It’s been almost 2 weeks since I left Senegal..every day in Senegal I ate 3 meals a day. Everyday, 3 times a day, we stopped everything else so we could eat ( I say we because I never ate alone there). Whether it was Adama’s cooking that we ate everyday at L’ecole des Sables where I was studying dance, or with my brother and sister in law and their family’s house…I ate 3 meals a day that nourished my soul. Since being back from Africa, I was only able to cook for myself for the first few days…
and then the stress and dysfunction of this society started to take hold. I don’t like cooking and eating alone. It feels so wrong and sad to me. So I don’t do it. Fortunately for me, this past week I have been cooking for other people. This past week it has been all about recession stew. Recession stew is a yummy (so I’ve been told) stew that I created a few years back. It’s made in the spirit of Stone soup. Besides a few core ingredients, everything else can be whatever veggies you have in your kitchen. The inspiration for Recession stew will be written about in a blog to come soon.
So as I was saying, I have been able to eat my own home cooking when I have made this stew at a few food events this past week.
It started last Thursday morning. I got up at 5:30am (easy for me to do when I know I’m gonna feed somebody) and made the stew for the economics class at Mission High School where Mary ann Brooks teaches. Mary ann is a dope peformer and food activist who works for Pie Ranch and teaches at Mission High. She invited me to come cook and talk about food and my work as a choreographer with her class. I brought my recession stew that I cooked earlier that morning, some rice and some salad dressing ingredients to be prepared in class. Mary ann brought some locally grown salad fixings grown at Pie Ranch. When I arrived we set up in the class room the pot of stew, rice and some cutting boards, salad bowls and a station to make salad dressing. After introductions, we had students write about one of the most memorable meals they ever had. Some of these stories brought tears to my eyes. One story in particular was by a student named Sandi. She talked about being 10 years old and cooking Pansit with her dad, one of her favorite dishes and how eating this dish which was only cooked by her dad on special occasions, connected her to her Filipino roots.
After the students told stories, they took a field trip to the bathroom to wash their hands. Then they got cooking. Maryann and I had them cut veggies for the salad and I set up a table with ingredients for a salad dressing and told them to work together to make a tasty dressing for the salad. It was beautiful. Everybody was engaged. Cutting, tasting and critiquing the dressing (“more oil, too much vinegar”, etc.). At the end, there was a most colorful and beautiful salad and a dressing that was so good, I wish I had been watching more closely so I could see how it was made! We then served up the stew, rice, salad with the crazy good dressing! As we sat around eating I asked students to reflect on this day; what were some thoughts that came up for them. One young man proclaimed, “we need to do this every day”…yes, I thought, we all do….
That night I made more recession stew for Release; a dance party hosted by my dear friend Dj fflood and Cecil at Paradiso in Oakland. This dance party happens every Thursday by the way, from 9-2am. No cover. The music is off the chain! And there is food, sometimes cooked by me, sometimes others..
Then came Saturday when I made more recession stew for Fresh from the Oven; a monthly food party that takes place outside in the Luggage Store’s Tenderloin National Forest at 509 Ellis in SF. The weather was beautiful. I made stew and rice. Darryl baked pizzas that were generously donated by Arizmendi Bakery. There is so much to say about this last food party that I will hold off for the next blog (coming in a few days)…
Which brings me back to Africa. What is the connection you ask? It’s all about community and family. I have no desire to cook for myself only. Part of what nourishes me and brings me joy is cooking for others, sharing a meal for others. When I was in Africa, I never saw anyone eat alone, ever. It may happen but I never saw it. So, I am asking myself how I will attain the well being that I experienced in Senegal- here in the stressful, time deficient lifestyle that has been my reality here in the USA. One way is to keep having food parties where I can feed others and in doing so, feed myself. Look for more food parties to come….
Red beans and ricefully yours…..