Wednesday, May 19, 2010

[Strange Fruit] an essay on eating & healing


"all aspects of my life are focused on liberation and love, and how to become an expert at both."

-- shonettia monique

intro by k. ulanday barrett

how do you use food for healing or much different but more crassly put, self-medicate with food? as people committed to social change we skip meals during campaigns or finals week, we purge on bags of chips when we are broke and broken hearted, we slip out to diners after long nights of dancing to beautiful music only to dredge our organs with some deep fried goodies. we embody complexities striving for consistency in a demanding rough and rumbling world.

i know i have been guilty of eating processed foods(duh!), dairy heavy(2 words: goat cheese), not local, not the best for me- food. somewhere along those lines i can point to any of these factors impacting my thoughtless decisions to eat unhealthily. i was balancing 3 jobs, an abusive relationship, death in the family. or maybe not, maybe a core group in an organization just finished a major event and we went out to celebrate giddy and high from our impact. or it could've been right after a show where people were kind enough to celebrate with a table covered in food, the fortunate ones that we are.

having been a long-time chicagoan and pancake lover where 24 hr. eateries extends to taquerias and diners, i've digested a decent share of junkified heaven sent when the moment strikes whether it was joyous or joyless.

below is a good friend's essay that discusses how she personally relates food with music and healing. she asks pertinent questions to our community-minded spirits that i think we should ask ourselves more. why don't we crave healthy distractions? what does self-love take for women and queer people of color? and most importantly, how do we forgive ourselves, not for disappointing others but for own harsh self-criticisms?

i am not saying we need to stop and freeze our eating habits of anything that isn't green, local, and homemade (or am i?). i understand the limitations that finances and location can create when it comes to an organic vegetable- based meal. knowing me by now dear homies, you know i am not gonna jump with the quickness to be the representative to abolish all fried foods. however, what i do propose are the questions and issues shonettia struggles with in this piece of mindful and raw writing. how can we undo the rhythm of unsupportive nourishment when it becomes our go to, our escape plan? we all have our own theories about how food is used as a weapon, but what can we do to make sure we don't injure our own selves when we are most (physically and spiritually) hungry?

thanks to gifted artist, healer, and dancer plus good fam, shonettia for her willingness to divulge some of her journey towards healing for our interweb eyes to examine.


Strange Fruit by Shonettia Monique

My body is pissed off at me tonight. I ate bits of cow in the form of a sloppy joe sandwich at a restaurant with friends. I don’t typically eat meat in the United States, but somehow I’ve picked up the tendencies of a grade school bully -when I suffer, other mammals suffer. I don’t eat meat here when I’m happy. I also don’t make late-night runs to the nearest corner store to fill up on corn sugar, connective tissue, and conflict chocolate.

So right now the cow wants to jump back out of my mouth, perhaps to seek and re-divide itself among the 40 cows from whence it came, perhaps over the moon where I want to be. If I can get it to move past my throat and chest, I’ll be okay. Then, it will tour through the museum of other things in my body that do not belong there. My benign tumors will give a homey nod as it passes by. My frozen trauma will give a jealous stare. (I’ve always imagined my internal body having it’s own world. When I would get sick as a child, there were germs and healthy cells in blue vs red football helmets fighting it out in my stomach.)

I’m sure that it makes no sense to further hurt myself when I am already in so much pain. Why don’t I crave healthy distractions, like learning how to sculpt or grow strawberries? Ah, yes, because this is easier. Because I exist in a society of quick answers and simple distractions. I haven’t turned on the t.v. or radio in months, so I don’t know what the latest options are, but I have been drinking whiskey and rum a lot more lately.

About two weeks ago I told a dear friend that I was afraid of becoming Billie Holiday, a Black woman who loved hard without getting right love back and so destroyed herself. I can replace her name with so many other sistas. I remember when Phyllis Hyman died. The note she left behind was published in black magazines. Twice she wrote “I’m tired.” Even then, in 1995, I was afraid that I would one day learn exactly what she meant.

Maybe they didn’t love themselves. That’s always the easy response. We can fluff our pillows and get a full eight hours with that kind of thinking. But I am not convinced that’s always what’s at heart. I do not lack in self-esteem. In fact, I think I’m pure fireceness on multiple levels. So how do we continue forward with the very real possibility that no one will ever love us in the way we deserve? That maybe simpler, less complicated women will be chosen instead? I sometimes envision myself as a monk, thinking that this is the only way I will be enlightened enough not to care about such things. Where’s my loving non-attachment? It’s definitely not in a lump of ground chuck, gummy bears, or Cuba Libre’s.

