Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why Food and Music?

Information. Food and music are information. Both are primary sources of knowledge as it relates to our sojourn on this planet. Every seed, every plant, within its DNA there is the intelligence of Earth, from the ancient of days to the pre-sent. Music is the heartbeat, the pulse of life itself. It's the rhythm, the ebb and flow of this journey. Food represents light, and music is sourced through sound. Light and Sound, the manifestations of which all life and all sense of being comes into existence and is experienced in this realm. Through sound and light our perceptions are shaped, and those things tangible and intangible have medium. When mystics take on disciples and conduct of livelihood is taught the focus is on silence (or focusing our internal sound/meditation) and diet. Essential, for as the cliche has informed us we are what we eat and most certainly we are the things we take in.

Consider how many memories are tailored with a certain song and the emotions evoked. The feelings elicited by food. A smell that draws you back to childhood or a favorite space and time in life. Food and music both possess the power to heal, to comfort and to transform our realities. They create and sustain environments. Nourish and develop our nations. We fight and war in the name of them, we love to love them. We live by and through food and music. They are the source of definition for culture.

Every herb, every leaf carries the life and light code that has the power to illuminate our beings and nourish these vehicles we have been given to maintain. Agriculture is the center of any civilization. We must eat to live and therefore food is at the foundation of pushing forward any nation, any family or person towards continuation. Food holds the history of a people. It shapes the nature of how we exist, of where we exist. It has the power to unite cultures and through the breaking of bread, doors of communication have opened. Food is the fuel, it holds the blueprint to shape, mold and sustain us. Food is life, it is light.

In music, we have the combination of human thought and expression, word and sound. With these elements together, we see power manifest. There is the transmission of past, present and the possibilities of future. Music is the pipeline. It is the ancient women of the Nyabinghi order, drumming to sound the alarm. Sending messages through the night to give voice to a united front for freedom. Music is history, scripture, lifestyle, frivolous pursuits or love unrequited. Music is the channel through which we share one to another. Bob Marley sings, "Help to sing another song of freedom, all I ever have, redemption songs" In that line he calls forward to the future and addresses the present. Expressed is a moment in time where redemption was the order, the request. He seeks a time of freedom, sealing history and presenting potentials for times to come. Script says life and death are in the power of the tongue (both what you eat and say). All life vibrates on its own frequency, to express its existence. Music is life, life is sound.

Think of the appeal of music and food. How they call to the senses. With no respect of person, caste, creed, color, or station in life, they entice us equally, to nourish and inspire. The tangy sweetness of a peach. The bits of sunshine you taste with each bite. Its as if your taste buds have been illuminated. The highs of Roberta Flack as she sings "When You Smile", reminding you of that smile that you know to be kin to the sun's rays. The cool bitterness and wet firmness of aloe. The accents and sharp drives coupled with the roundness of Nina Simone as she sings "Aint No Use". Intense information and sensory overload in the same instance. And the feel of it all, indescribable, full-bodied "nice-ness". :)

Yes, Food and Music. What better way to serve life? What grander way to fuel existence? Love.

In the last 2 months my family has been traveling. Kenya, Dubai, Atlanta, Los Angeles. I've eaten everywhere it seems. There is this spot in Los Angeles called Urth Cafe (google it). They serve a really awesome Portabella Mushroom sandwich. Yum!! Here is my tip of the hat to Urth Cafe. Ingredients: A really good Ciabatta loaf. Slice it horizontally and toast it, arugula pesto (recipe below), grilled portabella mushroom sliced, roasted red peppers, romaine lettuce and grilled artichoke hearts.

Arugula Pesto

  • 2 cups of arugula leaves (no steams)

  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts

  • 1/2 cup of olive oil

  • 7 cloves of garlic peeled

  • salt to taste

You have the option to toast your pine nuts lightly to get a roasted flavor. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until you have a nice consistent paste, or if you wish you can place the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, adding the olive oil slowly as you grind. Voila!! This will be the spread for your sandwich.

Grill portabellas, peppers and arugla. leaving some crunch to the veggies and some firmness to the mushroom. Spread the ciabatta with the arugula pesto and layer your sandwich as you see fit. Yum..quick and easy lunch. If you prefer to leave out the bread, you can always stir fry the mushrooms and saute them in the pesto. Place over a bed of romaine lettuce and add your favorite salad veggies. Injoy!!

My Kitchen Sounds like: The cosmos and "You Make Me Smile" by Aloe Blacc

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kenya: In Reverance of love

I've hesitated despite the questions and demands to write this all, knowing that whatever I could muster up would only serve as an injustice to the huge realities of feelings, of thoughts, of expression reserved within for her. Kenya can't be described in words. She is taste, she is feel, she is experience. And I have yet to let go, to think out or fully unravel from the hold she has on me, in order to share with you. But here we are. For Kenya, forgive my shortcomings beloved one.

