Saturday, June 30, 2018

Harmful Veganism/Vegetarianism Perceptions on Black Television

Queen Sugar's lupus diagnosed Violet Bordelon (Tina Lifford, center) presents Hollywood Desonier (Omar Dorsey, left) and Blue Bordelon (Ethan Hutchison, right) a plate of sautéed squash and seitan.
"Cheers to meat!" Hollywood exclaims, bumping a chicken nugget to the chicken nugget of Blue.

Last week's Queen Sugar episode, "A Little Lower Than Angels," wasn't the easiest grain to swallow. Several subtle anti-vegan/vegetarian distasteful jokes came out of the woodwork. I watch television for entertainment, for mild escapism. However, this blatant disregard shared problematic limits of black lives matter movement, the problems associated from its lack of intersection when showcasing speciesism. Hollywood, an adult character, reinforces to Blue, a child character, that the cycle remains repeated, concluding that masculinity and meat go hand in hand. Furthermore, earlier, the child elicited joy at visiting the aquarium. Thus, in this single episode, a child is taught that some animals are for our viewing pleasure and others are for consumption.

For starters, I am a huge Queen Sugar fan. I love its compelling depth of characters, bravery in raising controversial past/contemporary issues, especially in the Southern setting (heart of oppressive black pain and struggle), and the all women directing initiative led by creator Ava DuVernay. I also applaud the range of brown and dark brown actors and actresses making up the cast, a less colorist diaspora than most television shows. In regards to this episode, it is evidenced more than ever the importance of black vegan characters on a fictional realm. We are at the age of Black Vegans Rock, at a time where black urban farmers are rising, and black vegan restaurants are coming up. On a show that is about redemption, purpose, and honor, you would think one person cared about animal welfare.

"I won't eat it," Blue concludes.
None of Queen Sugar's characters are self certified vegans. Originally, this wasn't an issue. Again, I was impressed with the stories, the acting, the cinematography. However, this was the first episode, from three seasons, that made several anti-vegan/anti-vegetarian statements.

Now Vi is an excellent cook. Am I supposed to believe that she can't prepare an epic seitan? Well, maybe she is too new to experimenting with it. Maybe she will create something better in the next episode. Still, Aunt Vi is a valiant taste tester. She would know if she was serving bad food.

After Ant (Myles Truitt) pours Charley's bought cereal and almond milk into a bowl from Charley's cabinet, he has the nerve to say that almond milk wastes water.

Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) is surprised by the boy's words.

"It takes one whole gallon of water to grow one almond," says Ant, one of the pro black teen activists that Micah befriends, after asking Charley where is the "regular" milk. "California is the largest grower of almonds on the account of the drought though. Just food for thought."

Somehow, Ant or no one else wants to discuss the unadulterated violence of slaughterhouses, of young calves being taken from their mothers for said "regular" milk, and the environmental harm caused by the ruthless meat and dairy industries.

In closing, Hollywood tells Violet that he respects her for eating better, but he needs his meat. He brings her a bowl of cauliflower rice. She believes it's delicious. Yet the implication is that animal products are an ingredient-- because low and behold veganism/vegetarianism is not tasty, flavorful food.


On Living Single, Regine (Kim Fields) took the vegetarian plunge, planning to change her signature "Smooches" catchphrase to "Tofu!"

After her friends get rid of her fruits and vegetables, Regine (Kim Field, left at the grill) manages to find one piece of celery. Overton (John Singleton, right) grills it for her.

Regine is all smiles. Overton can't be mad. Everyone is happy.
Queen Sugar also reminded me of an old Living Single rerun.

Then, decades ago, "Am I My Sister's Keeper," episode seven of season two aired. During a talk show segment on the dangers of consuming meat, Regine decides to become vegetarian. Yet, when Regine discards the meat of her roommates, Khadijah and Sinclair, out of revenge, they get even, filling the refrigerator and freezer with nothing but meat. Along with neighbors, Overton and Kyle, they plan a "meat only" barbecue. Both sides went too far with disposing each other's foods, food being one of the most costly parts of living. However, Khadijah, Sinclair, and Max took it farther by waving their choices in Regine's face-- literally.

