In this season of great food it is indeed special to happen across truly inspired food. This was my good fortune last night when I happened by Paco's studio where Damian Moseley, food scholar and partner in Black Sauce Kitchen Catering, had laid out an amazing array of extraordinary food in celebration of jazz singer Ethel Ennis' Birthday Celebration Concert taking place down in The Patterson Theater.
With the assistance of his lovely wife Regan, Damian treated the guests to delectably smooth Plantain and Black Bean Tamales neatly wrapped and bowed with corn husk. They were a delicate sweet blending of ground bean and corn. The Roasted Pumpkin and Beef Short Rib Empanadas were pocketed in baked envelops of crust that was crunchy on the outside and a little chewy on the inside. Very satisfying, especially with the Tomato Salsa. There were mounds of sweet potatoes, the familiar dark orange ones and the surprising Korean sweet potatoes that were a creamy ivory color grilled with fine herbs offered with wonderfully tart tomatoes. The menu was completed with Pumpkin Biscuits, Buttermilk Cornbread with Molasses Butter, Spicy Wildflower Honey, and Black Bean Puree. But the biggest treat of the night was the AMAZING Garlic Mojo, a hot spicy garlic salsa. Talk about magic in the mouth. Every bite was better than the last. Mojo, indeed.
Baltimore is blessed to have Damian Mosley as a resident. Not only does he create gastronomic wonders, he is also moving the scholarship of food forward. A Ph.D candidate in Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, his writing has appeared in the journals Gastronomica and Food Culture & Society and the on-line magazine TheRoot.com. His food explorations have taken him as far away as Dakar, Senegal to cook. So, not only can he prepare The Food but he can put it into nutritional, historical and cultural context, as well. And to that end, here is an article by Mosley on the complex problem of obesity in our urban centers:
For decades soul food, as we know it, has nurtured and comforted us in times of celebrations and times of sorrow. It has brought us together and, as many can attest, has kept us together. Black Sauce Kitchen's food illuminates another culinary dynamic that I am always searching for in food - this was food for the soul, food that elevated eating and self-nurturing to a deeply profound level. With each bite it was as though I could feel the cells of my body electrified with the healing flowing from my taste buds.
Mosley's food is a joyful celebration of the ritual partaking and sharing of nourishment. His combinations were adventurous and creative. With the intoxicating flavors of well-seasoned, healthy ingredients prepared with a love of purpose, he reminds us that this is the way to eat and how we should embrace the food we put into our bodies....and our souls.
Like many, I have tired of bombastic politicians who play roulette with our lives for power, influence and privilege. Instead I train my eye on those things that bring us together, that bind us in shared aspirations and goals. If there is any
positive outcome for the painful situation our country is living, it is the awareness that we are all in this madness together and we have to help one another. We have to offer a hand.
Through a series of unpredictable circumstances I find myself alone for this day of gratitude and thanks giving. Being free of the weight of mounds of food and overeating released me to consider other options. So, I walked less than a mile to the Patterson Park Recreational Center where Bea Gaddy Family Center was set to serve turkey dinner to 50,000 people and volunteered my time in service to others in need.
Tall, short, young, teen-aged, carmel-colored, ebony black, grey-haired, pink hair, skinny and then not so much, Goth, and urban, fraternity brothers, ex-military, pink cheeks, nappy hair, curled, pressed, and dyed, dread-locked, uncles, aunts, grandmas and grandpas and cousins, neighbors. And these were just the volunteers, so many that we worked in shifts to give everyone a chance to help. The mass of humanity crammed into the gymnasium was humbling and witnessing the number of hungry Americans on this day, in this one city, at this one location was overwhelming. Especially considering the many times this picture is repeated throughout America.
Patterson Park was home to a soccer game and vendors
to feed easily 1,000 observers and their families. Syncopated salsa rhythms pulsated through the frigid fall air. I passed a food stand with a little, round-faced grandmother pressing and cupping ground cassava into the palm of her hand. She stuffed it with some delicious looking mixture and once it was nice and evenly round she slapped it onto a sizzling hot griddle to brown. I couldn't resist. It was served with a cabbage slaw and a sinewy slice of grilled beef. Yummmm.
Isauntered home through the piles of fallen leaves, happy and grateful for this Thanksgiving Day Holiday.
Just when James Cameron announces that we can anticipate not one but two sequels to Avatar, comes the book DINKA: Legendary Cattle Keepers of Sudan about the Dinka peoples of Sudan by brilliant photographers Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith.
There were numerous recognizable references from the Dinka culture in the first Avatar film, such as the beaded bodices worn by these young women. An almost identical bodice worn by Queen Moat is one example. I doubt seriously that Cameron has made any sizable contribution to the people whose aesthetic has inspired his success.
