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Woman of the Beat Generation—Diane di Prima Tells Us “What She Ate Where”

About a year ago, I took an English course called Women Writers and the Metropolis. At the time that I registered for it, I was more or less concerned about finding a class that fit into my schedule and counted towards my major, but over the scope of the class I became more and more intrigued in the actual contents of the course and I found myself actually looking forward to going to that class. The reading selections were refreshing and enjoyable and didn’t put me to sleep. Since March is Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to use this space for both nostalgic and honorary purposes.

One of the assigned readings was a chapter from Diane di Prima’s book, Dinners and Nightmares. I have to be honest, I was biased towards Diane di Prima and automatically decided that I would not be any fan of hers. This was because I read How I Became Hettie Jones two years prior and di Prima’s name was dropped as the husband stealing home wrecker who lent a helping hand in the demolition of poor Hettie Jones’s marriage. Di Prima was already an established villain in my mind. But I digress. So we read the second to last chapter, “What I Ate Where” and after that I for some odd reason or another, I felt not only intrigued but also slightly inspired.

As a woman of the Beat Generation, Diane di Prima’s writing style undoubtedly reflects the movement that she was a part of. She rejects basic rules of writing such as capitalizing the first word in a sentence, grammar and sentence structure is whatever she wants it to be and pretty much she writes how the average person thinks— scattered all over the place. But for reasons that I can only try to explain, I loved every bit of it.

In “What I Ate Where” di Prima recounts some of the meals she shared with her fellow Beatniks on a typical day in the life as well as on special occasions. Di Prima recalls meals that make absolutely no sense at all. Her Thanksgiving of 1955 menu consisted of “clams on the half shell, roast duck, filet mignon, salad-mushrooms-asparagus, hot rolls, Chablis-vin rosé, and Italian pastry.” Now I love combining different foods together for just for thrills but this menu was just too much for me.

The only thing worse than Thanksgiving was di Prima’s account of “the food on east Fifth Street” that she shared on a daily basis with fellow Beatniks. The comfort food that was consumed on a daily basis was a poor mans meal. Potatoes in tomato soup. That’s what they ate. What did they call this dish? They called it menstrual pudding.
 Now normally I would draw inspiration from stories to recreate a dish but on this one I’ll definitely pass. Nevertheless, di Prima’s accounts in “What I Ate Where” delighted me because they seemed to come from a genuine and honest place and I was grateful that she shared these memories with us. I honestly believe that di Prima ate these crazy meals but more so, her accounts helped me to get a better understanding of the Beat Generation. I am intrigued by their rejection of cultural norms, their innovative mindset, and the literature produced all in the making. If I were a New Yorker living in the fifties, I more than likely would’ve been a Beatnik.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in Weird Meals

 

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Aside

It would be highly unacceptable for me to allow the month of February to pass without me acknowledging the influence of soul food on my life and on American food in general. In my own fashionably late salute to Black History Month, I indulge in my all-time favorite type of food and one that is synonymous with African American culture, experience, and culinary influence–soul food. While soul food is most commonly associated with Southern cooking, to me soul food is much more than just the regional origins of many classic African American dishes. Soul food is soul food because of its unifying properties, the sense of fulfillment it leaves you with, and most importantly the unique memories and history that is embedded within the food. I can go to a friend’s house for Sunday dinner and eat a plate full of glazed ham, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and cornbread just like I can at my own house. But something would be missing. Me making jokes with my grandmother and gossiping while we eat would be missing. The flashbacks of seeing my Nana earlier in the day boiling the ham, shredding the cheese, chopping the greens, sugaring the potatoes, and baking the bread would not be associated in the same way and my unyielding appreciation and awe for the food in front of me would not be so spectacular. Don’t get me wrong, eating away from home is great, but sometimes there is nothing like those family meals that you have grown accustomed to since childhood. That’s what soul food is to me. My grandmother’s North Carolinian roots and her acquired New York swag all encompassed in a small kitchen in Queens over a steamy stove and a hot oven is what goes into the soul food that I know and love.

