Eat Drink Book: Jami Attenberg, The Middlesteins


By Sherrie Flic

Every book I pick up these days seems to be filled with food. Is it I? Is it because I write this column? Is it fiction lending itself to letting people eat and eat and eat? I don’t know. That’s part of what I’m exploring here each month—how do food and writing connect … and why.

Some connections are obvious, of course. Novels are populated with humans and as humans we do a lot of eating. Ritual, celebration. Food binds us to each other.

When I read a scene that has a character eating, I can sneak under that person’s skin; I can be that person. Even though I’m a vegetarian, there I am eating a steak. Continue reading

The Lightning Room: Blog People

Hello! Welcome to Blog People, a new venture here at the Lightning Room in which interview editors Simon and DeWitt interview their fellow denizens of The Blog. For our first installment, Simon talks with Sherrie Flick, author of the monthly column “Eat Drink Book.”

1. Can you talk a little bit about your column, “Eat Drink Book”? By my understanding, it seems to be a mixture of food and drink in literature, and literature in food and drink – what inspired it?

I have ongoing obsessions with both food and writing so it seemed natural to combine them when Sheila Squillante invited me to write for PANK. In my column I look at food/drink in literature on a variety of levels. Recreating food from some books and eating it and reporting in on the results/revelations, looking closely at food within the text, and sometimes including recipes. I want to discover and explore the ways food and literature intersect.

2. Did you have a particular journey-through-food-to-literature or journey-through-literature-to-food? Or have the two always gone hand in hand?

The two have pretty much gone hand in hand for me, although I’ve come to connect them more directly in recent years. I was an English Lit major with a creative writing focus as an undergrad at the University of New Hampshire, and I also worked my way through school at a wonderful bakery in the nearby town of Portsmouth. I continued to work as a professional baker (and write) after I graduated and moved to San Francisco. My creative process is tied to baking in so many ways. (Here’s an essay I wrote about that for Necessary Fiction.)

3. The community of PANK is such a widespread one. Where are you located – beyond the internet – and what do you do there outside of PANK?

I live in Pittsburgh. I’m a fiction and non-fiction writer, and I teach adjunct in Chatham University’s MFA and Food Studies programs. I work freelance as a writer and copy editor for (mainly) arts organizations, and I write a regular garden-to-table food column for Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine. I occasionally curate literary programs around town (previously, I was Artistic Director for the Gist Street Reading Series for 10 years). I cook and bake and garden, and I also play the ukulele.

4. How did you come to know PANK, and to be involved with it?

I’ve known and admired PANK through social media connections for some time and got to know PANK a bit more through Sheila Squillante.

5. What book – not a cookbook, that’s the easy way out – makes you hungriest when you read it? This doesn’t necessarily have to be about food; we’re talking appetites in general.

Wow. That’s a hard one. A book that was important to me in understanding how fiction and food can connect in amazing ways is Jim Crace’s The Devil’s Larder. It’s a book of fantastical flash fiction all focused on food – but in doing so it’s also focused on family and love and hate and lust too. So I’d credit The Devil’s Larder with whetting my appetite in many ways.

6. Of all the books you’ve read, what is one impossible food or drink that you’re dying to try? (This can either be ‘impossible’ as in ‘utterly fantastical’ or ‘impossibly impractical or difficult to prepare.’)

I would love to sit at John Singer’s table in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. He would silently serve me wine and gin and oranges that he’d pulled from his closet, and I would tell him my deepest secrets.

Sherrie Flick is author of the novel Reconsidering Happiness and the flash fiction chapbook I Call This Flirting. She lives in Pittsburgh.

Simon Jacobs curates the Safety Pin Review, a wearable medium for work of fewer than 30 words. He may be found at

Eat Drink Book: Joy Katz, All You Do is Perceive


Joy Katz, All You Do is Perceive
(With a bonus New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Pea recipe)

By Sherrie Flick

For the past three years I’ve celebrated New Year’s Eve in Key Largo with the writer Chuck Kinder, his wife Diane Cecily, and my husband Rick Schweikert. Chuck and Diane’s rental has a beautiful deck on which one can drink coffee, wine, and cocktails while watching dolphins frolic and manatees loll in the Gulf of Mexico. The view is like the idea of love manifested. The view reminds me of the wonderful last line of the title poem of Joy Katz’s new book: “I was given nothing but the air, and the air dazzled.”

I ring in the New Year with friends and a sunset, eat fish, sip cocktails, with a final clink of champagne glasses around the table. “Let’s toast to another year!” we say. “I’m still alive!” Chuck says. And we laugh and toast again.


New Years Day I make spicy black-eyed peas. I’m actually doing this right now as I write this post. They’re bubbling on the stove. Simmering away—offering up potential, celebrating hope.

While I wait on the peas, I’m also reading the poetry collection All You Do is Perceive by Joy Katz. I’m perched on a bar stool at the kitchen counter, palm trees sway outside the big picture window. Continue reading

Eat Drink Book: Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

~by Sherrie Flick


This month at Eat Drink Book, I stir and shake Richard Yates’ novel Revolutionary Road.*

Published in 1961 but set in 1955, Revolutionary Road gives witness to the burgeoning, now clichéd and reproduced on coasters, dish towels, fridge magnets, and televisions shows, 1950’s suburban culture.

As the novel unfolds, we crawl into Frank and April Wheeler’s relationship and watch it fester and boil behind their pristine picture window. Frank Wheeler–perhaps the best ever written anti-hero–drinks, his wife April drinks, his co-workers drink, his mistress, their friends, their real estate agent, everyone—everyone—drinks in this book. And they seem to, amazingly, hold their liquor. Continue reading

Eat Drink Book: Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter


~by Sherrie Flick


This is the first installment of Eat Drink Book. Each month I’ll explore food and drink in literature. This month it’s Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Written in 1940 when McCullers was just 23 years old this novel follows a host of townspeople and their interconnected, isolated, lonely lives. Obsessed with the dark corners of society, the slightly and overtly freakish people who inhabit the world with their fetishes and haunting thoughts, McCullers depicts people who lurk in shadows, wander into all-night restaurants like The New York Cafe.

McCullers uses food in The Heart … to help establish character, class, and setting. Singer, the character to which the other characters are drawn, the outsider (he moved to the small town from Chicago), the Jew–always has a distinguished selection of food in his small apartment. Fresh oranges and candies and wine or whiskey or gin, which he keeps neatly tucked into a closet. He serves his visitors ceremoniously. “They sat at the table and drank hot coffee out of blue cups. The room was cool and the half-drawn shades softened the hard glare from the windows. Singer brought from his closet a tin box that contained a loaf of bread, some oranges, and cheese. He did not eat much, but sat leaning back in his chair with one hand in his pocket (55-56).” Singer is a deaf mute and his silence adds to the accumulating grace. When Singer travels to visit his Greek friend Spiros Antonapoulos he brings a brightly wrapped fruit basket, a box of walnut-sized just-ripe strawberries. When he checks into his hotel room, he orders room service, a decadent combination of “…broiled bluefish, hominy, French toast, and hot black coffee.” Continue reading