Hence, Living Single mirrored real life situations-- family and friends who invite vegetarians and vegans over with intentions on conversion therapy. Some people believe that maybe ,while growing up, you didn't have your meat prepared correctly. Maybe this is a phase initiated by white media-- despite that historically Africans were naturally prone to diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and starches before American enslavement forced the eating of scraps from their slave masters. Nowadays, if you're not eating ribs, hamburgers, and bacon, everyone seems ready to vilify and revoke your "black" card.

Still, Regine stuck by her lifestyle change.

Countless others and I also stand by veganism and will not be thwarted.

Lynn (Persia White) spreading peace, love, and vegan harmony.
At least Girlfriends set up a solid positive example with Lynn Searcy, a biracial vegan. Her veganism is part of her-- unique, distinctive, elemental. From the time of her introduction and remainder of eight seasons, she was a constant champion of animal rights.

I wish there were more black vegan/vegetarian characters. It would be an amazing, contemporary justice. Queen Sugar--which unlike other examples is currently on air-- centers itself on political, social, economic, emotional, physical, and mental struggle of black lives. They have introduced LGBTQ characters. They have included a main character involved with police altercation. With Vi's lupus diagnosis, comes a step closer to informing the public about the great benefits of plant based eating.

Moreover, I just want to be the viewer without feeling attacked or ridiculed. Veganism/vegetarianism shouldn't remain tied up in these old, rehashed stereotypes, the butt of jokes. It doesn't help anyone to find dishonest slander on a television show promoted for black people on a black owned television network. And yes, these characters eat animals almost every week (cringeworthy), but when it comes to plant based substitutes, they immediately rise to the occasion to speak against it.

Like earth loving Nova, a Queen Sugar character giving voice to those without one, I am passionately outspoken for the animals, for those sentient beings abhorrently bred in captivity. When it come to entertainment, however, we deserve seeing reflections of ourselves in a fictional capacity, someone who too cares about black lives matter and animal rights. Every single being deserves liberation. It doesn't make sense for such glaring issues to be separate, to not be closely intertwined. The links are obvious and painful.
“The food we eat masks so much cruelty. The fact that we can sit down and eat a piece of chicken without thinking about the horrendous conditions under which chickens are industrially bred in this country is a sign of the dangers of capitalism, how capitalism has colonized our minds. The fact that we look no further than the commodity itself, the fact that we refuse to understand the relationships that underly the commodities that we use on a daily basis. And so food is like that.” - Angela Davis
Unfortunately, many use television and film including young children as a source of both education and guilty pleasure. There are not a lot of mainstream vegan/vegetarian programming, much less featured fictional vegan/vegetarian characters. Black vegan/vegetarian programming is nonexistent unless searching on the web. Thus, we must reframe the narratives to be inclusive and responsible. Otherwise, people would truly believe that veganism/vegetarianism is water wasteful, flavorless, and difficult.

Plus, a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, one of the largest forms of activism, goes beyond food digestion.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Mac N Cheese & Pecan Ground Tacos

Putting a classic fave on soft tortillas.
As the weather warms up and colorful plating aesthetic takes primary importance for meal prep, I have been experimenting with taco fillings. A messier handheld than a sandwich, tacos are great all year round, especially delightful during summertime. Warm and cool elements work together. Fresh ingredients bringing a pleasant brightness to a soft or crunchy tortilla shell.
Pecan ground is absolutely delicious. The simple recipe is that of walnut meatballs-- the addition of liquid aminos, cumin, and coriander providing an amazing depth of flavor. Added to macaroni and cheese (vegan Hamburger Helper style) with avocado, red onions, and a touch of Parmela Creamery Nutcheese makes for one scrumptious, hard to resist, gloriously messy taco.

Mac N Cheese & Pecan Ground Tacos Ingredients and Preparation

2 cups cooked mac n cheese (with or without veggies, mine had broccoli)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 teaspoon liquid aminos
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoon Parmela Creamery (or any other spread/vegan sour cream)
1/4 cup red onion
1 avocado
tortillas (soft or hard shell)

Set aside prepared macaroni and cheese.
In a blender or food processor pulse together pecans, liquid aminos, cumin, and coriander until a nice crumbly appearance.
Heat up olive oil. Add pecan ground.

Brown the pecans for 6-8 minutes.

Add to prepared mac n cheese and broccoli. Used the remainder of Vegetable Cheese Sauce here.