It's been quite a while since I have written. This past week-end I was in Georgia developing a project that I will share more about in the future. But in the meantime, here is a photo of an elderly gentleman who loves his roses. He stood communing with these flowers for what seemed like an eternity before he turned to walk away. It was wonderful to see that in the midst of all the chaos and madness that has enveloped our country that one singular old man can stop and smell the roses.
Real food for thought, even better, food for the soul.
My birthday was spent roaming the fabulous World Famous Lexington Market, home every kind of Mom & Pop fried chicken, dessert stand, Asian cafe, seafoods and meats imaginable. A virtual treasure trove of crispy, fried goodies! However, my nostalgic choice for a birthday lunch was the award-winning lump crab cakes at John W. Faidley's fish palace. It was really good, outdone only by the historic ambience of the place.
Established in 1782, Lexington Market is one of the longest running market in the world and stands on its original ground. Located in downtown you can see a real slice of Baltimore life in all of its seamier sides. It is not a place for the tourist or resident that requires a safe, predictable environment. But if you crave a diverse mix of people of all ethnicities and have an appreciation for life's hustle, then this is the place.
Because I grew up running through Seattle's Pike Place Market well before it became the elite tourist attraction it is today, Lexington Market feels like home, a somewhat shady but endearing, familiar friend. There's a spirit that runs throughout the place found only in markets, a spirit of history and brash characters looking to make that sale. The market place, a metaphor for the rigors of making a life whatever your circumstances. Oh, how I love a market.
Abig thank you to Ms. Bea, my sweetheart of a Mom! If it weren't for her love and care I would not be here. And many thanks to Cecil for providing the rock upon which we grew and prospered. Dad, we miss you terribly.
It is a warm morning with a mist of sweet rain that promises to remain for a few days. Lovely. I am on my way out into the city to see what wonders this day brings.
Song (and lyrics) for the day: Dave Matthews Band-Satellite
Iconfess. I love to shop for groceries...everyday. Maybe it's the "daily marketing" mentality I developed while living in Europe but I believe it is right and proper to purchase your food daily. To take time selecting, preparing and eating it, getting to know the people selling your food, explore the usual food stuffs but also the things that are unique to your market. I love to cook and shun eating out much. Nothing burns my butt more than paying for something I could have cooked better myself. So, where I shop for food is exceedingly important because a relationship central to my nutrition - and comfort - is being...well, nurtured, which is why I make an effort to by as much local produce as possible.
So, I am happy to report I finally found my grocery store! Initially I shopped at the Shopper's Warehouse. It was okay but just another grocery store and much too far away. Then I found a Safeway so old that it still had the low ambient lighting before everything got so bright. Fun but off the beaten path. Occasionally I make a bus trek down Eastern Ave, over to Broadway and down Fleet Street to the local Whole Foods in the chic, "lofty" area of downtown Baltimore. But this Whole Foods is a mere shadow compared to the super WFs I grew accustomed to in Santa Fe. Plus, I question their politics of late. The Spanish store a couple of blocks away is good for bananas, mangoes, papaya and limes but the women who work there are not especially engaging. They may or may not smile when you pay for your purchase and if they do those smiles fade as soon as their hand closes over your money. This kind of exchange does not a food shopping relationship make but in a pinch I enjoy feeling like I am in a small Mexican town.
But just down the road past the Value Village (one of the best I have ever seen, i.e. six 18 carat gold-trimmed crystal wine glasses for a 99 cents each!) past the Enoch Pratt Free Library, past the six barbershops and hair salons (yes, I counted them), past the three neighborhood convenience stores, the three liquor stores, past the two pawn shops and one adult toy store is The World Markets of Highlandtown.
Under one roof are several markets but they are not artfully arranged and sectioned off like, say, Talin Asian Market in Albuquerque where each culture has its own neatly arranged isle. No, this store is a wonderful jumble of cultures much like Highlandtown itself. One section is sort of Middle Eastern, another more or less Asian. The Hispanic food spills onto the isle endswith piles of tortillas and sweets and then there's the wonderful Italians and other Mediterraneans. You can find Italian, Spanish and Turkish olive oils in various locations throughout the store. The Indian Gee and pickles are sandwiched between the Lebanese pomegranate syrup and colorful boxes of Japanese crackers. There's an array of different rices. Big bags of black rice from Indonesia, Indian white or brown basmati, jasmine rice, sushi rice lay piled on shelves at the back of the stroe. I counted tahini from four different countries.
The vegetables and fruits are pretty standard fare but you have to hustle to get the good collard greens as they get snatched early in the day but are easily substituted with dandelion greens, kale or savoy and green cabbages. Plenty of fish - crab, shrimp, cat fish, snapper, and more - and the deep meats: goat, beef heart and kidney, goat, tripe, ox tail with the usual pig, chicken and beef.
