Andrew Feld is the author of two books of poetry, most recently Raptor (University of Chicago Press, 2012).
Here, he talks about sharing food with the people you love, a deep appreciation for soft serve ice cream, and what he’ll eat at the end of the world.
On his all-time favorite meal:
When I was little, I’d go with my father to Pamet Harbor in Truro, put on a scuba mask and dive down to pull mussels and oysters off the rocks at the deep end of the jetty. Swimming in the ocean (all-time favorite activity), being the one entrusted with the responsibility of the harvesting underwater, bouncing along in the current, finding the clustered shells in the gaps between the big rocks, prying them off and bringing up them up to hand to my father—it’s one of my few happy childhood memories with my generally furious and critical father. Then we’d eat some oysters on the breakwater before we lugged the splashing plastic buckets across the flats to the parking lot. A few years ago I was in Phuket with my wife and son and we stayed at one of those resorts where you can lounge in ocean-fed swimming pools as the staff brings you watermelon smoothies (wife, son) or the kind of fruit cocktail you only drink when you’re staying at a resort (me), and we ate grilled lobster and amazing Thai food. That might have been even better, because Lukas was pretty much giddy with delight. It was one of those moments as a parent where you physically feel the happiness of a shared experience radiating between you. I’d also have to add eating grilled sea bass in Naxos, again with Pimone and Lukas. If I had to make a generalization about my culinary preferences, it would be that for me, food always tastes better when it’s part of a shared experience with the people you love the most.
On what the light looks like during his favorite meal of the day:
Blinding. Reflecting off the ocean. A sunset is a nice addition, but special effects aren’t really necessary.
On snacking while writing:
I never eat while writing. That is, on the days when my schedule is open and I can just write, I’ll have my usual light breakfast (fruit, toast and coffee) and then sometime in the afternoon I’ll start feeling light-headed and spacey and I’ll realize that I haven’t had anything to eat for hours. This probably isn’t healthy, and it isn’t any kind of a conscious decision, except that for me the nervous energy that comes from being a little hungry is a productive energy, until my stomach starts to complain. Does water count as a snack? I do drink a lot of fizzy water, now that we have one of those water-fizzing devices.
On his go-to late-night snack:
During the summer and fall when good fruit—especially local fruit—is available, I can devour any quantity you put within my reach. If I open the fridge at night and find a melon—cantaloupe, Crenshaw, honeydew, water–it’s gone. Berries from the nearby fruit stand, peaches, mangos, etc., all make me happy. Apples with any flavor seem to be getting almost impossible to find, but every once in while you stumble across some old heirloom variety like Ashmead’s Kernel at a farmers’ market. A few pounds of those make for several nights of happy snacking. In the winter, when no good fruit is available and the only berries you can find in the market are the vile Driscoll’s, I chew on my own spleen.
On his food quirks:
I have a deep, abiding love for soft-serve ice cream. In Seattle, ice cream parlors selling dismayingly expensive scoops of small-batch artisanal ice creams in flavors like lavender rambutan or Dead Sea-salted caramel prickly pear are all the vogue, but for me, a large Dairy Queen vanilla/chocolate swirl with a chocolate dip is like the torch of the statue of liberty held up high for my great-grandparents fleeing the soul-scarring hatred and horrors of Eastern European cooking and telling them: here’s a cold, chocolate-covered combination of chemicals and commerce and it’s better than anything you ever imagined in your shtetl. Eat it before it melts.
On his final meal request:
What a depressing question—do you mean last meal as in the world is coming to an end, as it seems in many ways to be? Thinking about my son and what’s happening to this planet is not a light-hearted topic. What wine goes best with mass extinction? Maybe a nice, chilled beaker of Fentanyl? I know my wife and son would want a dessert cart, with lots of chocolate pastries, so whatever it would take, I’d get one. I might come back covered in blood, but they would have a full assortment of patisserie. Then I’d go out and loot the nearest high-end wine shop and try to wash down the apocalypse with a shopping cart’s worth of Premier crus. I’d probably be able to manage a few fresh oysters. Then we would sit in our back yard with our cat, looking at the trees and the flowers and the grass and all the plants, insects and animals for as long we possibly could. What a beautiful planet we had. If I was on death row and about to be executed, for, I’d hope, having successful pulled off a large-scale militant action in defense of the environment, grilled sea-bass, broccolini Roman-style, with pine nuts and raisins, and a simple dessert of fresh fruits (including ripe figs and wild strawberries) accompanied by an excellent, aged Sauterne would help me to face the end of my time on earth with composure.