An Open Letter to Paula Deen

I came across this blog post thanks to Bitch Media out of Portland, Oregon. Not only do I find it interesting because of all the hype around Paula Deen this week, but also because Michael makes great points about the power of language, and the evolution of food.

Afroculinaria

An Open Letter to Paula Deen:

meinkitchen

Photo Courtesy of: Johnathan M. Lewis

Dear Paula Deen,

So it’s been a tough week for you… believe me you I know something about tough weeks being a beginning food writer and lowly culinary historian.  Of course honey, I’d kill for one of your worst days as I could rest myself on the lanai, the veranda, the portico (okay that was really tongue in cheek), the porch..whatever…as long as its breezy and mosquito-free.  First Food Network now Smithfield.  (Well not so mad about Smithfield—not the most ethical place to shill for, eh, Paula?)

I am currently engaged in a project I began in 2011 called The Cooking Gene Project—my goal to examine family and food history as the descendant of Africans, Europeans and Native Americans—enslaved people and enslavers—from Africa to America and from Slavery to Freedom.  You and I are both human, we…

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Poetry Monday and Family Secrets

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Don’t fret, the title seems more scandalous than it really is. In last week’s Poetry Monday I mentioned my great-grandmother who died of Alzheimer’s. Although she died of this disease when I was young, I vividly remember walking down the long gravel drive with my younger sister to her house to share cookies and visit. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned more about the wonderful woman who would offer us cookies, and constantly push my sister’s growing bangs out of her child-face.

Some of what I’ve learned about her resulted from doing research for the family cookbook I mentioned in my About page. In assembling my cookbook, I wanted to keep an equal amount of recipes from all sides of my family, so I asked my grandmother for the recipes her mother used when she was a child. My grandmother laughed and claimed my great-grandmother, we’ll call her Grandma Hazdovac, despised working in the kitchen. Instead, she focused her creative juices on painting and writing poetry. Although I could not include any recipes from Grandma Hazdovac, I still wanted to commemorate her, and I did so by using her paintings throughout the cookbook.

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Along with her paintings, my grandmother discovered copies of poetry Grandma Hazdovac had written, published, and received awards for. Not only was I surprised about Grandma Hazdovac’s creative side, I was even more astonished that she earned money for her poetry. Her poetry is a contrast to Jane Kenyon’s simple, yet powerful poetry from last week. Instead, Hazdovac’s poetry achieves boldness through a different means.

The Spirit That Was, Still Is

There is a rumble in the land
As of a giant awakening
After long years of slumber.
The land became languid
Nearly lost her freedoms
And relinquished her rights
To those who rule.
She found herself void
Of all her dreams and values
Power became her god
And the land was steeped in greed
It was ripe for ruin.

The spirit of the past bestirs
The voice of concern is heard
And shakes the foundations of her apathy,
The giant awakes- –
The land again becomes the people.

Anna Hazdovac

Perhaps one of my favorite poems we found of Grandma Hazdovac’s is the following which refers to wanderers or drifters when she was growing up in a Slovakian immigrant family in Monterey, California.

The Mark On The Gate

He came to gate
Stopped, lifted the latch
Shuffled through the garden
Up the back steps
Knocked on the door.
I remember his dusty shoes
The old crushed hat
Red handkerchief around his neck.
He sat on the steps
Mama gave him some food and milk.
“Where did he come from Mama?”
“The railroad tracks,” she answered.
Oh, I remembered–
Papa told me about them
They left a mark on the gate
If people were kind to them.
He finished his lunch
Shuffled back to the gate
Put the latch in place–was gone.
“Mama, can little girls be hobos?”

Anna Hazdovac

If you’re a Mad Men fanatic like me, this will remind you of something. If not, watch it; it’s great. Not only do I like this because it provided me with a childhood story of my great-grandmother I probably would have never heard, but I love the question at the end. The answer to the child’s question is obvious. Women could not be hobos, instead they would likely be prostitutes, or some other form of the fallen woman. It’s a simple question, yet it got the women’s and gender studies side of my brain working.

