Erika L. Sánchez is a CantoMundo fellow and winner of the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review Prize. She has received scholarships from the Fulbright Program and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Her poetry has appeared in Boston Review, diode, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hunger Mountain, Pleiades, and Poetry magazine, on Latino USA (NPR), and in the anthology Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poems for the Next Generation (2015). Her nonfiction has been published in Al Jazeera, Cosmopolitan, the Guardian, NBC News, Rolling Stone, Salon, and many others. Erika was recently awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. She lives in Chicago.
Here, she talks vegetarian Mexican feasts, pie as snack, and shameful amounts of cheese.
On her all-time favorite meal:
My mom is my favorite cook. (She’s literally been cooking since she was 5-years-old, which is both hilarious and sad.) It’s hard to pick a favorite meal because everything she cooks is wonderful, even when it’s super healthy, but Lent is an especially exciting time at the Sánchez house. On Good Fridays, my mom makes a vegetarian Mexican feast that is unrivaled: enchiladas, tortitas de camarón en chile rojo con nopales, chiles rellenos, tortitas de papa, and capirotada for dessert. I don’t remember the first time I ate it, but I suspect it was before I had all my teeth. I feel sorry for everyone who doesn’t have a Mexican mom on Good Friday. I’m salivating like Homer Simpson as I write this.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
A torched gown.
On snacking while writing:
I’m always, always snacking. I’m known in my family for my perpetual hunger and unbridled enthusiasm when it comes to food. Soy “buena para comer,” as they say. I often write at my kitchen table, which is probably not a great idea because I’m always tempted to eat. Some of my favorites include quesadillas (I call that a snack), fruit, cheese and crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yogurt and granola, nuts, and pie (also a snack, don’t judge me).
On her go-to late-night snack:
Again, quesadillas. They are so easy! Sometimes, when I’m feeling extra reckless, I fry them. I really do eat a shameful amount of cheese.
On her food quirks:
Sometimes weird meat textures gross me out. I’m pretty adventurous, but if I bite into a nerve or glob of fat, that’s it—I’m done. Sometimes sausages really give me the willies. Oh, and raw celery pisses me off. Also, I put hot sauce on nearly everything.
On her final meal request:
I’m eating at my parents’ house with my family—my parents, two brothers, sister-in-law, niece and nephew, and my husband, Kyle. Maybe my parents’ dog, Wally, is watching us from the porch because he’s too dumb and excitable to behave in the kitchen. We’re eating all of my childhood favorites: mole, pozole, carnitas, frijoles, gorditas, and enchiladas. For dessert we have arroz con leche or this weird gelatin with pineapple and shredded carrot my mom makes. Everyone is yelling and busting each other’s chops, because that’s the only way we know how to communicate in my family. My dad keeps passing out beers while my mom gives him side eye. Los Bukis are playing in the background on the crackling radio from the 90s.