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Black History Month: It’s Not Just for Black People Anymore

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

In honor of Black History Month, I’m reposting one of my favorite ‘articles’ from my original blog. I’ve added some minor updates in italics. I hope you enjoy!
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February is a busy month in my home. My birthday is in February, so is el esposo‘s. So is my dad’s, which coincidentally is the same day as el esposo‘s. That’s weird, right? And then sandwiched between our birthdays is Valentine’s Day. Of course we also celebrate George and Abe’s birthdays too with a day off from work and school. But the biggest celebration of all in the month of February has to be, Black History Month. That trumps all of our birthdays and celebrations.

Wait, are you surprised? Are you telling me that in your house Black History Month isn’t heralded as 28 days of fun and excitement? Of delight and wonder for the whole family? Maybe that’s because you’re not celebrating it properly. Or maybe because you’re not Black, you’ve always felt that Black History Month wasn’t for you or about you, so you just kind of let it pass you by. Well, not anymore. I’m going to give you some how-to tips so that you too can enjoy Black History Month like a pro, and then in subsequent years, you’ll look forward to February as much as I do.

So without further ado, here are: Five Tips to Help You Enjoy Black History Month

1. Read a book by a Black author! And I don’t mean a dry, historical tome with big words and too many pages that won’t fit in your purse. I mean a really good, juicy novel or heart wrenching memoir by a Black author that seems interesting to you. It could be a romance, a comedy, or even a thriller. It just cannot be written by Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. Are you stuck because you don’t know any other Black authors? Well, don’t despair, just click on over to my friend Carleen’s wonderful website where she recommends all types of books written by Black authors for your enjoyment. You will definitely find something you like. And if you’re too lazy to even do that, try reading one of my books. I’ve written three, non-fiction, memoir and fiction, and you can buy one at a bargain price just by clicking here. Done.

2. Go out to eat at restaurant that is owned by a Black person, or has a Black executive chef. Now, before you wrinkle your nose in distaste because you don’t like collard greens, fried chicken or chitterlings, let me tell you, Black chefs don’t just make soul food anymore. They have expanded their repertoire. If you live in the New York City area and you appreciate inspired Mediterranean food, you could eat at Amali, where the executive chef is Nilton Borges, Jr. He’s black. Or if you live in my new home town of Philly, you could check out Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Peruvian/Chinese restaurant, Chifa. Why? Because Chifa’s chef du cuisine, Chad Williams, is Black. So as you’re munching on grilled Spanish octopus or Peruvian ceviche you can say to yourself, ‘man, Black people really can throw down in the kitchen. I had no idea Black History month could be so tasty!’

3. See a movie with at least one significant Black leading character. But it can’t be Denzel’s new flick, cartoons don’t count because they’re not real, and Tyler Perry can not be involved. This may feel like a real challenge, but you can go to the video rental store, or search on Netflix for a good movie with Black characters in it. But just to stretch dear readers, you may not watch The Color Purple or Roots. We have moved on as a people. Want some suggestions? Check out Shadow and Act.

4. Just for kicks, try to imagine how Black people feel about current events. Try to get into our skin and see how things may be different. Not into role playing? Well then, for the month of February, just bookmark The Root.com and read the news as it is reported by Black reporters. If you want an alternative to The Root, visit, NBC’s The Grio.com. They have more video on their site for those of you who don’t like to read all that much.

5. And finally, this is the big challenge but you have a whole month to try to accomplish it. Try to find a Black friend. Really, make the effort to make friends with someone who is Black and see how your life changes. (spoiler alert: Having a Black friend probably won’t change your life in any obvious way.). If you live in a part of the world where there just aren’t very many Black people, well you can try to find a Black friend on Facebook. Heck, I’ll be your friend on Facebook. Just go out there and do the work to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Why? Because ultimately Black History month is not about going back into the past, it’s about celebrating the here and now. By celebrating the authors, chefs, musicians, politicians, teachers, moms and dads of color of today, we are acknowledging the ones that came before.

