Cooking the Books

Cooking the Books with Yoon Ha Lee

Happy Wednesday and welcome to a brand new monthly feature in partnership with Fran Wilde and Aliette de Bodard’s Cooking the Books Podcast!


Today’s guest is Yoon Ha Lee talking to Aliette and Fran about his excellent novels Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem over at the main Cooking the Books kitchen.


Here at the extension kitchen, we have bonus Q&A content and an audio snippet!


The Book Smugglers: A. The world(s) you created are completely unlikely anything I have ever read with incredible worldbuilding and imaginative warfare. One thing that remains pretty much recognizable: the food that your characters eat. Can you talk a bit about it?

Yoon Ha Lee:

I like having the food my characters eat be foods that I have eaten and loved; otherwise why bother? I was born in Texas and love many American foods; my dad’s from South Korea but he learned to grill a mean steak from his colleagues! That being said, I grew tired of military sf or space opera where the food, if recognizably terrestrial in origin, was basically all Western all the time. So I like to sometimes mix it up with various foods I ate in Korea, or that my mom would make, or Asian foods that I encountered once I went to college and beyond, and got to explore restaurant offerings.

The Book Smugglers: What’s your favorite food scene from (an SFF) movie, tv show, or book? (e.g. Imaginary Food becomes Real Food morphs into Food Fight in ’90s classic, HOOK)

Yoon Ha Lee:

Oh, this one’s easy! I can’t remember which of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books–it might have been Dragonsong or Dragonsinger–but the one where Menolly meets Piemur at Harper Hall and he introduces her to “bubbly pies.” I used to have a Pern book, maybe The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern, that had a recipe, but unfortunately my copy was destroyed in a flood before I got to try it out! Also, I’m terrified of making pie crust. I’ve only ever made strawberry-rhubarb pies using store-bought crust. But I hope to someday try the recipe; it seems to be online.

Ninefox Gambit

The Book Smugglers: Let’s play Marry/Kiss/Kill, but with food. (e.g. Marry: Thanksgiving Turkey/Kiss: McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets/Kill: EGGS.)

Yoon Ha Lee:

Marry: I guess it’d have to be something reasonably nutritionally complete, so I can’t say Korean tangerines (gyul)! Let’s say Pad Thai.

Kiss: There’s a restaurant in my husband’s home town, that makes this delightful dessert described as “Thai donuts in powdered sugar with vanilla cream.” It’s probably as well that I only get to have it once or twice a year!

Kill: Mushrooms! I know a lot of people like them (sorry, Mom!) but I can’t deal with the texture.


And here is the audio clip teaser of A Book Smugglers Question(TM):


Go over to the main kitchen to check out the full episode to listen to the whole interview!


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