Dean Rader’s debut collection of poems, Works & Days, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize and Landscape Portrait Figure Form (2014) was named by The Barnes & Noble Review as a Best Poetry Book. Three new books appeared in 2017: Suture, collaborative poems written with Simone Muench (Black Lawrence Press), Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry (Copper Canyon), and Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, edited with Brian Clements & Alexandra Teague (Beacon). He is also the editor of 99 Poems for the 99 Percent: An Anthology of Poetry. Dean writes regularly for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Huffington Post, BOMB, and The Kenyon Review. He is a professor at the University of San Francisco and lives in San Francisco with his wife and sons.
Here, he talks about bacon with a side of chips and guac, a hatred for white creamy foods, and green salsa after everyone leaves the party.
On his all-time favorite meal:
Well, I live in San Francisco, so I’ve eaten at many of the iconic restaurants in the Bay Area like Chez Panisse and French Laundry and Coi and State Bird Provisions, and Michael Mina, and In-n-Out, but none of those have been my all-time favorite meal. I have a memory of an incredible meal in Santiago, Chile after a visit to one of Pablo Neruda’s houses and a hike through the hills. I also remember eating ribs one time in Kansas City that were so good we ordered another full rack for dessert. For my 50th birthday last year my wife arranged a very small dinner party in a private room of our favorite restaurant here in San Francisco. My sister and her husband were here. The food was unforgettable, the wine also unforgettable (Ridge Estate Cabernet, Roar Pinot Noir, + mezcal cocktails), and I felt much closer to death but also very much alive.
On what the light looks like during his favorite meal of the day:
We recently moved so we now have a view out of our back window of the Pacific Ocean. We often eat by the window at sunset, and we will see just how pink the sky can get. Sometimes the views over the ocean are just breathtaking. The light looks like it’s hanging on for dear life as it slashes against the end of the world.
On snacking while writing:
I’m more likely to drink something, probably wine, though lately I’ve gotten into Harmless Coconut Water. Tonight I’m having a mezcal cocktail as I type this and wait for my wife to come home from New York. And now, after writing about food for two, well, three questions now, I’m considering busting out some leftover green salsa from Street Tacos—the most incredible salsa I’ve ever eaten.
On his go-to late-night snack:
My dream snack is chips and salsa or chips and guacamole. Second would be yogurt, berries, and granola. Third would be nuts. Fourth would be a Perfect Bar (peanut butter). Fifth would be bacon. Okay, first would be bacon with a side of salsa and guacamole.
On his food quirks:
First, I cannot stand mayonnaise, and I’m no fan of mustard. If someone in the house across the street opens up a jar of Miracle Whip, I can smell it. Second, except for yogurt, I am sort of grossed out by white creamy food like alfredo or sour cream or hollandaise or gravy or condensed milk or heavy whipping cream. Third, I love, absolutely love Kalamata olives, but I hate—like truly hate—black olives.
On his final meal request:
You know, that’s a tough question. My father died in December of 2017, and just yesterday I was trying to remember my last real meal with him. I think it was at a diner in Oklahoma City. The food was awful. I was annoyed he took me to a crappy place. Anyway, I digress. My own last meal? I guess it would be a big party with all of the people I love, and they would each bring with them one dish that they love. We would talk and eat and eat and talk. And drink.
And then, when they were all gone, I’d sneak to the refrigerator, eat leftover green salsa from Street Taco…