Hadara Bar-Nadav is the author of Lullaby (with Exit Sign), awarded the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize; The Frame Called Ruin, Runner Up for the Green Rose Prize from New Issues; and A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight, awarded the Margie Book Prize. Her chapbook, Show Me Yours, was awarded the 2009 Midwest Poets Series Award. She is also co-author of the best-selling textbook Writing Poems, 8th Edition
Recent awards include fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Hadara is currently Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Here, she shares her thoughts on mushrooms, underground curry arrangements, and not cooking.
On breakfast foods:
I eat breakfast food for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. I ate at I-Hop several times a week when I was growing up. After my father left us, my mother pretty much gave up cooking (not that she seemed to enjoy it much anyway). We always ate at the same I-HOP on Dean Street in Englewood, New Jersey (we lived in Englewood Cliffs at the time). My mother knew all the waitresses by name. I would usually order apple-stuffed crepes with chocolate ice-cream on top. Sometimes I would have chocolate milk as well. Such unbearable sweetness!
During our meal, my mother and I would chat about our days or play a game where I would guess what number she was thinking of (my mother is truly psychic). Sometimes we would sit and say nothing at all, completely beyond speech, ravaged by whatever emotional traumas were occurring in our family or just stunned by the daily slog of school, work, relationships, etc. And I think there was a real comfort in going to the same restaurant and ordering the same food again and again—the spectacular sweetness of apples and ice cream for dinner for me, the never-ending coffee and greasy patty-melts for my mother as she smoked Doral’s non-stop.
On dining out:
I suppose I should mention that I don’t cook (I can burn eggs), so going out to eat is a constant for me, if my husband doesn’t want to cook. My mother recently told me that she hadn’t used the oven in her apartment once, and she has lived there for more than 12 years. She isn’t even sure if the oven works. By the time I was a teenager, my mother was keeping napkins and other dry goods in our oven, using it as extra storage space. I suppose going out to eat is deep in my blood—an expensive habit, to be sure, though I do love good leftovers (no cooking and instant food!).
On drinking tea while writing:
I particularly enjoy giant mugs of tea—16 ounce or larger—because I don’t want to be interrupted by having to make more tea, but my giant poodle Ella usually comes in and makes me take a break and play with her. And then I make myself more tea!
On guilty pleasures:
Chocolate in any form—cookies, ice cream, chocolate caramels, chocolate-covered strawberries, even a good old-fashioned Hershey’s bar with almonds. I’m also obsessed with cannoli, and it’s really hard to find good ones in the Midwest, which has made my love for them grow exponentially.
I have a very, very strong, visceral dislike of mushrooms. My mother used to make this inedible sandwich for us that consisted of whole wheat toast topped with a mushroom slop: sliced mushrooms added to thick, gelatinous boiled mushroom soup. It was absolutely appalling to me, an insult to sandwiches everywhere!
On her favorite meal:
Curry with vegetables. I could eat it like a lollipop and paint it on my tongue. I was vegetarian for many, many years, and Thai food always offered great vegetarian options with great taste (not the typical sad, gray, tasteless tofu).
My hands-down favorite place to get curry, however, was Four Sons in Lincoln, Nebraska. Yes, that’s Lincoln, Nebraska. The woman who owned the restaurant, Pimpa, made the best curry of my life—golden and coconut-sweet with a bit of spice. It was heavenly. I probably made my husband eat there with me at least two to three times a week for five years straight while I was doing my PhD. We celebrated birthdays there, journal publications, new jobs, etc. Four Sons was like a second home. When I told Pimpa I was bringing in a group of people for dinner to celebrate my birthday, she actually bought me a birthday cake. She was a lovely, lovely person.
After her restaurant closed, I mourned the loss of that curry and the friendly, relaxed, happy atmosphere Pimpa had created. I bumped in to her at a supermarket and told her how much I missed her and her curry. She actually made full meals for me and my husband a few times, which we paid for in cash and picked up in to-go containers outside of her apartment, meeting on the down-low like some strange curry-laced drug deal. But eventually, these covert meals tapered off. At one point, we called Pimpa, and her phone was disconnected. I can honestly say that she was an artist—a truly great cook.
I’m allergic to citric acid, and I miss oranges terribly. In common, every-day Hebrew, my first name means the smell of citrus fruits, specifically oranges. And I’m allergic to them! I was actually named by my father for the biblical version of Hadara, meaning elegant, ornate, or beautiful, though my mother likes to argue this point.
On her final meal request:
Matar paneer, naan bread, mango lassi, and chai tea from Korma Sutra in Kansas City (a great little Indian restaurant that is my newest obsession), followed by cannoli from Pasticceria Rocco on Bleeker Street in New York City.