Eve L. Ewing is a writer, scholar, artist, and educator from Chicago. Her first collection of poetry, essays, and visual art, Electric Arches, was published by Haymarket Books in September. Her work has appeared in Poetry, the New Yorker, the New Republic, the Nation, the Atlantic, and many other publications. She is a sociologist at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.
Here, she talks about the powers of fried chicken, the importance of plating, and high-low eating.
On her all-time favorite meal:
I love food and eating so much and I make it a very intentional part of my life, and I’m blessed to share great meals with people I love all the time! So this is a really hard question. I like to check out new trendy restaurants and I’m a pretty adventurous eater. But the ones that end up being most memorable have more to do with the people there and less with me eating the latest whatever. I remember this one night I hung out with Danez Smith at our friends’ house, Amanda Torres and Febo. All poets. Amanda and Febo lived in this apartment in Somerville, outside of Boston, that was kind of a rotating poetry house with different roommates coming and going at different times. When I lived in Boston that house was kind of an anchor for me. Anyway Danez was in town and they were crashing at the crib and they made fried chicken and it was some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life. And Amanda burned the rice that night and she was super self-conscious about it so of course we have been teasing her about this burned rice for like four years. But it was just one of those nights where you dance and it’s hot in the kitchen and you’re just with your people acting wild and being silly and feeling blessed to be alive.
Fried chicken will do that to you, man.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
Bright, bright sunlight. The kind of Midwest sunlight in the winter when it’s like zero degrees outside but the sun is really shining. And you’re eating waffles or homemade biscuits or something that’s just really hearty and warm.
On snacking while writing:
I’m a snack fiend, I can’t lie. I actually have a hard time writing without snacks. When I was co-editor of the Harvard Educational Review we had one person whose job it was to just keep the snacks at hand and they would always get me whatever terrible thing I needed to function intellectually. Like for a while I would have a psychological need to eat Twizzlers Pull-and-Peel in order to get through a meeting. Not good! My most frequent writing snack is cereal out of the box. Usually if you walk into my office at any given time, my desk has a half-empty cereal box on it. The whole mindless-eating-and-writing thing is not so great for my health. My friend Celia suggested that I solve this problem with water. So I usually keep a bottle of water next to me when I’m writing and I kind of sip it. But I also eat a lot of almonds, olives, blueberries, cheese, raisins. Apple slices with peanut butter. Little things that I can snack on mindlessly with one hand while I’m writing. And I usually drink a cup of jasmine tea. Not more than that though because I’m pretty caffeine-sensitive and I’ll start freaking out if I have too much and then I just can’t concentrate.
On her go-to late-night snack:
Cereal out of the box. Dried mango. String cheese. They sell these cheese sticks that are goat cheese, and I eat those and crackers a lot. My partner and I usually keep a bunch of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge and I’ll eat one of those any time of day.
On her food quirks:
Well I think they’re perfectly normal, but I suppose other people might find them quirky. In Chicago we eat a lot of weird food combos, like cheddar popcorn and caramel popcorn mixed together, or elotes (corn and mayonnaise) which some people find strange. And the whole never-put-ketchup-on-a-hot-dog thing. I can’t eat an egg sandwich without jam on it, because that’s how we used to eat Egg McMuffins when I was little. I’m also very into the aesthetics of food, so I plate my food, no matter what it is. I’ll plate some BBQ chips. I don’t care. I don’t like ugly plates. I guess the weirdest thing about my food habits is that I tend to either eat extremely bougie, expensive food, or the… um… let’s say populist foods I grew up with, and I’m grossed out by anything in between. Like I’ll eat tamales I bought from someone out of a bag on the corner, or I’ll eat like a beautifully arranged plate of mission figs and brie and rosemary crackers, but I won’t eat at like Olive Garden or Red Lobster or anything like that.
Oh, and I love cold fried chicken. And I love pineapple pizza, which I know is a very divisive issue. I also like sweet grits and people like to slander me for that.
On her final meal request:
Carne asada tacos and some really juicy watermelon, in a backyard in Chicago in the middle of the summer, wearing a crop top and short shorts, with bangers on the speakers and everyone I love toasting Negro Modelo.