My First Taste: Passion Fruit Juice
My First Fruit: Tree Tomato
My First Meal: Habesha Ethiopian

Imagine a place...The sun has not yet risen, and the cock sings his song to announce the dawning of a new day. The adhan rings out, to remind us to stay mindful of pray. To keep us in thought of thankfulness and humility before the greatness of The Creator. My first taste I know will be passion fruit or porridge. My host has created a remix that couples coconut and a variety of spices to accompany the sour cereal. I know that in these first tastes I will be comforted. Reminded of the warmth of life and the beauty in awakening to new days. Yeah, I'm a food junkie. Completely indulged in my sense of taste. It envelops me and inspires these words. It has brought me closer to family after work days. It sparks laughter and rest. Here in Kenya, the taste are new and fresh. It taste like, feels like home.
If I am to begin anywhere it is with Tata's food. Our meeting was very brief with no words passed between us (however by the end of the night she would name me Wabura), only glances. But her food left an impression on me that has planted roots in my culinary memory. What sticks out was the Pilau, Mokimo and Chapatis. The meal pulled on the part of me that longs for comfort and believes in the power of subtleties. The beauty in simplicity. I was comforted by the familiarity of a family meal and enticed by the newness of food from hands that have known another existence, in another space and time. And the flavors, textures and colors that being in that space give way to.

Nairobi offered meals with the ones I hold near to my heart. Family. It offered the opportunity to cook from fresh, local produce. She was Diamond Plaza and Meru's bhajias with fresh avocado and lime juice. Nairobi was egg less chocolate cake. She was Florence's dengu, sukuma wiki and chips. Nairobi is fashioned with memories of apple mangoes that are kin to bliss, sticky, oily jack fruit, custard apples and pineapples that taste like sunshine. With you beloved one, me and my Sun have run on trails in arboretums, eating mangoes from street vendors seasoned with chili. Our feet red from your soil as we sipped remixed porridge in the morning and traced peace signs with bamboo sticks on your pathways. Our tag, to show that we were there, loving and living. I've trailed the foothills of Mt. Kenya, and breathed the same air that fueled life to Kimathi and the Mau Mau during their freedom struggle. I've walked the roads of Zion, looking for elephants and eating guava jam and fresh fruit bought on the side of the road. I fell in love with my imagination again watching shooting stars and tracing constellations. I knew fullness, my appetites satiated by the abundance that you are Kenya.

In Nairobi there is Aga Khan's Hawkers market. One of the most beautiful things a foodie can come across. Food, fresh fruit and vegetables everywhere. Anything you can desire. Bargains, haggling and the sweetest, sweetness of fruit I have ever tasted. I grew full from all the different varieties of mango I sampled at different stalls. It was perfection. Amazing perfection. And I stood in the middle of all that motion, so still and quiet. Overwhelmed by taking it all in.

And then, and then...there is Mombasa. Ahh, stealer of hearts. Mombasa, clear water beaches and street food. Sugar cane juice fresh and squeezed from a mill by hand with hints of ginger and lime. Mombasa was warm and tender nights. Something kin to bhajias made with potatoes, and battered in lentil flour called viazi via karai, bought in front of someones home, deep fried on the spot in the yard and served with chili paste. (Catch me singing "Best I Ever Had"). Coconut water and breakfast that's more like an adventure in taste; Black beans cooked in coconut milk (mbazi) and stuffed in pastry or mandazis, rice and coconut cakes, lentil bhajias and fresh fruit. Mombasa is pleasure, unapologetic, unabashed. Mombasa is kin.

And I can go on and on. I left you reluctantly and with much strife. And my last tastes, once again, Tata. Pilau, beans and cabbage. The most simple and filling way to say farewell. There is so much more to say. Immense thanks and apprecilove that I cant convey proper. So, beloved one, I salute you dear heart. Until, until..Love

Bhajias (potato)
  • 1 potato sliced in thin circles. (you can even use the slicer on a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 1/2 cups of gram (lentil) flour
  • 1/4 cup sliced coriander leaves
  • variety of spices to your taste. I reccomend any of the indian culinary spices.
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder *key element for bhajias to rise
  • sunflower oil to deep fry

With the flour and water, make a thick batter, similar to pancake batter. Stir in spices to taste. Add potatoes and make sure to coat completly. Get them completly gooey with the batter. Heat oil until its really hot. Careful not to burn, but make sure that is hot, to the point o fdeep frying. You can do a test by dropping a bit of batter in the oil. If the batter puffs up, the oil is ready. Place the bhajia batter in the oil by spoonfuls. They will rise and puff in the batter. Cook until they are a golden brown and are nice and crisp, about 3 minutes. Voila. Bhajias. Serve with chili paste, tamarind sauce any number of chutneys or my favorite kachumbari, basically salsa made up of tomatoes, chili, cilantro, garlic, onion and lime. The beauty of bhajias is that there are a many versions. A bhajia is really anything fried so try the flour batter mix with spinach or onions, really any vegetable you can think of. Injoy!!

My Kitchen sounds like "Zamaney" by JahCoozi and Ukoo Flani and "Lady of the Sun" by A Race of Angels