Jacob Saenz was born in Chicago and raised in Cicero, IL. His poems have appeared in Pinwheel, Poetry, Tammy, TriQuarterly and other journals. His poetry collection, Throwing the Crown, was selected by Gregory Pardlo for the APR/Honcikman First Book Prize and will be published in September 2018. A CantoMundo fellow, he’s been the recipient of a Letras Latinas Residency and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. He serves as an associate editor for RHINO.
Here, he talks about making tamales, curbing late-night snacking, and the pattern of lunch-eating.
On his all-time favorite meal:
Some of my favorite meals of all-time are the seasonal meals my mom prepares. Around Xmas and New Year’s, my mom makes tamales and pozole for the family (my three brothers and I), as her mom did and her sisters continue to do. In the past few years, my brothers and I have stepped up and helped in the process of making tamales. We mix the masa with manteca, warm water and guajillo chiles until the masa is soft and spreadable for corn husks. We usually make pork tamales along with some filled with cheese and beans, separately. Hoping to add in more fillings in the new year.
Though we’re not practicing Catholics, my family comes together for an Easter meal. My mom sometimes makes lasagna for the main dish and I love it! I mean, it’s not a homemade recipe or anything beyond boxed noodles, store bought sauce along with various meats and cheeses but it’s a dish I’m always craving. I can it eat for days and days. I wish she made it more than once a year.
On what the light looks like during his favorite meal of the day:
On snacking while writing:
I like to work on writing during weekend mornings, which consists of lots of coffee and water. I like to put in some work before eating breakfast or lunch so I’m not snacking much.
On his go-to late-night snack:
I do enjoy late night snacking but I am working to curb that. Lately, it’s been more healthy snacks like almonds, pumpkin seeds or pretzel chips. In the past, one of my favorite late night snacks was Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and chocolate milk. I guess it all depends on how hard the munchies are calling at night.
On his food quirks:
I tend to the pack the same lunch every day for work: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips and raw carrots. I like to take a bite of each of thing as I progress through the meal: bite, chew and swallow pb & j, bite, chew and swallow chips, bite, chew and swallow carrots, drink water, repeat. I guess that’s a little quirky.
On his final meal request:
The last meal request has got to be all (or most) of my favorite foods: the aforementioned tamales and pozole, a big pan of lasagna, a large Home Run Inn sausage pizza, guacamole, chips and salsa, my brother’s arroz con gandules, Italian beef from Novi’s Beef in Berwyn, IL, banana cream pie and German chocolate cake from Weber’s Bakery in Chicago, water, wine, beer and bourbon. More important than the food are the people I’m sharing the meal with: my mother and brothers, my tias and tios, my cousins, the friends I call brothers and sisters, my partner and our cat. We’re at place big enough to accommodate us all. Maybe a party room at Home Run Inn on 31st street, the place I’ve celebrated all my graduations at.