Alok Vaid-Menon is a nonbinary writer, performance artist, and solidarity activist with a lot of feelings. Alok has organized with racial, economic, and gender justice movements across the world. Their creative and political work grapples with questions of diaspora, trauma, race, and desire. With Janani Balasubramanian, Alok tours with DARKMATTER, a New York-based trans South Asian performance art duo.
Here, they talk about food as poetry, eating with their hands, and the delicious joys of that fourth meal at 3am.
On their all-time favorite meal:
In January of 2015 I was staying with my friend Akshay Khanna in their flat in Delhi and every morning I would be woken up to the aroma of piping (soy!) hot chai and a delicious Indian breakfast. Akshay’s food is poetry and they prepare it with such delight and finesse. It was through their food that I recognized myself as a kitchen-bottom: here, eager as can be, to be fed, served, and doted upon! I usually don’t eat breakfast so that week of my life felt remarkable—I felt full in both a bodily and spiritual sense.
On what the light looks like during their favorite meal of the day:
Sunshine cascading through the windows, drenching a group of friends in the light. The type of light where it makes you remember just how stunning and celestial all of our eyeballs are.
On snacking while writing:
There are few things I enjoy more in the world than digestive biscuits. I just binge on those.
On their go-to late-night snack:
I am the queen of late night vegan takeout. I literally will try to find whatever place is open and try to call in whatever vegan thing they have on the menu and eat it: no matter how big. The fourth meal life around 3am is my favorite meal of the day—especially because I get most of my work done in the middle of the night.
On their food quirks:
I grew up eating with my hands and mixing all of my food together so when I eat with white people sometimes they get uncomfortable and say it’s weird lol.
On their final meal request:
Okay this might not be my last meal request, but it’s one that comes to mind. I was at an international LGBT rights conference in Bangkok in December and I asked for some vegan food and got served spaghetti with ketchup. That’s it. All of my friends—queer and trans activists from across the world—were having delicious meat dishes and I was sitting there eating the blandest food of my life. It was hilarious! Oh well, made the 3am second dinner that much better!