Lawrence M. Schoen's Blog

January 16, 2017

Jody Lynn Nye


Well it’s another glorious Monday. In part because over the weekend I finished a draft of the BARSquel, and this week in addition to assorted polishing and trimming of the MS, I’ll also be going back to work on a completely different book. And in part because (at least here in Pennsylvania) it is Martin Luther King Day, which many will use as a day of service, a day of giving back, and I think we can all benefit from that attitude. And finally, in part because by the time you read this I’ll have come and gone for a quarterly blood draw, and it makes me feel good to be staying on top of health issues.


In a perfect world, some portion of that last paragraph would provide a brilliant segue for this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest. Alas, Jody Lynn Nye did not help me write my novel. Nor do I know how she’s spending the holiday. And I’m pretty sure she hasn’t any influence on the results of my bloodwork. So the segue is a non-segue, but what I can tell you about her is that I’ve been reading her work for years and even got to publish her one of her stories in the Paper Golem anthology Cats in Space.


Like me, Jody was born in Chicago. Unlike me, she’s authored or co-authored more than forty novels, and more than one hundred short stories. She’s played in some pretty impressive universes like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, Robert Asprin’s Myth series, and Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. She writes both science fiction and fantasy, and does so with both action and humor. If you need a good story and a smile, I can’t think of anyone better to read.









LMS: Welcome, Jody. Please, tell me about your best meal.



JLN: The best meal I can ever remember eating was at a French restaurant named Le Francais. The owner, Jean Banchet, was a culinary legend in the Chicago area. This place, tucked into a cozy little lot in a nondescript north suburb, was a quiet gem. This was our special-occasion place. Banchet turned over the reins to a couple, Roland and Mary Beth Liccioni. She was front-of-house, he was the chef. They were brilliant heirs to the establishment, keeping the quiet, French country style of the decor and the leisurely service, coupled with excellent food.



The View from the Imperium

The room always had a quiet feel to it. People spoke to one another over their tables in an undertone. If there was music, it was just this side of inaudible, never interfering with the ambience. Mary Beth Liccioni would be at the hostess station, welcoming guests. She would turn us over to the plump, balding maitre’d in his tuxedo. He remembered us as frequent guests, asking about our health as he showed us to our chosen table. The room gleamed with polished flatware and gold charger plates on a sea of perfect white linen tablecloths. A large triangle of soft butter and a basket of hot, crusty rolls appeared alongside the big, hardcover menus. It was impossible to resist the bread. The rolls were perfect. I can still taste them. Le Francais offered a prix fixe menu of two or three courses as well as a la carte. They also had special occasion menus, relying on French classics.


One of the marvelous things about Le Francais were their dessert souffles. If you wanted one, you had to order it in advance so it would be ready at the conclusion of the meal. In my opinion, their two best were chocolate and raspberry. Their other desserts were perfect, too, so it was a hard decision.


They would bring us an amuse bouche, one tiny bite on a little plate or a Chinese soup spoon.



Mythology 101

We always started with the charcuterie plate. I love pates. Le Francais offered a large platter with at least five selections, garnished with cornichons, whole grain mustard, tiny dollops of intense-flavored sauces, and served with a basket of hot toast soldiers. At the center was the chicken-liver mousse, delicate, fresh and almost sweet. I did my best to leave it for last. The country pates and terrines included rabbit, venison, pork, pheasant with pistachios, and a few others, depending on season and availability. These were coarse-cut, with visible chunks of fat among the bits of meat which resisted spreading on the bread and required some care to get into one’s mouth without losing some. Le Francais offered generous portions, so we had to decide if we were going to share a platter, leave some pate on the plate (unthinkable!), or eat it all and risk overdoing it on the main course and dessert.



Taylor's Ark

Next came soup and/or salad. My husband loved their Caesar salad, big, crisp hearts of romaine with roughly torn croutons from the same perfect bread, toasted lightly, and a garlicky, quivering, taupe-colored dressing. I love soups. The best soup in the world was my grandmother’s chicken soup, but in second place was Le Francais’s duck consomme. It was a double consomme, clear bronze in color, with a couple of pale beige quenelles floating in it. The first sip almost made you gasp in its complexity, richness and aroma. The second sip you would hold on the tongue for a moment, tasting the meat and herbs. It always took me forever to eat it. I can still taste it in my mind.


Le Francais was my first introduction to sorbet between the courses to freshen the palate. I don’t drink, so often I would have to refuse the doll-sized scoop of wine sorbet, but the fruit ices were lovely.


