Sep 17

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Blindfold Taste Test with William Shunn

What is your favorite food?

My favorite food of all time forever is the gyro at the Greek Shishkabob in Salt Lake City. It was the first gyro I ever had, at the age of fifteen, and I soon became addicted. They make their gyros with a spicy red sauce and pile them with onions instead of using the more familiar tzatziki sauce. It used to be the first stop I would make when visiting Utah, until a few years ago when I tried going there and it was closed.

What was your most memorable meal?

My best food memories have a distinctly Mediterranean flavor. My most memorable meal was at an Egyptian restaurant in Astoria, Queens, called Kabab Cafe. I’ve had a lot of memorable meals there—and done some memorable drinking with the Alexandrian chef/owner, Ali El Said—but the most legendary was the seven-course seafood dinner he does as a special every year during December. When my wife and I left that night after several hours of conspicuous consumption, I couldn’t stop speaking in a Scottish accent. Don’t ask me why.

Is there any food you crave that you cannot get where you live?

My wife and I first discovered Dutch Indonesian rijsttafel on a trip to Amsterdam in 2000. Literally “rice table,” it’s an elaborate meal containing all sorts of yummy spicy dishes. There was a good little place to get it on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan when we still lived in NYC, but we cannot find a trace of it in Chicago.

What three things are always in your refrigerator?

Half-and-half for the coffee, eggs—because I’m the one who mostly cooks breakfast—and an ever-changing roster of beers.

Is there anything you won’t eat?

Dog food. Seriously, my sisters all liked to dip into the dog food bag every once in a while when we were kids, but I refused to join them. They called me a chicken, but I stood my ground.

Is there a childhood food you miss?

Yummy potatoes. That’s the actual name of a recipe my grandma handed down to my mother. It’s this potato dish with cheddar cheese and sour cream and other stuff that’s way not good for you. It’s also called “funeral potatoes” by some people—because it’s often served at Mormon funeral gatherings, not because it might be your ticket to one.

What is your favorite restaurant (or top three)?

The aforementioned Kabab Cafe—where I’ve made Mr. Editor eat—in Queens has to be number one. Also up there are Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan—where they once mistook me for someone famous, thanked me up and down for coming, and gave me a free bottle of dessert wine—and Kuma’s Corner in Chicago,where the burgers are all named after metal bands and the staff are heavily tattooed.

What food is better at home than out at a restaurant?

Almost anything that my wife cooks. She’s fearless in the kitchen. She just made us this spicy Thai chicken dish in a slow cooker that knocked my socks off.

What is your favorite drink?

I’m a fiend for single-malt scotch, of which my favorite is a special vatting of Ardbeg called Uigeadail (after the loch where the distillery gets its water). It’s the peatiest scotch I’ve ever tasted. My favorite cocktail is the Jack Rose, a concoction of applejack, grenadine, and lemon juice garnished with a green apple slice.

Is there anything you eat that none of your friends/family eats?

My wife won’t eat Chinese food, so it’s always a special occasion for me when I get to have it.

William Shunn is the author of thirty works of short fiction, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon-nominated novella “Inclination” (available as an audiobook from Audible.com). His stories have appeared in Salon, Asimov’s, F&SF, Science Fiction Age, Realms of Fantasy, Storyteller, Electric Velocipede, and various Year’s Best anthologies. An early draft of his memoir The Accidental Terrorist can be heard as a podcast.

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