How Lemony Snicket Does Breakfast: "I Like Strong Coffee and Terrible Food"
Author Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, is famous for A Series of Unfortunate Events. The frightening and funny 13-volume bestselling series about the Baudelaire children was adapted into a feature film, starring Jim Carrey, and will soon appear as an original show on Netflix. On a quiet day for Handler, I called him in San Francisco, where he lives with his wife, illustrator Lisa Brown, and teenage son, Otto. To unveil the mystery that is Daniel Handler, we talked about avocado toast, bacon, and the power of coffee. He held nothing back.
Extra Crispy: Who do I have the honor of speaking with today? Daniel Handler or Lemony Snicket?
Daniel Handler: Oh, it’s Daniel Handler. Lemony Snicket never quite manages to come to the phone.
OK. Hey, Daniel. When you roll up to Starbucks, which name do you use?
I live in San Francisco, which is hopelessly snobby about coffee, so both Mr. Handler and Mr. Snicket would be embarrassed to be seen in Starbucks—that would be a horrible local news event. But I do use Daniel when I order coffee.
What’s the first thing you eat in the morning?
I guess, a blueberry. Usually I drink a glass of water, then I eat a blueberry while my breakfast is cooking.
Just one blueberry?
Just one, because I’m going to put blueberries on my oatmeal. I like just having one to pop in my mouth while music is playing, and the coffee is brewing, and the oatmeal is cooking.
What music are you playing?
Well, if I get to the kitchen first, it’s the music I like. But if my 12-year-old son gets to the kitchen first, then it’s the music he likes. So, I try to move quickly.
What does your son play?
He likes Imagine Dragons, which I told him we cannot listen to in the morning.
It’s too much for the morning. I can’t. I don’t mean any disrespect to Imagine Dragons, who I’m sure are very nice people. I just cannot hear that first thing in the morning.
Where do you usually write?
At my desk or in a cafe. The best cafes for working usually have terrible food, because then you can’t distract yourself with food. Where I go, if you get really hungry, you might order something, but you won’t think it’s delicious. So, I like strong coffee and terrible food.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
If I could have absolutely anything and we had all the time in the world in the morning, I would make huevos rancheros. I like a Mexican breakfast. If I’m at a breakfast place, I’m probably going to order whatever Mexican thing they’re offering.
So, anything with salsa from a jar?
Yup. Throw in some beans and eggs.
I heard you don’t like bacon. True?
It is true. Bacon just doesn’t do much for me. It’s okay. I am always delighted to find something that’s bad for me that I don’t like. In the morning, I’m like “Oh, I don’t need to have bacon,” and it’s such a triumph.
So, you’d rather not stop your heart by a bacon overdose.
No, I’d rather stop my heart through other means.
Which is, true love. I have true love with my wife and that’s why I make her coffee in the morning—so I hold all the power. She comes to the kitchen, she has coffee, and because she has had coffee, I can ask her for anything.
So that’s how you get any and everything you want, huh?
I’m really surprised more people haven’t figured this out.
You’re a master musician. Would you be able to play the accordion and scramble eggs at the same time?
I think I probably could, but in general, I do not like scrambled eggs. I like a soft boiled egg, or a poached egg, or a fried egg. Scrambled is my least favorite.
In your opinion what’s the most underrated breakfast food?
The hangtown fry—oysters and eggs—is very important. If it’s on the menu, I would have that over anything Mexican, but it’s hardly ever on a menu. I think it’s probably a good hangover cure, although I’ve never had it hungover. It is delicious.
What’s so special about it?
I love that it’s both greasy and sexy. It’s probably the most erotic breakfast dish and I think many breakfast dishes are pretty erotic.
What’s another dish you find sexy?
A poached egg on toast, or now the avocado toast that’s all the rage.
What are your thoughts on avocado toast?
You can’t make it at home because avocados are not reliable. You have to have many, many avocados in your house to make avocado toast. Life is not fair. I do think it’s overrated, but it’s also delicious. It just isn’t quite as delicious as everyone says. I recently found this good café that makes avocado toast. When I said, “I would like an espresso too,” they said, “Sorry, we don’t serve coffee at this café.”
Well, that’s quite ironic.
It was in an outskirt neighborhood in San Francisco and I was kind of offended.
Shut. It. Down.
I said, “You can’t call it a café if you don’t serve coffee. It’s right there in the name.” Instead, they served black tea, or green tea—whatever, I don’t care what they served. It’s not coffee. I was too shocked.