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  • Eating Authors: Richard Fox

    No Comments » Written on April 22nd, 2019 by
    Categories: Plugs
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    The roller coast of life has picked up speed in the last couple of weeks. Less oblique references and more details can be found in posts to my social media feeds, but suffice it to say that I have been on the receiving end of a nonstop series of highs and lows. I’ll mention two in specific here, at either end of the spectrum: On April 14th the world lost Gene Wolfe, one of the greatest authors in our field. Over the years, I had the great pleasure to spend some time with Gene, even sitting down to a couple of meals with him. The man is gone, but the residue of his genius remains and if you haven’t read his work stop what you’re doing and go pick up a copy of my personal favorite, Soldier of the Mist. On the other side of roller coast, in a month’s time I’ll be headed back to China to be a Guest of Honor at Another Planet Science Fiction Convention (APSFcon) in Beijing. I’m blown away by this invitation and the chance to spend time with authors and fans on the other side of the world.

    Closer to home, amidst the emotional rise and fall of life’s thrill rides, some things continue along more normal lines. That’s my official segue for introducing you to Richard Fox, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Like me, Richard’s up for a Nebula Award at next month’s conference (though fortunately for me, he’s been nominated in the Short Story category and I’m in Novelette). He’s also a past winner of the Dragon Award for Best Military Science Fiction, which he received for his Ember War saga.

    Richard is a graduate of West Point and spent ten years on active duty in the US Army as a Field Artillery and a Military Intelligence officer, receiving the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star, and Presidential Unit Citation. Unsurprisingly, his fiction tends towards military SF, with forays into space opera, thrillers, and military history.

    He’s a card-carrying member of that growing group of Indie authors (c.f., Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle) who’ve distinguished themselves with successfully financial careers, large back lists, and a talent for bringing other authors along for the ride as co-authors.

    Last week he released Gott Mit Un, Book 5 in the Terran Strike Marines (co-authored with Scott Moon). I think that brings his total number of titles to around thirty, with at least one more due out soon.

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

    RF: There I was, no kidding, at Camp Doha, Kuwait, in 2004. I was a 1st Lieutenant in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd squadron, Wolfpack) and we had just crossed the border from Iraq after fifteen months in country.

    We didn’t know it was going to be a fifteen month tour. We were the second wave of troops into the country and we secured parts of Baghdad as best we good. The original plan was for us to be there just a few months—or home by Christmas!—then head home. A couple months turned into six, which turned into a year. After the year, a new unit took over our old mission but did we go home? No. We were extended for another three months to put down a rebellion through central Iraq.

    After fifteen months, we finally were sent south to Kuwait to load our gear up and send it back to the United States. We spent a dusty day on a road march out of our base in Diwaniyah and crossed the big berm into Kuwait, handed off some equipment and slept in the desert, the next morning we drove to Doha, where we parked our gear and were given a brief break as the senior leaders figured out what we had to do next.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever done much off roading, but after a whole day and another night in the sand, we were filthy. Hours of sweat in Iraq summer heat and a fine coating of dust made for some foul soldiers.

    Another lieutenant friend of mine named Rob Brown had been stationed at Doha many years ago and knew his way around. We had a few hours until the brass got a plan together. While our soldiers hit the showers, Brown grabbed me and took me over to the PX (Post Exchange, the Army’s version of Walmart) where there was a food court. There had to be two of us, as one couldn’t take his rifle into the PX.

    So, Brown leaves me at front of the PX to watch our rifles while he went inside to get us food. Real, honest to god, food. The last fifteen months had been MREs (Army meals in a bag), the best Army mess halls could manage in a combat zone and whatever we could get off the Iraqis.

    I sat out there waiting, feeling rank from days of congealed sweat dried against my skin and through my uniform, and it took me a while to realize that me and my unit were really on the glide path home. We’d be back in the states in another few days, but this was the first time I was willing to believe it.

    Brown came back with a whole pizza and a couple of these nasty Diet Cokes that are bottled in the Middle East and never tasted right. He sat it down and we proceeded to eat. Now, Anthony’s Pizza (which is the PX brand of pizza restaurant) is not going to win any quality awards on most days, but then…then it was something magical. It was a taste of home, of freedom and escape from the war.

