I remember the moment I got the idea for this story very precisely. I was in a car, driven by Gavin Grant, heading eastward on the Massachusetts Turnpike bound for the Boskone science fiction convention in the February of 2005. Kelly Link was the third person in the car; she and Gavin had recently moved to western Massachusetts and I was cadging a ride to the con. The three of us were talking about the convention to which we were heading, comparing the various panels and events we were scheduled to participate in (which is how writers go to science fiction conventions for free).
One of the panels I'd signed up for was about food and cooking in science fiction and fantasy. I'm interested in food; I'm from New Orleans, where food was first invented. In the car, Gavin and Kelly and I were musing aloud about how one could actually write a food-based fantasy or science fiction story. One of us (I don't remember which) wondered what a food story by Tim Powers would look like. It would have to have the Holy Grail in it, someone said.
This is that story. This is my attempt to write a food story in the manner of Tim Powers, with all the cool secret history and erudite lore of his novels crammed into a short story. For simplicity's sake I gave all the freaky-cool Holy Grail trivia knowledge to a character, Cecil Street, and let him ramble on (as much as anyone can ramble in a story less than 3,000 words long).
Cecil is pretty much me, or at least part of me. When I ran this story through the mighty Cambridge SF Workshop (a very quick session; nobody had much to say beyond "put a stamp on it"), I happened to mention that, Stephen Popkes asked what part of me Cecil represented. The part that takes short fantasy stories to workshops, obviously.
The centerpiece of the story is a fantastic midday dinner at a sadly imaginary inn in southern France. I composed the menu myself, but I'm not enough of a wine expert to get the drinks right. So I got some professional advice from Steve Freedman at Amherst Wines & Spirits. He was the one who suggested a rosé wine with the Trout Meuniere, which I would never have thought of.
I sold it to Gordon Van Gelder at F&SF, and it came out in the February 2006 issue. At some point I'd like to actually cook and serve the meal I described in the story.