America I AM Pass It DownChef Jeff Henderson and Ramin Ganeshram speak my kind of language when it comes to soul food. In their cookbook, America I AM Pass It Down Cookbook: Over 130 Soul-Filled Recipes they reflect on memories similar to the one I have shared and explain on how those memories helped to develop a sense of deep appreciation to soul food. Henderson and Ganeshram cookbook would. They use their book not only to bring us great recipes of soul food favorites; they also use it to salute the anonymous and acclaimed black Americans who helped to shape the culture and cuisine not only black America, but America in general.Many memories as well as rich historical background information for many of the recipes and food items we know and love are embedded within America I AM. I learned about the African influence on barbecue, the culinary impact of the European, Native American, West and Central African culture collisions, slave impact, and so much more. Honestly, I cannot praise this cookbook enough. It has made me so much more appreciative and proud to be apart of a group so culturally rich. And as a self-proclaimed foodie, it has created a desire for me to learn how to cook even more soul cuisine and to gain more knowledge about the many influences that have brought us to a cuisine that is truly ours–soul food.

For my Black History tributary dish, I prepared one of the recipes from America I AM: Craig Robinson’s Mom’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Yes, us blacks are stereotyped when it comes to fried chicken, but hey in my case the shoe fits so I’m wearing it. Get your hands on America I AM and find yourself a new favorite! Celebrate Black History Month

Celebrating Soul Food & Saluting Black History Month

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2013 in Fried Chicken, Soul Food

 

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V-DAY: Red, White, and Pink All Over

02.14; V-Day; The Day of Love; Valentine’s Day…..Whatever you want to call it, that day is approaching rapidly. Every year around this time I get sickened at the sight of those overly emotional and mushy couples that go to extremes in an attempt to display their love and affection. It is not jealousy or loneliness that sparks these repulsive feelings I have towards Valentine’s Day. I just feel like it is a pointless holiday. I mean, if your in love then everyday should be Valentine’s Day right? My boyfriend of almost five long years cannot wrap his head around the fact that I don’t like Valentine’s Day. He likes celebrating the holiday and all its ridiculousness so for him I try to put my feelings to the side and be a team player.

I thought it might be nice to read something that might get me into the Valentine’s Day spirit so I downloaded a free short story from Amazon entitled The Panty Dropper by Liv Morris. With a name like that, I thought “Okay, this has to be good.”

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The story is about 26 year old Emily who, like me, hates Valentine’s Day. She confesses:

           When the calendar turns to February, I dread the upcoming parade of roses and candy. And stupid red hearts appearing everywhere, seeming to mock me and my singleness.

Her and her best friend, Monica, plan a Valentine’s Day pity party for two but things diverge for Emily when the Panty Dropper unexpectedly shows up. Download the story and read it for yourself if you care to know what goes down!

So I broke down after all and decided to do something “cute,” “sweet,” and terribly cliche for Valentine’s Day. I decided that I would give my honey chocolates. But it would be done in my own fashion and I would get something out of this too. I decided to make chocolate lollipops instead of giving generic store bought ones. He gets his chocolate and I get to have fun making them.

Sometime ago, I purchased some candy molds for dirt cheap. There was some Valentine’s Day ones mixed in the bunch and they actually came in handy.

Candy Mold

The rest was pretty simple. I purchased some chocolate candy melts from a local store, melted them, then let my artistic side take control. 

Let’s hope my hard work doesn’t go unappreciated!

3BearsIII

❤Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Chocolate, Desserts, Sweetness

 

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A Piece of the Pie

First things first– Let it be known that my grandmother, Dorothy M. Walker, is the undisputed sweet potato pie baking champion! I only hope to be able to recreate her greatness one day. While I have tried, I just felt like something was missing and I have a theory of what it might have been. You see, she is an old school cook. She finds no use for recipes and cookbooks. Granny bakes solely off of instinct and intuition whereas I need directions for EVERYTHING! I guess you could say my cooking lacks confidence! So until I watch her make sweet potato pie 50 more times and learn the recipe, I’ll stick to my cook books!

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Seeing as how my granny is an original Southern Belle, I decide that this southern book would be appropriate for the occasion. 

