Thursday, April 19, 2018

En Route To Grenada And Other Fair Trade Chocolate News

A friend of mine and fellow PAFA alum sent me this beautiful card. In the self-care box, I ordered NibMor sweets. They offered a cordial packet of Mint Hot Chocolate. 
Remember back in October when I introduced work in progress of my fair trade chocolate bar paintings interacting with the short-lived Still Star Crossed characters here?
The passion is deepening. I have started researching projects for my Fulbright application (scary long process). Women in Africa own chocolate companies. They're proving that marginalized bodies are not picking cacao pods out of dangerous territories and exporting to Europe and North America. These women are processing their country's primary resources and selling their efforts in their homelands, giving to their people in the most nurturing ways. Selassie Atadika sells Midunu Chocolates in Ghana (will email her about vegan options) as well as sisters Kimberly and Priscilla Addison of 57 Chocolates (named after the year of Ghana's independence and they have four vegan flavors). Plus Jaki Kweba of Tanzania co-founded the first and only indigenous company of fine chocolate, Chocolate Mama's Gourmet.
Thus, I am looking at Ghana and Tanzania for host countries and researching possible projects. 

Mint cat print dress with dried cherry chocolate sweetness. I still believe that NibMor have the best cherry bar out right now next to the wonderful treasure, ChocoSol Traders Mon Cherry Amour, a 65% cacao chocolate cherry decadence.
 My dream is to be this woman, surrounded in colorful cacao pods, enjoying the Caribbean sun.
When a co-worker told me about the Grenada Chocolate Festival, I was pleased to hear such an event existed. An actual days long festival dedicated to chocolate? It sounded incredible. While events such as chocolate yoga, chocolate as beauty ingredient, chocolate tastings, chocolate festival, and chocolate extravaganza serenaded a chocolaty siren's song it was the "Farmer for a Day" that excited me most of all. To trek through terrain where cacao pods grow, to crack open a pod and see the seeds up close, to meet farmers on plantations... I have always imagined being the brown woman version of Charlie Buckett, scoring the golden ticket to the lay of the chocolate land, a land that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory hadn't acknowledged, a land of brown farmers and colorful cacao pods, the origins of great wealth and fascination. 
Maybe perhaps, I could have scored an invitation somehow. I filled out the comment form and prayed to hear back. No response. I looked up artist/writing travel grants (some of course were expired and others dispersing funds way after the festival).
I created a GoFundMe in hopes of attaining the remaining funds for the Grenada Chocolate Festival ticket, accommodation, and other arriving expenses. This experience will further strengthen my Fulbright application-- finally seeing and being around the cacao pod environment. Any amount would be helpful and greatly appreciated.

Sketch inspired by the Grenada Chocolate Festival website advertisement, an afrogirl surrounded in cacao pods. Yes, I've been having a few dreams lately of finding myself in the same sea, finding cacao pods like cocoons for butterflies to grow and prosper. I will make a watercolor version for the GoFundMe thank you cards and pray that it has the same infectious joy as this little litho crayon drawing.

Finished "Afro Chocoholic In Cacao Pod Heaven" stone before first and second etching. Just litho crayons. I wanted to try out some washes. Maybe next stone? I am making a limited edition of 30 prints (on good quality animal free Fabriano paper) and they'll be offered for $50 rewards on my GoFundMe.
Face close up. The hair was my favorite part, darkening the afro and scratching out the whites with a knife.

The prints are coming out beautifully.
Making the edition. 
I end the day with my last NibMor treat, the Mint Hot Drinking Chocolate. It's rich and creamy with a light mint flavor. I added the mix to a pot of hot water (not boiling) and a bit of unsweetened almond milk. There is no need for extra sweetener. It's perfect and divine.
Hot chocolate fogging the lens.
Blogger Tricks

Sunday, April 15, 2018

In My Neighborhood: Women Owned Places to Be In Philadelphia

Art Dept Philly, self-described as a "collective-run community space specializing in reclaiming history through vintage objects, art, and public events," is one of the three unique spots up in my new neighborhood thanks to Emily, artist and founding member. I also met kind Amelie, an award winning writer and educator. Learn more about them and other collective members here.

With the horrible news about the black real estate brokers arrested for waiting at a local Starbucks without purchasing still being unloaded in news and management not properly being held accountable for a disgusting display of racism, it's important now more than ever to protect ourselves, to commune in spaces operating for us. We need to support communal havens by us for us, that provide safe environments to create, have conversations, and eat/drink.
On the few warm days, I explored the Kensington neighborhood, in this area that I recently moved into, enjoying pleasant shops in the area, most especially three owned by women of color: Art Dept Philly, Franny Lou's Porch, and Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse. They each offer unique forms of entertainment and carefree liberation, forms of activism while also serving specific needs. Art Dept Philly is a secondhand boutique that also sells art supplies, handmade cards, and accessories and at the same time hosts Writer Wednesdays, an afterschool arts program led by artist Carmel Brown (owner of Colored Vintage, the shop), and craft workshops on knitting, sewing, and more.

