In a Jam: The Cheese Made Me Do It

Ice Queen Interviews Roseanna Alice Boswell

Purchase Roseanna's book, Hiding in a Thimble, from Haverthorn Press today!

Ice Queen: I'm trying to think of where we should start because I have more questions now than when I spoke with Remi. Poor Remi! He was the tester.

Roseanna: He said it was great though!

Ice Queen: Well that's good! Hmm... Well, let's start where I've started with everybody! So tell me about your piece. Tell me about "Lizzo Eating Out the Center of a Burrito is Feminist Discourse.™"

Roseanna: Yeah! That poem was so much fun to write. I don't know if you've seen the video, but I wrote it really shortly after I watched it. Cause I was just like scrolling through Tik-Tokk, as one does, you know, and came across it.

And I was like, I literally can't stop watching her eat this burrito. And it just started making me think about it. I'm always kind of thinking about the way that food is sexualized the way we talk about it, who eats it, and how people eat it.

And I feel, particularly, advertisements like to sexualize the way women eat food— but it's always very heterocentric, very male gaze focused. And I felt like this video was this totally other thing, you know? So I just— I couldn't get out of my head! And I thought, This has to be a poem. I can't stop thinking about this until I write about it.

Ice Queen: Yeah, definitely it's very— I wouldn't say not sexual, the video, I would say if anything, it is just not intended to draw attention to the lips closing over the tip of [makes burrito holding motion] you know? With advertisements, it's always just the motion and this is: No, we're going to fucking eat this thing!

Roseanna: And it feels like that's a real move towards agency, right? So often I feel like, in commercials, where they show women having their lips closing over something, they're sort of reduced to objects at that moment. Because the focus is on the thing that they're eating and not them as people. And so this was like, no, like this is sexual, but it's about me and I don't know. Yeah. But I just, that flip shouldn't be revolutionary, but it is, or it was for me.

Ice Queen: I just love it because, I mean, it is just a really smart way to eat a burrito at the same time!

Roseanna: Yeah! So practical, right?

Ice Queen: I don't know if I'd ever actually do it though, 'cause I, you know, I have patterns. I have the way that I do a thing. So I don't know if I'd ever change it, but I'm not mad at it!

Roseanna: I know, I haven't tried it, but I should, like, I should try this then. But I too am a creature of habit. So I don't know if I ever will.

Ice Queen: So what did you love most about writing this poem?

Roseanna: I think just being able to inhabit this really playful space was a lot of fun. I feel like recently, especially a lot of the poetry I've been writing has been very serious. And I think it's... it's partially a product of things going on in my old life, but also the pandemic. Right? And there's been a lot of tragedy and loss and I had very much felt that effect on my poetry, but I felt like this poem was just Fun. This was just Play to write this and yeah, I think that was probably my favorite part if that makes sense.

Ice Queen: Yeah no, definitely. I love playful poetry. I feel like so many people sort of stray away from Play in poetry. And I think it's so important to include that as well.

Roseanna: Yeah, I agree!

Ice Queen: What would you say is your relationship to food in your writing?

Roseanna: That's a great question. I feel like I write about food a lot actually because I think I think about food a lot. And also because, as a fat woman, I write about the body a lot and how I feel in my own skin, but also how I interact with the world and how the world interacts with fat bodies. And so because of that, I think, I think about food a lot. And that kind of comes into my poetry.

And a lot of the time I like to write about food in this kind of playful way or pleasurable way. Right? But, I think because my poetry is so much to do with the body, it also inherently has so much to do with what we consume and how we consume it. And also how inherently different public versus private eating is— I have poems about eating out in public and the waiter switching your meal with your thin date. Things like that, but also just the food that you like to eat at home and what that relationship is like.

Ice Queen: I love that because now I'm curious in the general sense, How does your eating at home differ from eating out at a restaurant? And I guess I've never really thought that that's sort of where those weird food combinations really get to exist! What's your weirdest creation at home then?

Roseanna: Oh, I love that! I feel like this isn't that adventurous, but because of the pandemic (and just being home all the time) I started doing a lot more cooking and it just became this thing where everything goes in a bowl!

Like everything can be a bowl, any meal. And it's basically, I think I got that from somebody on Facebook, actually, she was like, You put an egg on it and everything is breakfast. And I was like, Oh, that's so true. You're right! And so it just became this thing of, Okay, what, what do I have in my fridge that's going to go in a bowl? And usually, I always have leftover rice in my fridge because you have to, you have to have rice around all the time. So leftover rice and then whatever protein stuff I have around. I eat vegetarian, so that's usually some sort of beans. And then just like any weird leftover thing I can find — leftover veggies, leftover whatever! And then of course with hot sauce and cheese on it, usually. You have to!