The main course arrived under silver domes. This was the chance for the staff to show off a little. Each dome had a handle at the top shaped like whatever beast had provided the protein beneath, so I had a silver steer on mine. The waiters waited until each persons plate was set down, then they swept away the domes all at once. My tournedos of beef were fat little fillets of pink meat beside turned carrots and turnips, plus whatever mange tout the chef had bought that morning. Served just under medium, the steaks were so tender that a knife was only needed as a suggestion. The mashed potatoes were about half cream. A touch of the rich sauce ladled over the steak gave them savoriness, but they hardly needed it. The small vegetables were dainty and crisp, with a green flavor and skins that popped under your teeth.



Strong Arm Tactics

If you had ordered the souffle, it came then. The light-brown puff rose straight-sided from the cylindrical, ridged bowl. When he set it down, the waiter pierced the top with a spoon, allowed the steam to rise, then poured the creme anglaise into its depths. It was a great performance. I felt like applauding. The souffle itself started to collapse ever so slightly as I attacked it with the oversized dessert spoon. The crust needed to be clipped against the side of the dish to carve it loose, then dipped into the sauce. I liked my chocolate souffle with either raspberry or passion-fruit sauce to give it a mouth-watering tang. Each bite had a slightly rough texture along the edge where sugar had been used to coat the dish before the batter went in.


I ended with a pot of tea, hot, flavorful and astringent, with one lump of raw sugar from the covered bowl in the middle of the table. There’s a feeling of contentment that good food brings to one, like curling up in a big, soft quilt on a rainy day. Perhaps we had overeaten just a little (half the main courses were on the edge of our table, wrapped in foil shaped to look like swans), but it was a wonderful experience.


I miss Le Francais, and the other wonderful French restaurant a little farther to the northwest, Le Titi de Francais. The Liccionis have moved on to their new restaurant, Les Nomades, in downtown Chicago, which is as brilliant, but much farther away.




Thanks, Jody, your experiences French restaurants are a world away from mine (both in the US and in France). You give me hope that I may one day experience the glory of the cuisine.



Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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Published on January 16, 2017 04:30 • 2 views

January 9, 2017

Becky Chambers


This past Friday I was down in DC doing two final appearances to mark the official end of a year of traveling around and promoting Barsk, one at the Library of Congress, and the other at a meeting of the Washington Science Fiction Association. All in all, I spent 114 days of 2016 traveling to conventions and signings and readings. That’s almost a third of the year on the road. What was I thinking? Just typing about it makes me tired.


And it’s as close as I’m going to get to a decent segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Becky Chambers, whose first novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, may well be the most delightful space adventure I’ve ever read. Which is why you shouldn’t be surprised to learn it was nominated for both the Arthur C. Clarke and British Fantasy awards. Better still, it’s only the first book in her Wayfarer series. But wait, best of all, according to her Twitter page (which contradicts the presumably older website), she’s working on the third book even as we speak.


Doubtless, many of you are waiting to read that third book right now. And I confess, I feel a little guilty distracting Becky with emails asking her come and talk about food. Alas, not guilty enough to stop myself though.










LMS: Welcome, Becky. Assuming red coast bugs are purely fictional (at least for now), what’s your most memorable meal?



BC: I’ve had a lot of good food. I’ve been taken to fancy restaurants where every plate looks like an arts-and-crafts project. I’ve had hole-in-the-wall ramen that fills me with yearning whenever I remember it. I’ve been to a shop where basically all they have is a whole roast pig and rolls to divvy it up into, and when the pig’s gone, the shop closes. But when asked what my most memorable meal was, I slapped down the first thing that sprang to mind. I said, no, no, you can’t write about that. That wasn’t a good meal. That’s not what he’s after. But the more I wracked my brain for a worthier standout, the more I got stuck on that first thing. So, fine. Here’s a story about a store-bought roast chicken and a cheap bottle of sparkling pear cider.



The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

This was March 2005, and I was on my inaugural trip to Iceland, visiting my then-internet-girlfriend-now-wife (because I get this question often: we met on a Star Trek forum). Now, I’ve since lived in Iceland, so I can tell you with certainty that March is not one of the country’s most attractive months. The snow is old, the wind is merciless. Any unpaved ground is a miserable mix of thick mud and thin ice, heralding the beginning of a long, mucky thaw. At the time, yours truly was a dumb college kid from Southern California who had never been in the snow and considered anything below fifty degrees to be inhumane. But off-season plane tickets were what I could afford (and barely – I’d been scrounging and hoarding for months), so March it was.