Pins galore!

Quaint vintage dishware that any tea lover would adore.

Dessert plates and matching mini mugs great for intimate party hosting.

My dream dress.

Old time radio.

A stylish mannequin surrounded by vintage dresses, ties, vests, blouses, and all sorts of other outfit of the day inspirations.

Flawless detail complete with colorful glass beaded elements.


They can't call it Art Dept Philly without the art supplies!





Just blocks away on Coral Street, indie bohemian spirited Franny Lou's Porch serves uniquely named coffees and teas.
"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." - Fannie Lou Hamer

I just fell in love with Franny Lou's Porch. Named after two important Libra figures: abolitionist/suffragist poet, Francis E. W. Harper (who published the first African American short story) and activist/community organizer Fannie Lou Hamer (cofounder of the National Women's Political Caucus), I visited on this rainy Sunday morning before work, desiring a cup of something sweet and wonderful. The interior is vibrant and inviting, homages to Africa, African American, and other people of color in a victorious celebratory spirit. The aesthetic is all natural, rustic, and friendly, classic R&B music swirling in the background, feeling like a charming second home.

And the owner is Blew Kind.

The lattes are named after activists, writers, and other important civil rights figures. They offer almond and soy milk options for vegans.

Woodcut (or linoleum cut) of Martin Luther King Jr.

I enjoyed an Alice Walker (matcha tea with soy milk, vanilla, and maple) with Queens from the in-house reading library.

A gorgeous painting to gaze upon.
At the awesome Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse (the first and only black woman owned comic book/coffeeshop in the U.S.), is the land of comic book nerd joy. Books, t-shirts, pins, and more are swarmed in the enticing bright lights alongside my favorites Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Black Panther, Jem and the Holograms, The Walking Dead, and others. Like Art Dept Philly, Amalgam participates in First Fridays and hosts all sort of incredible events for geeks like game and movie nights, book launches, after hour entertainment, quizznos, and more. Just a few weeks ago, the great Erika Alexander (from Living Single to co-writing a one-shot Giles Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic) hosted a book signing (of course I didn't know about it until Instagram but alas can't make it all). 

Amalgam offers great vegan options like apple and banana bread and dairy free milk alternatives for teas and coffees.

And speaking of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which was Amalgam's reader's choice display from late January) did y'all know it was the original Slayer herself Sarah Michelle Geller's birthday yesterday? I penned a celebratory post on my other site, FemFilmRogue
Support the women here in Kensington. They're amazing. They're expanding horizons in the most inspiring ways and deserve our allegiance.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Zucchini Noodles With Mushrooms and gardein's Classic "Meatballs"

Comfort food central.
I cannot get over zucchini noodles. They are simply delicious and versatile. I must have shared so many experiments that adding a "zucchini" label might be a future option. Maybe exploring zucchini noodle desserts will be my newest venture-- in a bread or pancake? Perhaps not.
Still, I love zucchini and spiraling is my favorite way of eating it.
In this latest dish, I pan seared zucchini with mushrooms (my other sacred vegetable affair) with garlic and onions whilst preparing gardein's Classic Meatless Meatballs separately in a chunky tomato sauce. Once dinner looked spectacularly put together, I added a dollop of extra cashew-tofu ricotta (leftover from these amazing Eggplant Roll Ups) and a smidgeon of Italian Seasoning.

Zucchini Noodles With Mushrooms and gardein's Classic "Meatballs" Ingredients and Preparation

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 chopped red onion
1/2 cup mushrooms (used sliced Portobello)
1/2 large zucchini, spiraled to desired consistency (I spiraled mine into thin ribbons, cutting between lengths)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

5 gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs
1 cup tomato sauce (homemade or favorite jarred)

First off, over stove top, cover gardein Classic Meatless Meatballs in tomato sauce according to package directions. They take fifteen minutes.

Heat a skillet. Add olive oil, garlic, red onion, mushrooms, and zucchini noodles. Stir in salt and black pepper. Let this sizzle, mixing ingredients together to prevent sticking and scorching. Cook 7-10 minutes.

A little extra cashew-tofu ricotta never hurt.

A simple albeit flavorful meal.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Migration: Cosmo Whyte's Travels Across Mediums to Occupy Physical, Mental, and Historical Spaces

Cosmo Whyte explains that in Punch Drunk Love-- a metaphoric object based installation involving shipping rope soaked in rum and a sugar bowl filled with rum-- the braid, disoriented front and back, refers to one's fluctuating identity.

