Book Bites with Elizabeth Bear and Ancestral Night

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

Welcome back to Book Bites!  Today, cooking the books veteran guest interviewer joins us for a very new and delicious bite! Everyone say hello to Elizabeth Bear and her new book Ancestral Night! Over to you, Bear!

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Ancestral Night takes place entirely in space—far-future space, galaxy-spanning space—so the food in the book is the food of people who have never set foot on a planet and have no intention of ever doing so. That said, it’s a pretty advanced spacefaring culture, and they’ve gotten pretty good at food. Some is printed from component molecules; some is farmed on habitations. It’s expensive to lift food out of a gravity well!

There’s a strong cultural component to what people eat, even when a human diaspora has carried them out among the stars. A running joke in this series is that most of the non-human sentient races cannot stand the smell of coffee. It’s considered a horrible human habit, distasteful in the extreme—which can be a considerable hardship for human coffee-lovers the universe over.

Some food is also significant by its absence, also. Most notably, there’s a sequence in the book where the heroine, Haimey, is playing cat-and-mouse through an abandoned vessel with a murderous enemy. Her available food is the algae in the tanks for producing oxygen.

She’s pretty happy to get it, too.


Recipe: Haimey’s Algae Space Shrimp Crackers.

  • 500 grams of edible algae (Porphyra will do on Earth.)
  • 50 grams of dried mollusks, such as dried shrimp (available at Asian groceries)
  • Enough water to make a paste
  • Salt to taste
  1. Process in a food processor or blender until about the consistency of pesto.
  2. Spread on greased parchment or silicon baking sheets about 1 millimeter thick.
  3. Bake at your oven’s lowest setting until dried and crackly.


Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. She is the Hugo, Sturgeon, Locus, and Campbell Award winning author of 30 novels and over a hundred short stories, and her hobbies of rock climbing, archery, kayaking, and horseback riding have led more than one person to accuse her of prepping for a portal fantasy adventure.
She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, writer Scott Lynch. You can find her on twitter and instagram, her newsletter, patreon, and at


  1. “A running joke in this series is that most of the non-human sentient races cannot stand the smell of coffee.”
    They’re probably brewing it wrong. Don’t mind the spice, the BEANS must flow!

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