I say Black History Month should be lived in the present day, every day.

Happy Black History Month! What are you going to do celebrate?

Peace!

Kimchi and Cheddar: Korean Food Gets Cheesy

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Here’s something for my fusion foodie friends. Yesterday I was working hard at my office at Temple University and I didn’t want to venture far to grab a bite for lunch. As luck would have it, there’s a brand new food truck parked right outside my building called Wingo Taco. I guessed Mexican, but I was wrong. Better said, I wasn’t all the way right.

A Korean-Mexican marriage of flavors. So Yummy!

A Korean-Mexican marriage of flavors. So Yummy!

Dear readers, you know I was doing a meltingpot jig in the street when I found out that Wingo Taco is serving up Korean tacos, burritos, hoaxes and wings. It’s a fusion masterpiece. Yesterday I sampled a ‘burrito bowl’ with Korean-spiced pulled pork, kimchi, rice, seaweed salad, cilantro and cheddar cheese. Yes, cheese! I hesitated when I saw the cheese on the menu, but the owner assured me that the cheese brought the whole dish together. Now dear readers, I’m from Wisconsin. I love cheese, but mingled with a Korean palate? I was skeptical. But I was game. And guess what? It was delicious. The whole dish was quite spicy, but the grated white cheddar created a smooth and cooling element. The proprietor of Wingo Taco, himself a Korean chef, told me that Koreans historically haven’t used cheese in their cuisine because they never had cattle, but these day they do and cheese is showing up everywhere in the local cuisine. Interesting, right? Anybody been to Korea lately and want to verify?

So, my big challenge now, dear readers, is not to walk out the door every day at work and indulge at Wingo Taco. Ms. Meltingpot must be good.

What’s your favorite fusion food? Or favorite food truck offering? Food trucks are big here in Philly these days.

I’m listening.

Peace!

Why is Ramen so Damn Good?

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Last night we had to go out to celebrate the fact that el esposo made it through day one of his comprehensive exams. He has another round next Saturday and then he is done. But the worst is over so we decided to go out for dinner. Now, going out for dinner for us means hauling the kids with us since we are too lazy, cheap, broke, in love with our kids to hire a babysitter.

Truthfully, el esposo and I love to try new foods and the kids do too. And we love to expose them to different restaurants. They are such adventurous eaters, it’s fun to eat out with them. Even babygirl is proving to be an “I’ll-eat-anything-you put-in-front-of-me” type of girl. But she is a baby. And the boys did have to get up for school this morning, so we had to be strategic in our choice of restaurant. Nothing too fancy or expensive. Nothing too far from home and service should be speedy. Our cuisine of choice? Ramen noodles.

Authentic Japanese ramen noodle restaurants are all the rage right now in Philly.  To be honest, I never knew ramen noodles could be anything other than those 99 cent packages of fried MSG one lives off in college. I experienced the real deal in Los Angeles a few years back at this hole in the wall ramen noodle shop in Little Tokyo. I’ve been searching for a similar experience ever since to no avail. Until last night. This is what I ate last night.

This ain’t your grocery store ramen!

Imagine a thick, rich, savory soup broth piled high with house made noodles, thin slices of succulent pork, a hard-boiled egg, pickled ginger, scallion, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Sweet baby Jesus, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I wanted to dive into my bowl and swim around in the yumminess. Yes, it was that good. The restaurant we went to was in Chinatown, so afterwards we stumbled into a nearby Chinese bakery for coffee and custard tarts. Oh, it was scrumptious. And affordable. *score!*

I know it’s wrong, but I’m trying to figure out how soon we can go back for a repeat. The kids loved it too. Babygirl was slurping down her noodles faster than we could cut them up and put them on her plate. And the boys practically licked their bowls clean. Did I mention my boys have been expertly using chopsticks since age five? Sorry, I have to brag on that one.