Most of the trip was spent in the capital area, but one day, my other half and I bundled into a borrowed car and headed for Thingvellir, one of Iceland’s most famous national parks. Geologically, it’s the rift between the European and North American tectonic plates. Historically, it’s where the viking chieftains gathered each year to hash out laws and serve justice. It’s a place of pillars and hollows, of great igneous bulwarks that shift suddenly into wide mossy expanses. It was like nowhere I’d ever been before, and I was giddy over it. I ran inexpertly through snow and mud, falling often, caring not a whit. I climbed up to get a better view of the cliffs. I knelt down to examine the puffy moss. It was magic. It was an adventure, good and proper. And by the end, I was absolutely starving.



A Closed and Common Orbit

Icelanders do a thing my Los Angeles-born brain has never been able to accept: they leave groceries in the car for hours. Just…in the car, without a cooler, without concern. They do this with raw meat. They do it with yogurt, ice cream, chocolate. They do this because they live by different laws of nature, wherein things you leave in a car do not turn into a melted mass of salmonella and woe within fifteen minutes. So you can imagine my initial hesitancy when I was presented with a roast chicken that had been sitting in the trunk for god knows how long. But I was young enough to still possess belief in my own immortality. More importantly, I was hungry.


There is something about goofing off outdoors that works up an appetite for the simple things, that makes something as mundane as jerky or an apple feel like a real treat. A roast chicken under those circumstances is downright lavish. We sat on a stone wall, she and I, eating the bird with our hands, passing a bottle of cider back and forth. They were both perfectly chilled, like they’d just come out of the fridge. Cold chicken is a satisfying thing to nibble on by base, but the minute my shivering, well-exercised body detected good protein and salt, I couldn’t get enough. And that cider, that cheap, sugar-laden cider that was basically soda in everything but name…a sommelier could not have found a better pairing in that moment. My hands were freezing — this was not food I could consume with wool mittens on — but I didn’t rush. I savored, smiling with every mouthful as we ate in silence, looking out over a frozen lake. It was the best meal I’ve ever had.



Thanks, Becky. You make me want to book the next flight to Iceland. Well, maybe not the next one. Maybe I’ll wait till summer.



Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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Published on January 09, 2017 04:30 • 2 views

January 2, 2017

Alexander Jablokov


Welcome to the start of 2017. I’ll spare you the usual rant either for or against New Year’s resolutions because Yoda pretty much covered it all with “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Short and sweet, kind of like Yoda himself (and just to be clear, I’m talking puppet-Yoda, not CGI-Yoda; don’t get me started).


The place of first EATING AUTHORS guest year goes to Alexander Jablokov, a brilliant writer I’d never met prior to a quiet Sunday last June in New Mexico when I spent what seemed like hours searching an airport for him, racing up and down escalators, accosting innocent travelers in baggage claim, and annoying airline personnel, all while Rick Wilber kept circling the airport in his rental car and running afoul of the parking police. Eventually, we found Alex and drove off to a week long writing retreat, which is where I learned just how talented an author Alex is, both in terms of his own work, and his ability to provide critical insights into others’ fiction as well.


So, naturally, I invited him to drop by and talk about food.







LMS: Welcome, Alex. Ring in the new year for us and reveal your most memorable meal.



AJ: Now, we’re writers here, and, of course, worried about self-presentation: how does this meal I’m about to tell you about reinforce my platform? Is liking pickled eggs (an old Chicago bar staple) or deep-fried pickles (currently a bar staple here in Boston) consistent with the somewhat snobbish persona I’ve established?



Brain Thief

An exotic foreign location suits, as does a local one, as long as it is long-established as a genuine neighborhood place, unspoiled by commercial considerations (long-established places of course never care about making money, authenticity doesn’t have to pay rent). And usually you want interesting (read: status-enhancing) company. A bon mot with that beignet? Of course!


Or should it be degrading and depressing (in an “I was down and out but now I am successful and you are reading my blog post” kind of way)? Shooting cans of Pringles, for example? “Memorable” doesn’t necessary mean “I’d do that again”.


So don’t believe anything a writer tells you. Not even this one. We are calculating little weasels, all of us.


But I sense Lawrence shifting irritably in his seat, worried that the wrong Alexander Jablokov has wandered into his parlor. There is no right one, Lawrence! I’m actually the best of the lot. But, okay: food.


Several careers ago I was a graduate student at the Thayer School of Engineering, number sick, overworked…and late getting my degree. I had taken a job down in Boston, sure I would be done with my thesis in time to go to work and start making money.



