Ladan Osman earned a BA at Otterbein University and an MFA at the University of Texas at Austin. Her chapbook, Ordinary Heaven, appears in Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press, 2014). The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (University of Nebraska Press, 2015) is the winner of the 2014 Sillerman First Book Prize. Her work has appeared in Apogee, The Normal School, Prairie Schooner, Transition Magazine, and Waxwing. Osman has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem, and the Michener Center for Writers. She is a contributing editor at The Offing and lives in Chicago.
Here, she talks about secret sources for delicious mac ‘n’ cheese, never feeling guilty about food, and snacking on her haters’ schemes.
On her all-time favorite meal:
Any rice or pasta dish my mother makes. I’ve been eating rich sauces with fresh vegetables since early childhood. She taught me to cook rice with cardamom and cinnamon, and how to layer ingredients so a dish looks simple but is full of flavor. There’s no particular story for any one dish but we’ve exchanged many stories in the hour it takes for rice to simmer in its broth, then bake in the oven. She’d tell me about rascal behavior in her youth, and my grandmother’s various punishments. I also have a source for profoundly delicious mac ‘n’ cheese. Every other mac ‘n’ cheese is trash now.
On her favorite meal of the day:
Dinner. I look forward to it all day so my cravings are concentrated. I prefer full servings of savory foods, and evening is when I give myself a chance to sit and enjoy meals. I like to think dinner is fuel for dream adventures.
On her go-to late-night snack:
Fries. My haters’ schemes.
On snacking while writing:
I don’t snack much while writing but when I do, it’s to avoid biting my nails. I eat raw almonds, berries and dates, and sometimes chips. I drink a lot of tea, mostly homemade chai or mint tea.
On her “guilty” pleasures:
Every once in a while I eat a disturbing amount of Somali halwo, or baklava and barfi. Mango milkshakes are also my downfall. I never feel guilty about food, though. It’s all gratitude.
On her food quirks:
I don’t drink plain milk, only chocolate milk. Sometimes I eat a thing simply because its color pleases me or it matches my outfit.
On her final meal request:
I want my last meal to be a buffet of my favorite home-cooked meals. My family and closest friends and I eat everything, and crack jokes about each other all night. We eat fruit and drink tea for dessert, and I have bits of every store-bought cake that gave me food poisoning as a child without getting sick. I die after the taste of this mystery mint gum my mom chews runs out.