This is the first edition of a new column in which TIE Deputy Editor, Felicity LuHill, interviews writers about food.
Alex Lanz is a New School MFA alum with a flare for books, food and all things Communist. For the interview, they suggested we meet for ramen at Ramen-Ya before wandering over to The Housing Works book sale. For those who don’t know, Ramen-Ya has two locations in the West Village. I initially went to the wrong location. The right location is Ramen-Ya Samurai Edition. This Ramen-Ya has Takoyaki (pictured above).
After eating most of my spicy pork ramen with tofu noodles, as well as a substantial portion of Alex’s takoyaki, my appetite was sated enough that I could start asking my questions.
Felicity: So what do you enjoy eating while reading or writing?
Alex: A handy snack like chips, maybe pretzels
Felicity: Do you have a favorite kind of chip?
Alex: Oh yeah, unsalted potato. Unruffled. You know, I’m a boring person. But actually what I really like to do is drink tea, because I like to think it satisfies my appetite without having to eat any solid food.
Felicity: Why do you want to do that?
Alex: Because I’m too lazy to prepare food or find it. Also, I wanna get on with my book at the moment! So I brew up some black tea. That’s my snack of choice. Or wine.
Felicity: What’s your favorite “broke artist” meal?
Alex: Broke artist meal? Oh, that would be just a fried vegetable omelet, maybe throw in some mushrooms in there. You can also fry some ground pork and throw it over a bowl of rice, then drop a raw egg yolk on it. And there’s always Top Ramen with egg.
Felicity: Interesting. I didn’t think about that. I was thinking like a one-dollar pizza kind of thing.
Alex: In that case, in terms of eating out while broke, yeah, I do McDonalds. Two bacon cheeseburgers, two bacon McDoubles.
Felicity: That’s a good deal! Alright, what food do you think is the most fun to write about?
Alex: Food I would never actually find myself eating. Once I had a story in which people ate fried oysters with white wine, or maybe it was oyster sautéed in mushrooms and such. Also, fruit. Fruit’s fun to describe.
Felicity: Yeah, I think stone fruit is really fun to describe. Like peaches.
Alex: Or melons and gourds.
Felicity: What’s your favorite piece of writing/art that has to do with food?
Alex: Well, my mind immediately goes to the early scene in Gravity’s Rainbow with the bananas. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Felicity: I haven’t, but I want to! Ok, what is your ideal meal, finances put aside? You could have however many courses you want.
Alex: That would be the General Tso’s Chicken that was served in the Chinese restaurant near my parents’ house with some strawberry Faygo soda, and the best sashimi salmon belly cuts in the world, without rice, and soy sauce on the side. I’d be all set.
Felicity: If you had to live off of one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
Alex: Oh, pizza.
Alex: I never get tired of pizza. I pledge allegiance to the pizza.
Felicity: That’s so funny, because I feel like most of your answers are Asian food.
Alex: My aunt also makes spectacular homemade egg rolls that I’ve enjoyed since I was little.
Felicity: Can you describe what you eat in a typical day? Or maybe talk about the most frequent food that you eat like throughout a week?
Alex: Sure, I just keep some bread and lunch meats at home, so it’s going to be ham and swiss sandwiches. And if I don’t have that at home, I’ll buy it at the deli. Otherwise, probably make a run to Checkers across the street, and just get some disgusting fast food. But that’s ok, I eat it because it’s delicious. And those fries are to die for. Otherwise, I keep yogurt at home too. That’s about it. It’s not good eating at all.
Felicity: So what do you think is the most writerly alcoholic beverage?
Felicity: Whiskey. Like Ernest Hemingway.
Alex: I don’t know about Hemingway, but I guess so. I’m not a big Hemingway girl but… absolutely, whiskey is so good. Corn that you can drink. But, you know, I used to like clear liquor, until gin and tonic betrayed me, but I think clear liquor is making a dialectical come back these days.
Felicity: Do you have a favorite book?
Alex: Thomas the Obscure by Maurice Blanchot.
Felicity: What food do you think would best represent Thomas the Obscure?
Alex: Something really unpleasant and unappetizing. A poorly prepared risotto with licorice sauce, slimy mushrooms, and flakes of seaweed. Pair that up with a white wine that came in a plastic bottle.
Felicity: That sounds pretty unappetizing.
After finishing up our meal Alex got to talking about their writing ritual, which, as you may have guessed, is very food-centric.
Alex: I only write in the café. I have a curse where any coffee shop that I’m a regular at, eventually shuts down despite my patronage or maybe because. But, my favorite chain—it’s a Korean chain—the Café Bené, because I like the way they do their dirty chai, which is my caffeine of choice. I think they put in extra ginger
Felicity: Ginger in chai?
Alex: Yeah, along with the herbs. It’s spicy. It’s nice. And they also have really good waffles. And the banana whipped cream waffle is my waffle of choice. So I have that. Just a page or two.
Felicity: Yeah, and you do that everyday?
Felicity: Nice! That sounds like a great writing ritual. I wish I had something like that.
Alex: I’m in the habit of writing first thing in the morning. Before I came to the program, I had a flair for writing, obviously, but I didn’t have discipline. I wrote great papers, but I put them off till hours beforehand like everybody else. I didn’t proofread them, because I couldn’t bear to look over my own work, because it was so bad. Thank god, by the time of thesis semester I had a routine established. Just two pages a day, first thing in the morning. If you sleep in past noon, you’re not writing today. And you might be thinking, “Really Lanz? Two pages?” Two pages a day adds up! So by halfway through the semester I had fifty pages. By the end of the year you have almost a thousand.
Felicity: That’s really good. So it’s almost like at this point, you associate breakfast with writing your daily two pages.
When I was done with my questions, we did a lightening round, pairing alcoholic beverages with writers. Here’s what Alex came up with:
Red Wine – Jeanette Winterson
Gin – Djuna Barnes
Vodka – Ursula K. Le Guin
Beer – Audre Lorde
An Artisanal, Handcrafted Cocktail – William H. Glass, “the greatest American writer who isn’t Toni Morrison”
Martini – John Barth
Manhattan – Christa Wolf
Blue Hawaii – M. NoubeSe Philip, “the best poet of the millennium right now”
Vodka Cranberry – Gertrude Stein
Straight Vermouth – Gertrude Stein (after I fought him over the vodka cranberry diagnosis)
Absinthe – Malcolm Lowry
Vodka Cranberry – César Aira (to replace the previous vodka cranberry decision)
Stout Veer – Roberto Bolaño
Irish Coffee – Clarice Lispector
Alex: Now I feel like I need more representation, like I haven’t said any Asian writers, because I don’t really read a lot of Asian writers. Except Monica Youn and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.
Alex Lanz grew up in Portland, Oregon and works as a transcriber in Brooklyn. Their work has appeared in Atticus Review, Enrtopy Mag, and the Seventh Wave, and is forthcoming in SHANTIH. Twitter @MimosaMaoist.
Felicity is a Second Year Creative Writing MFA Candidate at The New School. She is also the Deputy Editor for The Inquisitive Eater and the Digital Strategist for Barbershop Books. Along with The New School Blog, her writing has been published with Barbershop Books, Healthy Materials Lab, and Enchantress Magazine, where she was also an editor. Felicity enjoys writing in all forms. You can find her on Twitter @charmingfelic
Featured image via Pixabay.