    Brown was just as dirty as I was, but we didn’t really care as we sat there scarfing down grease wedges. Doha was home to thousands of soldiers that didn’t deploy to Iraq: logistics and support soldiers who would never see combat and would spend their entire tours on a base with plenty of creature comforts.

    Some of these soldiers and USAF types walked by, and we got some looks. Very clean individuals, chubby from mess hall ice cream and regular trips to the PX for snack food. They looked at Brown and I like we were Mongol barbarians, sitting in the Chinese emperor’s court.

    He and I had just finished a long combat tour, and we had that air of alertness and this ‘fuck around and find out’ attitude we needed when dealing with potentially hostile Iraqis all the time. No one complained about the two of us, with our rifles, polishing off a whole pizza between the two of us.

    But that meal was something else. It was a victory celebration for finishing the fight. It was our chance to be almost normal after fifteen months of ‘the suck.’

    I still love pizza.

    Thanks, Richard. There’s something iconic about pizza as a metaphor for victory. But I have to ask, what were the toppings?

    Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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    Eating Authors: Suzanne Palmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And it was a BIG potato.

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

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

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

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

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

    Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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    Resigning from the SFWA Board of Directors

    1 Comment » Written on April 10th, 2019 by
    Categories: News
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    Effective as of 10am today, April 10th, 2019, I am resigning my position as a member of the SFWA Board of Directors.

    We live in a world where appearance often carries more weight than intention. Recent controversies, and my perceived involvement in them, have increasingly made it difficult for me to effectively perform the responsibilities for which I’d been elected. Accordingly, it makes sense for me to step aside and allow someone else to continue the work.

    Today’s decision notwithstanding, I remain committed to the ideals and goals of SFWA, perhaps best expressed by the statement the Board composed at last year’s Nebula Conference: “We are genre writers fostering a diverse professional community committed to inclusion, empowerment, and outreach.”

    It has been my privilege to be of service to this organization and our community. I encourage you all to pay it forward.

    Lawrence M. Schoen, Ph.D.

    Eating Authors: Rhett C. Bruno

    No Comments » Written on April 8th, 2019 by
    Categories: Plugs
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    I like April. Say what you will, but I don’t find it to be the “cruelest month” at all. Last week I celebrated my 32nd Doctoral Day (the observance of the anniversary of my successful dissertation defense), and later this month I anticipate beginning the relaunch —?complete with shiny new covers! — of my Amazing Conroy series. So, yeah, a fine month indeed.

    If things go according to the annual plan, all too soon, this blog will begin to fill with nominees for this year’s Campbell Award. For now though, let’s sneak in one more EATING AUTHORS guest drawn from this year’s list of Nebula Finalists.

    Rhett C. Bruno is a USA Today Bestselling writer living in Connecticut. He’s proficient in both fantasy (Buried Goddess Saga) and space opera (the Circuit series), as well as more character-centric SF (his Children of Titan series). With regard to that last one, Book Two, Titan’s Son, was released just last month.

    LMS: Welcome, Rhett. What’s the best meal you can remember?

    RCB: The best meal I can remember… Wow. Me and my wife love going out to dinner, especially on vacations. And we spend way too much.

    I’d say the best was in Fort Lauderdale. My family used to own a condo there, so we’d go every year for her birthday / our anniversary. One time we went to a Farm-to-Table restaurant called Market 17 by recommendation of my brother and my GOD it was good.

    I had an Antelope Dish. Yeah, antelope. I had no idea how it would be, but it was just expertly prepared. Perfectly cooked, thinly sliced, and it tastes like less-gamey venison. But it was the dessert that blew us away. Market 17 was known for their milk and cookies dessert, which sounds ridiculous. So we had to try it, and dammit, they were the best cookies I’ve ever had. I can’t even explain them.

    It seems the restaurant is closed now, which is a shame. It was probably too expensive. But the chef deserves an award! We ate at all the top restaurants in Fort Lauderdale when we used to go, and this one was the best.

    Thanks, Rhett. We don’t get a lot of antelope meals here, but I’m sure everyone can relate to quality cookies. Yum!

    Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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    Eating Authors: Brooke Bolander

    No Comments » Written on April 1st, 2019 by
    Categories: Plugs
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    Regular readers of this blog know that Marco Palmieri was the editor on two of my novels in which elephants were prominently featured, Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard and The Moons of Barsk, both at Tor Books. What you probably don’t know is that he was also the editor of Brooke Bolander‘s novelette, The Only Harmless Great Thing, which also happens to feature elephants. Whether or not typecasting exists in the publisher world, it makes a good story and I like imagining that Marco will forever be known as the elephant editor. But, you know, in a good way.

