Monday, September 10, 2007

Haramfest Sunday: Tasty Infidelicacy for September 9th

Last night's Tasty Infidelicacy was Ham and Bean soup with Cornbread.

Here is my recipe: 1 1 lb. bag of dry white beans, your choice. I use large lima beans.
1 Spanish onion, diced.
1 1 lb. bag of carrots, peeled, and chopped large, on the bias
2 ham hocks (I use the meaty hocks, the knuckles are all fat.)
1 package of Uncle Wiley's Bean and Pea Seasoning (thank me now!)
cracked pepper, and bay leaf. Fresh chopped parsley for when it's done.

Sauté the onions in corn oil or butter, not much is needed. Just until they start to sweat. Don't caramelize them. Pour almost a half gallon of water over the onions and add the rinsed beans. You don't need to soak them overnight. Add the seasoning packet, the hocks and bay leaf. Season with cracked pepper or a little bit of dried crushed red pepper flakes. Cook on medium heat until it begins to boil, then lower the temp and let it all simmer. Cover and stir occasionally. In the middle of the cooking, add your chopped carrots and cover, til the meat is fork tender and the beans are nearly softened. Remove the meat and bones, and cut the meat into bite-sized morsels and add back to the pot. This is a soup more than a stew. When done, the beans will be soft to the point of melting in your mouth. Chopped fresh parsley adds a bright zing to it all. Remove the bay leaf. Serve with cornbread.

Cornbread. Preheat your oven to 400. Place your cornbread skillet, hopefully a cast iron skillet that your momma gave you, in the oven. Heat the empty skillet. Meanwhile, mix your batter. I use 3 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread mix and alter it with the addition of creamed corn and diced jalapeños instead of oil. Otherwise, mix it according to the recipe and before adding it to the heated pan, add a little corn oil, or if you are going for a really good crust, melt some saved bacon fat in the skillet, and when it gets all bubbly, quickly pour in your batter and bake it for
20 minutes. Suppertime. And that means time for a good story:


This is a true story about how convoluted definitions have become. If the smart people in academia and the press would just leave the rest of us all the hell alone, we could talk to each other honestly about anything. Religion, race, sex, politics, you name it! Anything.

One of the ways we break down our self-imposed barriers is through the offering of food. In talking about race in America, food is the best way I know of for talking about the differences between regions, religions and cultures. Fast food may be all pervasive, but when we retire to the bunkers of serenity that are our homes, we don't want anything fast or resembling McDonald's. We want comfort and happy memories of childhood.

While working for a newspaper back in the day that there were paste-up artists, a young black woman and I started an honest and riveting conversation about what it means to be black in America.

My first instinct was to avoid talking about it altogether, but she was insistent, and the conversation took a direction I never anticipated. I will try to honestly recreate it from memory:

She: "I'm quitting the NAACP."
Me: "Why?"
She: "People there keep telling me I am not black enough? How can I not be black enough?"
Me: "I would say you're a lovely deep shade of dark brown sugar, possibly coffee,
but n'au lait."
She: *laughing* "No, I'm serious. Some woman told me that I dress "white"...because I had a plaid skirt on!"
Me: "Maybe you are trying to pass for Scottish! I'm Scots-Irish, with a couple of Welsh bastards thrown into the mix just to keep us humble."
She: "She told me she saw this woman on Oprah that said black women in this country should dress African-American. With African clothing! I can't show up for work looking like that, I would get it all dirty! Then she said that my name Karen, isn't a black woman's name! What does THAT mean? I know I'm a black woman".
Me: Okay, by that logic I could consider myself a black woman! I mean, my grandmother, for whom I am named had the first name Juanita, and she always hated it when my Yank dad called her WAAAAAH-needa. And, my dad is a jazz musician, and jazz is black music, right? He always jokes that we had a cracker in the woodshed, whenever he has to explain to people why he sounds so black when he plays. Plus, I make soul food all the time!
She: *quite skeptically* "Soul food? What kind of soul food do you make?
Me: "Hocks and beans and cornbread."
She: "Can you do the collard greens?
Me: "Sure, but my husband won't eat them. He will eat spinach, but it isn't the same thing. That's like white people's collard greens."
She: "No one makes hocks and beans better than my momma."
Me: "I do. Trust me on this."
She: "If you can make hocks and beans AND cornbread better than my momma, I will officially make you a home girl. "
Me: "Can I do the snap, if I succeed?"
She: "Yes.

So the next night I brought our supper in.

She: "This IS better than my momma's! And the cornbread is so moist! Okay! You are an official home girl!"
I immediately got on the PA system and announced to the entire composing room that I was officially designated a home girl! Word. And now I get to do the snap. This is the same recipe I have always had, with the exception of the Uncle Wiley's Bean seasoning added.
By the way, Karen has the best taste in Black Gospel Music. And if this is the gold standard of being a proper black lady in America, then me 'n' Eva Cassidy are as Black as we wanna be.

Next week, I will attempt to become a Boricua.

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