Saturday, November 22, 2014

Remembering Father Divine

Cook at Father Divine Mission, Harlem 
Father Divine (aka the Reverend General Jealous Divine and aka George Baker) operated budget cutting integrated restaurants in his Peace Center and Nazareth Missions that fed people for very little during the depression. In contrast to most African-American urban clergy who avoided such sermons, Father Divine talked about conversion, but he also denounced racism and the inability of a country blessed with material abundance to feed its citizens. I interviewed Dorothy M. Evelyn who was born in Harlem in 1924. She went to Divine’s Peace Centers for meals on many occasions. Evelyn remembers that for “ten cents and fifteen cents you get fried chicken, corn bread, macaroni and cheese . . . It was southern cuisine. Most of them must have been southerners because that’s what they cooked.” She goes on to say, “Yes sir, for fifteen cents you could . . . get [an] all you could eat" meal which included fish and meat.

Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter

Lenten Season Series with Related Recipes:

Great Depression Stories and Recipes:

Midwest Eats! Foodways of the Great Depression: [Listen Now 1hr 24 min 30 sec]

Photographing Father Divine: [Listen Now 19 min 29 sec]

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ecuadorian Foodways

Encebelloado de pescado (image courtesy of Laylita's Recipes ), this and other recipes below
Speaking of indigenous foodways in Guayaquil, Ecuador in early 1700s, Captain Jorge Juan Antonio De Ulloa of the Spanish Navy writes, “The first course consists of different kind of sweetmeats, the second of high-seasoned ragouts; and thus they continue to serve up an alternative succession of sweet and high seasoned dishes . . . The coasts and neighboring ports abound in very delicious fish, [which] . . . constitute a considerable part of the food of the inhabitants of Guayaquil.” One finds “very large and fine lobsters, of which they make delicious ragouts,” which they season . . . with Guinea pepper, which, though small, is so very strong” says the Captain. He adds, the “person, not accustomed to it, suffers either way. If they eat, their mouths seem in a flame; if they forbear, they must endure hunger, they have to overcome their aversion to this seasoning; after which they think the Guinea pepper the finest ingredient in the world for [seasoning] their food. Here is a recipe for encebollado de pescado, a popular fresh tuna soup made with cassava, olive oil, onions, garlic, cilantro, and limes from Guayaquil.

Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oral Histories and Foodways

Chess Pie, recipes below
Lamenta D. [Watkins] Crouch was born in 1947 in Greenbay, Virginia, in Prince Edward County, about ninety miles from Richmond. During her childhood she ate alot of meals in other people’s homes as the daughter of a father who served as a local pastor and a pastor at several churches out of town. For dessert southerners in Virginia served Lamenta Crouch and her family pound cake, chess pie, and “very rarely apple pie.” I had never heard of chess pie before the interview. There are many theories of where the name comes from (English for cheese or custard type pies or a southern pie chess where folks stored pies) but know one really knows. Please share your comments, recipes, and stories about chess pie below.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Brining, History of A Turkey Preparation

Smoked and jerked turkey, recipes below (image from Caribbean smokehouse  www://
Brining is an ancient tradition in which people across the globe used salt, water, and spices to conserve meat long ago before the advent of refrigeration. It’s submerging the turkey in a bucket with a ratio of iced water, salt, and spices. The process of osmosis hydrates the turkey meat making the final result delightfully seasoned and juicy.  Brining reduces the cooking time to about 2 hours, seasons the meat, and produces a tender and moist turkey that melts in your mouth. Another preparation is a southern family recipe that uses a pillowcase to make a seasoned juicy bird. Remember your bird is ready when it's cooked to 165 degrees. 

Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter

Turkey Stories and Recipes:

How to Brine Video:


Pillow Case Turkey Recipe:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Family Thanksgiving Recipes and Oral History

Corn bread, this and many other Thanksgiving recipes below
 What we eat on special occasions like Thanksgiving Day tells a great deal about our family history including where we migrated from and how our income and education has changed over generations. For example Nineteenth century travel accounts tell us that in the U. S. South whites of Scots-Irish,  German, and and French origins who lived and worked in close proximity to Native Americans and enslaved African from West and Central Africa often ate the same inexpensive delicious dishes that they developed in response to their economic status and access to food. Regardless of class most homes had corn (an American grain) in one shape or another on their table such as corn bread. Moreover the majority enjoyed wild game such as turkey, greens, sweet potatos (an American tuber) black eyed peas (an American legume) and rice (an African grain). Today no holiday table for people with southern roots would be complete without many of these foods.  

Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter

Corn Stories and Recipes:

Turkey Stories and Recipes:

Sweet Potato Stories and Recipes:

Black Eyed Peas Stories and Recipes:

Rice Stories and Recipes:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Africa in Culinary Context, Smoked Fish

Ceebu Jën (rice and smoked fish), recipe below 
The British explorer Harry Hamilton Johnston visited the Congo River region just after the Berlin Conference of 1884; European empires in Berlin discussed how to colonize Africa without fighting each other. Hamilton  writes, "it is a most common sight to see [the] Ba-yansi people . . . on a great sandbank in the middle of the river, smoking . . . newly-caught fish over immense wood fires.” Johnston goes on to say, "I have often bought and eaten these smoked fish" and "they are delicious—yes, emphatically delicious.” Below is smoked fish and vegetable recipe from the same region.

Ceebu Jën (rice and smoked fish) recipe

Stuffing mixture (roof or roff):
2 chopped green, yellow, or red sweet peppers
1 chopped scallion or onion
1 minced garlic
1/3 cup of fresh parsley, bay leaf, or cilantro
Salt to taste
Hot chili peppers to taste

Sauce and vegetables
1 cup red palm oil (substitute a vegetable oil)
2 chopped onions
Medium sized piece of dried smoked fish, such as cod or herring
3 pounds of whole cleaned sea bass, haddock, or halibut fish steak
1 can of tomato paste
4 whole tomatoes
1 or more chopped carrots, cassava, potatoes, or yams
1 hot chili pepper
Add a bit of fruit vegetables such as chopped squash, eggplant, zucchini, and okra with the ends removed
2 cups or more of brown rice

Prepare the roof (or roff) by combining the stuffing mixture ingredients and grinding them into a paste, adding a little oil or water if needed. Many cooks include what seems to be an essential in Africa: a Maggi cube. Cut deep slits into the fish (but not all the way through) and stuff them with the roof mixture. Heat the oil in a large pot. Fry the onions and smoked fish for a few minutes and then remove the fish and set aside. Stir the tomato paste and a cup of water into the oil in the pot. Add the root vegetables and tubers and the hot chile pepper. Add water to partially cover them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or more. Add the leaf and fruit vegetables, place the fried fish on top of them, and continue to simmer for an additional twenty minutes or until the vegetables are tender. The fish and all the vegetables and set them aside, keeping them warm. Remove a cup or two of the vegetable broth and set it aside. Add the rice to the vegetable broth. Add water or remove liquid as necessary to obtain two parts liquid to one part rice. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on very low heat until the rice is cooked about twenty minutes. It should stick a little to the bottom of the pot. Find the hot chili among the vegetables. Combine it to the reserved vegetable broth in a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Remove and discard the pepper and put the sauce into a dish or gravy boat. When the rice is done turn the pot over onto a large serving platter. Scrape the crust from the bottom of the pot over the rice. Arrange the fish and vegetables over and around the rice. Garnish as desired. Serves 4 to 6 people.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Through Lens of Food

Potato Soup, this and other Civil War recipes below 
“[W]e don’t get our rations as we ought to. All the rations that are condemned by the white troops are sent to our regiment,” writes Benjamin Williams, a nineteen-year-old African American private from Philadelphia in the Union Army. Let's take a look at Veterans Day through the words of a US Civil War soldier. Writing from jail on Morris Island in South Carolina Williams goes on to say, “You ought to see the hard tack [rock hard biscuits/crackers] that we have to eat. They are moldy and musty and full of worms, and not fit for a dog to eat,” he wrote on July 8, 1864. Union soldiers on the front lines survived in part on hardtack and in part on foraging and creative cooking ideas. 

Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter

Civil War Soup Recipes:

Civil War Stories and Recipes: