Book Bites: By the Numbers with Loren Rhoads

Book Bites is Cooking the Books more easygoing cousin. Authors talk about their book and share a recipe, all in one tasty bite. 

Today, author Loren Rhoads joins us to talk about her novel, Kill by Numbers, out this month — welcome, Loren!

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Food ended up playing a surprisingly large role in Kill By Numbers, the second novel of my space opera trilogy.

The Veracity’s captain is a young man named Mykah Chen. Mykah’s mother was killed during the Human-Templar War. After the War, humans were subjected to enormous prejudice, so Mykah’s father took whatever work he could get, often long-haul shipping. In consequence, Mykah grew up in a group home where he was bullied – and where he also learned to cook.

Mykah worked in kitchens to put himself through university, studying journalism. Even though his mentor encouraged him, Mellix gave Mykah a piece of catastrophic advice: don’t take work for the human media or you will be ghettoized. Once Mykah turned down the few offers he got from humans, he couldn’t find any other media work.  That’s why he’s waiting tables on a pleasure planet when Raena Zacari offers him command of the ship she’s just stolen.

I didn’t set out to make food so central in these books, but it grew organically out of Mykah’s character. He’s the captain because the others didn’t want to deal with the galactic bureaucracy, but onboard, the Veracity is a democracy, so there aren’t a lot of demands on Mykah’s time.  He fills it with his art, which happens to take place in the kitchen.

Throughout Kill By Numbers, Mykah treats the Veracity’s crew to increasingly inventive meals.  He’s got to accommodate Raena, who hasn’t experienced much beyond human food; Coni, a feline Haru, who prefers vegetable protein; Haoun, a saurian Na’ash, who snacks on insects; and Vezali, a tentacled Dagat, who will one day return to the ocean.

The Veracity’s crew always gathers for meals.  Much of the ship’s business is hammered out over the galley table. A significant portion of their operating budget goes toward food.  Mykah can – and occasionally does – reconstitute eggs, but he prefers fresh ingredients. He keeps a little garden where he grows garlic and mushrooms, but he buys fresh fruits and vegetables when he can. He bakes his own bread, roasts his own coffee, and caters as much as possible to the spectrum of palates while making sure each meal is based around some form of protein.  As Raena observes in the first book of the series, it’s tricky to find animal protein that isn’t tangentially related to someone in the crew.  She’s right in guessing that there’s a galactic measure of sentience that creatures must fail before they’re fit for the plate.

Food in my trilogy serves to underline the variety of peoples in the crew and in the galaxy. It binds them together and underlines their differences.

Sesame Noodles

  • 3 T. peanut butter
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 T. rice vinegar
  • 1 T. minced ginger
  • 16 oz. soba noodles
  • 2 cups of frozen edamame
  • 8 oz. firm tofu
  • ¼ cup sesame oil
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
  1. As the water for the soba comes to a boil, whisk the ingredients for the sauce together in a measuring cup. Cook the soba according to the package instructions.
  2. While the noodles cook, dice the tofu and brown it over low heat in the sesame oil.
  3. When the noodles are done, add the edamame to the boiling water and turn off the heat.
  4. If necessary, toast the sesame seeds briefly in a dry skillet over very low heat. Make sure they don’t burn.
  5. Drain the soba and edamame. Add the sauce. Top with the sesame seeds.
  6. This is good hot and even better cold the following day.

Loren Rhoads photoLoren Rhoads is the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes — the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy — all published by Night Shade Books in 2015.  She’s the co-author with Brian Thomas of a succubus/angel novel called As Above, So Below and solo author of a collection of travel essays from graveyards around the world called Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. She’s also the editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two and Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual.

You can find Loren on the web, on Facebook, or on Twitter.


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