Tyler Mills is the author of Tongue Lyre, winner of the 2011 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award (SIU Press 2013). Her poems have appeared widely, including The New Yorker, The Believer, Poetry, Boston Review, Kenyon Review, and the New England Review, and her creative nonfiction won the Copper Nickel Editor’s Prize in Prose and has appeared in AGNI. She is editor-in-chief of The Account and an assistant professor of English at New Mexico Highlands University.
Here, she talks the best seafood she’s ever had, junk food theft, and dreaming about the next day’s breakfast.
Spoiler alert: this Dinnerview contains lots of cheese, apples, and chocolate.
On her all-time favorite meal:
I’m the kind of person who, when eating fresh seafood, likes to proclaim, “This is the BEST [oyster / salmon / swordfish] I’ve ever had!” and wholeheartedly believe it. I love fish that is so fresh it tastes like saltwater. I like my teeth to crunch on grains of sand in oysters caught hours before. Any favorite meal is one that involves seafood. But my first wedding anniversary meal was really special. We were at Bistronomic in Chicago (a restaurant that [my husband] Arik worked on, for the job he had at the time). The servers treated us like royalty and comped most of the meal. I remember having salmon that melted in my mouth. Arik had picked up tiramisu—which we had at our wedding instead of a traditional cake—and had brought special flowers for the table. The meal that I had after I defended my dissertation was very special, too, and that was at the Green Zebra in Chicago (a vegetarian restaurant). I remember that the server brought out an incredible plate of soft cheeses, and each bite was perfect. There was also champagne, and I remember feeling like I couldn’t believe I had done it. A chef sent out a little box of jellybeans with a plastic green alien figurine inside of it as a gift for me.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. When I fall asleep, I like to think about what I will eat for breakfast the next day (and the coffee that will go with it!). Will it be a bagel? Plain yogurt with honey and blueberries? A slice of leftover birthday cake? I like to snack on a square of dark chocolate while I brew my coffee; I let it dissolve on my tongue while I’m preparing my meal. Lately, I’ve been in love with dark chocolate with sea salt. As for the light, I’d say I prefer to eat breakfast after sunrise, when the light is still pink. But if I need to wake up before sunrise, breakfast is what lures me out of bed.
On snacking while writing:
Sometimes I forget to snack while I’m writing and end up drinking cup after cup of tulsi sweet rose tea (or turmeric tea). Or I’ll brew fresh coffee and drink it all afternoon and have it with almond milk and a little sugar. Then I’ll remember I’m hungry and be kind of crabby until I eat something. However, when I remember to take a break, I like to prepare a little plate for myself: strong cheese (if we have any), slices of apple, a handful of almonds, and a few pieces of chocolate. Or, I’ll have a piece of toast spread with peanut butter. Peanut butter is my comfort food.
On her go-to late-night snack:
I love to sneak junk food that someone else has bought. Do not let me stay in your house. I will find your stash of chips, eat a few, and stealthily fold the bag back exactly as it was. When you find the bag the next day, you will feel as though someone was there, but never know. Arik likes salty junk food, so late at night I’ll break into his stash of sweet potato chips (which are really ours, so I’m not sure why this routine involves so much stealth).
On her food quirks:
I’m kind of obsessed with apples. In college, I played violin for a few ensembles, and my friends would collect apples from the dining hall and then present them to me after my concerts: granny smith, golden delicious, red delicious—a colorful array. When I’m shopping, I often go for Fuji or Gala (or a McIntosh apple, but only if it’s very fresh and not mealy). Oh, here’s something quirky: I can’t hold an apple without biting into it. Arik likes to test me with this and hand me an apple, distract me with a story about something, and then watch what I will do. I will bite into it in a minute or two every time. If I see someone eating an apple, I feel very jealous of them—even if they’re a character in a movie.
On her final meal request:
I’d like whatever my last meal to be to include lots of laughter and fun with family and friends. Also, oysters, cheese, chocolate, bread, pasta, berries, and apples.