Dorothea Lasky is the author of four books of poetry, most recently ROME (W.W. Norton/Liveright, 2014), as well as Thunderbird, Black Life, and AWE, all released by Wave Books. She is the co-editor of Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry (McSweeney’s, 2013) and several chapbooks, including Poetry is Not a Project (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010). Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, co-directs Columbia Artist/Teachers, and lives in New York City.
Here, she talks Pumpkin Spice, kale salad as late-night snack, and eating in bed under the covers.
On her all-time favorite meal:
I’ve been eating my all-time favorite meal off and on since I was about 4 years old. It is the hot eggplant dish at Yen Ching restaurant on Brentwood Boulevard in St. Louis (across from the Galleria). Growing up, Yen Ching was the one restaurant my parents and I went to at least once a week. It was often the only place open for dinner on holidays like Christmas Eve, which we didn’t celebrate. I always have gotten the dish without meat, but you can have meat in it, if you would like. You can request mild or spicy, and I usually do request mild. Even though I love spicy foods now, as a child I didn’t, so having the dish mild is like a residual behavior to stay true to my childhood memories. It’s hard for me to explain how good it is or how much I love it. I have tried to recreate it many times, but can’t even come close to what makes it so delicious. I know that it has purple eggplant and peas and hot peppers and onions and garlic, but the sauce is a mystery to me. There is a sweetness to it that goes beyond mere sugar. I guess I’ll never know. I also have it with lots of white rice and splashes of soy sauce and vinegar.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
The interior of Yen Ching is mostly bright red, with dark wood and white walls everywhere. The carpet is lush, cherry red, and the whole place feels comfortable and warm. Most of the times that I have eaten there, I have never sat near a window, as there is a dining room near the front of the restaurant that always seems to be full. Still, the short walk from the parking lot most always has a time of day. Because as I was growing up, my parents and I always liked to eat early, like 5 or 6pm, I associate eating this divine hot eggplant dish with the approach of night, where the sky is soft, in a murderous rage of pinks, oranges, and purples.
On snacking while writing:
I usually don’t, because whenever I eat I tend to concentrate too much on that. I will say that I drink a ton of caffeinated beverages while writing and from September through Fall this pretty much usually means a Pumpkin Spice anything.
On her go-to late-night snack:
I really love kale salads from this market near my apartment. It has a salad bar and most times, I get a salad with kale, beets, some kind of cheese, an egg, tons of bagel chips, and carrots, with olive oil as a dressing. I try to eat one of those if the market is still open, but sometimes it isn’t and then I will eat veggie burgers, veggie nuggets, or other sorts of hot vegetable concoctions. If I want to fall asleep quickly, I will eat pasta or pizza.
On her food quirks:
I love to eat in bed, under the covers, while reading. Alone.
On her final meal request:
I think if I knew that a meal was my last meal I wouldn’t eat one. This seems like the bleakest event ever, to eat that last bite of cake and then be like ‘see ya later’. I would seriously just not want to know and/or would like to spend my last moments on earth not eating, but potentially hugging someone, most preferably with a dog involved. If I had to eat a last meal in order to fulfill some obligation and/or make someone happy, I would love to just have a party and eat a bunch of cake, and also have a macro platter with sweet miso from Souen, just in case it was necessary to eat something substantial before embarking on the great beyond.