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups evaporated milk

2 eggs, beaten well

1 1/2 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes

3 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

You can follow the directions at http://books.google.com/books?id=BkRvhbmZ5QMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=pie+recipes&hl=en&sa=X&ei=XmHJUJDnN5GM0QHRy4GwCg&sqi=2&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=sweet%20potato&f=false

I omitted the cinnamon because I know my grandmother does not use it. For whatever reason she dislikes cinnamon. However, everything looks and sounds familiar so I give it a go. And here’s what it looks like….

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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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An Ode to Oreo

If this is your favorite cookie of all time, I’m sorry to disappoint, but we do not share a common interest. In all honesty, I can only eat this cookie in one of two ways: either Double Stuffed with lots of water to chase the intense chocolatey flavor, or crunched up in some Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream (under no circumstance will I eat cookies and cream flavored ice cream…NO! I MUST mash the cookies up myself and put it in my own ice cream). However, I do respect my elders. And seeing that the Oreo cookie has celebrated its 100th birthday earlier this year, why not give it some shine?

So the plan was to come home and make myself a nice Oreo milkshake. I came home to two packages of Oreos but no Haagen-Dazs. Guess who was NOT going back outside just for some ice cream! But I did have some other scraps, like pancake mix….So I devised a plan B, something I’ve never attempted, or even tasted before…FRIED OREOS!!

The recipe was not tedious or time consuming at all. Unless, you follow it and make 30 cookies. Since I don’t have an army to feed, just myself, I only made six.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/deep-fried-oreos/

I must say, these things tasted better than I was expecting! Not something I would eat on a daily basis, but a nice little retreat from the norm. And the best part is that I can make it myself! Shove that street fairs!

While we’re on the subject, I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to digress and talk a little bit about one of my favorite books of all time, coincidently titled, Oreo, by Fran Ross. This book is an oldie but goodie! It was published in 1974, before I was even a thought in anyone’s mind. The main character, Oreo, is a half-Jewish, half-black teenage girl with a kick-ass attitude who sets out on a Theseus-like journey to find her father. Along her journey, she encounters all types of weird characters that she must defend herself against, namely Parnell the pimp. Oreo is not the least bit intimidated by any of them and unleashes the wrath of her self-created hwip-as karate on anyone who asks for it. Embedded in every chapter is pure comedy. All I can say is that this book is hilarious and it should be on every reader’s bucket list (for those who don’t know, that things to do before you kick the bucket). About two years ago, there was speculation about this book being turned into film and my heart sang with joy but sadly, I’ve heard no more about it. While I’m partially upset that I got my hopes up for nothing, I’d be even more angry if they just threw some half-ass movie out there for such an amazing book. So they can keep it until they have plans to do it right! Until then, I advise everyone to read this book while enjoying “Milk’s Favorite Cookie.”

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Cookies, Desserts, Sweetness

 

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Cookin’ Jamaican with a JaFAKIN

Cookin’ Jamaican with a JaFAKIN

Wah gwan mi yutes. Mi a gon talk in mi fake Jamaican accent for dis here post. Dis week I felt di spirit of di Carribbean in mi blood. I guess I’m tired of eating Yankee food all of the blasted time. So I found dis here cookbook fi teach me how to cook up someting nice.

Dis here book say dat you can jerk anything: shrimp, pork, chicken, even turkey!! But I don’t wan go thru all dat trouble. I just want to keep it simple, ya know. So mi say to myself “Aye gal, why not try fi jerk di chicken?!?” And mi never look back…

Here’s di recipe, follow along mon!

Authentic Jerk Chicken Recipe
This recipe tastes a lot better because the meat is allowed to marinate for 2 days.
INGREDIENTS
2 cups finely chopped escallion
2 scotch bonnet peppers minced
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps fresh lime juice
5 tsps ground allspice
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 tbsp salt
2 tsps sugar
¼ cup dried thyme crumbled
1 tsp cinnamon
5 lbs chicken parts
vegetable oil for brushing the grill
 
PREPARATION
1.      Make the marinade in a blender by puree the escallion, the pepper, the soy sauce, the lime juice, the allspice, the bay leaves, the garlic, the salt, the sugar, the thyme and the cinnamon.
2.      Divide the chicken parts place in plastic bags and spoon the marinade over them, coating them well.
3.      Seal the bags pressing out the excess air, and let the chicken marinate, chilled turning the bags over several times, for 2 days.
4.      On an oiled rack set 4 to 6 inches over glowing coals grill the chicken, in batches if necessary and covered if possible, for 10 to 15  minutes on each side, or until it is cooked through.