Layered soft tortilla shells with Parmela Creamery nut cheese on the bottom, then macaroni and cheese with pecan ground, and lastly, red onions and chopped avocado.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Juneteenth in Philadelphia

Last Friday evening, commemorative wreaths honors Austin, Paris, Hercules, Christopher Sheeler, Richmond, Giles. Oney Judge, Moll, and Jon.

Before sharing the closing highlights of Juneteenth, I would love to link everyone to Chéri Yielle's Save My Soul. - a pleasant, soulful tune as humbly sweet as a mixture of maple syrup and dark chocolate. In addition to making a beautiful spirited song that calls out to the ancestral astral plane, Yielle is a vegan and shares her multifaceted artist lifestyle on Instagram. Check her out!

On a rainy Friday evening, a host of individuals from local, national, and international took the stage, red, green, and black balloons setting the mood with its symbolic color scheme. This was the third year for such an event, a commemoration of not just the freeing of African Americans from enslavement. The crowd stood right on the slave burial ground, near the slave auction block, a place that now beastly honors those nine illegal indentured prisoners of Washington's white house. In between moments of beautiful songs including the Pan African anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing." dance and theatrical performances, motivating speakers gave candid, moving accounts of how horrific the environment. We learned the importance of ATAC (Avenging the Ancestors Coalition), a local organization that fought for eight years to rectify a great wrong. On a December day, eight years ago, the mayor of Philadelphia cut the opening ribbon of the first slave memorial of its kind on federal property here in America just moments away from The Liberty Bell-- named such thanks to 19th century abolitionists.

The Philadelphia Heritage Chorale.

Among the artworks is a piece that tells the story of Oney Judge-- the successful woman who ran away before being presented as a present for Martha Washington's granddaughter. 

The Nanikha sisters gifted the audience with two beautiful serenades.

Special guest speaker, Opal Lee is the 92 year-old activist who, two years ago, walked from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington D.C., campaigning for Juneteenth to be a national holiday. In this short NPR interview, she says, "Slaves didn't free themselves. There were abolitionists and people of all persuasions that worked untiringly to have slavery abolished."

After walking down the red carpet to the joyous harmonies of the Philadelphia Chorale, Kenny Gamble and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney lead on a moment of silence for slavery's countless victims and our strength to continue onward.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Baked Apple Hand Pies

Move over Hostess and Little Debbie-- first and certainly not the last foray into pie-- hand pie.

Time to share the perfect Juneteenth dessert.
I have always wanted to make pastry, especially something along the lines of pie, but butter is such an essential ingredient. Most vegan substitutes rely on palm oil. I wonder why it seems to be in everything, which screams red flag. Thankfully, Miyoko's Kitchen has a scrumptious new alternative on the market (look for the official AfroVeganChick review next week). It has been a life saver. At last, certain things are possible.

Organic Royal Gala apples from Mom's Organic Market.
I certainly should have prepped the dough yesterday. It is an involved process that was a bit too taxing after walking to work, eight hours of work, a great artist lecture after work, and the hour + walk back home. So yes, to return to the kitchen and retain dead set determination to create this dessert is a thing in itself. Still, I was excited and joyous about making my first hand pies. The efforts were well worth the end result-- eating a delicious warm sweet straight out of the oven inspired by That's So Vegan's Classic Apple Hand Pies recipe, amended from another amazing blog, Oh Lady Cakes.

Baked Apple Hand Pies Ingredients and Preparation

2 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (one package of Mikoyo's Kitchen butter), cold and cut into chunks
8 tablespoon water

2 apples, peeled and chopped into small bits
3 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie or apple pie spice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder (or 1 1/2 teaspoon flour)

Mix flour, sugar, and salt together. Add butter chunks and fork stir until crumbly. Cover and place in a freezer for 15 minutes. Take this out and distribute water one tablespoon at a time. Once dough sticks together, knead for a minute or so. Roll into a large ball. Cover again and place in the refrigerator for an hour.

Kneaded dough before being refrigerated. A little tear spilled from my eye. It was such a good moment.

In a saucepan set on low heat, combine apples, water, coconut oil, cinnamon, pumpkin or apple pie spice, sugar, and lemon juice. Once apples are tender and soft add in arrowroot powder or flour to thicken. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take out chilled dough. Roll out onto floured surface and form circles. Place a small amount of apple filling in the center and fold corner over. Fork press the corners together. Poke ventilation holes (or hearts) into top of the pies. Brush with a small bit of oil.

Bake for 15-25 minutes or until edges are browned.

