Are you a fan of tacos? Sandwiches? Nachos? Foods that are dependent on other foods for you to be able to eat them? You and Rachael Maddux have that in common. You probably have more than just that in common, but that’s a start. Rachael and I first met floating down the Chattahoochee River. (True story!) You can read her work in places like the Paris Review’s daily blog, the Oxford American, the Believer, and many other places. She also curates the annual pop-up blog The Unbest. You can hear her read at the Goatfarm on Thursday, February 7th.
So Rachael, why do you like tacos so much?
I should say that in general I’m a really big fan of food that you get into your mouth via other food. Not that I have anything against utensils. Some of my best friends are utensils. But tacos I guess are the most perfect realization of that concept of thin-carby-thing-as-delivery-system. I’m partial to soft-shell flour tortillas, although of course I’ll go for corn and I’ve even been known to wolf down some Old El Paso tacos-from-a-box. It’s more about what’s inside, though. And what’s inside is limitless! The only regular email I get from a place of business that I haven’t re-routed to a sub-folder in my Gmail account is the Weekly Specials update from Taqueria Del Sol, which I always read with great excitement because their special tacos are boss. The Waco is my favorite—barbecued brisket and slaw and some kind of mustardy sauce. Taqueria has kind of ruined me on fish tacos because theirs are so perfect (I recently stopped picking off my pickled jalapenos and that was a big moment). But what’s really great about tacos is that they’re pretty low-commitment—if you have a bad one, you probably still have room for a good one to cancel it out. And like I never say, you’re only as good as your last taco.
Tell me more about the pickled jalapenos moment. The public deserves to know about your revelation.
It was actually part of a much bigger thing that happened last year, which is that I am now into eating spicy foods after a lifetime not being able to handle, like, mild salsa. But my husband, Joe, is a total spicehound and has been all his life (he used to carry around a bottle of Tabasco sauce in a little holster when he was in elementary school) and he also happens to be the primary cook in our relationship. I wouldn’t say that he forced me into this—it’s more like an acquired taste that happened gradually but also seems kind of inevitable. See also: My recent interest in horror movies, Black Sabbath and whiskey. So, yes, for years I would pick all my pickled jalapenos off of my Taqueria Del Sol tacos and push them onto Joe’s plate, but then one day I got real brave and kept them on, and he was sad that he didn’t get bonus peppers, but also proud of me, I think. That plus the first time I was like, “Hey babe, can you hand me the sriracha?” were really special moments in our relationship.
Sometimes I struggle to remember what life was like before rooster sauce, and it all seems so dreary- like life in Pleasantville before Reese Witherspoon came along and sexed up the place. Hey- remember that movie?
I do! Although I’ve only ever seen it on TV so, ironically, all the sexed-up bits were way way less sexed-up. Another “Reese Witherspoon sexes it up” movie (kinda?) is Cruel Intentions, which I saw for the first time recently, and found unexpectedly soul-crushing! I was on a Netflix binge and watched it as a chaser to Young Adult, which was also soul-crushing, though expectedly so. I thought Cruel Intentions would be a goofy proto-Gossip Girl romp through the late-90s, but for some reason it just made me feel awful. The whole night made me hate washed-up ghostwriters and horny teenagers and everyone.
Have you been avoiding up escalators ever since? I still hope for Ryan Phillipe at the top of every escalator, and he’s never there… *SPOILER*
…because he died.
Man, you know, I half expected to have some kind of unseemly sexual attraction to wee Phillipe in that movie, but it just wasn’t happening. I can’t tell if it was him or his character but there was some weird high-strung dorkiness edging right beneath the surface of his cool-guy persona and it really creeped me out. Also he kinda had the NSYNC-era Justin Timberlake ramen-noodle-hair thing going on. In the 90’s I preferred my boys with long, flowing, un-gelled locks, Hanson-style.
Which Hanson brother was your favorite?
Despite my adolescent self’s love of the underdog, which presumably would’ve led me to favor the gangly, brace-faced Isaac, it was beautiful, beautiful Taylor.
If Taylor Hanson was minorly interested (you know, playing it cool) in attending your reading on February 7th, what would adolescent Rachael say to persuade him into attending? What would Rachael now say to persuade him?
12-year-old Rachael would come up with something super charming and brilliant and would probably rehearse the whole conversation a few times in front of her bedroom mirror, then chicken out at the last second. Now-Rachael would be like, “Uh, dude, shouldn’t you be home with your fifteen children and/or trying to write a song half as good as ‘MMMBop’? Yeah, get out of here.”