What do you think about these poems? How do you respond to them in comparison to Kenyon’s poetry?

A Healthy Alternative–Kale Chips

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I have to admit I wanted to write this earlier today, but I’ve been distracted by my garden all afternoon. I’ve been transplanting, weeding, pruning, planting, and talking to my seedlings because I’ve heard that makes them grow faster (or that’s just my excuse for talking to myself). I was pleased to see immature tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapenos making an appearance.

Two of the vegetables I’m growing in my garden this year for the first time is Swiss Chard and Kale. Last spring break I visited my aunt in Santa Barbara, California and we tried out kale chips for the first time together. They were delicious and a bit healthier than other salty snacks like potato chips. Once I got a hold of my own kale, I realized I could enjoy kale chips made at home. Not only are the kale chips homemade, but they are even healthier than packaged kale chips found in grocery stores because I know exactly where the ingredients are coming from, and they don’t contain extra ingredients and preservatives. 

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I’ll admit, my home-grown kale probably isn’t mature enough to make large batches of kale chips, but I just couldn’t wait. Before using my clean, sharp kitchen shears to harvest my kale, I looked up a few different kale chip recipes to get different flavor possibilities. I decided on the three following flavors: chili lime, lemon pepper, and salt & vinegar.

Some of the other flavors I stumbled upon included roasted garlic, creamy dill, balsamic vinegar, french onion, soy & sesame, along with cheesy black pepper. I’ll post the recipes for each below if you’re feeling creative. But first, I’ll give you the kale chip basics.

After harvesting or purchasing your kale, gently rinse and dry the leaves thoroughly. I skipped this step because I know my kale came from a pesticide and herbicide free garden. If you do plan to wash your kale be sure to get each water particle off every piece, otherwise you will likely end up with soggy chips. After drying, place your bite-sized kale into either a large bag, or roomy, lidded Tupperware. Add olive oil, and shake to cover leaves. The next step is to add any seasonings or flavors, and the spread out chips evenly on a baking sheet. In a 350 degree oven, bake till crisp for about 10 minutes, and enjoy. 

As I mentioned above, I tried out the chili lime, lemon pepper, and salt & vinegar flavors. Our family favorite was the lemon pepper, with salt & vinegar a close second. Also, I’d like to say the last photo is unfortunately not taken by me, because the chips seemed to disappear before I could snap a picture. 

Thanks to Womens’ Health and Refinery 29 for these adventurous flavor recipes:

For each, you can either add the ingredients to the bag to shake up, or sprinkle on before baking.

Lemon Pepper: sprinkle oiled chips with lemon pepper seasoning
Salt & Vinegar: 1 quarter cup sherry vinegar (I used rice vinegar) + 2 tsp fine salt
Chili Lime: Juice of 1 lime + 1 tsp lime zest + 2 tsp chili powder
Balsamic Vinaigrette: 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar + 1 tbsp Dijon mustard + 2 tsp Herbes de Provence
Roasted Garlic: 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped + 3 tsp garlic salt
Creamy Dill: 1 tbsp sour cream mixed with base olive oil + 3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
Soy & Sesame: 2 tbsp soy sauce + 1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
French Onion: 1 packet (or two tbsp) french onion dip or soup mix, combine with olive oil 
Cheesy Black Pepper: 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil + 1/4 cup (loosely packed) shredded white cheddar cheese + 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

I hope you get a chance to try a few of these out. If you do, let me know which flavor is your favorite!

