Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of four books. His latest collection of poetry, Felon, was published in October 2019 by W.W. Norton. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School.
Here, he talks about his first Christmas dinner, sustainable sushi, and avoiding contemplation of a last meal.
On his all-time favorite meal:
It’s like you’re channeling my sadness or something. But I’m working on telling this story, so I’ll tell it here again. When I went to prison, when I first got to the receiving center, this place that you go before they send you to the actual prison, I had my first Christmas dinner. We had Cornish hens and that shit was delicious. I mean, I didn’t know what a Cornish hen was. And I thought, prison is horrible but Christmas dinner might make due. Never had another meal like that while in prison. Then, later learned that a Cornish Hen is a young chicken. Eating that meal and loving it, we were all young boys. Most of us teenagers. This was 1997. I could never really enjoy Cornish Hen after that. Best and worst, at least amongst the best and worst, things that the Department of Corrections ever did for me.
On what the light looks like during his favorite meal of the day:
If the meal is good, I’m probably not thinking about the light. But part of the whole favorite meal thing is the hunger. And I’ve had a series of favorite meals, moments that help me remember everything else. The lighting hasn’t always been good, so maybe I remember that less. Though, for our tenth anniversary my wife and I were on a trip and had the most amazing meal. We ate outside, the drinks were perfect, the food memorable. But mostly, I remember the light falling on her face. I noticed how well her make-up was done – and realized that she was just damn beautiful.
On snacking while writing:
Sometimes. Chips. Whisky. All depends. Kale chips on some random occasions. Seaweed. But writing requires concentration and I don’t really like getting my keys dirty.
On his go-to late-night snack:
There is a spot in New Haven called Miya’s. Bun is the chef and they do all kinds of great food and make it a point to do sustainable dishes, making delicious food out of invasive species that would otherwise just take over. Things like that. But the food is just great and sometimes I go by for late-night sushi.
On his food quirks:
I won’t drink out of glasses that look like their surface is rough. I just refuse. But other than that, not really.
On his final meal request:
Final meal request makes me think about death row. So I’ve never let myself contemplate it. I can’t know. Though, I get it seems silly. There is just the reality that we still have people on death row in America and the game of prison is to find ways to keep your sanity and some might do it by contemplating a last meal, so I just cannot contemplate mine.