EAT | READ: Amber Sparks and Elisa Gabbert

EAT | READ will be a weekly beat on the new website RealPants.com (more info here). It will be produced by our Food Editor, Kristen Iskandrian, and Executive Editor Amy McDaniel. We will feature an EAT | READ post here on EAT GENIUS every Tuesday as a lead-in to the Real Pants launch on January 1. Kristen's intro to the beat is below, followed by today's post.

In this space, we're going to tell you what we've been reading and what we've been eating, and we're going to ask other people what they've been reading and eating, and we might, from time to time, include a recipe or a meditation or a grocery list. On most days, the only thing I like more than food is books, and on other days, the only thing I like more than books is food. But on all days, I ingest a lot of words and a lot of calories. We at Real Pants are eager to explore the wide and always-changing intersection where we find ourselves ever-hungry, never full.

This week, we asked two of our amazing Real Pants contributors: Amber Sparks, author of May We Shed These Human Bodies, and Elisa Gabbert, author of The Self Unstable. Amber will be writing a beat called "The Long View," a look at current events and politics through a literary and historical lens. Elisa will be writing about style, broadly defined, in a beat called "Style Guide."

What we've been eating: Amber
I'm five months pregnant and while I haven't had what you'd call cravings, I do find myself eating a lot of apples and cheese. I guess the kid can already acquire tastes through what I eat (which is pretty badass), so I've also been trying to eat a lot of curries, spicy food, stuff with lots of umami - all the things kids don't normally like to eat. But for some reason, the absolute cleanest, best taste is a slice of Granny Smith apple and a bite of sharp cheddar cheese.

What we've been reading: Amber 
A long time ago in reading years, I picked up a collection at Barnes and Noble called WHAT THE WORLD WILL LOOK LIKE WHEN ALL THE WATER LEAVES US and fell in love with it. Back then the way books ended up in print, on shelves, was a great mystery, and I had no idea I would come to know any writers, including the writer of this marvelous, strange collection of stories. I constantly think about how lucky I am to be part of this (surprisingly small) writing community, and I keep thinking about that as I read Laura van den Berg's first and really fantastic novel, FIND ME. After her two collections, it feels familiar - her strong, sharply observant voice is instantly recognizable - and yet surprising, too, in watching a small universe expand to a wider one. I'm lucky, I'm lucky, I tell myself forty times a day, and today I'm lucky because I'm eating cheese and apples and reading an advance copy of a favorite writer's debut novel. I can't wait to recommend it to all of you.

What we've been eating: Elisa
In reverse chronological order, as far back as I remember: some roasted apples this afternoon, leftover peanut noodles for breakfast, peanut noodles last night, eggs poached in homemade salsa (pictured; I make a batch every week) and served over crushed tortilla chips for brunch yesterday, gluten-free pizza from a restaurant on Friday night, a salad for lunch (butter lettuce, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, feta, olives). Earlier in the week, there was a big pot of tomato sauce with sausage and peppers and basil, which we ate with penne, and before that pork tenderloin with the last of the leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving, and roasted butternut squash with rosemary. When in doubt, roast it. Or throw eggs at the problem.

What we've been reading: Elisa
For a good part of this year, maybe three to four months, I was dealing with a case of reader’s block; I never felt like reading anything. I recently snapped out of it and have been bingeing on books ever since – I think part of what helped me recover was getting some books from the library and having a “deadline” to finish them. Some of the books I finished in the last couple of months include: WOLF IN WHITE VAN by John Darnielle (when I was reading this I kept wishing it was funny; it was sort of forgettable in the end); THE FOLDED LEAF by William Maxwell (lovely sentences, touching characterizations, but I kept forgetting what was interesting about it after I put it down); FACES IN THE CROWD by Valeria Luiselli (very good though I got less interested when the female protagonist semi-morphed into the poet Gilberto Owen); THE CHAIRS ARE WHERE THE PEOPLE GO by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti (funny little philosophical essays on living; a bit self-aggrandizing, but I dog-eared tons of pages in this); THE ANTHOLOGIST by Nicholson Baker (delightful! I read this in one day); THINK LIKE A FREAK (by the Freakonomics guys, whatever their names are; I read this embarrassingly quickly, in a few hours); VOYAGE IN THE DARK by Jean Rhys (god I love her); and THUNDERSTRUCK by Elizabeth McCracken (I’m not a short story person at all, but I read these straight through; so so good). I haven’t been reading poetry at all.

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