    Other than this connection, you’re not likely to mistake me for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Oh, wait, there’s one other thing we have in common. We’re both up for the Nebula for Best Novelette. And much as I’d like to win, if I have to lose I hope it’s to Bo, because, elephants.

    If you’re not already familiar with her work, crawl out from whatever rock you’ve been hiding under, because it’s powerful and compelling and raw. Brooke has two previous Nebula nominations, two Hugo nominations, a World Fantasy nom, and a Locus nom. So, yeah, it’s not just my opinion here.

    LMS: Welcome, Brooke. Talk to me about your best meal!

    BB: The best meal I ever ate was more honestly a series of meals at a restaurant that no longer exists in Dallas, Texas.

    Dallas, as you’re probably unaware unless you actually live in Dallas, has one thing and one thing only going for it, and that is a rather amazing food scene. The nightlife is shaky, the museums are sparse, but if you want to drink like it’s still illegal, eat like an epicure, and purge like Roman nobility, spend a week in DFW. I currently live in Brooklyn, and the weirdest thing in the world about it is how lackluster the food seems after spending several years in Texas. I think it has something to do with how fast restaurants have to find their feet here–no room for risks–but that’s a story for another day.

    Our home was located off a stretch of East Dallas known as Lowest Greenville. For a long time nothing much was there. Then a little chain called Trader Joe’s decided to drop its first location about two blocks from our front door, and suddenly the area became restaurant central. Before TJ’s, the biggest food spot on the block was a Taco Cabana. I once saw a cockroach the size of a baby’s foot steadfastly tugging a discarded fry into a crack in the curb by the drive-thru. Anything would’ve been an improvement, but we didn’t get just anything, we got Remedy.

    (Note: That Taco Cabana is still there, long after many of the newer joints have folded and moved on. I hope it stays there forever, if only to piss off the neighbors.)

    Remedy was, at first glance, your standard “New American” hipster rigamarole. The concept was “upscale soda shop”. Their menu consisted of fancy gin fizzes, fried bologna sandwiches, cheeseburgers, mile-high slices of pie, and grilled cheese sandwiches–only, y’know, done fancy. My eyes rolled as hard as anybody’s. But here’s a rule people like to tout in writing circles that’s just as valid in every other area of life: You should never ever do a thing, unless you can actually do that thing. The rules only apply to you so long as you can’t pull it off.

    Remedy did the Thing.

    Everything head chef Danyele McPherson put her hand to came out so perfectly executed it made your teeth grind a little. Did bologna sandwiches need perfecting? I would have said hell no, but she made them a thing you would willingly pay twelve bucks for. I have been lucky enough to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants and fancy-schmancy paycheck-munching establishments all over the globe that couldn’t touch this place for consistent quality, inventiveness, and service. The staff became our friends. Every meal was completely satisfying. Do you have any idea how rare that is–that feeling of complete satisfaction after a meal? Let alone a series of meals?

    The time came for us to move from Dallas. We were pretty damn happy about it for any number of reasons. One of the few things we mourned having to leave behind was Remedy. I think we hit them up about three times a week for the last three weeks we were there, and half the time the staff was comping items. Like I said, we were pals at this point.

    Our last meal there actually came a year or two later. They closed on New Year’s Eve 2016 to “reconceptualize” and we were in town for the holidays and managed to snag brunch on their final morning open. Their brunch, of course, was the kind of menu that only exists in my vivid technicolor dreams. It made the word “brunch” worth every sub-par Brooklyn joint shoveling stale brioche & undercooked omelette onto your plate after a two-hour wait the concept has resulted in. Flavorful fried chicken coated in batter that crunched audibly when you bit into it. Waffles that somehow maintained their structural integrity beneath the weight of those crispy-ass thighs and a stream of maple syrup. Johnnycakes that were less like the sweet corn pancakes many places like to attach that name to and more like thin, creamy slices of toothsome fried grits. Perfectly cooked bacon and eggs. And then there were the ice cream sundaes, which looked as close to the platonic cartoon ideal of a sundae as I’ve ever seen without tipping over into hammy Instagram-ready overkill. We had it all. We hugged the staff. We took photos and swore blood oaths never to forget that a meal like that was possible.

