Thursday, February 27, 2014

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Katherine Roberts, Author of the Echorium Trilogy

Would you eat a Half Creature? 
Guest post by Katherine Roberts

If you’re not a strict vegetarian, then you’re probably fine with eating animal flesh and maybe a bit of fish. But how far would you take that? Would you eat a horse? Would you eat your dog? Would you eat a mermaid?

Although I’m not vegetarian myself, I think I would find that last one difficult (I’d find the other two difficult, too – though if I were starving and someone served up the meat in a shrink-wrapped package, maybe I could do it!) On the other hand, mermaids don’t exist so that’s okay.

But I write fantasy! And one of the tricks of writing a realistic imaginary world is to ask this kind of question. So let’s suppose for a moment that mermaids do exist…

In my Echorium trilogy, you’ll meet several types of half creature: merlee (half fish, half human – our mermaids and also mermen), centaurs (half pony, half human),
quetzal (half bird, half human) and naga (half water snake, half human). Most people respect the Half Creature Treaty that forbids exploitation of half creatures. But at the start of the first book Song Quest, unscrupulous hunters are netting the merlee for their eggs and gutting the females to extract this delicacy before casting their bodies back into the sea. Think caviar, mermaid-style.

My imaginary world is policed by human Singers, who live in the Echorium (a bluestone castle on the Isle of Echoes) and use Songs of Power in the place of weapons. Alerted by the merlee’s cries for help, they set out to investigate taking with them two young novices – Rialle, who can communicate with half creatures, and Kherron who cannot. They follow the hunters’ trail high into the mountains of the Karch, where they discover the small green merlee eggs are destined for the young Karchlord Javelly, who is chronically sick… the eggs are supposed to cure him. In the Karch, the Singers discover another violation of the Treaty – quetzal are being kept in cages, waiting to be plucked and boiled for the lord’s table. This looks like a direct violation of the Treaty by the people of the Karch. But things are not quite as they seem. When Lord Javelly’s priests are discovered injecting the merlee eggs before delivering them to their young lord, the Singers must use their Songs of Power not only to protect the half creatures but also to save the life of the young Karchlord.

The half creatures in my Echorium books are based on creatures from our own myths. I gave them limited intelligence along with their animal instincts, and was fascinated by the question of whether they should be treated as low-intelligence humans or highly-intelligent animals. If human, then obviously eating them would be considered cannibalism and wrong. If animal, then maybe it’s more acceptable… provided you’re not vegetarian, of course! The equivalent squirm-factor in our world might be eating a chimpanzee (that scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when our hero and heroine are served with a dessert of frozen monkey brains inside the original monkey heads has always freaked me out!)

In the end, I decided the half creatures in my fantasy world should be protected species and are not to be eaten under any circumstance. Do you agree?


The Echorium trilogy was first published by Chicken House/Scholastic. The first title Song Quest won the Branford Boase Award for best debut novel for young readers in 2000, and all three books are now re-available:

Song Quest - paperback (Catnip Publishing, UK)

Crystal Mask - Kindle ebook (special offer this weekend 99c / 99p)

Dark Quetzal - Kindle ebook (special offer this weekend 99c / 99p)

Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and legend for young readers. Her latest series is the Pendragon Legacy about King Arthur’s daughter (which also contains a mermaid, although they don’t eat her!)

Meet Katherine here: 

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Katherine! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

FOODFIC: Enclave - Ann Aguirre

It seems like every other book on the shelves these days tries to hook you with the line: For fans of the Hunger Games. Being a HG fan myself, I have had disappointingly huge success at proving that claim wrong.

Until Enclave.

Unlike the wannabe novels that take place in malls or high schools or other civilized venues, Enclave’s heroine Deuce is actually struggling to survive in a harsh environment – hers being, well, underground. Because in this arguably bleaker-than-HG future, the surface is no longer habitable and humans are forced to live in the damp darkness below.

The members of Deuce’s “society” have to eat what little they can grow in such conditions (mainly mushrooms) and what meat they can trap, the specifics of which I will leave up to your imagination, not only because it’s not hard to guess what sort of creatures must be scurrying into the traps, but also because the author herself never names those not-so-tender morsels.

And perhaps Aguirre makes such an omission because Deuce herself can’t name the critters, as the names of so many things were lost over the decades that’ve passed since normal surface life ceased to exist.

