Amanda Johnston is the author of two chapbooks, GUAP and Lock & Key, and the full-length collection Another Way to Say Enter (Argus House Press). Her poetry and interviews have appeared in numerous online and print publications, among them, Callaloo, Poetry, Puerto del Sol, Muzzle, Pluck!, No, Dear and the anthologies, Small Batch, Full, di-ver-city, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine and has been named one of Blavity’s 13 Black Poets You Should Know. Johnston is a member of the Affrilachian Poets and has received fellowships from Cave Canem Foundation and the Austin Project at the University of Texas. She is a Stonecoast MFA faculty member, a cofounder of Black Poets Speak Out, and founder/executive director of Torch Literary Arts. She serves on the Cave Canem Foundation board of directors and currently lives in Texas.
Here, she talks about orange power snacks, coffee and bacon rituals, and being “actively anti-mayo”.
On her all-time favorite meal:
My favorite meal is coffee and bacon every weekend with my husband. I make the bacon and he makes the coffee. I usually make six pieces of bacon – two for me, two for him, one we share, and one for our dog, Rico. We keep Cafe du Monde chicory coffee in the pantry. Sometimes we get a bag of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and ration it out. It’s so good! I like my coffee with a lot of cream and sugar. My husband knows exactly how I like it. I have a special mug that reads “Give me coffee & tell me I’m pretty.” It’s silly, but I love it and I love that he brings me my coffee in that cup every time just so he can tell me I’m pretty and give me a kiss. Sugar.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
The curtains are pulled back and natural light fills the house. No matter the weather, it’s perfect. Warm sunlight slowly brightens our morning, but sometimes it’s raining and a soft gray moves us to light candles and sip coffee snuggled under blankets on the couch.
On snacking while writing:
If I’m in a zone or needing to grind out a project on deadline, I can get shit done with a box of Cheez-Its and an orange soda. The salty carbs and sugars can keep my engine going all night. The artificial coloring creates a soft glow that’s comforting. It’s a snack I know is not good for me, but I’m grown and I can have it if I want it! There’s a bit of ownership and permission I grant to myself when I have exactly what I want. Maybe that translates to something freed in my writing? I don’t know. Nikky Finney once said orange is a power color. That stuck with me. This is my orange power snack.
On her go-to late-night snack:
Cherries! Fresh on the stem, cold from the fridge. They are in season and I can’t eat enough of them. I savor their sweet meat. I enjoy rooting out the pit with my tongue. Delicious!
On her food quirks:
I am actively anti-mayo. I can’t stand the smell of it, its texture, or its taste. I can’t stand the sound of it being spooned out of a jar or squirted from a plastic container. I really don’t care for condiments much in general. Some think I like my sandwiches dry, which is not the case! I think the natural juices of ripe tomatoes, crisp lettuce, onions and avocado are more than enough for any sandwich, wrap, or burger. Now, I will admit that I do make tuna fish now and then and I use a tiny bit of mayo (so little is it even there?) as a binder. I then add a ton of seasoning that you can’t taste it at all. The mayo thing is deep. When I was young, I would tell people I was allergic to mayo to make sure it would never touch my food.
On her final meal request:
It would be a super Thanksgiving style meal with all my family and friends. We would gather at my house where everyone could be comfortable in loose dresses and elastic waste pants. We’d have all the fixings: my slow roasted turkey made sweet stuffed with oranges and chunks of pineapple, smooth garlic mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, sautéed Brussel sprouts with red onion and bacon, roasted carrots with ginger, soft yeast and crescent rolls, plenty of butter, and more. My mother-in-law would make rice and peas, oxtails, and curry goat. My granny, who passed away some years ago, would make sure we had her turkey dressing. My dear friends would bring their signature dishes – black power greens, 13 cheese macaroni, skillet cornbread, and the BEST sweet potato pie I have ever had (yes, Dante, your pie!). I’d make my rum bread pudding and we would feast, and laugh, and love on each other with every bite.