    I’m still looking for a place that matches up, five years and a world-class city on. I’m afraid I may be looking for the rest of my life.

    Thanks, Brooke. Recollections like this one are cruel — glorious meals from restaurants that only exist in memory, or, if we’re lucky, in an author’s fiction. Get to work on that, okay?

    Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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    Eating Authors: A.K. DuBoff

    No Comments » Written on March 25th, 2019 by
    Categories: Plugs
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    As you know, Bob, I have the pleasure of being on the Nebula ballot once more. It’s a heady experience, not least because it typically introduces me to other writers whom I’ve never met and/or read before. This week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, A.K. DuBoff, is just such a writer.

    Amy writes space opera. She does it so well that her readers have nicknamed her the “Queen of Space Opera” (which has me wondering if she has an orb and scepter, or at least a crown, stashed away somewhere). Her focus is on character-driven stories and her work often wanders into that fuzzy domain we like to call “science fantasy.”

    When not writing the next book, she can be found binge-watching TV series, traveling the world, and indulging in wine tasting.

    Amy’s YA novel, A Light in the Dark, book two of her Dark Stars trilogy, is a finalist for the Andre Norton award.

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

    AKD: Note: Vegetarians/vegans and anyone opposed to alcohol may want to skip this one.

    My favorite meal memory was a home-cooked dinner prepared by my now-husband. To be fair, Nick is a great home chef (one of the many reasons I married him), but this was a meal where some mysterious ‘X Factor’ came into play, and it went from ‘good’ to ‘we still talk about it years later’.

    By all accounts, it was going to be a regular Saturday night. At the time, Nick and I lived in a house within the strange zone where the urban City of Portland transitioned into the southern suburb of Tigard, Oregon. I’d spent five years living in small apartments at the center of downtown Portland before we met, so I was still getting used to the pros and cons of residing in a house again. One of the clear pros (until moving, that is) was having ample room to stock up on things, which provided a gateway to a Costco membership. We’d gone to our local Costco warehouse earlier that day to pick up our regular months’ worth of supplies and a few food treats, most notably a pack of fillet mignon.

    My parents had gifted us (read: pawned off) their old gas grill when we’d moved into our house, so we were often looking for excuses to use it. I won’t digress into the merits of propane versus charcoal (clearly my parents sided with Hank Hill), but I will say that we eventually ended up getting a supplemental charcoal grill. But anyway, grilling steak was in order!

    I went about doing… something—probably writing—for the evening while Nick worked his magic in the kitchen and on the back deck.

    At some point after dark, I was summoned to the kitchen/living area, where Nick presented me with a glass of wine (as all good meals should begin, in my opinion). The wine is of particular importance, as we credit it for making the meal such a transcendent memory. Both of us loved wine, and it was one of the things that had brought us together (we later got engaged in Napa and married in Oregon wine country). Nick had come to the relationship with a wine club membership to Dry Creek Vineyard, which had enabled him to purchase a couple bottles of 2007 Endeavor (a cabernet sauvignon blend), the flagship wine for the vineyard only available to club members. Since we were having a spontaneous fillet mignon night, clearly one of the ‘good bottles’ of wine was in order. Little did we know that the 2007 Endeavor would turn out the be the best wine either of us have ever had, to this day.

    The first sips of wine hinted at great things to come, but it was clear it needed to breathe for a while. We chatted in the kitchen while Nick finished platting up the dinner of the fillet, garlic mashed potatoes, and asparagus. Since I love potatoes as much as I love wine, I was already in a great mood.

    We took our plates into the dining room and got settled in. The first bites of the steak were… wow. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but this fillet reminded me why I hadn’t given up on steak completely. I still have no idea what Nick did during the preparation, but the steak was fork-cutting tender and bursting with flavor. Where it really came alive is with the wine pairing. The wine had opened up, and the combination was incredible. To the best of my recollection, we spent the whole meal in near-silence, only murmuring “Mmmmm” and “This is sooo good” between bites.