But names and words and language must have stayed alive through books, you might insist.

Not so much; when the people were driven underground from a great unexplained apocalyptic event, they left most everything behind. There is an archivist of sorts who keeps any book and trinket “artifacts” that the hunters discover while out patrolling the tunnels, but not only are enclave members not allowed to read or study them; “hoarding” any such items in one’s personal space is grounds for banishment.

No daylight, no fresh food, no individuality, no thinking, no hope…not that anyone still alive even knows such a concept anymore.

Ah, except Deuce’s new partner Fade, who grew up somewhere else and survived on his own until hunters brought him down to the enclave. Fade not only opens Deuce’s eyes to unimagined possibilities, but to what’s within her as well. And we all know that hope until needs one tiny seed to grow…

Thursday, February 13, 2014

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Mohana Rajakumar, Author of Love Comes Later

Cooking, Curry, and Curves
By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

When I was growing up, much like Sita, the protagonist of An Unlikely Goddess, being Indian was not cool. People didn’t have the knowledge about Indian food or culture that they do now. This was long before Madonna started wearing bindis or Deepka Chopra on Oprah. My favorite foods were often deemed too smelly to eat in front of my American friends.

Thankfully those times have changed – now everyone wants to know the secret to my curries! Because of scent, especially in spicy South Indian dishes, food can become a marker, a boundary between ourselves (or doorway) and others.

You’ll have to read Sita’s story to see which one it is for her. ;)

I’m sharing my fish curry recipe below in case you want to give South Indian cooking a try. It’s everyday easy – I should know, I made it often in graduate school – and a great place to start if this is your first attempt at curry.

Fish Curry Recipe:
·       4 fillets of white fish (Tilapia or similar)
·       1 teaspoon turmeric powder
·       Kosher salt
·       11/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
·       3 medium cloves garlic chopped finely
·       1-2 tomatoes (depends on how much you like tomatoes)
·       1 medium sized yellow or white onion
·       1 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
·       1 teaspoon coriander powder
·       2 teaspoons cumin powder
·       1 teaspoon toasted and ground fenugreek
·       1 teaspoon mustard seeds
·       1 tablespoon tamarind soaked in 1 1/2 cup water or tamarind juice 

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and stir until transparent; cook onions as well until translucent. Add mustard seeds and wait for them to pop (be careful, if the oil is hot, can sting!), will take less than 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes and sauté. In quick succession, add red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, and fenugreek, and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. The spices should form a paste around the onions and tomato. Reduce heat to low.

Add the fish to the spiced oil mixture and stir gently to coat the fish with the oil. Add the tamarind and gently stir the mixture to combine. Cover and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce hear to simmer uncovered for 1 minute then remove from heat. Serve hot with white rice. 

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Mohana!

 You can find Mohana and her books here:

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Friday, February 7, 2014

FOODFIC: Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

Why is she not eating? Was my actual question with this one.

Because in the opening scene, Lissa the Moroi (vampire royal) feeds from Rose the dhampir (guardian), leaving Rose so dizzy that she had to lie down.

Now, Lissa does recognize the toll the blood loss has taken on her friend, and she does leave to go find her something to eat.

But while she’s gone, it’s Rose that notices the  stranger watching from across the street, realizes that they’ve been located by the people they’re on the run from, and even in her weakened state rushes to Lissa, who’s taking her sweet old time finding a snack for her friend!

Yes, theirs is a relationship unbalanced by definition – Rose the guardian will always be at the service of Lissa the royal. But the more I thought about it, I realized that if you take away the vampire aspect, theirs is not that different from many normal girl friendships. Often, one is more popular for whatever reason; one gives more while the other takes. So while this story friendship is supernatural, the imbalance is perhaps completely natural; it’s how we relate as both humans and non-humans.

And when I look at it from that perspective, the lopsidedness of Lissa and Rose’s relationship doesn’t bother me as much. Both girls recognize the necessity of it – that Rose truly has more to give and that Lissa only takes because she has to, not because she feels superior or entitled. It’s not a Homecoming-queen-lording-social-currency-over-minion situation, and Lissa does in fact try to do what she can for Rose, like spring her from the academy for a day of shopping.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt Lissa to pick up a burger for her friend once in awhile…or maybe use that inexhaustible credit card to put a stocked mini-fridge in Rose’s room. ;)