I make di marinade….

FYI- Yes I actually did let the meat marinate for two days!

Two days later mi ready to fire up di grill!!

Click here to see all di action mon!

And here is di finished product!

*recipe courtesy of getjamaica.com

 
 

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Almond Moon Cookies and Me

Before I begin, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ameena and I have a mean sweet tooth. I might be the only person I know that gets a toothache from NOT eating sweets…thats how real it is. I’m no master chef, but I love to experiment, even if it goes terribly wrong (which it does from time to time). Above all, I’m just a skinny black girl with a bottomless pit for a stomach.

So, today was an unfulfilling day………..okay let me be real: IT WAS BORING AS ALL HELL!!! The weather depressed me and made me wish I was home in my bed taking a 3-hour nap, waking up to eat, use the bathroom, and then going back to sleep! Work was dead!! Like really! It was freezing cold in that office and just too quiet for me. If it wasn’t for the computer in front of me and the occasional phone ring, I might have thought I was in an Alaskan mortuary! Smh. I tried to hang in there but I couldn’t do it. I did something I’m ashamed to admit but phuket these things happen……I fell asleep at work. My coworker passed by and woke me up (lucky for me she’s also my cousin) and we just laughed. If it were anyone else I would’ve had to be quick on my toes and try to play it off. (I always thought that if I ever got caught sleeping I would just say “In Jesus name, AMEN” and told whoever that I was just saying a short prayer. Who can argue with that?)

So in an attempt to stay awake, I went on amazon.com and browsed through the Top 100 Free Kindle Books. Sweetness: Delicious Baked Treats for Every Occasion by Sarah Levy was somewhere in the top ten, so I figured why not? Free and informative; can’t beat that.

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So I had the book, I began flipping through the pages, only half interested because one, my kindle is in black and white and that took all the thrill out of the pictures and two, because I was half asleep and not in much of a mood to read a black and white cookbook. But anyway, I flipped to the recipes and I had to laugh at the first recipe I stumbled upon, The Almond Moon Cookie.

I wasn’t laughing at the recipe itself, or the name of it. I was laughing at the opening line on the page. “Do you sometimes feel sluggish in the late afternoon? These almond moon cookies will give you just the jolt you need.” Smh, Sarah boo I need these like right now!

So I leave work early, still depressed because I have to go home and do a ish load of homework. Now, little miss Sarah said that her moms’ almond moon cookies give you energy right? Great! I think I’ll put them to the test! If she lied, I shall sue her….just kidding……….maybe.

So I gather all my supplies….

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and I say to myself “It’s about to go DOWN!” (Kevin Hart voice)

I’m getting my chef Boyardee on, when suddenly tragedy strikes..

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one of the damn whisk on the hand mixer breaks! Granny is NOT going to be happy when she finds out about this! But I can’t stop now! One whisk just gotta do the work of two! Like Granny always says, “One monkey don’t stop no show.”

So I keep doing my thing, following miss Sarah Levy’s directions…..well not exactly, she said to make them into nice round balls (pause) so they resemble a full moon, but I really didn’t feel like it, not tonight….

ImageSo at this point, I’m looking at these unbaked cookies thinking that this was a bad idea. I tasted the cookie dough and I was not pleased at all. It tasted bland as hell. But I went too far to not finish the job. So into the oven they go!

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Imageabout thirty five minutes later, they come out looking good and smelling good too! Who would’ve thought?

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I let them cool, and put the finishing touches on these bad boys….

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I call in my test dummy…..

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She gives me two thumbs up, and I pat myself on the back. But before I gloat too much… I have to see for myself….

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Seal of Approval! Can’t speak for the energy part yet but the cookie itself is mmm mmm good!

 

Here’s the link to Sarah Levy’s website and the recipe for Almond Moon Cookies for those of you who want to try it yourselves.

http://slevyfoods.com/favorite-recipes/moms-almond-moon-cookies/

 

Oh yeah, before I go I gotta say R.I.P. to the homie B&D. Gone but not forgotten.

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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in Cookies, Desserts, Sweetness

 

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