C. Russell Price is an Appalachian genderqueer Virginian living in Chicago. They are the author of Tonight, We Fuck the Trailer Park Out of Each Other (Sibling Rivalry Press), a Lambda Fellow, a Ragdale Fellow, Literary Death Match Champion, NewCity Lit 50 of Chicago 2020, and Windy City Times 30 Under 30 Honoree. Their work has appeared in Boston Review, Court Green, DIAGRAM, Iron Horse Literary Review, Nimrod International Journal of Poetry, PANK, and elsewhere. Their debut full-length collection The Devil Has Been Busy Today; or, oh, you thought this was a date?!: APOCALYPSE POEMS will be published in Spring 2022.
Here, they talk about caffeine and beer as editing sidekicks, ripping off Chick-Fil-A, and a complicated relationship with food.
On their all-time favorite meal:
Imagine it: 2001ish, you can smell the Abercrombie and Fitch cologne, you’re getting strange feelings down there, and you’re bonding with your family flipping between Will & Grace (poor angel, sweating like at a hot dog eating contest, babe—they knew, they knew) and Food Network. Unwrapped premiers and your early teen years become a covert mission to decipher the culinary secrets of the gods. Marc Summers hosted the 30 minute let’s-get-to-the-bottom-of-this exploration of factory food manufacturing and at home imitation attempts. My Mom and I got wicked hooked on copycatting. My all-time favorite meal is fried chicken. Fuck Chick-Fil-A, so here’s the secret to their breading: powdered sugar. For a week my Mom and I attempted to duplicate the financially-supportive-of-anti-Queer-group’s delicious nuggets. It was around the 7th day that God rested and gave us the right combo of spices, sweetness, the right oil and at the right temp to match them but in a queer loving and supportive household. We tackled a lot of corporations those early years. We took on Almond Joy. We once mismeasured ingredients for a copycat P.F. Chang’s egg roll recipe (white people) and stayed up until 2AM frying around 400 egg rolls. Cooking with my family will always be my favorite memory but sticking it to and ripping off Chick-Fil-A that one Virginia summer was my favorite meal.
On what the light looks like during their favorite meal of the day:
During the livable months in Chicago, my survival job is helping run the #1 in the city//#7 in the country’s annual flower department. On delivery days, I am in the yard before sunrise—I deathgrip my TRENTA iced coffee (with lite ice and coconut milk) in one claw and half of a Valium in the other. It is not fully sunrise at this point; everything is wet. I feel so alien looking at the sky with the moon still up over an abandoned hospital. Kirt will show up in a tractor trailer full of Michigan flowers. It’s weird to be so loud working before most of the city is even awake. I love the light during my breakfast of ambition and medicated patience. Anything can happen at this hour when nothing has really happened to most people. Sometimes when the blues get to me, or when I get existential AF deadheading flowers, I think of this quote by Edward Hopper, “Maybe I’m not very human. What I wanted was to paint sunlight on the side of the house.” When I’m not writing, I’m trying to bring some sunlight.
On snacking while writing:
Every writing project for me has had a different soundtrack and in the same sense, I’ve treated what I drink/eat while working on the projects in the same way. Let me correct myself, I don’t eat while I’m writing—I need both my hands free. When I was working on Trailer Park, I kept either Mountain Dew or Sweet Tea on my writing desk while I was working. Once something had been drafted and impulsively deemed not complete shit, I would have a Heineken then dig into editing. I have less time for my own bullshit when I’m a little loose with a beer—it helps me feel less precious about my lines. A couple more drinks in and I’m white girl nosey with myself saying in the margins, “No, what do you REALLY mean tho? What is the fucking heart of this?!” All those drinks seem to make themselves into the poems as well. For The Devil Has Been Busy Today, I always had coffee and PBR as my little speedballs. Maybe that’s why the book feels so bust-down-your-door manic. It’s an angry book about hard shit with the tastebuds for recovery group burnt coffee and barfly pity beers. My next project is all about borderline personality disorder via the ballad form, but like queer as hell. I don’t know what I’m drinking with that one yet.
