Crisosto Apache is originally from Mescalero, New Mexico, on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. He is Mescalero Apache, Chiricahua Apache, and Diné (Navajo) of the ‘Áshįįhí (Salt Clan) born for the Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House Clan). He earned an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD). Crisosto is also the Assistant Poetry Editor for The Offing Magazine. When he has time, he also continues his advocacy work for the Native American LGBTQ / ‘two-spirit’ identity.
Apache’s debut collection GENESIS (Lost Alphabet) stems from the vestiges of memory and cultural identity of a self-emergence as language, body, and cosmology. His poems have appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, Denver Quarterly, Hawaii Review, Red Ink Magazine, Cream City Review, Plume Anthology, and Common Place: The Journal of Early American Life, Christopher Felver’s book Tending the Fire: Native Voices and Portraits, and POETRY Magazine.
Here, he talks about cooking in a clean kitchen, sorting M&Ms by color, and his mother’s red chile enchiladas.
On his all-time favorite meal:
Go to foods is often difficult because there are so many choices. If I had to choose, there are two types of food which I have come to love: savory BBQ pork ribs and spicy chicken wings. I cannot remember the time I first ate the two. What I can say is there are two places here in Lakewood, Colorado where I can go for these two items. For the BBQ ribs there is a small restaurant near our house which lately changed hands and rebranded. It was first known as a breakfast place called the Cottage Inn but is now The Ranch at West 40 which serves American-style foods. We used to go for Sunday brunch when the restaurant was called the Cottage Inn. Now we go to The Ranch at West 40 for dinner. Most of the time when we go there for dinner and I am undecided, my default choice would always be the BBQ ribs. On the menu they list it as Louisiana Style Ribs. I always order the full rack so I can take home the other half to snack on later. What I love about these ribs is they are so tender. The BBQ sauce has the right spiciness and it is not too sweet or sour, so the flavor of the meat comes through. The worst thing about BBQ is when the sauce is too sweet and too sour, overpowering the flavor of the meat.
Chicken wings on the other hand is a whole other story. The place where I go for chicken wings is a place near our house as well called Jimmy’s Wings. I am always driving all over town on the look out for places to eat. This small place has a variety of options and wing counts. The sauces for their wings vary from Mild to XX-Hot. My palette can only handle the Medium. I tried the Hot once and it was very spicy. I can only imagine the danger in the XX-Hot. Like the BBQ ribs the wings must be not breaded which is why I like Jimmy’s Wings. They prepare their wings without breading. Wings should not have a breading coating. I know there are people who like their wings with breading, but I do not. Breading takes away the flavor of the crispy skin, flavorful meat, and sauce. Each of these two foods should emphasize simplicity in its presentation so the focus can be placed on the complexity of flavor.
On what the light looks like during his favorite meal of the day:
Morning is a time for reflection. I usually take some time in the morning to think about events in my life. I usually am not a person who eats breakfast. Only my hot black coffee works as a meal itself. Most people might not think of coffee as being a breakfast food but for me it is everything. We have an automatic drip coffee maker. When I get up in the morning sometimes the sun is not out. There is a greyish-blue around the neighborhood as I open the curtains in the front room. Our front room is open meaning there are no partitions or walls separating the dining room, living room, and kitchen. Our dining room table sits at an angle between tow large windows on the north and west facing walls. I sit at the table sipping my coffee inhaling the woodiness of the coffee’s aroma. Staring out the window I watch the greyish-blue slowly turn amber and orange. The light slowly travels down the eastern corner of the ceiling finally disappearing into the fireplace. The morning time is special for me because I think mostly about my family. Living ten hours away is hard because I grew up in a tight knit family having two brothers and two sisters. I have lived away from my family and reservation over thirty years. When I was a kid, my mother used to walk my stepfather out to the car to send him off to work. While she was outside, I would sneak into the kitchen pour a cup of coffee halfway and fill the rest up with cold water only to slam it into my mouth. I am not sure I ever told my mother I did this. I later came to appreciate the morning time because my mother was the kind of woman to wake up early to make coffee and breakfast for my stepfather. They later separated. I would spend the mornings with my mother because she never broke the habit of getting up early. We would sit around the small table which sat in the kitchen near an open bay window facing east. We would sit there for hours talking about her history, my history, and crazy stories about extended family and friends. These were the moments I embraced my mother’s confidence and cherish her secrets. These were the moments where we laughed at small jokes and cried about life’s mistakes. The only noise during the morning was the sound of sipping and conversation. These days, the morning light makes me remember those times, now that my mother is no longer with us. Sitting in that morning light, I hope to think she is still there with me. The Apache people say the morning light is a sacred time to visit with ancestors. The east is a sacred direction. I like the concept of seeing first light. thinking my first thoughts and feeling the connection to my mother as the light warms my face and the room. So, coffee reminds me of those moments sitting, drinking coffee, and conversing. Just me, my mother, and the quiet light.
On snacking while writing:
Snacking is such a strange situation. While writing, the only time I feel the need to snack is when I cannot resolve my writing or find myself in a rut with my writing. I usually have a “share size” packet of peanut M &M’s hiding in my cupboard. I do not eat them constantly but always have a couple of packs just in case. How I eat them varies, I always must sort them by color before I eat them. I start with the orange, yellow, green, blue, and then finally red. I have not figured why always specifically in that order, but I figured it is typical to end with red. I can only make the conclusion it has something to do with working out the problem to solving the issue in my writing. The red as my ethnicity which is probably symbolism pointing at me as solution towards my writing.
On his go-to late-night snack:
At the end of the day I usually end up staying up late watching television. My turn-to snack is different each time. I like unsalted pistachios, nut & fruit trail mix, Halo oranges, and sometime leftovers from our dinner night out. It is not as exciting as what I previously wrote about my favorite foods.
On his food quirks:
I do like to cook home meals. I can not start cooking unless the kitchen is clear and clean. If the kitchen is not, then I must clear and clean before I can start cooking. I also do not like dirty dished in the sink as I cook. I always must clean dishes as I cook. It is all about control, so, I am guilty of being a “control freak”.
On his final meal request:
My final meal request is to be in my mother’s kitchen helping her make her red chile enchiladas. Even as I am writing this, I can taste the earthiness and heat of the red chile. As a kid, it was always exciting to me when I knew my mother was making red chile enchiladas. We lived on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in a small housing community called “Palmer’s Loop”. The house was edged with chocolate color brown with a lighter brown stucco finish. The house had four bedrooms with two bathrooms with the front door facing south. The sitting room had a large window facing the front porch with invited a lot of light. This small room what where the television was kept. From that room I could always hear my mother begin making dinner. On the evenings she would make the enchilada dinners, I would quickly head into the kitchen and always ask if I can help. The enchilada preparation was extremely familiar to me: pulling the stems from the red chili pods, to grading the cheese. Once the pod stems were removed, they were soaked in warm water, as I pressed into the water with my hands. When done, I would then place them in the blender filling the blender pitcher half-way with the soaked warm water. I loved the rough sound of the blender motor as I hit the pulse mode. I knew if I helped, dinner would arrive quicker and that was all I had in mind. The kitchen filled with the pure aromas of delight. That kitchen can place me eternally there. I would eternally make those enchiladas, if those moments would allow me to have on more moment with my mother. All I have is the method of making those enchiladas. There was something special about her making enchilada dinners. Mine can never taste like hers, though I try and try. But that is with all her cooking. Nothing will ever compare.