Ice Queen: Of course, I mean cheese is an addictive substance. So you have to, literally.

Roseanna: You literally must! I know. I keep thinking about going vegan because I really appreciate the way that it's good for the planet. And then I'm like but cheese. I can't do it. Never eat cheese again?

And I've tried the vegan cheeses and they're like the ghost of cheese. I appreciate what they're doing, but it's not the same.

Ice Queen: It's one of those things where I have to wonder— if some scientists claim that cheese is actually addictive, is it, then, the cheese inside of your brain that is telling you that the vegan cheese is not as good?

It's all a big conspiracy by Cheese! It's just the remnants of it telling you. It's not me. It's not as good as me.

Roseanna: I would not be surprised to learn that I have a cheese control center in my brain. That's just up there, saying "You know what'd be good? Some cheese." [Both laugh]

Ice Queen: Yeah. When I was younger, I used to get the Kraft cubes of cheese.

I would just devour the whole thing—like this was meant to feed 10, 15 people. Nope. It was just me.

Roseanna: It was just an Ice Queen size serving of cheese.

Ice Queen: Speaking of weird food combinations. My mom always ate— Not always, I shouldn't say always this wasn't like something she ate every single week— but she and my brother would get the Carl Buddig— I don't know if you ever got it growing up. Ultra-thin, super cheap cuts of deli meat— corned beef on peanut butter sandwiches.

Roseanna: [Laughs] I love food nostalgia.

Ice Queen: It was awful. The only thing worse to me is she loves a potted meat sandwich, that she'll mix up with mayonnaise and then just eat on bread.

Roseanna: When I was growing up the weird thing— I still like it to this day, but every time I tell people, they're like, oh my God gross— my mom and dad actually used to make us scrambled egg and peanut butter sandwiches. [Pause]

And it sounds gross. Like I see your reaction!

Ice Queen: ...

Roseanna: Well, like, I don't know. It's so good. It's like this protein punch. If you're ever just really starving, you toast the bread so the peanut butter gets a little melty and then you put scrambled eggs on it. I don't know. I feel like if I didn't grow up eating it though, I would be like, Hm, gross. Why?

Ice Queen: See, those are the things that you could only do at home.

Roseanna: Yeah! 'Cause I'm not going to go to a diner and be like, could you please make me a scrambled egg and peanut butter sandwich?

Ice Queen: And I feel like, unless you're going to some hoity-toity place, you're also not going to go to a diner and waste $5 on something that you've never had before.

In a diner experience, you're going for what you know. Most people aren't going to go in there and be like, well I'm going to try everything on this menu. You go in you know what you're getting.

I could see the eggs and peanut butter more than I can see the corned beef because I've had the corned beef and peanut butter. So I've actually tried it. It's not good.

Roseanna: What kind of peanut butter? Like smooth peanut butter? [Ice Queen nods] Okay. I don't know what I was expecting.

Ice Queen: I only eat smooth. I don't like peanuts unless they're boiled or in peanut butter.

Roseanna: That's fair. Yeah, peanuts are kind of gritty, which I never expect. I love peanut butter and boiled peanuts are great, but every once in a while I'll just be eating peanuts and I'll be like, Hmm, this is not hitting right today.

Ice Queen: It's not my go-to nut for snacks.

Okay. Segue from the weird. Well, I guess it doesn't have to segue depending on your answer. What is your favorite food show?

Roseanna: I really love The Great British Baking Show. The food is always so pretty. And also British food is a mystery to me. Like they're always, what is the word that they use? I never know what it is. They use it and it means something different every time. It's not pie, but it's like...

Ice Queen: Oh, pudding?

Roseanna: Yes! Thank you. That was going to kill me. Yes! They say pudding and I'm like, what's it going to be a dessert? Something with venison in it? Who knows, but I'm gonna watch and find out in this beautiful countryside tent, like TRULY escapism at its best.

Ice Queen: My husband studied in England while he was an undergrad for a semester. And he was so confused when he saw waffles on the ~pudding menu~ and he said, "Why are waffles under pudding?" And someone said, "Oh that's right, you have waffles for breakfast in America. We have them for pudding."

It kind of broke his brain like, "No, you have waffles for waffles and pudding for pudding!" And finally, they understood the mixup. What we call pudding they call Angel Delight.