My body is beginning to forgive me for tonight’s meal. I’m going to take a hot bath and create a Hyman station on Pandora, maybe write some more. I want to watch Lady Sings the Blues this week and cry with my beautiful survivor friends. For a bit longer at least, I’m going to move forward, singing I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues in my cracked alto.

Friday, May 14, 2010

[raw dog food #1: herbin' your dog]

as well as my humble understanding for human
food comfort and
knowledge, i also have a dog guy
whom i live with whose health
is just as important
to me as all my human community.

everyday i wake up in ritual to let my gender
neutral dog cornbread (who uses any and all pronouns
BTW) out for the bathroom. everyday we play
together for at least 2 hours. everyday s/he
gets a raw diet that combines the prey model diet
a BARF diet
. there are arguments along these lines
about which practice is better. also, there are fancy
people who buy raw food pre-packaged and broken
down for them, but i am not a huge believer. i want to
know what portions i am feeding my kid. know the
source(s) of food as best as possible.

if you cannot get buddy buddy with a farmer who sells
raw chicken/beef/goat and guts, then you can build
with a butcher. in my own neighborhood i have
access to filipino, korean, and desi butchers
ranging in regular to organic to halal. i just
buy meat there as i would for any of my bi-pedal
human eaters. even if you give your puppy
something from a market that is let's say, some
beef ribs, that diet is still better than industry pet

[preface: before jumping into this recipe, give your
dog a little raw food at a time and NOT in close
proximity to kibble if your dog is customarily kibble fed.
the dog's body needs time to adjust to the nutritional
change. i would recommend kibble feeders to feed this
snack 6-8 hours after a kibble meal at least.]

both my partner and i firmly believe these are
true benefits of feeding cornbread siopao dog
raw food:

  • dog's teeth are naturally cleaned by chewing on raw bone.
  • dog's energy is not wasted by eating too processed dog
    food that is a boring and uneventful eating experience.
  • our dog like us, deserves a diet that is as local, uncorporatized,
  • and not dominated by mainstream industry designed for
    profit and not nutritional quality.
  • dogs get exercise and muscle strengthening through chewing
    bone, meat, and unprocessed foods.
  • there is an improvement in the quality of coat.
  • there is an improvement of dog breath.
  • there is a more intimate relationship with how you feed
    a living being close to your heart.
  • what we may be spending on buying/growing herbs,
    vegetables, fresh meat, and fruit will be far less than pet
    medical and insurance costs that like the human industry,
    exploit our wallets and our trust.

with these pluses, how can i not support my dog dog?
i have to also chalk it up to my obsessive way with organization
and food too. i'm not going to lie to you, that would be
rude. it takes an extra half an hour or so of your week and
a freezer well organized. i know that my 30 lb. dog needs
10-12 oz. of food daily and 80% of that being meat/guts/bone,
so i break that down into containers for the week.

below is a recipe i give my kid a few times a week.
i still give her veggies even though prey model followers
say dogs and canines get all their nutrients from offal
(liver, tripe, kidney, etc.) meat. something about me still
can't let go of giving her veggies yet and i've been told
by other pet people that herbs like mint, parsley, and garlic
show considerable health benefits. i am not giving you
a super meaty recipe just because to new dog people and
companions, that takes some time to get used to,
to create a regimen that doesn't lead to your dog dragging
meat all over your kitchen floor.

cornbread siopao's merienda: veggie mix
  • sweet potato (1 small-med. size)
  • zucchini (1 small)
  • parsley (1 handful)
  • mint (1 handful)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 carrot (or 5-8 baby carrots)

- olive oil
- apple cider vinegar
- freshly shredded cheese to taste (cheddar, parmesan, asiago)

put all ingredients through a food processor. you can
add a teaspoon of olive oil if you like and/or teaspoon of
apple cider vinegar. i save the rest as 1 serving portion for
my dog is only 1/2 cup. it keeps for 4-6 days refrigerated.

along with
1/2- 3/4 cup veggie mix
i give cornbread this:

- 1 egg (with or without shell depending on the dog)
for convenience, i crack some eggs and put the wet egg in
an icecube tray. freeze the egg and pop the pieces out before i serve.

