SFF NOVELISTS NALO HOPKINSON, EKATERINA SEDIA, SG WONG + MINISTER FAUST ON WHY THEY WRITE ABOUT FOOD WHILE SO FEW NOVELISTS DO, POWER DYNAMICS IN FOOD CULTURE, FUTURE FOOD TECH + CYBORG BODIES
To be alive is to eat. To enjoy life is to eat. To meet with family and friends and reminisce and plan the future is to eat. And of course, all of human culture, in one way or another revolves around our basic need to stay alive through producing, consuming, and loving food.
So why do so few novelists, poets, lyricists, and other writers talk about food in their work?
I’ve been cooking since I was a kid and have always loved everything about acquiring, making, and consuming food, and in recent years I’ve become an enthusiastic and productive gardener. I’ve relished (ba-dum-ching) my conversations with other people, but especially other writers, about food. This episode features the sparkling ideas about food, culture, science, feminism, social justice, technology, and more of three delightful human beings and celebrated writers:
SG Wong is the creator of the Lola Starke hardboiled detective series (Die on Your Feet, In For a Pound, and Devil Take the Hindmost), set in Crescent City, California, in an alternate history in which China colonised North America. An Arthur Ellis Award finalist, Wong is also a sparkling stalwart of Edmonton’s literary scene as an organiser of writer conferences. She’s one of those outstanding individuals whose endless energy benefits everyone in the community.
Ekaterina Sedia is the author of The House Of Discarded Dreams, The Secret History of Moscow, and The Alchemy of Stone. She’s a short story writer who also occasionally edits anthologies, and was an interim non-fiction editor for Clarkesworld Magazine in the fall of 2008. She blogs television, books, fashion, food, and even cats, with a focus on the intersection between fashion industry and feminism. She encourages readers to contact her at email@example.com.
Nalo Hopkinson, whom the Routledge Companion to Literature and Science calls a luminary in the science fiction community. She is widely known for her Africentric science fiction and fantasy novels exploring the experiences and cultures of African peoples in the Caribbean and ultimately into the galaxy. She’s the author of ten celebrated books including Skin Folk, Sister Mine, The New Moon’s Arms, and her explosive debut Brown Girl in the Ring, a dystopian science fiction adventure set in near-future Toronto featuring an African-Canadian heroine and the orisha gods of Nigeria and Benin.
The bonus edition for Patreon subscribers features an extra 40 minutes of conversation, so sign up, why doncha?
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1 medium winter squash, perhaps 4" in diameter. I prefer the dry, sweet squashes such as kabocha, turban or hubbard. But you can substitute pumpkin or any other winter squash, such as acorn or butternut. I advise against using canned pumpkin. It just doesn't taste as good.
1 medium onion.
2 tablespoons butter. Can substitute w another flavorful oil, such as coconut, palm, or hazelnut. I'm not sure the taste of olive oil would work.
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg, or 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger. As with the pumpkin, fresh is best.
Flaked, dried chilis to taste.
Salt to taste.
Soup pot or heavyish saucepan with a lid, plus enough water to cover the squash as it's boiling.
Optional; basil leaves and plain yogourt, as garnish.
Rinse and peel the onion. Cut in half, put in soup pot.
Rinse the squash. Cut in half, remove seeds. Chop the squash into large pieces and put in the pot. I generally leave the rind on until later.
Cover the squash & onion with water. Put the lid on the pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the squash and onion are soft enough to puree.
Turn the heat down as low as possible. You want to keep the water warm, but not boiling.
With a fork or slotted spoon, remove the onion and squash. Put the onion into a food processor or blender.
While you're letting the squash cool a bit, put the butter, dried chilis, and nutmeg or ginger into the simmering water.
With a spoon, scrape the squash flesh free of the rind. Discard the rind and add the squash to the onion.
Add some of the liquid from the pot to the squash and onion. Not too much! There's nothing quite like steaming hot squash puree erupting from your blender all over your hands, face, and anything in a 3-foot radius. Heed the voice of experience.
Puree the squash and onion. Return it to the pot. Stir, taste. Add salt if you like.
Turn the heat off.
Optional; garnish with the basil leaves and/or a dollop of plain yogourt.
Serve. Will probably serve 3-4 people as a meal starter
To make this into a main course, I cook flat rice noodles, mung bean noodles, or plain dumplings (flour, water, salt, egg) in the water after I've removed the squash and onion. I might also add basil leaves at this stage. Then I just leave them in and continue with the rest of the recipe.
Saskatoon Berry Jam
Saskatoon berries 4 cups
Water ½ cup
Lemon juice ½ lemon’s worth
Lemon peel ½ lemon’s worth
Crush berries in heavy-bottomed pan. A Dutch oven works nicely.
Heat on medium until juice begins to seep out.
Add water and sugar, stirring to incorporate.
Bring to boil, stirring constantly.
Add lemon juice and peel, incorporating fully.
Boil or simmer to reduce liquid and thicken. (About 15-20 minutes)
Ladle into sterilized jars and continue with usual canning methodology to ensure long-lasting storage.
This recipe is adapted from ATCO’s Blue Flame Kitchen. I halved the original sugar content.
You can customize the texture in step 1. Crush more or less depending on your preference for whole berries in the jam.
To make this a jelly, you can strain before step 7.
I sterilize my jars like this:
Submerge jars & rings in a pot with tepid/room temp. water
Bring to boil & boil 10 minutes (never less; more is ok)
Let sit for at least 10 minutes
I don’t do a hot water bath after I fill the jars. I let them sit, upside down, on a cooling rack on the counter. I also fill to the brim. Most instructions will tell you to leave a ¼ inch.
The jams are safe for long-term storage when you hear them pop, or when the lids don’t click when you press down. This means a vacuum seal has been created.
EKATERINA SEDIA: RECIPE + FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
Dessert-for-breakfast PB Banana Mug Cake
1 flax egg (use real one if not vegan)
½ tablespoons peanut butter (almond or any nut butter work just as well)
1 tablespoons almond or buckwheat flour, or protein powder (optional);
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Dash of vanilla extract
Other spices to taste
Mash banana with a fork. Add other ingredients to the mashed banana. Mix everything in a mug to form a mostly smooth batter (it should fill mug to 2/3-3/4). Bake at 350 for 20-30 min or until the top is golden brown. Let stand for 5 min and serve with honey, berries, whipped coconut cream or just plain.