Marisa Siegel currently lives, writes, and edits near NYC but thinks twenty times a day about heading back west. Poems have appeared in print journals including Handsome and Zaum, and online at Foam:e, There, and elsewhere. She is Editor-in-Chief and owner of The Rumpus. Find her on Twitter at @marisasaystweet.
Here, she talks about farmer’s market routines, tea snobbery, and hating the smell of bacon.
On her all-time favorite meal:
I’ve lived in New York for most my life, but I spent four wonderful years in the Bay Area (specifically, in Oakland) in my early-to-mid-twenties. The two things I miss most about California are the weather and the food.
In Oakland, my partner and I were fortunate to live just a few blocks from an amazing weekly farmers market, and it became our routine to go every Saturday morning, purchase produce and treats (like homemade pasta and the best-ever almond macaroons or an Afghani dip with vegetable-stuffed flatbread) for the week. When we were done shopping, we’d eat lunch by the prepared foods section. We had three favorites: the Roli Roti truck, from which we’d get two just-off-the-rotisserie half chickens with rosemary-roasted fingerling potatoes; the La Cascada stall, from which I’d get a burrito and my partner would get fish tacos; and La Fleur de Lyon, from which we’d get a couple of brioches with side salads or a pot pie (and take a few home for to put in the freezer, too!).
The Grand Lake Farmers Market is my “happy place.” When I’m feeling panic creeping up, when I wake up from a nightmare, when my three-year-old is asking “why” every thirty seconds, the Grand Lake Farmers Market is the place I go to in my head: to the rows of lush, colorful fruits and vegetables; the smell of popping kettle corn in the air; the live music; the palm trees; and yes, the delicious lunches enjoyed under a California-blue sky while watching kids splash in the fountain.
We left Oakland on May 21, 2009. I recently was invited to host a Rumpus panel at the Oakland Book Festival, held on May 21, 2017. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to return to my old stomping grounds, eight years to the day we left. And of course, I spent most of Saturday morning at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, which was as perfect as I’d been imagining it to be for the last eight years. What did I have for lunch? A chicken fajita burrito, watermelon agua fresca, and chips with heaps of various salsas (I went back for seconds and thirds on the agua fresca and the salsas). I ate this dreamy meal at a table in the shade, under a California-blue sky, while watching kids splash in the fountain. Best meal I’ve had in the last near-decade.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
These days, my favorite (and maybe only?) true “meal” is dinner, which we eat after my toddler has gone to sleep and I am able to sit down and eat from a plate with real silverware. So, either moonlight or a setting sun, depending on the season.
And of course, there is that California blue sky I’ve already rhapsodized about. Any meal under a sky like that is a favorite meal.
On snacking while writing:
I often work during lunch at a coffee shop, and I’ll have iced tea in the warmer months or hot tea during the winter, and maybe a cup of soup or avocado toast. Something I can snack on without making a mess of my laptop. Otherwise, writing usually doesn’t involve food. I might start writing something on my phone, work on it late at night on my laptop, etc. But always tea. I am a longtime tea drinker, and something of a loose-leaf tea snob, too.
On her go-to late-night snack:
I don’t usually eat dinner till 9 or 9:30 p.m. these days, so there isn’t a late-night snack after that. But if I were going to have a late-night snack, I think a go-to is popcorn. Or, if I have it in the house, candy (preferably Sour Patch Kids). Even better: popcorn and candy.
On her food quirks:
Like, too many to list. I’m a picky eater, in very specific ways. I’m not a vegetarian but don’t often eat meat, especially red meat. When I do, I want that red meat well-done. I’m that woman in the fancy restaurant demanding her Kobe beef burger be charred to a crisp, much to the chef’s dismay. Also, I was raised in a Kosher household and even though I haven’t lived in a Kosher household in decades, I never developed a taste for pork. Beyond that, I loathe the smell of bacon. I know. People think that is certifiably crazy. Even my still-Kosher mom and sister think that’s crazy. Lastly, I love eating honey from a spoon. I don’t know why. I’ve done it since I was a kid.
On her final meal request:
Can I have two last meals? My favorite ‘genres’ of food, if you will, are Mexican and Greek. I don’t know that I’d mix them together, but if it’s only one meal, and I’m about to die, here’s the menu: dolma, Greek salad (sans anchovies), falafel with tahini, freshly made guacamole with homemade tortilla chips, chicken enchiladas, two vegetable tacos, heaps of superb and spicy salsa, and a top-shelf margarita with salt to wash it all down. Oh, and soup! Either chicken tortilla soup or avgolemono soup. I might have to flip a coin on that. For dessert, a piece of cherry pie from my favorite French bakery and a cup of jasmine green tea. Now I’m both hungry and nauseous.
I’m obviously eating this meal in California. Maybe by the ocean, at Muir Beach. Or up in wine country, in Yountville. If I’m being honest, I might be eating the meal alone, with a favorite book of poetry. If human company is required, I’d certainly have my partner and my son with me.