How Margaret H. Willison, the Internet’s Favorite Librarian, Does Breakfast
"Coffee takes machines, which then have to be cleaned to maintain quality, and I don’t clean. So I can’t have coffee makers."
Margaret H. Willison lives in Boston and loves the idea of breakfast—even if she admits it’s not her number one priority in the morning. Willison is a librarian by day, but she's more known for being a regular NPR personality and the host of a 24/7 slumber party on Twitter. She serves as one of Pop Culture Happy Hour's fourth chairs, one-third of the podcast Appointment Television, and one-half of the popular TinyLetter, Two Bossy Dames. We spoke with Willison to find out which author she would most wish to eat breakfast with, what the most overrated breakfast foods are, and what happens if you accidentally spill coffee on a library book (asking for a friend, of course).
Extra Crispy: Are there any memorable breakfasts in literature?
Margaret H. Willison: I’m a huge fan of the Peter Wimsey novels and a strong feature is a relationship with his valet. Bunter was his batman in the war, his war valet, and then his valet in the real world. He makes him many delicious meals, and the obvious one is breakfast. While my favorite thing is staying up, my number two is sleeping. So the joy of having someone present you with a perfectly toasted crumpet dripping with butter is impossibly seductive to me.
What’s a good pop culture breakfast you’ve come across recently, in movies or TV?
A noteworthy breakfast in pop culture is definitely Eggo waffles in Stranger Things, the second season of which I am watching for my TV podcast right now. Much like Eleven, I’m a fan of Eggo waffles, but multigrain, and with peanut butter in the middle. It’s a quick breakfast that will make you feel full and less furious to be awake. Throw a banana in there, you’re okay. But, when you take the Eggos out, you gotta let them cool, or else the peanut butter will straight-up liquefy.
How important is breakfast to your day-to-day life?
It should be more important to me! I stay over at my friends’ houses and they make me eggs in the morning, and my whole day is better. But I love sleeping. Coffee is essential though. When I get to work without my iced coffee, I have the worst day in the world.
Where do you tend to get your coffee before work?
I am one of the many advocates of a cult-like healthy fast food establishment in Boston called Clover. It started as an MIT food truck, and now it’s in brick and mortar. I can still handle Dunkin Donuts, but I don’t prefer it. Clover does pour over coffee, and they also make popovers which, if you’re British, it’s yorkshire pudding, and if you’re not, you’ve never heard of them. They’re basically egg dumplings-slash-croissants, and they’re magical and gooey. I get an iced coffee and a popover pretty much every day of the year. Previously I was on hugging terms with my barista at Clover, but then they made me one of their secret army of app users, so now I can order and not have to wait in line. It’s invitation-only! They’re one of those places where they want to remember your name.
What did you have for breakfast today?
A Dunkin Donuts donut. The old fashioned is my favorite, it’s like a spiced cake donut. But you have to get it fresh or else it’s like eating styrofoam. You have to go to the Dunkin Donuts locations with the bakery attached, or otherwise I get a glazed. A shitty yeast donut ages better than a shitty cake donut. Gotta have a carbohydrate.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee takes machines, which then have to be cleaned to maintain quality, and I don’t clean shit. So I can’t have coffee makers. If you’re hand brewing shit and grinding it, that’s so noisy. When I make a caffeinated beverage at home, I make tea. At work, where there’s a Keurig or tea, I’d much rather have tea. When I purchase caffeine out in the world, April to October, I get iced tea with lemon in the afternoons.
What happens if you accidentally spill coffee on a stack of returned books?
This has definitely never happened. We have very careful procedures for drying books. We have long library guides with images for what you do if you get a wet book. I would follow these careful procedures.
If you could have breakfast with one author living or dead, who would you pick?
Jane Austen seems like she was a morning person. She’d have a breakfast I could get behind. If we went to a ball the night before, we’d do a very careful analysis of what had happened. Cassandra, her sister, can come, too. Neither of them married!
What’s the most overrated breakfast item?
This is blasphemy, but I don’t care for breakfast sausage. A patty, a link, I don’t get the appeal. Every once in awhile I’ll eat one, but I’m never gonna pick it over bacon. Never. I love a good hashbrown, but too little thought is put into them. I am an advocate of crispy fried foods, and they’re just too greasy. Also, a hard-boiled egg is unquestionably an egg in its worst form, aside from spoiled—but by how much?