    My favorite memory from the evening is what came afterward, though. We cleared our plates and then took the remaining wine to the couch, along with a bar of the Lindt cabernet-infused chocolate. Cozied up on the couch together, we sat in dimmed lights, letting the chocolate melt in our mouths between sips of the incredible wine. The buzz remains the best I’ve experienced—full body happy tingles. Completely relaxed, we were content to be in each other’s company, not needing to say anything to fill the silence.

    “This is perfect,” Nick said to me.

    “It really is,” I agreed.

    I will never forget that feeling of complete peace and comfort. For that reason, it remains my best meal.

    Thanks, Amy. I think you’ve described the early stages of the perfect food coma. What’s not to love?

    Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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    Eating Authors: Michael Mammay

    No Comments » Written on March 18th, 2019 by
    Categories: Plugs
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    Every March I’m reminded of that John Belushi sketch from SNL about weather. Here’s a link, take a moment to watch it, I’ll wait. So, yeah, March weather. If Belushi wasn’t trying to warn us about global warming, well, I don’t know.

    None of which has anything to do with Michael Mammay, this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest (unless it’s that bit about the anaconda). Michael’s a former soldier who nowadays writes science fiction. He also mentors, and alongside Dan Koboldt, participates in Pitch Wars, helping other authors bring their visions into print.

    Michael’s first novel, Planetside, has been described as Military SF that’s not just for Military SF fans, and it made the Best Book list from LibraryJournal. The sequel, Spaceside, comes out from Harper Voyager in late August.

    LMS: Welcome, Michael. What strikes you as your most memorable meal?

    MM: I don’t spend a lot of thought on food. It’s not that I don’t appreciate good food when I have it, but I don’t really go out of my way looking for things. I’ll happily eat whatever is in front of me. Despite that, I’ve had a number of memorable meals, and it’s hard to pick just one. I’ve lived overseas for several years of my adult life, and as an army veteran, I’ve been deployed to a lot of different places.

    One meal that stands out was from 2008, south of Baghdad, Iraq, east of Mamuhdiah in an area sometimes referred to as the Sunni triangle. It was a rough area in 2006 and 2007, but by late 2008 it had calmed down quite a bit. I was a battalion commander there, and most of the people who lived in my area of responsibility were Sunni. As you may know, the Sunni lost power with the fall of Saddam, and the Shia majority now ran the government. For that reason, the Sunni farmers in my area were on the outside looking in, and didn’t feel that the government really represented them. We were trying to bring the country together, so I wanted to try to bridge that.

    I proposed that the Sunni towns get together and throw a dinner and invite the governor. The problem is, pretty much no Shia crossed highway one, which was the major road that ran south from Baghdad. There was too much bad blood, and it wasn’t safe for them. To get past this, I offered to escort the governor to the dinner (my escort included my security detail, and we had pretty free movement). He agreed, and we set out for the dinner in armored HMMWVs, and joined a group of maybe 200 or so important local leaders at what we in the US would call a picnic. It was a fancy picnic, to be sure, with the best that the locals could put out. I was new to the area, so it was my first such event.

    Everything was going well. We weren’t accomplishing much—there were decades of bad feelings on both sides—but it was peaceful and people gave speeches and made platitudes, and all in all it was a good start. Then we had dinner. It was several hours later, because in that part of Iraq, it was tradition not to start cooking the food until your guests arrived, so that the honorees could see the meal slaughtered and know it was done properly. We were having lamb, so it took a while to cook.

    I was seated with the governor at the head of the table when they brought out the first tray. It was the head of one of the lambs, and they put it on the table, looking at us, to honor us. Thankfully, they didn’t expect us to eat it. But it sat there, flies buzzing around it all through the meal, staring at me. As they served us lamb. Not going to lie, I stuck to rice and vegetables that day as much as possible, but there was no way to avoid the meat without offending the hosts.

    It wasn’t the best dinner I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. And while I’d like to say that because of those efforts, everyone started getting along, but that’s not true either. What I can say is this: I’ll never forget that meal.

    Thanks, Michael. I think I’d file this one under “no good deed goes unpunished.” Certainly that lamb would think so.

    Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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    Eating Authors: Cesar Torres

    No Comments » Written on March 11th, 2019 by
    Categories: Plugs
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    I’m rather pleased with myself. I’ve been getting huge amounts of work done this year. It still croggles my mind when I think of it, the ease with which the words have been coming and across a range of different projects. That may be the key for me, taking a very well monitored approach to how I’m spinning so many plates at once as opposed to past efforts of just spinning them and dashing back and forth as needed. This method has more accountability and so far it seems to be working.

