by J. Richard Kron
Here’s a fun science fact for you: food is important. Not only does it make our survival possible (It’s true!), but it also stirs up a cornucopia of responses and memories.
So why are there so few books that give food the proper respect?
And by books, I don’t mean cooking guides or anything else you’ll find in the culinary section at Barnes and Noble. I mean literature that conveys dining as an important life experience, one that’s on par with if not more significant than human love.
Alas, such a work of literature has arrived. It is entitled After Tonight, Everything Will Be Different (Three One G Records), and the author of this book is rural Kansas-resident Adam Gnade (pronounced “guh-naw-dee”). The novel’s cover says it all: a hand is pouring hot sauce on a big burrito, a bottle of Jarritos soda watches from the side, and a blurry Mexican Food sign hovers in the background. Speaking as an Arizonan, this image strikes a massive emotional chord in me. And that’s the point: food=emotion.
As Gnade tells stories about his upbringing in San Diego (the setting for a lot of his other books as well) and his travels across the country, the real stars include Cactus Candy, the Tuna Melt, the Wendy’s Frosty, Nacho Cheese Doritos, and so on. They’re the stars of their respective scenes, but they also coexist with all of the people associated with them. Which is another point: food=connection.
I sat down with Gnade via Zoom to talk about writing, inspiration, and of course, burritos.
What meal have you been really into lately?
I tend to stick to Mexican food. One of my favorites is a bean, rice, and avocado burrito. I have a recipe for the beans to make them amazing, then the rice is Spanish Rice style with vegetables. I do avocado instead of guacamole because I want it to be pure, without having extra stuff in it. Good tortillas are important too, which are hard to get where I’m at.
When did you start writing?
I started writing with a purpose when I was 18. I read an article in a travel magazine about a little fishing village in Portugal. The stories hit me on a very visceral level, and I wanted to write my own version of this about my own life. My life was super boring, but I wrote about what I did during my day, and tried to make it in the style of this magazine article.
Who were your main inspirations for this particular work?
For this one, I had just finished reading Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. It’s a bunch of tiny vignettes about the color blue, but it goes all over from love to death to caring for a sick friend, and uses blue as the theme. So I thought I should do something themed. My books haven’t been before, they’ve just been about my life. And this one is too, but it was nice to write about food and have it be more about friendship and trying to survive.
This book focuses on food experiences that you’ve shared with loved ones, some of which was while traveling. How did the ongoing pandemic shape how you wrote about these experiences?
I’ve lived in isolation for a dozen years. I’m out in the country and I only see friends when I’m on tour. I thought isolation was something that I needed, but I got pretty wigged out being in true isolation for the last few years. I realized how much I really needed people in my life. So I needed to write about these characters to reconnect with my friends. Since writing the book, I’ve reapplied myself to being a social person.
Regarding your emotional connection with food: is that something you’ve always consciously felt? Or was there an epiphany where the emotional importance of food really came into focus?
It’s always been very important to me. Every one of my books have a lot of food scenes. Some of them have recipes that I’ve snuck in, something a character is making. It’s self-medicating, it’s a way to bring friends together, and it’s a way to get out of my head. I grew up in San Diego, and in our subculture there, there were and still are a few places that were as important as venues or bookstores. We would go there to check in with ourselves and our culture and what tribe we were a part of.
What are your upcoming projects?
I’m writing a book about what it was like to write for an online version of a newspaper right when the internet became a thing. It takes place over the course of four days, and it’s more about what it was like to be alive at that time. It fits into the food book, which talks about working for that place. It has the same characters as my other books, which are all autobiographical.
I also have an audiobook cassette label (Hello America Stereo Cassette), and we have a record coming out every month. I release my own tapes of writing on it as well. The idea is to build a community of people who do audio literary stuff. My first autobiographical fiction stuff was done as audio files, and it kinda sucked because there wasn’t anyone I really liked who was doing the same thing as me, and it was frustrating. So I wanted to find other people doing what I was doing, and we can be friends and start a little community. That was another thing that came out of the pandemic. During the really bad parts of isolation I thought, “I really need to have new friends and connect with people.”
Anything else you want readers to know?
My novels and cassettes and vinyl are part of one universe. It’s all part of the same greater project. I have my own idea of the order to read them in, but you don’t have to read them sequentially like Harry Potter or something. People can read them and start to notice characters that show up and continuous storylines. That’s my life’s project that I plan to do until I’m dead.
J. Richard Kron is a writer and musician from Phoenix, Arizona. He holds a BFA in English from Arizona State University. His writing has appeared in YabYum, OUTVoices, Deadbeat Poet Society, Mojave Heart Review, and De'Lunula.
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