Eat | Read with Kristen Iskandrian & Sarah Jean Alexander
In this space, we’re going to tell you what we’ve been reading and what we’ve been eating, and we’re going to ask other people what they’ve been reading and eating, and we might, from time to time, include a recipe or a meditation or a grocery list. On most days, the only thing I like more than food is books, and on other days, the only thing I like more than books is food. But on all days, I ingest a lot of words and a lot of calories. We at Real Pants are eager to explore the wide and always-changing intersection where we find ourselves ever-hungry, never full.
What we’ve been eating: Kristen
In 2007, I went to a Halloween party dressed as Amy Winehouse. In her essay “Tragedy. Call. Compassion. Response.,” Roxane Gay says that 2006, the year Winehouse’s second album came out, “was the year of the Halloween dedicated to this girl-woman,” so I guess I was, as I often am, late. Actually, I ran into another Amy Winehouse at some point that night, although she wore a wig, whereas I did not [need one], so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about who was the better Amy Winehouse. In any case, at the party, there were these ginger-molasses cookies made by my friend Emily Martin. Emily has many talents, and these cookies are one of them. They were wide and flat, crackly and chewy, rough with demerara sugar and perfectly spiced. They tasted special, like a cookie you’d pay $3 for at the annoying coffee shop. I asked Emily for the recipe, which she sent either that night or soon after as a link. I transcribed it, but here’s the thing: I can’t find a trace of our exchange so I don’t know the original source. I want to say her recipe was from Martha Stewart, but I’ve scoured all of the MS ginger-molasses recipes on the net, and they don’t jive with what I have written down. I’m not going to say that this mystery definitely makes them taste better, but probably, it does. I like that I don’t know their exact provenance. I like to think of them as Emily’s cookies, and also, a little, as Amy Winehouse’s cookies. I still like listening to her songs. And I like thinking that when we eat our favorite things, we eat as much with our memories as we do with our mouths.
I have made them every year since that party, at least two or three batches between Halloween and Christmas. When I have less time, as was the case this week, I’ll do a half-batch (they are easy to make, but take time to roll). I’m not going to tell you that you can’t make them in the warmer months. You are a grown up and can do as you please. I will say, though, that you’d be insulting the soul of the cookie, not to mention Amy’s memory. This is a cold weather cookie, a good refuge on a cold, sad night, or anytime during the season of celebrating when being a human feels like too much, or too little.
What we’ve been reading: Kristen
The Changeling by Joy Williams. I have read her The Quick and the Dead and Honored Guest, but thankfully there is a lot more Joy Williams to read. She is an author whose style just hits all the right notes for me—those stark declarative sentences that belie strata of pain and terror and wisdom and complexity. It’s funny how you find these happenstance (or not) kinships in what you read. I have just finished writing a novel featuring a girl and Visions and eventually, a baby, and it is altogether different, of course, than this book. But I feel a connection to Pearl, an intimacy with these characters, in that way you do when you meet a person who gets you, whom you get. When this happens—when you read a book that you feel was written by the most impossible and virtuosic version of yourself—it reinforces something about how reading and writing reveal what’s essential to you, and it is often different than what you would, conversationally, casually, announce as essential to you. I do believe, as writers, we choose our books vibrationally.
This paragraph, I mean come on:
Pearl was tired of living in this world. Things turned out badly in this world. Even if one had no desires and made few decisions, one’s shadow fell in the paths of others and their shadows fell all over you.
And this one, since I am Food Editor and all:
One of the children had left a partially eaten cracker on the top shelf. It had a banana or something spread on it. Pearl picked it up and put it in her mouth. Pearl liked eating the odds and ends of the children’s leftovers. She would pick up half-gnawed apples, tip the warm drops of cereal milk into her mouth, chew the gristle of the bones they left behind. She liked seeing them eat, the way they ate with open, happy mouths.
What we’ve been eating: Sarah Jean
There is a cafe called Epice Cafe on 7th ave near my work. I don’t know how to pronounce Epice. They have a salad bar where you can get unlimited toppings for 7.99. Today I got a spinach salad with chickpeas, kidney beans, cauliflower, parmesan, onions, black olives, egg whites and corn. It is a nice salad. I enjoy to eat it.
What we’ve been reading: Sarah Jean
I received three books anonymously in the mail a couple months ago. This is one of the books. The other two were Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke and The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret. I read the first two right away and then read some other books and now I am reading this one, Egalia’s Daughters. This novel is described as a ‘satire of the sexes’ because instead of females being the subjugated sex, males are. Young boys have to get fitted for ‘pehoes’, small boxes to put their dicks in, while girls get to wear pants and dream of growing up and holding jobs in positions of powers and probably never have to wear a bra. Boys stress out about not being chubby enough. Girls laugh at them if their dick is too big. It comes off as super strange, which makes me mad at myself because every ‘insane’ or ‘angering’ thing that is happening with the male children is every ‘normal’ thing that happens to young girls today that nearly all of our current society doesn’t flinch over. The inequalities in my everyday life are suddenly screaming at me, whereas before some were either mumbling or living completely silently. This book is, how you say, eye-opening. How you say, jarring. How you say, feminist. Anyway, neat book.