    Which has almost nothing to do with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, except to note that Cesar Torres keeps himself plenty busy with different projects that range from his series The Coil (planned at nine volumes), his How to Kill a Superhero series (four books, under the pseudonym of Pablo Greene), his documentary on Quads, Chicago’s famous bodybuilding gym, and his line of fitness wear.

    Cesar was born in Mexico City but has lived in New York, Dublin, Osaka, and Berlin. He now makes his home in Chicago. Curiously, Pablo Greene was born in Buenos Aires and now lives in New Orleans. I’m not sure how he manages this trick, but it could explain why you never see them together.

    If you like reading about dystopian futures, social justice, and the Aztec pantheon (and c’mon, who doesn’t?) then you should be reading Cesar’s work.

    LMS: Welcome, Cesar. What’s the best meal you remember?

    CT: In my all my novels, I explore the nature of time — how time works, which direction it moves in, and its non-linearity. That means that the best meal I remember having is one that explores the nature of time. The best meal is the one that my family has been making together every Christmas across decades and featuring a very specific dish.

    This meal has been prepared primarily in two cities: in Mexico City, the amazing capital of Mexico. Mexico City (or CDMX as Mexican refer to it nowadays) is where I was born, and where my family is from. It was there that I watched my mother cook bacalao as a traditional Christmas dish since I was just a boy. Bacalao is a regional specialty for Christmas in Mexico City. It consists of Mediterranean salted cod that is prepared with rich, high-quality olive oil, tomatoes, lots of garlic, potatoes, parsley, olives and garnishes with yellow peppers for acidity and balance. It’s served on bolillos, which are small baguettes you can find at Mexican bakeries.

    The taste of bacalao is rich, savory, like silk and ocean on the tastebuds. Bacalo is also a dish that defies the limitations of time. It is originally an import from the Mediterranean region, and the Spaniards brought it to the Americas when they colonized Mesoamerica. This holiday dish speaks volumes about the joys and the horrrors of human history. It’s both a reminder of the brutal and violent nature of Mexico’s colonized past, but also a celebratrion of mestizo culture, which is what makes up the Mexican national identity so vibrant and creative.

    Bacalao brings to mind very specific memories of the Christmas Eves I lived in Mexico City with my parents and two brothers, in a setting that was focused on the religious aspect of the holiday and the coming together of families. My parents brought the tradition of Bacalao with them to Chicago when we moved here in the 1980’s. Our new setting in the United States also introduced new variables: The labor-intensive dish eventually recruited my father into the kitchen. He’s not afraid of cooking, but in our family my mother has historically been the one that cooks. But soon, my father took a special interest in the preparation of bacalao each Christmas. Nowadays, my father joins my mother with enthusiasm (and a somewhat alarming eagerness) to chop and prep the many ingredients, to de-salt the cod, and to simmer carefully for hours to get the right flavors out of the dish.

    Time is a funny thing, and human memory is even funnier. Neither is fixed, and both flow like water. And my memories of bacalao at Christmas flow across many decades. Some years when we cooked it, the weather was mild and sunny, because we lived in CDMX. Other years, snow storms raged outside out house in Chicago. Lately, as climate change alters weather patterns, we have experienced warm weather without snow in Chicago. But one thing remains constant: Bacalao seals a family experience at my house. My parents are both professionals with advanced degrees, and that means that our conversations wander into areas of secular intellectualism, as well as those of popular culture and music, and then back again to topics about theology and the nature of god, even if as adults, parents and children have each diverged in their spiritual paths and identities. This meal that repeats every year is like a tunnel that bores through the walls of time and connects my family. It’s a magical feat. On the lips, bacalao is soft and rich, and the crisp outer edge of the baguette is the perfect vehicle for its magnificent flavor. As we share that meal, I am reminded each year of how much I have to be grateful for in my life. Our Christmas dinner table encourages book reading, the arts, the free nature of the human spirit, and although my parents practice a devout Catholicism, the meal encourages a secular freedom among our family that leads to a single place in the universe that is timeless: love.

    Thanks, Cesar. I’ve written about time-traveling cod myself, and yours sounds so much better. Set a place for me next Christmas?

    Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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