Roseanna: Oh! Lovely.

Ice Queen: Yeah. I mean I would never call that Angel's Delight. Pudding fits the form of it and the texture. I would never eat it and think, oh, angels eat this! They were wrong about that one, but that's okay.

I love GBBO too. What I love is that the food is very pretty, but it's very pretty in a real way.

Roseanna: Yes.

Ice Queen: It's like, I believe that you did that in that amount of time. Cause it doesn't look perfect. I follow some of them on Instagram as well and you can see the difference between I had several days to do this versus I had six hours to do this.

Roseanna: And everybody's always so like nice on that show. Like the contestants are nice to each other. I feel like in American reality TV, contestants are always talking about how much they hate each other offscreen, you know, but I feel like they're all just, we're all like having a good time in the tent! And that's so wholesome!

Ice Queen: I spoke to Remi about it but I don't know if you've watched School of Chocolate?

Roseanna: I have not.

Ice Queen: Oh my God. It is also very wholesome! Lovely. It is a competition, but no one gets kicked out.

Roseanna: I love that.

Ice Queen: It's an actual school. So they're there to learn from Amauri. And he's just this like master pastry chef and chocolatier.

I don't know if you've ever seen any of his videos. He goes viral on Facebook probably about once every month for doing these chocolate sculptures like gigantic sculptures out of chocolate of like pterodactyls or he'll do a little thing where we see him make like a perfume bottle, but then he cuts into it and it's actually a pastry.

And it's not that it looks “real” (even though it does). That's not the draw of it. It's that you watched him throughout this entire process of making it. You know it's not what it looks like you’re seeing him cut into. It’s the process that’s amazing. And it looks like it tastes very good. That's always the most important thing to me when I see someone cut into a cake. Sometimes it's a GOTCHA like— "It's not really a raw chicken breast! It's a cake!" And I'm like, I don't want to eat raw chicken breast. And I don't want to eat something that looks like raw chicken breast, especially when the cake part of it is about *this big* [pinches fingers close] and the rest of it is just fondant.

Roseanna: Yeah. Have you seen the Netflix show Is it Cake?

Ice Queen: I refuse to watch it because I saw so many people saying you don't get to see them making the cake really. You just see the product and it's just about the guests. And I don't care about the guests I care about the cake.

Roseanna: No, it was truly the worst Remi and me, we had a really bad day, I don't even remember what happened, but I was just like, There are no thoughts in my brain and I need to watch the only, that's just like nothing, like no plot, just like pure fluff. And so we watched an episode. They had a fast food challenge. Taco cake or something. And I was like, this is ridiculous.

Ice Queen: There's another fantastic show. I'm trying to remember what it's called. I can't even remember if I talked about this with Remi. Probably not, I tried not to ramble on, because I know he doesn't like cooking shows.

Roseanna: Every once in a while, I'll get him to watch GBBO with me, but I know he's just doing it to be nice. Like he's like, it's so boring. They're just cooking. I don't get it.

Ice Queen: When he said it made him angry.

Roseanna: Because he gets mad when he gets bored! And I'm like, that is insane to me because when I was growing up, my mom and my grandmother would always be like only boring people are bored. So very much from a very early age that was drilled into me. You were not allowed to be bored, you will find something to do!

But I think we had very different philosophies about boredom growing up. So now, when he gets bored, he's like, oh, I'm just annoyed now. Cause I'm bored.

Ice Queen: That would be like my constant state of being then. Not that it isn't already, I'm probably mad at least 30% of the day over nothing. So I don't know. I guess I get it. [Both laugh]

I found the show it's called Baking Impossible.

Roseanna: Oh, I'm writing down all these titles.

Ice Queen: It's actually Andrew from GBBO, the engineer. He started this show and it teams up a baker and an engineer, right? Like I see your face and it's—

Roseanna: Immediately!

Ice Queen: Immediately yes! And it's so awesome because they have different challenges in each episode, and the way it's framed, it almost looks like they're all doing this in one day because they wear the exact same clothes, but obviously it's not because some challenges take them 15 hours! Obviously, if you're having to engineer something, it's not as simple. There's one challenge they had to build a car that can withstand a crash, but it has to be almost entirely edible.

So it's sort of like the functionality and the strength of baking, you know teamed up with the deliciousness of it. Cause obviously, you're not going to eat the parts of the car that are strong enough to withstand like a, like a 10-mile-per-hour crash. Cause that would not be pleasant to eat, but you're sort of protecting the part that is good to eat.