Eat | Read with Kristen Iskandrian
What I’ve been eating:
If I ever wrote a cookbook, I’d want it to have two sections: Food That You Eat Alone and Food That You Eat Together. In the latter category would be the expected items: pancakes, popular Mexican entrées (tacos, fajitas), roasted meats, pasta, many desserts, and picnic foods. The former section would include bananas and be a cross between an index, a manifesto, and a Joel Osteen-type affirmation along the lines of You’re Not Weird If You Prefer Eating By Yourself In Front Of Your Computer. The communal meal is stressful to many, for any number of reasons, and while I very much believe in and usually enjoy our nightly family dinner at home, I take unapologetic pleasure in eating alone. A spoonful of peanut butter; the salty dregs of a bag of chips; a chunk of stashed chocolate; salsa on a fork while standing in front of the open refrigerator, trying to figure out what else to put it on or eat next. Certain foods seem like public menaces—slurpy, noodle-laden soups, for example, or foods with a lot of spice/heat, which, while I adore them, make me very susceptible to coughing fits and watery eyes. Even typical “party food” like crudités can be risky—have you ever tried talking to someone whilst orally managing a large cauliflower floret?
This week, I made a hearty soup of chicken sausage, farro, kale, and potato, and while it was good for dinner, it was even better the next day for lunch, just me and my microwaved bowl. I added more kale, which steamed in the microwave, and more red pepper flakes, and I slurped and coughed and sputtered and chewed with impunity as I did my work, which I do from home. Working from home has its aggravations, but I feel lucky to be able to avoid eating with others in the middle of the day.
What I’ve been reading:
SACRAMENTO, an engrossing novella by Meghan Lamb, from the brilliant M. Kitchell’s Solar Luxuriance press. I think I got one of the last copies and I’m so glad I did. The book probes some of my very favorite topics—loneliness, placelessness, hope and decay—with precision, offering up these tiny perfect moments of humor and tenderness as succor against the forlorn landscape. Lamb’s writing is gorgeous and gutting. In the best possible way the book reminds me of a smear of blood under the microscope: vibrant, surprising, with tiny and intricately arrayed chambers that together create the whoosh of a pulse, of lives engaged in the struggle of being alive. Consider these beautiful excerpts:
A dark little pool of summertime sounds paints her memory black. The purr of insects, distant cars, and other things that do not matter. It’s inviting, to be overwhelmed by all these sounds that do not matter. More inviting than the constant non sound of not him not there.
She goes home and she goes straight to her bedroom. She digs through her dresser drawers until she finds his shirt. She carries it to bed. She strokes the buttons on its wrists. She plucks at the embroidered flowers. She fingers the frays of its ribboned lapels.
The shirt says, sorry. I just don’t know what to say. She tells it, that’s ok. You’re just a shirt. Just let me hold you.
The shirt says, it feels strange to just be held. To not be worn. It feels like you’re trying to make me something I’m not.