Bhanu Kapil writes between the monster and the cyborg, ad infinitum. Are you bored? She dreams of writing something. That vibrates. Like a drop of water and blood. When it falls on the ground. Or is placed. Into your hand. Though maybe you don’t want that!!!! She teaches at Naropa University, in the department of Interdisciplinary Studies, and for Goddard College.
Here, she talks ancestral connections, the ritual of coffee, and reflexive eating habits when stressed.
On her all-time favorite meal:
I was walking on the outskirts of my village, Bhulan, Punjab. My maternal-ancestral village. I was walking with a stick that was carved, intricately, with flowers and animals. I was walking through the rice paddy. I was walking through the bright yellow or citrine “rape”, which was blossoming. I was walking early in the morning in my blue dress. A man was seated outside his hut, a hut made of straw and mud, as I approached. He saw me, he saw the walking stick and called to his family: “Oh my god, it’s Bowji’s stick.” (Something like that, in Punjabi.) He recognized the stick as belonging to my great-grandfather, a man who had dug the first well in the village and built a school, employing a woman from Lancashire in the time of the British Raj. A beloved village elder. The next thing you know, I am whisked into the hut and am fed a meal, a breakfast, I have never forgotten: saag and makhi-di-roti. A delicious steaming bread made from cornmeal and dripping with butter, and the spinach vegetable dish that is a speciality of the region. The man whose hut it was told me stories about Bowji, and his children passed the stick to each other, tracing the shapes of roses and peacocks with their fingertips.
On what the light looks like during her favorite meal of the day:
The golden light produces shadows like ocean waves on the side of my neighbor’s house at 8 a.m. as I drink my morning tea. Looking up as I write these words, I see that the shadow is mauve with scarlet and black spots. The shadow is very beautiful today; it is like an animal, or a thousand insects, or a migrating flock of words. Oh my goodness! I meant to write: birds.
On snacking while writing:
I like to go to Einstein’s Bagels and get their vanilla-hazelnut coffee, to which I add half and half, and bring it back to my writing studio at Lola’s. It is the ritual of coffee, which I don’t make at home, that I associate with my life on a Parisian balcony, which never came to be, but which I assumed would and may still, though I don’t know what I am saying anymore when I am saying Paris.
Her go-to late-night snack:
Greek yoghurt with maple syrup.
On her food quirks:
If feeling down, I like to crush salt and vinegar crisps in the bag then add extra malt vinegar, as I used to when I got back from school and was settling in to watch the Australian soap opera ‘Neighbors’ which starred Kylie Minogue. However, I was recently reading about how you should avoid histamine-producing foods such as vinegar when you are experiencing stress. So, I don’t know where that leaves me. In Heathrow airport the other day, I did what I always do: fill a basket with Prawn Cocktail Walker’s Crisps and Pickled Onion flavor Monster Munch, which is along the same lines. It’s like a reflexive habit or panic I associate with Terminal 3. Love Actually: “Enough. That’s enough now.”
On her final meal request:
Do you mean, last meal, as in…I am about to die? Wow. Okay, I think it would be something from childhood….my favorite food in the world is “bhindi.” An Indian okra dish. No! I would have tandoori naan with raati, the yoghurt and cucumber mixture, and tamarind chutney! Forget the okra. What was I thinking? But if you mean, what was the last meal request I made, it was for crepes. I bought a grain-free paleo pancake mixture, and handed it my mother, who made it into delicious crepes somehow, which I ate with butter and the aforementioned maple syrup.