Anywho, I’m done sharing now. There are a couple of other ramen noodle joints in Philly that are supposedly better than the one we went to last night. That’s cool. I have no problem checking them out in the name of research, of course.

Anybody else out there a ramen noodle fan? Any suggestions for restaurants on the East Coast? Any suggestions on the best way to enjoy ramen or what to ask for when ordering. I’m so listening.

Peace.

Asian Soul Food? Yes, Please!

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

If there’s two things I love in this life it’s food and Asian culture. It seems in every major time period of my life, I’ve always had a really good Asian friend. In childhood, my best friend was Japanese. In high school, I hung with some cool Filipinos. In college all of my friends were Asian; Korean, Thai, Indian, Japanese. In my twenties, I bonded with a way cool Chinese chick. And you might know if you read this blog enough, that I have a serious crush on the coolest Asian dude on the planet, Kip Fulbeck.

And it goes without saying, that I love food. I love eating my way through different cultures. If I can’t travel, I can still sample the flavors of other worlds and I love that. So, imagine my utter delight at discovering Roy Choi and his Korean tacos. Sadly, I haven’t tasted his food, only read about it, but then I found out that Choi is not alone in creating his meltingpot medley of Korean and Mexican cuisine. Check out this article in the Atlantic and try not to cry while your mouth waters at the same time.

” Choi is part of a tsunami of rule-breaking Asian American chefs who have created a new genre of cooking in America: a robust and astonishingly creative blend that draws on Asian, Latin, and Southern foods. Its growing ranks of practitioners bring sterling chef credentials and modernist cooking techniques to bear on the foods of their forebears.

What they’re making is not just “modernist” Asian cuisine. It’s a type of cooking that has filtered through the multiethnic influences of their upbringings: taco stands, fast food joints, barbecue shacks, hip hop, and graffiti. Theirs is not the “fusion” cooking of the late ’70s and ’80’s, effete creations of European-trained masters who melded cultures with delicacy and nuance. Nor is it the cooking of Nobu Matsuhisa or Martin Yan, talented newcomers who tutored America in Asian ingredients and flavor combinations. This new wave of chefs is dishing up what I call Asian Soul Food: a gutsy, high-low mash up of street food and haute cuisine, old country flavors and new-fangled cooking techniques.”

The story of the food and the way it came to be is a meltingpot masterpiece, don’t you think? I love how food can be the connector between cultures. I love how these warring cultures on the streets have found a way to cozy up on the plate. It gives me hope. And a hunkering for a taco. Get me to Los Angeles, please. 

What’s your favorite culinary mash up dish? Kinky gazpacho perhaps? I’m kidding. But, really. I’m listening.


Peace!

Black Chefs Rising

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

I just wrote a story for TheGrio.com on rising culinary star, Nilton Borges, Jr. He’s an Afro-Brazilian (which I know can be viewed as redundant) who is making his mark as the executive chef at Amali Restaurant in New York City. Amali is a Mediteranean restaurant, specializing in seasonal, local fare.

I really enjoyed talking to Borges because his ‘son of a Black doctor in Brazil with pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps, to restaurant worker in the United States’ story was fascinating. And familiar. Borges said he had two hurdles to being accepted in fine dining kitchens here in the US, being Black and an immigrant. Please check out the story and leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

And speaking of Black chefs. Did everybody pick up their copy of Marcus Samuelsson’s new memoir, Yes, Chef. Finally, we hear the details to his amazing life story from Ethiopia to Sweden to New York City and back again. Samuelsson says his whole life has been about ‘chasing flavors.’ Sometimes I feel the same way.

Case in point, for my mother’s birthday, I prepared a dinner that brought together all of the flavors of my past; Moroccan chicken, rice salad with avocado and oranges, green beans with toasted almonds and a banana pudding with ‘Nilla wafers for dessert. Kinky Gazpacho all the way.

Where would you have to go to chase the flavors of your past?

I’m listening.

Peace!

 

Peace!