Alison C. Rollins, born and raised in St. Louis city, currently works as the Lead Teaching and Learning Librarian for Colorado College. She is a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature fellow. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere. A Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow, she is also a 2016 recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship. In 2018 she was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. Her debut poetry collection, Library of Small Catastrophes (Copper Canyon Press) was released April 2019.
Here, she talks about her killer charcuterie board skills, keeping foods separated on the plate, and the never-ending search for the best fried chicken and glazed donuts.
On her all-time favorite meals:
When I was a child my father’s side of the family would host Thanksgiving reunions in Quincy, Illinois. This was by far my favorite meal because I got to see all my family and we would all eat in the event space of a Holiday Inn. The lobby of the hotel reeked of chlorine from the indoor pool and cigarettes but those scents signaled a homecoming. We would have a large buffet of tamales, ham, turkey, collard greens, macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes, apple cider, etc. It was glorious! We would also go to a catfish restaurant (no longer open) on the river and I would be so excited at my ability to eat a whole fish (the size of my head) down to the bone!
I went to Greece this past summer with writer friends and had a fantastic dinner on the beach. I had a Branzino fish grilled and de-boned tableside by the waiter. It was magical!
Whenever I travel for poetry readings I am on the hunt for the best fried chicken and glazed donuts. If I’m lonely in a city I will just hop on Yelp and look for chicken and donut spots. I also have a lot of joy surrounding kicking it with friends over chicken and getting my cell phone screen greasy from my fingers!
I have fond memories of going to Oxford (UK) for a writing retreat and every day before walking to workshop I would buy an almond croissant (from a Parisian bakery) and a pear as my breakfast.
I adore the food at the restaurant Duck Duck Goat in Chicago. My partner and I went there often when we both lived in Chicago. Literally everything there is delicious especially their jiaozi (beef short rib potstickers), seafood fried rice, green beans in black bean sauce, and spicy chicken!
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
This is a fascinating question because I have never considered light in relationship to meals. If left to my own devices I am a night owl and prefer the evening to early morning but when I first read this question I immediately thought of bright natural light and sunshine in relationship to my favorite meal. I think I just associate good food with sunshine!
On snacking while writing:
I don’t often snack while writing because I don’t like grease residue on my computer or book pages. I do often snack during breaks from writing as a means of self-reward. The ideal snack would be lemon pepper chicken wings and a glazed donut but some would probably consider that a meal. For a hardcore snack break—I take great pride in my charcuterie board skills which typically feature multiple types of cheeses (I enjoy gruyere, sharp cheddar, and goat cheese), grapes, crackers (I love Trader Joe’s Fig & Olive Crisps and cracked pepper wafer crackers), dried apricots, dill pickles, blackberries, nuts, etc. I am also a chip fanatic!
On her go-to late-night snack:
Chips (from seaweed snacks to anything kettle cooked) or fruit (in no particular order I like cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, pears, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, honeycrisp apples, grapes, plums, peaches, grapefruit, mango, dragon fruit…)
On her food quirks:
I would prefer that my food not touch on the plate or that items that have juice not drip and transfer between the other foods on my plate. I also never mix my food together on the plate.
Since I was a little girl, I have been weird about cheese when it comes to burgers and sandwiches. I have never liked the texture and flavor of American Kraft Singles cheese. I would never make grilled cheese with this type of cheese or eat McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Eventually I began to like blue cheese crumbles or higher-quality artisanal cheddar on burgers and sandwiches.
Texturally, I don’t like pudding or yogurt. Unless it’s frozen yogurt I can’t do it!
At one point I was addicted to blue (Mountain Berry Blast) Powerade.
On her final meal request:
Crab legs, crab legs, crab legs! I would have crab legs with melted butter. Since it’s my “final meal” I’m requesting that the Alaskan crab legs be de-shelled so I don’t have to invest labor peeling and cracking. I would have bottomless truffle parmesan fries as a side item. For dessert would be a glazed donut from SK Donuts (Los Angeles) and Do-Rite Donuts (Chicago). I would probably be eating naked poolside with my two sisters.