 

 

Gluten-Free Pizza Made at Home

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If you suffer from Celiac Disease, have a sensitivity to gluten, or you just want to try out something new, I’d recommend giving Namaste Foods a try. I first came across the company’s wide array of products due to my aunt who lives in a small, north Idaho town, and who is friends with one of the women who started the company in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. My aunt mentioned to her friend that I was a college student with a gluten sensitivity, and her friend graciously loaded up boxes of Namaste’s products for my aunt to pass along to me. I was thrilled; not only was it free food, but it tasted great, and I could be confident that the food would not leave me feeling sick to my stomach. So far, I’ve tried just about everything they have to offer, and I’d have to say their chocolate cake is by far my favorite. I make it all the time and people are surprised to hear it is dairy, egg, and gluten-free.

The reason why I wanted to focus on this company is not only their generosity and concern for their customers, but because I finally got around to trying the Namaste pizza mix.

The mix itself is fairly easy to make, especially compared to making pizza dough from scratch. The directions are on the back, but just so you can get a feel for what you might be getting yourself into, you blend together about 1 part mix, 1 part water, and 1 teaspoon of oil for 3 minutes with a hand-held mixer–and that’s it! You bake it like a normal crust, put on your toppings, re-bake, and enjoy.

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For my toppings, I used chicken, sausage, olives, red and yellow bell peppers, chives, tomatoes, and a variety of cheeses. To add my own personal flair, I sprinkled everything with finely chopped herbs from my garden, including basil, oregano, rosemary, and parsley. I also added this mix to the sauce, along with a healthy spoonful of minced garlic.

Overall, I am very pleased with my creation. The only thing I would change is to have a bit crunchier crust. Next time I will flip my crust before adding my toppings and baking the pizza for the final time.

How does gluten-free pizza made at home sound to you? Have you had any luck with making gluten-free pizza on your own? If so, what brands would you recommend for me to try out?

Poetry Monday–Finding Beauty in Aging and Alzheimer’s

 

For our first poetry Monday I’d like to highlight Jane Kenyon who I was introduced to by Laurie Lamon. The three poems I will post are out of her collection titled Otherwise. One of the many reasons why I enjoy Kenyon’s writing as much as a I do is because of her poetry’s accessibility. While she is by no means a simplistic poet, she takes simple topics and expands them beyond anything I could imagine.

Much of the poetry in this collection touches on the topic of aging and death. I chose these three poems for today because in my initial reading of them all, they instantly reminded me of my great grandmother who died at age 96 from Alzheimer’s disease. I would love to hear what you think about them; hopefully you find them as beautifully heartbreaking as I do.

In The Nursing Home

She is like a horse grazing
a hill pasture that someone makes
smaller by coming every night
to pull the fences in and in.

She has stopped running wide loops,
stopped even the tight circles.
She drops her head to feed; grass
is dust, and the creekbed’s dry.

Master, come with your light
halter. Come and bring her in.

 

The Needle

Grandmother, you are as pale
as Christ’s hands on the wall above you.
When you close your eyes you are all 
white–hair, skin, gown. I blink
to find you again in the bed.

I remember once you told me
you weighed a hundred and twenty-three,
the day you married Grandfather.
You had handsome legs. He watched you 
working at the sink.

The soft ring is loose on your hand.
I hated coming here.
I know you can’t understand me.
I’ll try again,
like the young nurse with the needle.

 

Ironing Grandmother’s Tablecloth

As a bride, you made it smooth,
pulling the edges straight, the corners square.
For years you went over the same piece
of cloth, the way Grandfather walked to work.

This morning I move the iron across the damask,
back and forth, up and down. You are ninety-four.
Each day you dress yourself, then go back to bed
and listen to radio sermons, staring at the ceiling.

When I visit, you tell me your troubles: 
how my father left poisoned grapefruit on the back 
porch at Christmas, how somebody comes at night
to throw stones at the house.

The streets of your brain become smaller,
old houses torn down. Talking to me
is hard work, keeping things straight,
whose child I am, whether I have children. 

 

To me, Kenyon is summing up the heartbreaking, yet beautiful aspects of growing old through these poems; how she does both simultaneously is inspiring to me.

What do you think?

