watching the day come to a close, surrounded by nature, and miles from any other human being.

        Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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        Eating Authors: Michael Penmore

        No Comments » Written on July 29th, 2019 by
        Categories: Plugs
        Tags:
        Michael Penmore

        Yesterday I celebrated my 60th birthday by massively indulging in Dim Sum (my birthday present to myself was to not flinch at the bill). A few days before that, I had wandered into the DMV to pose for a new driver’s license. There’s a bit more gray in the beard, but otherwise I think I look much the same. I’m getting more exercise than in years past (even with the bum knee) but I have a ways to go yet in reducing both my weight and blood sugar. It’s good to have goals.

        As noted last week, the relaunch of my Amazing Conroy series is moving along nicely, with a fourth title expected to drop on Thursday. It’s a busy time, what with re-releasing old books and writing new ones, and that’s my segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest because Michael Penmore just published his latest novel, Escape From Rockwall, Book One of the Her Last Run series, a couple weeks ago. Book Two, Fall of Libertalia releases in late September.

        I don’t know much else I can tell you about Michael, though I’m a bit suspicious of his claims to have had a gig requiring him to dress up as Little Red Riding Hood (c.f., his Amazon bio). Still, it’s hard not to like a guy who wants to show his young son all the things he loves and cites that as a reason he writes science fiction.

        LMS: Welcome, Michael. Regale me with the tale of your most memorable meal!

        MP: I’m not a gourmand at all, but I can say without a doubt that I have a sweet tooth. A few years ago, my weakness for sugar led me to the discovery of a fabulous Italian dessert.

        Escape From Rockwall

        On a sunny day at the end of April, my wife and I were exploring the picturesque city of Milan. It was our belated honeymoon, and we took in every sight that we could, better to savour the memories later.

        The weather was “taps aff” (Scottish slang for warm enough to walk about in a T-shirt), and we blissfully strolled through the most touristy place in town – the Sforza Castle.

        After three hours spent in the medieval structure and the various museums inside, we left via the back entrance and found ourselves in the long green stretch of Parco Sempione. Walking at our leisure, we took another hour to reach its end with the majestic Porta Sempione (Milan’s reply to the Arc de Triomphe).

        We decided one of the restaurants overlooking the Porta was as good a place for lunch as any. Our choice fell on a pizzeria (of course!). Inside, a vivacious waiter got us seated and took our order. I couldn’t choose anything else but a pizza with slices of ham spread over a wonderfully thin and crispy crust. My wife went for the vegetarian option – an enormous leafy salad.

        Sigma Protocol

        We spent the next hour eating and discussing the things we just saw. After we finished our meal, the waiter approached me with a cheeky grin. “Would you like some dessert?” he asked in heavily-accentuated English. Thank goodness for his linguistic skill, as my Italian doesn’t go much further than ‘grazie’ and ‘prego’!

        As mention, I like to eat sweets, but on this occasion, we were both quite full already, so I declined. However, the waiter wouldn’t take a no for an answer. He inched closer, the cheek cranked up to eleven, and said, “Are you sure? Come on. It will be good!” I swear that he winked at me. I looked at my wife, who was close to bursting with laughter. She knew exactly where this was going.

        “Alright, but just one piece for the both of us,” I became predictable and succumbed to the call of desserts. “What would you recommend?”

        That charming cad had his answer ready, as befits someone who sells food for a living. “Millefiori.”

        It didn’t look that impressive when it arrived in the shape of a small round cake in the middle of a large plate. We picked up forks and tried the first tentative bite.

        Prox Doom

        The sweetness spread through my mouth. The Millefiori melted on my tongue. It was very sweet, too sweet for some tastebuds, I’m sure. But for me, it was perfection. The events may have skewed my perception somewhat. There I was enjoying a sunny spring in Milan, sharing a cake with the beautiful woman I love. What else can a man ask for?

        I left the waiter a good tip and was slightly disappointed when someone else showed up to scoop the money from the table. On leaving the restaurant, we turned once more towards the park. The waiter stood nearby and puffed a cigarette.

        “Did you enjoy your meal?” he waved to get our attention and smiled brightly.

        “We did very much.”

        “That’s perfect! Have a nice day!” He sounded as though we had just made his day.

        I’ve never been back to Milan, and I’ve never had another Millefiori. Perhaps I am afraid of spoiling the memory.

        Thanks, Michael. Although I think you should take another trip to Milan if the opportunity presents itself, I agree on not attempting to repeat the Millefiori. Once you have tasted perfection, what could possibly compare?

        Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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