River of Dust

I wasn’t. There was still an immense amount of research to get done, and many drafts of the thesis to write. As a result I had to commute from Boston to Hanover, New Hampshire every weekend that fall and winter to work on my project. All my friends had graduated too, so some weekends I had nowhere to stay. I took my tent and camped out at the end of an unplowed road in the woods.


I had two treats during this period. One was reading all the Martin Beck novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, recently issued in English. These are Swedish police procedurals written in the 60s and 70s. I read them on the bus, while eating and…instead of working. But I bet you already guessed that part.


The other treat was eating Sunday breakfast at Lou’s. Back then I could manage a lot more food with a lot less effect on my body than now, so I would get eggs over easy, white toast, bacon, still the breakfast I favor.


And then I would finish with a donut. It was a pure circle, plain.



Deepdrive

I tend to get distracted by foods that are too busy. I don’t like a lot of different things in my ice cream, I prefer plain bagels, and while I’ve flirted with various fancy vermouth competitors in my Manhattan, like the trendy Carpano Antica, regular red vermouth is what I go back to (Dolin, if you’re pouring).


So that crunchy on the outside, soft and crumbly on the inside, mathematically precise circle was, and remains, the perfect donut for me. And I am not even a big fan of donuts. At least, donuts other than those. There were several that winter, I’m sure, but all are now just one single perfect donut in my memory.


My project involved the Abel Transform, an integral transform for analyzing radially symmetric objects (like an optical fiber or a donut), so that nightmarish math also worked its way into my culinary choices. That is, in retrospect, perverse, but realizing that does not make me like those donuts any less.


I did get my degree and was able to stay down in Boston on the weekends. The end of an era.




Thanks, Alex. Somewhere, beyond the fire and around a bend in Plato’s cave, there is the perfect donut of which all others are mere shadows. I’m thinking it’s a cruller


Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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Published on January 02, 2017 04:30 • 3 views

December 26, 2016

Teresa Frohock

Welcome to the last week of the year. That span between holidays when no one wants to be at work, little gets done, and everyone is just getting by as best they can as the year breathes its last breath.


Tomorrow the trade paperback edition or Barsk comes out, two days ahead of the anniversary of the hardcover debut. And you have until the 29th to enter to win a free copy, if you’re into such things.


But now please turn your attention to Teresa Frohock, the 51st and last EATING AUTHOR guest of 2016. Teresa writes dark fantasy and horror and is probably best known for her book Los Nefilim, a collection of three related novellas set in 1930s Spain that plays with the conflict between angels, daimons, and the beings caught in the middle (and I don’t mean us regular mortal folk). If you haven’t yet sampled her work, I don’t know what more you need to know to convince you to give it a try.








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



TF: Many years ago, I had the privilege to be in the service of a volunteer organization, which held a week of meetings in New York City. On the way to my first set of meetings, I developed a horrible cold, which turned into bronchitis. Thanks to the my husband, I managed to get through a stressful week. On our last evening in New York City, we walked around the block, looking for a place to eat.



Los Nefilim

Mind you, I was still horribly sick and physically miserable. It was a chilly April that year, and I remember it was drizzling. We had already once walked by an Italian restaurant. On the second pass, the owner happened to be standing beside the door as we paused to read the chalkboard menu beneath the awning. The owner took one look at me, and in spite of my plague, he ushered us both inside.


I think he was a magician, because from the moment we entered his restaurant until we left, I don’t remember being sick.


The theaters were in full swing, so the restaurant was almost deserted. We ordered seafood fra diavolo, and the owner and my husband treated me like a queen. I recall the fra diavolo sauce was the finest I’ve ever tasted and the seafood cooked to perfection.



Miserere

But it was the owner who captivated me. As he worked at the bar, he sang. The lyrics were Italian, and the melody was sweet and sad made moreso by the beauty of his voice. Although he sang for himself and not for us, I could have listened to him all night.


All the while the rain outside turned the streets into mirrors. Pedestrians hurried by without surrendering to that small oasis of warmth, and I was glad, because I wanted it all to myself and my husband for just that one night. We had cheesecake that melted in our mouths and coffee dark and black. Then it was time to go, and the owner saw us to the door, solicitous to the end.


Even though I had the occasion to return to New York City several times after that, I never saw the owner at the restaurant again. I think it was because he was a magician, and he had other souls to tend.




