Kate Gaskin is the author of Forever War, winner of the Pamet River Prize (YesYes Books 2020). Her poems have appeared in journals such as Guernica, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Southern Review, Blackbird, and The Rumpus, and her work has been anthologized in the 2019 Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is a recipient of a Tennessee Williams Scholarship in poetry from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, as well as a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. She edits poetry for The Adroit Journal. Currently, she is a PhD student in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Here, she talks about oysters on saltines, keeping a key lime pie in the freezer and cilantro exposure therapy.
On her all-time favorite meal:
I’m having trouble picking just one meal–I could list so many amazing, memorable meals I’ve been fortunate to share with family and friends. I suppose one meal that really stands out is the shrimp boil we had for my kid’s second birthday. We were living in Pensacola at the time, and for once my whole family was able to come because they were within driving distance. My spouse is in the Air Force, and we move around a lot, so it’s rare that I’m near family. By then, Dominic had gotten the art of the shrimp boil down to a science, and we used these beautiful Gulf shrimp we had bought from the fish market down the street from our house. For shrimp boils we throw in potatoes, corn, Conecuh sausage, garlic, lemons, and eat it all with crusty bread. Conecuh sausage is made in Conecuh County, Alabama, and it is—let me tell you—an impressive smoked sausage. Somehow it is miles and miles better than any other grocery store sausage out there. You can buy it in the Southeast and at military bases all over the country because people get stationed in Alabama, get hooked on these sausages, move to other duty stations and petition their commissaries (base grocery stores) to carry Conecuh. Anyway, that day was so full of love and food. We washed everything down with cold beer, and for dessert I made a homemade chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream that turned out to be a very bright shade of pink. As a military family, it’s not often we can celebrate my kid’s birthday with so many family members. And the shrimp were just *chef’s kiss*.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
I will answer this very specifically from the dining space of the house we lived in when we lived in Pensacola, which was west-facing and overlooked Perdido Bay. The entire back of the house is filled with floor to ceiling windows, and the sun sets in orange and magenta over the bay. The light has this warm and yet aching quality to it. Truthfully, because we had a toddler during those years, dinner time was always busy. There isn’t a lot of time to appreciate the sunset when you have a fussy kid to bathe and put to bed. But I still tried to enjoy it as much as I could.
On snacking while writing:
I’m a grazer, but I don’t snack while writing. There’s something about snacking that, to my experience, is incompatible with being in flow. I do like to snack sometimes while I read, though. My favorite snacks right now for reading are popcorn with butter and salt, peanut butter sandwiches, and clementines.
On her go-to late-night snack:
Back in ye olden days, when I used to be able to occasionally go out at night, I loved ramen or diner food or these fun and fancy sliders from the Night Owl here in Omaha, where I currently live. My favorites are the Barnhouse slider, which has fried chicken and honey-Sriracha, and the Bahn Mi slider. If I’m at home, I’m probably eating cheese. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed eating Bosc pears and sharp cheddar. If I’m going to eat dessert, I typically do that late at night too. A lot of the time we keep an Edward’s key lime pie in the freezer. I will drink a small cup of coffee with a slice of pie because I’m a monster who is typically unaffected by caffeine. I also have been known to quickly throw together an apple crisp to eat warm with vanilla ice cream.
On her food quirks:
I don’t like to eat while I’m doing anything unpleasant. I try not to have working lunches. I guard my mealtimes jealously because for me they’re a time to relax. Relatedly, I don’t like skipping meals. To my spouse’s everlasting consternation, I’m not a huge fan of sharing restaurant meals. I would rather have my own meal thank you very much. I will try almost any kind of food. There’s almost nothing I dislike. For a long time, I didn’t like cilantro very much, but then I trained myself to first tolerate it and then enjoy it. Sort of like exposure therapy. You will not ever convince me that I shouldn’t eat a Chicago-style hotdog with ketchup. Life is too short for food rules that make food less delicious. Because I grew up in Alabama, I make my grandmother’s cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving, never stuffing.
On her final meal request:
I’m eating raw oysters on saltine crackers with cocktail sauce, cracked pepper, and Crystal hot sauce at Pegleg Pete’s in Pensacola Beach. I’m probably drinking an Abita beer, maybe their amber, or their Andygator, or if the season is right their strawberry beer. My mom, dad, brother, sister, and their families are there. And, of course, Dominic and our son Dax is there too. I wouldn’t want to know this was my last meal, though. It would make me too sad to enjoy my oysters.