Multidisciplinary artist Cosmo Whyte presented informative research that articulated interweaving roles migration and colonialism play into the raw poignancy and visceral complexity of his narrative work. Hailing from St. Andrew, Jamaica and working primarily in Atlanta, Georgia, Whyte's trials and tribulations of United States naturalization filter through creative processes of sculptural installations/objects, drawing, performance, and photography with influences ranging from historical context to popular culture. 

Whyte, a Hudgens Prize Finalist as well as grant recipient of Artadia and CUE Foundation, has conducted extensive field research, traveling to Ghana, London, and back home to Jamaica (with fresh eyes), collecting valid principles that inform his intriguing concepts. Using generational occupancy of space as metaphor, he focuses on how things easily and quickly slip into other spaces, ideas of transcendence, having diasphoric moments in negative space, meditative, trans space, referencing "ubiquitous" objects such as doilies marking value and worth.


In Promis(ed) Land (Version #3), a Jamaican travel drum explores a connection to "home" and ties to Marcus Garvey's Black Star Line, a short lived shipping corporation. In Whyte's creation, a "kitschy tarp with neon signs," has a musical component that sounds similar to church hymn hums or melodic rhythm of slave shack escapism. The music is actually a part of The Jeffersons theme song (DuBois's Movin' On Up), distorting the lyrics "finally got a piece of the pie."

His drawings also frame varied influences. Carnival in Atlanta, a summer jump off event that has been in existence since 1988, celebrates Caribbean culture and heritage with parades, costumes, music, food, etc. Specific messages that were once lost are retained in small communities, performative rituals disclosed in drawings. Simultaneously, violence comes crashing, with continuous acquitted verdicts of murdered black lives, unfiltered and unjust, slithering around an artist's vulnerable state of mind. While seeing a Chris Ofili retrospective, Whyte found a connection to tie into his work, sorting emotional turmoil through drawings of Carnival, contorting bodies like gymnastics filtered through colonialism diagrams that overlap, create growing pains.

The Harder They Come, a 1972 crime/drama film exploring Jamaican folklore set in Kingston, Jamaica, enters Whyte's works as well.

Stranger in the Village, loosely based on James Baldwin's piece about being the first black visitor in all white Switzerland, is Whtye's inspiration. He balanced a megaphone atop his head as a punchline. 
Most importantly, Whyte integrates autobiographical narrative and inherited generational tragedies. In Nkisi, one of several documented C-print photographs of a performance piece, after the death of his father, he wears his father's ties as a sculptural armature over a suit and communes with a clear, abyssal body of water as a tribunal act, a reference to African traditions of communicating with ancestors via heirlooms.

Furthermore, in Headboy and Cold Sweat, Whyte reacts to Jamaica declaring independence and at the same time, keeping the English schoolboy uniform intact. He dons the red Royal British waistcoat and trousers, sits in a hot classroom for hours, sweating, reenacting moment of hyper awareness. After walking downtown, perspiring in these clothes, he dove in Montego Bay, saturating sweaty uniform fully under water, submerging and floating with composition intending to capture colors of Pan African Flag. Heartbreakingly, is that historically in that water, ancestors had traveled in tight, inhumane vessels, some drowning intentionally, others murdered, their bones, bodies, and spirits way below Whyte's reach. Yet the connection is clear. He swam in an opened grave. And there are not enough tombstones in the world to commemorate countless unnamed deaths.

In closing, Whyte has captured significant, past moments, laying groundwork for monumental shifts to occur in a diverse practice that promises further emergence, utilizing encounter as a way of thinking about race relations in the United States versus predominantly black spaces in the world.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Eggplant Roll Ups With Cashew and Tofu Ricotta (From Coco Verde Vegan)


Although I've eaten eggplant at various restaurants in roasted vegetable salads, in Baba Ganoush (my absolute favorite), and as fries, I've never worked with eggplant before last night. The moment Coco Verde Vegan posted an enticing picture and recipe for Eggplant Roll Ups on Twitter (posted here), I was blown away, desiring at last to experiment, bring the vegetable into the home kitchen at last..

With a fulfilling side of Lotus Foods Forbidden Black Rice (which had been out of stock for quite a while), the roll ups are completely simple to make and incredibly delicious. One great trick from Coco Verde Vegan is if not having time to soak cashews overnight, you can boil them for twenty minutes instead. This makes cashews susceptible for traditional blending method in a quicker fashion. Thick, luscious cashew tofu ricotta cheese and chunky tomato sauce topping deliver a pleasing reminder of stacked lasagna flare. I had leftovers for lunch-- still impressive and beautifully composed.

Eggplant Roll Ups With Cashew and Tofu Ricotta Ingredients and Preparation

1 large eggplant

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper


Cashew and Tofu Ricotta

1 cup cashews

extra firm tofu

2 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1/4 cup aquafaba (canned chickpea water)

2 teaspoon garlic

1 teaspoon salt

tomato sauce (I used a jarred vegan Portobello Mushroom sauce)

1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice eggplant vertically as thinly as possible-- about 1/4 inch a piece.

Coat slices in olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Bake for 35 minutes, turning them around about 18 minutes in.

Whilst eggplant is roasting, cook cashews in water for twenty minutes. Drain. Pulse them in blender or food processor with tofu, aquafaba, garlic, and salt until rich and creamy.

Take eggplant from oven, which should be soft and "rollable," spoon a generous bit of cashew tofu ricotta and roll. Repeat for each.

Heat up tomato sauce and pour over top of eggplant roll ups. Sprinkle Italian Seasoning.




Thursday, March 22, 2018

Royal Tavern, Govinda's, & Dizengoff: Something New, Something Old, Something.... Pink

On Friday night, started the weekend off right with co-worker gal pals. They drank specialty beers. I gulped iced water. We discussed all the things loved and despised. Quite frankly, it felt nice letting out the steam. Plus, one of them recently had a milestone birthday (speaking of which the other co-worker's birthday is today). Hilarious coincidence right? Still, in the dark, with a few lit candles containing real fire, we ate vegan together-- they both ordered vegan cheesesteaks-- one had without onions and the other without mushrooms. I was blown away by PhillyVeganMonster's Instagram post of Royal Tavern's special of the week-- a massive chickpea burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course, apologizing to arteries in advance, I had to try it out for myself.
Served with hot skinny fries, a juicy pickle, and vegan mayo, the unique "cheeseburger" also contained tomatoes, lettuce, onion (a little too much onion), and seitan ba'con. Naturally, this colossal sandwich had to be eaten with fork and knife. It was just so massive. I believe the cheese is Violife's original version (or mozzarella as PhillyVeganMonster suggested). It has that rich, mild flavor that Daiya just doesn't have. The thick, well-seasoned chickpea burger, held together with little crumbling, was superb.
On Sunday, my roommate and I stopped by Govinda's for dinner. It was her first time there. I love the place, especially when they have an assortment of vegan donuts. I ordered my usual chik'in cheesesteak on a whole wheat roll. She tried out the chik'in burger.
One can never go wrong with a slice of Vegan Treats dessert. This carrot cake is a definite favorite. It's moist, contains a yummy balance of fine, grated carrots, and memorable spice blends from childhood and the cream cheese frosting isn't a sugary, overpowering catastrophe. My roommate enjoyed the chocolate peanut butter cake. She said something along the lines of, "I usually don't like peanut butter things, but the peanut butter flavor wasn't too extreme."
At a Saturday afternoon work function, a sweet co-worker saved me Dizengoff Hummus and pita bread inside of their trademark hot pink bag. It was an incredibly good meal-- the right balance of lemon juice and garlic flavoring the creamy, tangy whipped hummus goodness. With the soft, chewy pita bread long devoured, I've included this delicious hummus in pasta and rice dishes, experimenting to heart's desire.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Tale of Two Pizzas

Homemade mushrooms, red onions, cheese, and tomato pizza pie.
Yesterday was the big 3.14 aka "Pi (or Pie) Day."
What is better than making one's own pie? And quite frankly, it was also ironic that at PAFA's Wednesday lunchtime lecture the featured multidisciplinary artist, Cosmo Whyte, explained a sculpture incorporated The Jeffersons theme song, "Movin On Up," distorting specifically the line "finally got a piece of the pie." Albeit the track was also played backwards-- still yay pie! Or yippee pie yay!
I haven't made pizza in a long while, but I haven't forgotten how to concoct my own dough. 

Or red onion and cheese on tomato pizza pie. 
For these two pizzas, the toppings are simple, nothing fancy-- mushrooms, red onions, tomato sauce, remainder of So Delicious Mozzarella Flavored Shreds. It was imperative to not overwhelm the flavor profile of the crust, a laborious process most adored. 


Standard Pizza Dough Ingredients and Preparation

2 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon Italian Seasonings
3 cup flour
3 tablespoon olive oil

Mix yeast, sugar, and water together. Set aside for five minutes.
Add garlic, salt, and Italian Seasonings.
Stir in flour a cup at a time. Knead after all is in the mixing bowl. Massage olive oil into the dough, adding more if needed.
Cover into a lightly oiled bowl and let rise for an hour. 

Footage of risen dough. I pinched and punched it down a bit.

Topped with tomato sauce, mushrooms, red onions, So Delicious Mozzarella Flavored Shreds and nooch is the first pizza (half of the dough spread on a five inch by eleven inch baking sheet.

Baked and ready.

This is the simpler pizza pie of tomato sauce, red onions, So Delicious Mozzarella Flavored Shreds, bac n bits, nooch, and extra Italian Seasonings and crushed black pepper.