Angel Nafis is a Cave Canem Fellow and a Millay Colony for the Arts Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Rattling Wall, The BreakBeat Poets Anthology, MUZZLE Magazine, The Rumpus and Poetry Magazine. She has represented the LouderArts Poetry Project at both the National Poetry Slam and the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2011. She is an Urban Word NYC Mentor and the founder, curator, and host of the quarterly Greenlight Bookstore Poetry Salon. She is the author of BlackGirl Mansion (Red Beard Press/ New School Poetics, 2012) With poet Morgan Parker she is The Other Black Girl Collective. Facilitating writing workshops and reading poems across the United States and Canada, she lives in Brooklyn.
Here, she talks about the complete taste of bean pie, lazy snacking, and how dating someone brings out your strangest food habits.
On her all-time favorite meal:
This question is so rude. You know what bean pie is? Child! Tabernacle! and hallelou and Mashallah infinity plus tambourines. It’s both exactly and not exactly what it sounds like. A pie made from beans. I was raised Muslim and during our stint attending a temple in Detroit we picked up the sweet tooth for it bad. The sermons were so long. And I mean long even for sermons. Black preachers don’t care about a clock y’all or about this long white beard I grew every Sunday from ages 6-10. But me and my sister would make the hour drive from Ann Arbor with our pops into Detroit. We would play tic-tac-toe or teach each other sign language in the back row of the auditorium until like 9pm when it would finally commence and we’d rush to the lobby where they sold fish sandwiches and bean pies. Our Dad would let us buy one pie (as our low-key reward) and we’d sit in the back seat of the car and take turns cutting slim slices out of the tin and grinning and eating. I know it’s not a meal, but it’s my favorite. It has a pumpkin pie-ish consistency but it’s sweeter and also earthier and it’s the most complete taste I’ve ever known.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
How can I say anytime but magic-hour? When the light hauls off and looks like food too. I get my motherless BlackGirl photosynthesizing on with that honey hour.
On snacking while writing:
I love snacks but I am a lazy snacker. I think because when I start snacking it’s already too late. I snack when I’m already starving. So I be all the time entering my kitchen like a feral bitch who’s awakened from some heavy curse-induced coma ready to fuck up everything in her path. I pull pickles out the jar and while I chew those I wipe my hands on my shirt and nab colonies of Cheez-Its from the box.
I like to drink orange juice pretty heavy. It’s the most satisfyingly crisp juice of all time (only rivaled by cranberry) and it’s a good pallet cleanser between sweet and salt snacks. When I’m civilized and the fridge is lit with all the good stuff, I cut up hard cheeses, I make neat piles of peanuts and pretzels and cheese squares and olives with a little hummus dollop waiting in the cut for dippage.
On her go-to late-night snack:
Lately I’ve been demolishing mugs and mugs of hot chocolate, with almond milk to thicken it. Also why is Trader Joes so raw? Their peanut butter cups are bottomless essentials. Me and wifey also love to throw entire bricks of dark chocolate with sea-salt in the freezer and eat it square by square while watching bad television and predicting all the story-lines. I’m the sitcom whisperer. So I guess, chocolate. Oh! Or cold bowls of cereal. I’m classic with mines: Honey-nut Cheerios, or peanut butter Puffins will get the job done. Eating cereal makes me feel like I am a 12-year-old upper middle class child with both parents and clean socks, you know?
On her food quirks:
What is it about your boo that turns out your food habits? Before I started dating Shira, I never use to just put pickled things in and on everything. Globs of tahini on everything, stir-fries with turkey sausage, pickles in the bowl but to the side, pickled beets in there too, rice pilaf, or just jasmine rice spiced to hell with garlic and cumin. I guess too I like all my food to have the potential to be rubbed up in close quarters. I think that’s some Black shit. Or some POC shit but I can’t really speak for folks. The potential to reassemble and assemble a meal into different shapes and aesthetics with the same ingredients is very alchemical and necessity borne.
On her final meal request:
This question makes me ‘motional. I love too many people. It’s actually obscene. My love list looks like a census of the cities I’ve lived in. And my family is extended and blended and vast and ever-multiplying. So, part of me knows if we were all together it would have to be the worlds biggest oak table and it would be highly dysfunctional and probably turnt to a irresponsible degree. Besides, Saint Chris Rock said some unbeatably true shit: a meal is all about the company. A gourmet meal with an asshole is a terrible meal. But a hotdog with great person is an amazing meal. So. I think I’d go that route.
I’d choose any meal with my golden homie Kevin. One time we split half of a Peruvian chicken, a full platter of vegetables and several cocktails on two barstools in some bougie spot in downtown Chicago and we didn’t even really eat that much, we just talked for elevendy years about the city and his family and a million related things. That was real good. Or another time me and him ate perfect deli sandwiches at this spot tucked away in Hyde Park where our table was situated half-inside half-outside when summer weather was just starting to feel itself. For whatever reason I popped off and told him my entire adolescent journey to becoming a foreal foreal writer and impressed upon him the myriad ways in which my life has been enriched, emboldened, and made possible by our homiedom. We were laughing and crying and they kept trying to clear our plates and we were like NOT DONE OKAY?