I’m the author of six novels, including “The Epicure’s Lament,” the PEN/Faulkner award-winning “The Great Man,” and “The Astral.” I am a cook of the improvisational, what’s-in-the-cupboard school, which is also, possibly not coincidentally, my strategy with writing. Just as the ingredients at hand can dictate a dish, the characters who arise in my imagination and are set in motion at the beginning of a novel can dictate its plot, tone, and themes. It’s crucial to both enterprises to keep on hand excellent spices, oils, and produce.
I was raised in Berkeley in the 1960s, long before the Bay Area became the American locavore/foodie mecca; we moved to Arizona in 1970, back when it was a cultural desert, pun fully intended. My favorite childhood dinner was hot dogs, “creamy corn,” and boiled carrot coins with margarine. In 1980, after graduation from Green Meadow Waldorf School, I lived and worked as an au pair girl for a year near the town of Moulins, in the Allier district of France, where I learned to make mousse au chocolat and rabbit stew and discovered cheese, butter, and wine. At Reed College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I regressed out of economic necessity to Top Ramen, hamburgers, and bean burritos. But then I moved to New York City in 1989, where I discovered the writings of MFK Fisher, learned to eat well, and began to realize my lifelong passion, both literary and culinary, for food.
I now live in Portland, Maine and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where I’m writing a new novel, “Gin on the Lanai,” about rival food writers on Kauai.