Nomi Stone is a poet and an anthropologist. Her second collection of poems, Kill Class is forthcoming from Tupelo Press in 2019. Winner of a 2018 Pushcart Prize, Stone’s poems appear recently or are forthcoming in POETRY, American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Academy of American Poets’ “Poem-a-Day” series, Bettering American Poetry 2017, The Best American Poetry 2016, Tin House, New England Review, and elsewhere. Kill Class is based on two years of fieldwork she conducted within war trainings in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the U.S. military across America. Stone teaches at Princeton University and has an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College.
Here, she talks about a sandwich on a Scottish cliff, the evolving light of long meal preparation, and lots of red wine at the final meal.
On her all-time favorite meal:
Two springs ago, I was on the Isle of Mull (off the West Coast of Scotland), with a fiction writer named Rose who would later become my wife. We were walking the Treshnish coastline—its euphoria of plush green, its cliffs over the ocean, the little zigzagging burns (streams) and sheep paths; the way you have to press your hiking boot carefully on the land, to not fall into a peat bog (which I learned the “hard way,” dunked in mud up to my calf, winded and laughing).
We took a break and unwrapped our sandwiches (from little satchels made of West African cloth that Rose had sewn): her homemade sourdough bread (their dust of flour); spread thickly with wild garlic pesto (the ramps she gathered from the path by her house, they flower, they taste green); and then cuts of trout. I mean here that everything was a wind of serotonin: the sea and green and wild garlic and the beginnings of love.
I love to eat. My mother recently told me that I was such a chubby baby that she overheard someone mutter, “Someone should put that baby on a diet!” For me, eating (like all sensory experience) is inseparable from how I feel during any particular meal. So, my life is full of these meal-affect couplings: there was the euphoric sandwich I’ve just told you about on the cliffs of Treshnish; I remember content buttery noodles and cottage cheese next to my sister (my childhood); furious steak, charred on the outside and rare in the center, by an ex; and wistful chocolate fondue (when a time was coming to an end). Most recently: pho with winter chanterelles and bok choy, smoky with fish sauce and tamarind, with my wife, infused with the feeling of homeness.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
My favorite meal of the day is usually breakfast (on a weekend) and the light, too, is yolky. There is so much coffee (decaf for me), and maybe huevos rancheros. There is a quality of anticipation, of a day without one speck of work (a long walk in the woods, a picnic?).
I also like when there’s a meal that is so long in its preparation that the light is in ongoing revision. Recently, an Iraqi friend taught me to make dolmas—those slender, cigar-shaped leaf-wrappings (hollowed out onions, grape leaves) filled with tart meat-infused rice, the flavor of tamar hindi. And so many steps: the hollowing (the night before, maybe, dark, with the blue buzz of the TV behind); and then the simmer of the filling on the stove (the grey early morning); and after, the rolling of the leaves (the light mellows); and then we drink strong tea and wait until past high noon to at last eat.
On snacking while writing:
My favorite place to write is the Vermont Studio Center, and when I am there, I snack on decaf coffee and English muffins with crunchy peanut butter, bites in between poem drafts and pinning poems to the wall. I remember a lot of precarious balancing of this snack: shuffling through the snow, trying to get my keys to my studio in Maverick out without letting my muffin topple.
On her go-to late-night snack:
Pickles; cheese and crackers; mint Oreos
On her food quirks:
I’ll leave this to Rose: “You never empty a pot when serving up so I am forced to throw away three noodles and two lettuce leaves. You like cold spaghetti. And you can eat A LOT but only in small amounts. But only a 20 min break needed to regain power.”
On her final meal request:
With those I most love. Lots of red wine. And dance parties between each course.