Bursting with apple goodness.

Pie resting in a bed of homemade vanilla ice cream.

The heart wants what it wants.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Vegetable Cheese Sauce

Cheese sauce made from veggies. Vegan creativity never fails to influence my everyday meal.
Happy Juneteenth!

Today, we celebrate our ancestors across America, the last of African diaspora slaves in Galveston, Texas earned their emancipated freedom. On 153rd anniversary of this great victory, well giant steps to victory, we must never forget the painful hardships and dangerous oppression that had been orchestrated since coming enslaved to a young country. There is still long ways to go until true, honest, authentic resolution for all the peoples residing in America. And I believe that it can be achieved.

From onward, Juneteenth will be a yearly blog tradition.

I started a 20" x 30" acrylic painting that combines the highlight of the Grenada cocoa fashion show from last month and a generous piece of a still life containing a fair trade chocolate bar (Chauo Chocolate) on headwrap fabric.
Just like a the standard mixtape on the hot summer barbecue days and nights, here's some soulful tune suggestions while making art and cooking for feel good vibes:

"California Soul"-- Marlena Shaw
"Like This"-- Monica
"You Don't Have To Worry"-- Doris & Kelley
"Summertime"-- DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
"Word Iz Bond"-- 702
"Tonite's Tha Nite"-- Kris Kross
"I Can Love You"-- Mary J. Blige & Lil Kim
"Can We"-- SWV
"Rhythm Nation"-- Janet Jackson
"Hot Like Fire (Remix)"-- Aaliyah
"Queen"-- Janelle Monae Feat. Erykah Badu
"Love Like This"-- Faith Evans
"Music"-- Eric Sermon & Marvin Gaye
"Your Woman"-- White Town
"Here Comes the Hotstepper"-- Ini Kamoze
"PYT"-- Michael Jackson
"Black Sweat"-- Prince
"Creep"-- TLC
"Hit Dem Wit Da Hee"-- Missy Elliot & Lil Kim
"American Boy"-- Estelle
"Black Steel"-- Tricky Feat Martina Topley-Bird
"Don't Disturb This Groove"-- The System
"He's The Greatest Dancer"-- Sister Sledge
"I'm So Excited"-- The Pointer Sisters

And so many, many more (please give me your songs).....

At last, Juneteenth couldn't be complete without a scrumptious dinner. I finally made cheese sauce with carrots and potatoes-- inspired by a video long ago posted on my Facebook page. Isn't it amazing that the simplest of vegetables, cheap vegetables, concoct perfect solutions when one doesn't have cashews on hand? Usually people add Yukon or white or golden potatoes, but I had sweet potatoes. The sauce comes out a pretty shade of orange, reminding me a bit of the butternut cheese sauce. It's tangy, light on sweetness, irresistibly creamy.

Vegetable Cheese Sauce Ingredients and Preparation

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
5 small to medium sized carrots
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Chopped veggies. I saved the sweet potato scraps for future plans.

Bring sweet potatoes, carrots, red onions, and olive oil to a boil-- approximately 30- 40 minutes. Make sure carrots and sweet potatoes are fork tender before placing in the blender. Blend with nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and black pepper until smooth and creamy.

Add to any pasta of your choice. Macaroni is always a good choice. 

The Pan African Flag is on full display: green for Brussels sprouts, the red bowl of dinner, and a black "Black is Beautiful" Studio Museum Harlem mug of iced cold cocoa tea (recipe will be posted this week-- a special treat from the Caribbean).

Monday, June 18, 2018

Blackened Moroccan Spiced Carrots

This is the first time sharing vegan Juneteenth recipes on the blog. It's better late than never to celebrate the important significance of tomorrow, a day that commemorates the last freed peoples of African diaspora in Texas. Although meat is usually on the menus of most Juneteenth functions, especially in the deep South, a little plant based goodness can bring about necessary change to the minds of many while at the same time fulfill the joys of ancestors flowing in our veins and satisfy hungry bellies.

Recipe number one is a trip to Morocco, a country in Northern Africa I long to visit. It's connected to Western Sahara and Algeria and is known for splendid palaces, creative architecture, gorgeous nature views, and delicious spicy food. Thus, all over the web are various versions of Moroccan carrots from chilled salads to carrot soups. I twice prepared my carrots-- boiling to lightly soften and pan frying for the desired blackening effect. They came out perfectly spiced and fork tender accompanied by marinated tempeh and topped with red onions.