Tonight's menu: wilted romaine salad with grilled pieces of marinated chicken breast, grilled pineapple, tomatoes and mushrooms with warm Asian rice wine vinegar dressing. Yummmmy!Yep, I found my grocery store and it's got soul. No, really, today they were playing Duke of Earl over the sound system. I'm a happy camper.
Baltimore's natives came out to celebrate their native son, Frank Zappa, and a good time was had by all. Dr. Carla Hayden, executive director of Enoch Pratt Free Library hosted the events. The roster of "important folks" was impressive: Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; Vilnius, Lithuania's Mayor ViliusNavickas; Ms. Gail Zappa and the Zappa children; Jeffery Sharkey, director of The Peabody Institute and the Zappa statue donor, SauliusPaukstys.
But the real thrill were the attendees, a sizable number of which traveled from Lithuania and cities around the country. And Zappa's music is just as great as it was when he was rocking it. The concert by Dweezil Zappa and Zappa Plays Zappa was loud, ironic, satirical, and pumping. It was really like an old time gathering of hippies, wavy dancers, esoteric stompers, and heads. It's been years since I've heard so many 'Right on's' and 'Far out's.'
From Boomers to babies, everyone was in fine form. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen such a group of happy Boomers since the economic downturn. A few of the men still had hair down their back, make-over episodes would be lost on these guys. Everyone quite a bit fuller about the middle thanks to the volume of pizza's and sandwiches thick with sausages, sliced meats and sauces. It was clear that the seniors of the group were especially pleased that this music still ignited their children and grand children.
The partying continued at the Creative Alliance with Telesma, a great local band who describes
their music as psychedelic electro tribal rock. They did not lie. Not surprising that they list just about every popular culture marker of the last 50years as their influence. Good music and worth a listen. Again, some very happy revelers were in attendance, a younger crowd. I'm thinking the Boomers were partied out and - the lucky ones - had to get ready for work on Monday morning.The first thing out the mouth of the woman I sat next to was a slurred, "I'm into this." She then continued to provide an on-going monolog of her day. She sold $4,000 worth of t-shirts (still a very good business), this was like the good ol' days, and she was gonna dance after she went out for a smoke and would I watch her purse and she had just turned 60. Well, rock on, my sister! Just like the good ol' days.
Speaking of t-shirts, I was most impressed by the one this guy wore. The obvious question is, "Is this really your phone number?" I had to ask. He launch he did into how he really wanted to meet someone and thought he'd just let everybody, the girls, know. Wink, wink... anticipated response, suspended animation. I caught the sympathetic eye of a woman - sympathetic towards me - as I wished him a lot of luck and assured him that he'd find someone. One of the stompers, he danced with abandon off into the crowd. I saw him later at the Creative Alliance still stomping...still alone.
Iam happy to report that Zappa's music is alive and well. It is gratifying that his music has a growing audience. Equally as important was his political activism in the music industry. His take on the current state of the industry is fascinating to consider.
It is Frank Zappa week-end in Baltimore and Eastern Avenue is plastered with posters and abuzz with excitement. The Patterson Theater and Highlandtown if hosting an array events celebrating his life and work.
His wife, Gail Zappa, is giving a talk tomorrow morning down stairs at Theater. Tomorrow night a big party is planned and his son, Dweezil, will perform his father's music. Tomorrow afternoon is the dedication of a bronze sculpture of Zappa down the street at Highlandtown's Enoch Pratt Library commemorating August 9, which the mayor has proclaimed Frank Zappa Day. The original bronze sculpture by artist Konstantinas Bogdanas is erected in Vilnius, Lithuania. This second casting was offered to Baltimore by Saulius Pokstys. Given Zappa's vast creativity and intellect, it is fitting that his image should watch over the entrance of a public institution of learning and mental explorations.
Isaw Frank Zappa in Seattle in the mid-80s. He was playing the Paramount Theater, another theater I also lived above at the time. It was a wild, exciting, fun, brilliant, classical, ironic, jazzy, r&b, and rock n' roll mash up - Zappa style, the creation of a uniquely gifted composer and musician.
Agood buddy of mine says he wouldn't be caught dead walking the streets with an iPod plugging his ears with music - no matter how great the beat. Being from Chicago's South Side, conventional wisdom dictates that without the use of his ears..well, anything could jump off. And he just might be "caught dead."
I guess he has a point but I was raised in Seattle at a time when it was a little shy, cloudy hamlet in the Northwest and don't have that particular reservation (we can talk about why I prefer not to live above, say, the third floor of any building at another time). Howlin' Wolf has been serving up the backbeat to my life these days. Here's what's pumping in my brain while I explore the Baltimore streets. And, yes, I might look like an absolute fool waiting for the light to change to the beat but I don't care:
I especially love this video. He was some kind of raw man with an overpowering animal magnetism.