- salmon oil (portions based on packaging)

Monday, May 10, 2010

[brussel sprouts: 5/2010 RFP]


brussel sprouts [recipe 5/2010 RFP] from k. barrett on Vimeo.

RFP followers:

here i offer you a belated yet promising video on our ever popular
brussel sprouts. i know they are more autumnal eats, but you
can still swish swish your pan to some tiny green guys when you
get the chance. here i offer a vegan and vegetarian option
with no meat allowed. with the sherry and shallot, we get a great
sweetness that swerve well with the hearty and buttery brussel sprout.

leave a comment and tell us how you like your brussel sprouts.
share your brussel sprout knowledge!

*to ruckus & spoons,
k. ulanday barrett

Thursday, May 6, 2010

[In Poor Neighborhoods, "Fresh" Produce Isn't Always What it Seems] article


"In other words, if you are a poor Philadelphian buying fruits and vegetables in your own neighborhood, chances are your produce will spoil faster and may give you food poisoning. How appetizing."

In Poor Neighborhoods, "Fresh" Produce Isn't Always What it Seems

brought to us by poverty in america/

Earth Day is a good opportunity to remember the tremendous discrepancies in who has access to fresh fruits and vegetables — and thus, who has the luxury of eating a healthy, balanced diet — in this country. My fellow bloggers and I have written extensively about so-called "food deserts," where the number of grocery stores are dramatically insufficient for the number of residents. Too often, people in these neighborhoods rely on corner stores, where a bag of Doritos is cheap and available and a container of strawberries may not fit either criteria.

As a result, federal, state and local governments have pushed to make healthy food more accessible. It's a major part of Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" anti-obesity initiative, and her husband's proposed budget for next year would dedicate $400 million to bringing fresh food to corner stores. But such efforts don't do much good if the produce that makes it to poor neighborhoods is close to spoiling or has the potential to make people sick.

A new study from Drexel University researchers published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that when stores in poor neighborhoods do get fresh produce, it poses both of those risks to buyers. After buying salad, strawberries, cucumbers and watermelon repeatedly over 15 months in the Philadelphia area, the scientists found that mold, microorganisms and bacteria were all more likely to be present on produce purchased from stores in poor neighborhoods than in wealthier ones. In other words, if you are a poor Philadelphian buying fruits and vegetables in your own neighborhood, chances are your produce will spoil faster and may give you food poisoning. How appetizing.

[pio pio: jackson heights, queens!]


[us @ pio pio ushering a new year for chosen family / pre-food]

[pio pio,
8413 northern blvd
jackson heights, ny 11372
neighborhood: jackson heights]

pio pio is now HUGE. like holy motha of a jeebus, you are a large place. i went to pio pio in jackson heights for the first time last week for a friend's birthday and we had reservations for a party of 25. as a former server i would think that a large set party mean we milk them for all they are worth, for alcohol purchases and more appetizers/entrees. this is not the case.

pio pio's foods came in family style sizes just like the actual restaurant space. apparently, pio pio is the birthday spot because every 15 minutes or so the music would blare and everyone would complacently clap in confusion as another table received a candle-topped flan.

the food was good, not stupendous. i have high hopes for chicken and
the white meat came dryer than my friends would have liked. rotisserie chicken is an art, a careful blend of herbs, oil, marinade or rub, a slow attentive heat source. whether puerto rican pollo chon to peruvian to dominican, i take meat seriously. the portions are rightfully monstrous including the sides we ordered: salad, avocado, tostones, sausages, fries. all the sides were quite good and balanced the meat heavy of it all. i had the ceviche salad all marinated with limon which had the right balance of supple seafood, cilantro, and tart. it came with a dolop of mashed sweet potatoes which were too sweet to be paired with the tart calamari/shrimp/clams/crab.

as we were prepping for dessert the staff tidied, picked up plates and cutlery, but managed to take a pile of forks-knives-spoons and plop the dirty wares right in front of me and my partner. there they remained and sat, dirty and weird, as we ordered dessert. dessert menu listed specific items, but they had none of the options that i wanted. no sir, i will not eat and pay for something i only half-heartedly want as a load of dirty cutlery from almost all of the tables combined slumped right in front of us.

my basic interpretation of the experience? i love my friends and they love it there. however, i don't know how often i would eat there if there wasn't a special occasion. i feel that the mega-space where pio pio resides in now has let them overlook the service in an obvious way, with little attentiveness, little professional efficiency and honestly to their loss. they are missing out on larger bills and over all tips. i want to support people of color and their local businesses first and foremost and the space transition could be something that they have noted and are working on.

truthfully yes, my salad was bangin', so this is not where my dissatisfied review lays. please improve your service dear pio pio, as i am trying so hard to love you. i give you 3.5 stars for your reputation and hopes of improvement.

