February 7

As I mature, so does my taste buds.

Black History MonthThis year to celebrate Black History Month, me and mi familia decided that we would do something different. Since we take pride in celebrating our blackness 24-7/365, we wanted to make this year more of an experience. One of the things that we decided to do was to experiment with some exquisite meals from various cultures of African descent—every weekend. Whether we patronize a restaurant or put on the ol’ apron and oven mitts—we will engulf ourselves in some culturally delectable dishes.

This past weekend we decided to try our hand at cooking a popular and tasty Caribbean meal: jerk chicken with plantains, coconut rice and beans. I will admit that the shopping for this meal was an adventure on its own. One of our first destinations was to visit one of the local farmers markets in the area to find some exotic fruit or vegetables to go with the dish. To our dismay, the lot was as empty as church during football season.

Church

We ended up at a local grocery chain that caters to a variety of cultures. The first item on the list was to get the plantains.  Let me start this by saying that I for one was not a huge fan of plantains. I tried it before and it wasn’t something I wanted to subject myself to again. After surveying the aisles, we finally landed on these banana-looking vegetables: some green, some yellow, some black. Upon our research with learned that the different stages of the plantains delivered a different flavor: green (starchy vegetable) and black (sweet side dish or desert). We decided to go with something in between.

Plantains

Now was the coconut rice. Some of the ingredients we used consisted of: coconut cream (good for smoothies), bouillon cubes, habanero pepper, rice and kidney beans. Instead of getting the traditional rice in the bag, we had some fun packaging our own. There wasn’t much to it after that. However, once we started to boil the coconut cream, the sweet smell was rather delightful. My taste buds began to immediately dance.

Coconut Rice

The main dish (jerk chicken) was something that I’ve had before, but again it wasn’t something that I yearned to try again. Here are some of the ingredients that put the jerk in the chicken: cayenne pepper, all-spice, cinnamon, thyme, garlic, onion powder, brown sugar, paprika, salt, black pepper, ginger, cloves, coriander and crushed red-pepper.  Seeing all these different shades of spices on the chicken was like looking at a piece of artwork. We were pleased with the final product.

Jerk Chicken

When it was time to eat, I sat in anticipation. I didn’t really know what to expect. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t a huge fan of neither plantains nor jerk chicken. When I took my first bite of chicken, it was pure heaven (even though my mouth burned like it was hell). To my surprise, the plantains weren’t bad either. To be honest it was quite delicious. The combination of the two was like the perfect couple. The texture of the plantain was firm and soft (almost potato like). The coconut rice and beans added the balance that was needed to complete this meal. The sweetness of the coconut added a nice smooth taste which complemented the spiciness of the jerk chicken.

Carribean Meal

Overall, the experience and taste was well worth it. I’m looking forward to next week’s adventure. Stay tuned!!!

 

 

 

 

January 31

Experience Life Through Writing: I sit patiently…

Train 301

Six, Seven, Eight—I count as each fallen leaf flutters only to wither and die. The wind is silent. The sun is falling. I sit patiently. I anticipate the slight rumbling underfoot—earthquake like. My cup dances atop the table. Window’s sings with vibrations. Pictures shake. Glasses rattle. Coins roll. Hands are hiding in pockets. Thumbs twirl. Newspapers snap. Fingers maneuver over the latest gadgets. I sit patiently.

The clock ticks. Shadows now cast over our heads. The moon is saying farewell to the light. Shirts no longer tucked. Ties loosened. Cigarette smoke fades with the chatter among its host. Yet, I sit patiently. Lipstick marks are tattooed to shirt collars. Wedding bands exist—some hidden. Worry, fear, anger, sadness and joy mask the variety of faces. Eyebrows furrow, dance, tilt and curve. I sit patiently.

I can hear it calling and feel it coming. Legs stretch. People stand. Eyes wander. Mine closed. Mind opened. I wonder. Where has it been? Where is it going? Silence is broken. Rails wrapped by fingers: stubby, short, long, skinny. My skin is alive. Something thunderous is heading my way. Light breaks the dark. It calls again—screaming. Its face now in full view: grimy, rustic, shiny, hard. I stand. Walk. I sit patiently.

Now on the inside: new atmosphere, different faces, various reasons, and many unknowns. Laughter is in the air. A sense of calmness is the mood. Through the windows; images arrive and immediately becomes memories. My mind drifts: relaxed, free, thinking, growing.  I sit patiently as I count—three, four, and five.

January 23

Writing is the best therapy…

Writing TheraphyThe wonders of writing: enchanting, captivating, charming, appealing and engaging. As writer’s we all try to create that moment. That moment etched in time when our work will be considered worthy to be shared with the masses.  I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliché that steel sharpens steel. It’s no different for writers. As writer’s we are in essence creators. Creator’s breeds creativity. Often, I find myself immersed with the pressures that life tends to bring: bills, responsibilities, unwarranted stress; the things that are reserved for adulthood (why did I ever want to rush this process). Needless to say, I get a great sense of rejuvenation each time I’m able to put my pen to pad or fingers to keys.

My creativity thrives in the most awkward situations. As my heart rate increases, my mind slows down. I’m able to grasp all the minor details that we tend to take for granted: sounds of a door opening, laughter escaping the lips of our loved ones, wind teasing our skin or the whisper’s of Mother Nature.  With this precise attention to detail, I’m able to transfer these thoughts into my works.

I will be honest and say, that this has not always been the case. When I completed my first novel in 2013, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was able to fulfill a dream that I wasn’t always sure would come to pass. While I received great praise for the project, I was still not satisfied. I was still growing—just reaching the surface of my potential as a writer. I’m at the point now that I feel my journey is really about to begin. My mind is fresh with a new perspective as it relates to literacy. Now when I write it’s free-flowing, effortless, natural—not forced. The pieces of the puzzle are easier to find now. My mind becomes clearer. I can close my eyes and capture the sounds around me. I’m at peace, still, calm, and resolved.

No longer do I concern myself with the things that we cannot control. I have to remind myself that I’m a creator. And as a creator, I have the ability to write my wrongs. It’s no different than sitting on a couch with your thought’s weighing heavily on your mind, while you attempt to express those feelings to a therapist or psychiatrist. When you write, you are one-to-one with self—just you and your thoughts—alone. Alone in a world that can be full of dark skies, but we know that the morning can bring a ray a sunshine. So as I continue my journey through life, I now have a greater appreciation for it. And I can thank writing for that. It’s my therapy, solace, peace and validation.