Here's an NPR piece I found:
I am reminded of a trip to a Washington, DC bookstore famous for its liberal inclinations. It was where all the hip, NPR-listening DC literati shopped for their books. I was with a distinguished, highly educated friend who was a dean at an exclusive New England college. Her head of beautiful silver natural hair drew a lot of attention. And so it was this particular afternoon that we stood in this bookstore when were became aware of a good white couple paying attention on the q-t to our every word. We'd move, they'd move a little closer, especially the woman. We'd slide around a corner, here they'd come acting real casual like. She was listening so hard, you could easily imagine her ears stetched taut straight out from her head. It was as though a cartoon bubble sat above her head that said, "My, they are sooo articulate. Honey, listen! They speak just like us."
So we racheted it up a notch and began using our $50 and $100 words, words with a whole bunch of letters in them. I don't even recall what we were talking about but it was no doubt some esoteric nonsense. The woman leaned ever closer in restrained disbelief. She had never heard such! In fact, she seemed almost proud by our articulation as if she had discovered some unusual species. Articulate black people! Two of them! This was pre-Obama. Hopefully things have gotten better but I can't be sure.
And then the funniest thing happened. On the store sound system, in the middle of our conversation, we heard, "how, how, how, how!" And like two tribes women we answered the call with our own, "how, how, how, how!" And loud, too. It was like some DNA programming kicked in and we were right there with the call and response thing. When John Lee Hooker calls, you got to answer. And so we did. It was so fast, so spontaneous, so DNA-esque, that it stunned us as much as it did our eavesdropper. Poor thing. She was convinced that we were somehow unusual, unique. How else could you explain our ability to speak the Queen's English so well? But instead we were black women - howling - out in public, even.
Well, she had to rethink all of that. Her mind was blown along with all of her assumptions (and now I'm assuming). I swear she almost fainted from the shock of it all. And we ran, tumbled out of the bookstore screaming with laughter. I love African American culture.
This week-end kicked off three days of events celebrating Baltimore's Historic Pennsylvania Avenue. Today I attended the 1st Annual Pennsylvania Avenue Homecoming Festival Cadillac Parade, thank you very much!
Boy, I love how we celebrate!
More information on Baltimore's Historic Pennsylvania Avenue here:
There's a lot of good eating to be had in the Highlandtown neighborhood but this is THE special treat of Baltimore's peach season. On the corners of Bank and S. Conklings Street sits Hoehn's Bakery. Eighty-four years old, this bakery has been in the same family since its inception. This Fresh Peach Cake is their summer specialty. It is heavenly glazed fresh peaches baked on a pastry that's chewy like flattened cinnamon roll dough. An amazing yummmmmy....
The Patterson Theater houses the Creative Alliance, a non-profit organization that show cases the work of Baltimore visual and performing artists. It sits on the corner of Eastern Avenue and East Street in the Highlandtown District. Explorations of this neighborhood have uncovered a great Value Village, streets overflowing with the aromas of pizza, grilled chicken, and corned beef, small family-owned businesses, convenience and liquor stores, a couple of pawn shops, dollar stores, and neighborhood bars. Then there's the massive Patterson Park. On any given block one hears Spanish, Arabic, French, and Baltimorese, a kind of no-nonsense take on the English language.
I love that these grand old theaters have found a mission in support of artists and the vibrance art brings to a community. It is truly a creative alliance between this organization and the surrounding community. In addition to the eight artist studios, there are several exhibition spaces here, a small theater for live performances, a media center that gives classes to the public, a supportive staff and a full calendar of events.
Sometimes a photograph simply cannot capture the feeling and beauty of a moment. So, I didn't even try to recreate the magnificent beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains along Interstate 81 through Virginia with my modest little Fuji. Instead, I took the moment for myself and played Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Tender Land Suiteover and over again, music which heightened the powerful beauty and emotion of these mountains, welcoming dawn and a new day of my adventure. There's nothing quite like tagging along with a caravan of 18-wheelers pulling on to the highway out a truck stop with Fanfare for theCommon Manblastingon the sound system. Never a more perfect piece of music was created to capture the expansive optimism of the America spirit at its purest. It gave me the melody for my emotions and thoughts to float, travel, to fully experience this new beginning. The adventure of it, the surrender to it.
Thank you Betty for insisting I take Routes 40 and 81 across country - and for the pillow, which has come in very handy.
I am a writer and artist. But most of all, I am a life traveler. I believe in the power of the well considered written and spoken word. I love music of all kinds and believe in its power to transform the heart and soul, give meaning and depth to the moment. I love the idea of being made of the same stuff as the stars in the heavens. I love the divine adventure of life.