[5/2010: in case you are wondering what i am eating #2]


[vegan tofu adobo with coconut milk & lemongrass]
brought to me by margarita

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

[5/2010: in case you are wondering what i am eating #1]


[red cabbage roll with basil, broccoli & almond pesto;
fresh baby sprouts, roasted eggplant puree and topped
with sundried tomato]

Sunday, May 2, 2010

[A Delicious Way to Celebrate Nature at New York City Wildflower Week]


a belated happy mayday friends and homies. i hope you
celebrated international worker's rights with hope
and fire! a gift for you new york city prone:

from civil eats:

This week in New York City, get to know the nature around you (and eat some local, wild and seasonal meals featuring native plants, too) during Wildflower Week, from May 1st – 9th.

New York City has 53,000 acres of open space, more than Philadelphia and Los Angeles combined, and around 778 native plant species. You can explore some of this natural wealth beginning on Saturday by participating in guided walking tours of gardens, green roofs and park land in all five boroughs, as well as attending planting events, lectures, events for kids, and more. There will also be an opportunity to get free seedlings, see sustainable gardening demonstrations, and get information on native species at a NYC Wildflower Week booth in the Union Square Greenmarket this Saturday from 8am- 3pm.

Once you’ve explored the natural beauty of New York City, you’ll surely have built up an appetite. Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities to dine on “Edible Natives” all across the city. Here are some places to cook and eat local, seasonal plants this Wildflower Week:

Herbaceous Eats: Cooking with Spring Greens, Herbs and Flowers
Time: Fri. May 7, 7-9pm, $25
Location: Whole Foods Culinary Center, 95 East Houston St.

Join Louisa Shafia, chef and author of Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, for easy ways to cook with wild edibles like ramps, lamb’s quarters, sorrel, and other seasonal ingredients.

On the Menu: Stinging-Nettle Pesto with Crostini and Market Vegetables; Lamb’s Quarters-and-Pea-Shoots Soup; Shiso-Cucumber Salad; Spot Prawns with Garlic, Sorrel, and White Wine; Rhubarb and Pistachio Parfait.

Restaurants featuring special wildflower week menus:


The Green Table
Time: Throughout Wildflower Week
Location: 75 Ninth Ave., Chelsea Market, 212-741-6623
Green Table’s daily menu reflects what’s freshest at local farms and greenmarkets. Featured menu items: Wild Vegetable Tempura–wild ramps and fiddlehead ferns along with other “domesticated” spring vegetables.

MAS (farmhouse): Wild Tastings
Time: Salon dinners Sunday May 2 and Monday May 3
Location: 39 Downing Street, 212-255-1790
Join chef Galen Zamarra and special guest speakers for an enlightening conversation about cooking with local native foraged ingredients. $65 prix-fixe dinner. Limited seating, reservations required. Nightly menu to include: Trout piscator stuffed with wild ramp and smoked trout mousse.

Pure Food and Wine: Wild Tastings
Time: Throughout Wildflower Week
Location: 54 Irving Place, (212) 477-1010
Pure’s raw vegan menu is entirely plant based, uses no processed ingredients, and nothing is heated above approximately 118 degrees to preserve vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Featured menu item: Sweet Violet Herb and Orange Salad.


Time: Throughout Wildflower Week
Location: 605 Carlton Ave., Prospect Heights, 718.942.4255
This seasonal American restaurant with Old-World European influences will feature nightly specials with NYC native plants such as ramps and fiddlehead ferns, including a Spring Onion Soup with Boar Lardon and Pecorino.

Time: Throughout Wildflower Week
Location: 246 Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene, 718.789.2778
iCi’s pholsophy: the best-tasting food is naturally grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound and socially responsible by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. Featured menu item: Braised spring lamb shoulder with Brooklyn-made caviatelli, baby artichokes, ramps, and pea shoots.


Time: Throughout Wildflower Week
Location: 21-02 30th Avenue, Astoria, 718.545.5550
This neighborhood restaurant offers simple and Italian-inspired favorites guided by the local green market. Featured menu item: Spaghetti with charred ramps and sheeps milk ricotta.