Blackened Moroccan Spiced Carrots Ingredients and Preparation

5-6 large carrots, rinsed
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
cilantro (fresh or dried, also sub parsley)
pinch of lemon juice

Bring carrots to a boil. Drain.
Coat carrots with salt, garlic, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cilantro, and lemon juice. Refrigerate for a few hours.
Heat up a skillet and add olive oil. Toss in marinated carrots, turning them over as nice charred sears start happening.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Wild Blend Rice With Black Sesame Seed Pan Fried Tofu

There is nothing wrong with revisiting an old favorite-- rice and fried tofu, a heartfelt vegan classic.

Last week, a slew of Lundberg Family Farm rice varieties were on sale from jasmine to brown to short and long grain. I selected the Lundberg Wild Blend, a mix of long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, whole grain Wehani rice,  and whole grain black Japonica rice.

It was only right to make classic fried tofu alongside a beautiful, delicious compilation of rice.

Wild Blend Rice With Black Sesame Seed Pan Fried Tofu Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup Lundberg Farms Wild Blend (or any rice of your choosing)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 14 oz extra tofu block, pressed as close to dry as possible and cubed
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup red onion

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Prepare wild rice according to package directions. Set aside.
Heat a skillet with generous olive oil drizzle.
In a bowl, hand toss cubed tofu with sesame oil, garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, liquid aminos, ginger, black pepper, and red onion. Let this marinate for a minute or two.
Cook tofu for a few minutes on each side. Serve hot with rice. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pot Meet "The Kettle Black"

Established last year, The Kettle Black is spreading love and creativity in baking and drinks department. Don't expect an ordinary kind of bliss.
I made a desperate stop in the Northern Liberties area, an integral part of my hour + walking journey to work, just to visit The Kettle Black on N. 2nd Street. For weeks, some great Instagram accounts have been singing the praises of this indie spirited coffee and bread joint, a nod to France with its boulangerie playing the right notes. Serving up breads and pastries, on occasion specials have included vegan cinnamon rolls, vegan cruffins (crumpet and muffin?), and vegan funfetti croissants.

I am anxious to try the vanilla rose latte! Vanilla rose simple syrup (house made) sounds too good to be true.
When inside the space, warm, pleasant relaxation come to mind, the environment, although small, beckons one to stay and write, chat, linger a while longer. Muted colors on the walls, large windows letting the sun shine in, and clean, clear display case full of beautiful, browned pastries designed to tease hungry revelers on their way to 9-5. A few people can afford the dalliance to sit on tall stools facing the spring blossomed trees, their phones and mini laptops on fitting effortlessly on narrow wooden alignment.

The associate was friendly, giving me a few seconds to look over the entire place. I watched people order their straight coffees and espressos before deciding on trying the vegan croissants.

Humble bread loaves and a mountain of fresh bagels.

The makings of a splendid day cast in golden light to rival the sunshine.

Vegan croissants to go.

After warmed up, this impressive croissant is incredibly flaky, pillowy soft, and full of rich, fattening, "buttery" flavor. It's definitely worth the pit stop.

The first two rolls are usually vegan. 

The current featured artwork fits in quite nicely. These three evenly spaced compositions of intricate line details are contained inside creased, oblong shapes exploring contrast with limited color palette. It's also interesting what color can convey. In the black and white, many representations come to mind such as floating fish, molecular fluidity, and impromptu beginnings of exploring pure abstraction. In a red one, the same line qualities are painted green with yellow green outlines, appearing like leaves or some rare green animal existing in a charged bloodline.

Naturally, I came back to Kettle Black the very next day for the lox sandwich on a black salt bagel. Fashionably frugal yet casual in headwrap from Eva's Headwraps (she has sadly disappeared without word on social media), Kay Unger sunglasses ($8 from Burlington Coat Factory), and a pug print blouse ($2 from Circle Thrift). 

The lox, made of tofu, is divine! I have never had real lox so thus I cannot make a proper comparison. The smoky generous pieces were a mouthful of deliciousness coated affectionately with superb vegan cream cheese-- creamy, rich, no odd after tastes. Alas, the black salt bagel is not just an aesthetically pleasing eye wonder. From its coarse salted granules at the top to the chewy, dense softness of its toasted glory, there is no surprise that it's a popular favorite. It's unique and amazing.