On their go-to late-night snack:
I’m a sucker for salty and sweet. I crank out a broke yet still by the grace of God bad bitch charcuterie board, always a hard meat (lol), some feta or goat cheese, raspberries, blackberries, nuts, nutella, candied jalapenos, ritz crackers (never forget where you came from). If I’m feeling rowdy, the almost 24/7 taqueria two doors down makes some fire pork tacos and steak quesadillas. It is conveniently located beside the gay sex club. In the before times, you could cruise while fucking up a big bowl of quac. You could lock eyes with a leather daddy who’s only in town for the weekend (he’s from Ann Arbor or some shit) while deciding between red or green salsa or if you’re gonna be messy as hell and say wassup at 3AM in a Chicago taqueria to Todd or whatever his name is. Men. Men with money is my go-to late-night snack.
On their food quirks:
TBH, I’ve started this interview in about forty different ways in various states of my relationship to food. One futile effort was pissdrunk blue in a Taco Bell before Covid. I thought if I was surrounded by drunk college students, maybe something would make me feel invisible enough I could get into this. It didn’t. I thought about doing this interview on a good food day. About doing it after a really good session with my therapist. About after a righteous binge then again during a brief starving fit. I thought there would be a good time I could talk so candidly and uncensored about what that mouth do tho. I wish this was an interview about sex; I’m free AF to talk about that. Maybe I could answer this question pretending it were something else with my tongue in my cheek. I have a pretty severe case of OCD when it comes to food. I get transfixed on one thing for a bit and crave only it and eat only it until I snap myself out of it. There were periods of meatloaf, of pizza, of tacos, of fried rice, of quiche, of raspberries, and as of late, watermelon???? I’m working on this. I’m working on so much and am so tired and sometimes eating feels like such a fucking chore. Sometimes, more often than not, it’s my little victory. My 11:00AM on the fuckng dot pack of peanut butter crackers. My 6pm no fucking matter what, I grab a skillet, a plate, and a prayer.
On their final meal request:
Mount Airy, N.C. is the town that The Andy Griffith show modeled Mayberry after. My family went there when I was probably 9 or so. I remember getting my haircut by a Floyd lookalike in a Floyd’s Barbershop. I remember feeding ducks somewhere and having sandwiches we brought from home on a mountaintop. It could have been any season, but I like to think it was Fall in which all the colors of the Appalachian Mountains are on full display. There are so many names, mostly stolen from the indigenous people of the region, for how the colors move through the trees—snow still on the caps, edging into green, then in the distance, bright oranges and reds as if a giant buffalo (or a collective of buffalos??) is on fire and running down the mountainside before settling in the still green underbrush of the valleys. I don’t want to be anywhere or anytime than in the Appalachian Mountains in late September. The last meal? That’s easy, it’s Thanksgiving turkey and all the sides and I’m with my family for the first time in over a year. Maybe I’m 9 again and everyone’s still alive. I don’t care about the specificity of what comes with the bird, as long as there are casseroles and buttermilk biscuits and gallons of sweet tea and mashed potatoes and still never enough butter. We’ve unloaded a truck my Father doesn’t have anymore of our picnic necessities, sternos, disposable cutlery and plates that we only use for these moments that feel so happy and warm they should be considered a sin that we can’t and don’t want to do dishes. It’s late September, my Dad is on my left irritating me with how he eats so similarly to me, my sister is fidgeting with the Spice Girls on her boombox, my Mother is cutting into the baklava she only makes around this time. Someone nearby is using mesquite kindling for their bbq. We are together and we are safe. My hands are so sticky from wanting so much but really only this: the buffalo covered in his licking flames slowly trailing down into my homeland; my legs criss cross applesauce, the Dixie styrofoam being handed to me like a communion plate.