Thanks, Teresa. You’re not the first person to tell me of magical restaurants or restaurant owners. Surely they have a club, I think, or perhaps a secret society. Hmm. There’s a novel idea there…



Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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Published on December 26, 2016 04:30 • 1 view

December 22, 2016

It’s a been an amazing year and to cap it off Tor Books is releasing Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard in a new, trade paperback edition.


And, as they just sent me a box of author copies, it seemed like a good idea for a giveaway. So, sign up below!


Note: you can increase your chances to win by following me on Twitter and/or signing up for my newsletter.


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Published on December 22, 2016 04:30 • 4 views

December 19, 2016

William Dietz


The last few days have been difficult ones in my home. My mother died in her sleep late last week, and though she had a full life and had spent the last few years in very poor health, still just now it’s hard to think that she is gone. Some might wonder why I didn’t take this week off from EATING AUTHORS, but others among you know that there is a welcome distraction found in focusing on routine tasks, and preparing this post has given me some peace. To the many readers out there who have expressed condolences over my loss, I thank you. Now let us move forward as though this were just another Monday.


Out guest this week is William C. Dietz, and I have to say one of the things I like best about him is he didn’t start writing his first novel until he was thirty-nine. That was back in 1984 and since then, he’s written more than fifty books, including his extremely popular Legion series, media tie-in books and game novelizations.


Bill’s latest work, Into the Guns, came out a couple months back from Ace and promises to be the first volume in his new America Rising series.








LMS: Welcome, Bill. So tell me, what stands out as your most memorable meal?



WCD: In 1975 my wife and I quit our jobs and ran off to Africa. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Eventually, when the money ran out, we had to go home. Rather than log a nearly continuous seventeen hours in the air from Johannesburg, South Africa to Seattle, Washington, we chose to take a mid-trip break in Rio de Janeiro.



TITLE

Based on previous experience we wanted to hire a driver/interpreter for a day. That’s spendy, but it’s also efficient, because it allows us to choose what we see and cover a lot of ground. We wanted to visit Christ the Redeemer, take the cable car up to the top of Sugarloaf, and get an overview of the city.


Thanks to the folks at the hotel we were able to hire an English speaking driver named Ricardo. He showed up in a pristine ’66 Lincoln four-door sedan. The car was Ricardo’s pride and joy. Whenever we stopped he would pay the local street urchins protection money to make sure that nothing happened to it. Finally, after a long and enjoyable day, Ricardo asked where we’d like to have dinner. We said something like, “On a beach. You choose.”


And choose he did. Ricardo drove us through the city — and then south along the coast past the high rise buildings, the favelas, and the houses beyond. The Atlantic ocean glittered to our left — and Brazil stretched away to the right.



Drifter

As the light began to fade Ricardo pulled up about a hundred feet from an open air restaurant. “This is the place,” Ricardo announced. “Order the prawns… And a beer.” Then with his sun glasses on, Ricardo leaned against the Lincoln, and lit a cigarette. If anyone looked cool he did.


My wife and I made our way across white sand to the open air restaurant. There were no customers other than ourselves. And, as we looked around, there was no sign of where other people might come from. No hotels. No condos. Nothing other than the colorful fishing boats that were pulled up on the beach.


The eating area consisted of nothing more than a thatched roof resting on four wooden poles. The tables were rickety, covered with cheap plastic cloths, and flies were everywhere. We considered leaving. But there was Ricardo to consider. He was leaning on the Lincoln and staring out to sea. Could we tell him we didn’t care for his choice? No, we couldn’t. And we didn’t.



Andromeda's Fall

A waitress arrived. We ordered beer and the prawns. The air was warm and the beer was delightfully cold. It slid down my throat. The flies began to get organized. First they marshalled themselves in companies, battalions, and brigades. Then they took to the air and swarmed us. But we were committed — and Ricardo was watching. So we waved our hands at them — and did what we could to defend the table.


The prawns arrived fifteen minutes later. They were HUGE, they were golden, and they were perfectly cooked. There was no need for anything else other than another beer. Once dinner was over we returned to the car. Ricardo flicked a cigarette butt away. The little red eye rose and fell. “The prawns… They were good, no?”


“The prawns were good, yes,” I replied. “Thank you.”


“De nada,” Ricardo replied. The back seat of the Lincoln took us in, the motor purred, and we returned to the hotel. I don’t think Ricardo will read this. But I hope he’s out there, still cool, and still driving the Lincoln.




Thanks, Bill. But you’re a cruel, cruel man sharing this tale of Ricardo and a seaside restaurant that none of us will ever find. Like talking about this great bistro you went to in Brigadoon.



Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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December 12, 2016

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November 14, 2016

Mishell Baker


Online venues like Twitter and Facebook allow me an expanded community of authors whom I’ve never met, nor have much expectation to. Now and then, some international conference or convention provides an exception to that, as is the case with this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Mishell Baker.


We’d been trading tweets and I discovered she basically lives in my old stomping grounds in southern California. That led to more conversation and eventually an invitation to be a guest here. She sent in the meal below many weeks ago and it’s been working its way up the calendar. Meanwhile, we were both in Columbus, Ohio last month for World Fantasy and we shared a meal and wiled away several very enjoyable hours together. And in a hotel dedicated to Pepsi product, she graciously provided me with a bottle of Diet Coke!


Mishell writes strictly fantasy. She’s a Clarion graduate and has placed short stories with several of the list of well known magazines. Back in March, Saga Press published Borderline , the first volume of The Arcadia Project series, which features a protagonist who’s a double-amputee with borderline personality disorder and works with a secret border patrol responsible for the flow of traffic between our world and a magical one right next door. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “That? Again?” The sequel, Phantom Pains is coming your way next March. Go read the first and put in your order for the second.










LMS: Welcome, Mishell. So, let’s talk about your most memorable meal.



MB: Whenever someone asks me where I’d like to eat, I usually cover my panic with a breezy, “Wherever you like.” It’s true; it’s all the same to me, but not in the low-maintenance way I try to make it sound. Wherever we go, I know I’ll have to choke down a few bites and then tell the waiter “It was wonderful, I’m just not very hungry.” Then I’ll go home afterward and gorge myself on something you’d only ever find on a kids’ menu.


To judge by my eating habits, you’d assume that I have no taste, but if we’re speaking in a strictly literal sense my problem is the exact opposite.



Borderline

I’m what you’d call a “supertaster” to an extreme degree. I can tell you not only if the soda in a cup was poured from a glass or plastic bottle, but whether the plastic bottle was 20 oz. or 2-liter. Tap water tastes like liquefied plumbing to me, and I’ve been driven to a teetotaler’s life because even the wimpiest of cocktails might as well be pure turpentine. Even worse, some things taste completely wrong, as in, different to me than to anyone else. Put one flake of cilantro in a dish, and suddenly the whole thing tastes like a mouthful of pennies. I have never found another instance of this precise mutation even among others with the Bad Cilantro Gene.


Ironically, the lower the price point on a restaurant, the more likely it is that the flavors will be tolerable to me, because most cheap foods are bland. Foods that are boring to most people — potatoes, cheese, whitefish, apples — unfold to me a hidden world of subtle variety and stimulation. But once you get to mid-priced restaurants, they start using actual spices, and for me anything other than a light dusting of a handful of pre-approved favorites is like being punched repeatedly in the sinuses. So of course gourmet restaurants, given their penchant for creativity and intensity, are a straight-up nightmare.


All this buildup is to help you understand the horror I felt when my parents announced they’d be taking me to Erna’s Elderberry House, an elegant place where you pay $112 a person to eat whatever they decide to serve you. It wasn’t my money, but it still pained me to think of someone setting a match to it. I didn’t want to be difficult, though, so I decided to dress up and enjoy the exquisite ambiance, with a backup plan to furtively stuff my face afterwards with French fries.



Phantom Pains

Was I ever in for a surprise! It was as though they knew I was coming.


All five of the courses they served, from the cold squash bisque to the steaming venison steak, achieved my optimal level of culinary subtlety, while still also managing to delight my adventurous foodie parents. I enjoyed raw fish for the first time, because they served a particularly dulcet little slice of ahi tuna that melted in my mouth without making me think even once of beached dead things.


I can’t even remember what was for dessert; I just know that I was full by then and still resisting the urge to bend over and lick the elegant curlicues of sauce off my plate. I ate every bite of all five courses, and at least a third of it consisted of foods I had never even dared to put in my mouth before.


So perhaps once you get past a certain price point, food becomes edible to me again? I don’t know if I’ll ever have $112 of my own I’d dare to spend on a single dinner, but if I ever do, I know exactly where I’ll be taking it.



Thanks, Mishell. Your heavenly meal reminds me of the $100, real-deal Kobe steak I enjoyed in Tokyo. It was so perfect, you’d think it could never happen again. Except, several days later, on the last night of the trip, I had a second one. Pure magic!



Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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Published on November 14, 2016 04:30 • 3 views