An Introduction to Poetry Monday

One of my goals for this blog is to be able to focus on at least one poem or poet a week. Hopefully this will introduce both you and me to new poems, poets, and types of poetry. Before I introduce the three poems for this week (I couldn’t just choose one) I’d like to start with a disclaimer. A year ago I wasn’t even reading poetry let alone writing it; my relationship with poetry was one of avoidance. This all changed when I finally took a required course for my writing major at Whitworth University. The course was an upper-division course called Advanced Poetry Workshop, which for me, was a more intimidating course title than Francophone African Literature and Film, or Literary Criticism. However, my fears faded during our first class session when the amazing woman and wonderful poet Laurie Lamon introduced herself wearing green tights and bearing Oreo cookies. Although she doesn’t have biological children of her own, Laurie is one of the most motherly women I know, and her efforts to re-introduce me to poetry completely changed my mind about poetry being ‘confusing’ and ignited an appreciation of poetry of my own. In my course reflection I wrote the following about the course:

“I think I can best describe my personal writing process as learning how to become a runner. Like poetry, running is difficult for me. I’ve often told myself I hated it. However, this is not true—I don’t hate running, and I certainly don’t hate poetry, but both take deliberation, patience, and a vow to keep moving. Also like running, before sitting down to write, or start, a poem I found myself finding any excuse to get out of it, but when I finished I feel refreshed and accomplished.”

With this being said I’d like to invite you to give poetry another try–look at it from a fresh perspective– or just further your own love for poetry. Also, I would like to invite any comments on the poetry I post, what you like, what you think could have been executed better, and any poets or poetry you are currently reading. I certainly do not consider myself an expert on contemporary poetry and I would love to learn a few more names.

Rhubarb Cake

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Two weeks ago I started my summer job working at a grain elevator. So far my time has been spent in training and preparing for wheat harvest in the Columbia Basin. Although Eastern Washington is described as a desert wasteland, those who live here know how it prospers through agriculture. Because wheat harvest won’t start till about mid-July, I often find myself looking for things to do around the office. Also, because I’m ‘the new girl’ I wanted to find a way to make myself comfortable in the new space. My dad, who let’s be honest got me the job, mentioned to the guys that I had made a delicious rhubarb cake and that I should make another. At first I shook his suggestion off thinking it would be inappropriate, but then I realized the men who work with my dad aren’t much different from him. They too are fathers to daughters, even if they are grown, and they too have a sweet spot for food. I figured this is my in, and the next morning I woke up earlier than normal to pack my cooking utensils and pre-measured ingredients. The cake turned out beautifully, especially topped with vanilla ice cream, and the guys haven’t stopped talking about it a week later.

So I thought I share both my story and the recipe I used. First of all I’d like to get it out there that I’m not particularly a fan of rhubarb and I enjoy this cake. Secondly, I would advise all of you food and cooking fanatics to download the app called Foodily. The site is gorgeous and updates with new recipes daily which you can customize according to your preferences.  I found this recipe on Foodily which is linked to a wonderful food and cooking blog titled not without salt where you can find the original post for this recipe (or you can keep reading and find it below) along with other interesting recipes.

Let’s get on with it; the wait is over.

Rhubarb Cake

2 cups chopped (rough 1/2″) rhubarb
1/2 cup (not packed) brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, soft
1 cup (not packed) brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt (I used greek vanilla and it turned out fine)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda

Butter and flour a 8 or 9″ (2″ high) round cake pan.

Pre-heat your oven to 350*

In a small bowl add the rhubarb and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Let it sit for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl cream the butter and 1 cup brown sugar until light. Then mix in the egg and vanilla. Add the rhubarb mixture and yogurt. Stir well. In another bowl whisk together the dry ingredients then add it to the rest of the ingredients stirring well to combine.

Spread in your prepared pan and bake for 50- 60 minutes or until the middle of the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

I hope you enjoy!! And if you are a rhubarb nay-sayer, like I was, I hope this may change your mind.