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.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mac N Cheese With So Delicious & gardein

"Hamburger" Helper macaroni.
gardein makes an impressive burger. Last week, I just tried out their Ultimate Beefless Burger and believe it is one of the best versions existing right now. It is also reasonably priced, at about one dollar and some change per patty, while others are astronomically higher. Also, on the product front, I'm absolutely enjoying So Delicious alternative cheeses more so than originally conceived. I wasn't sold on the idea, having been stuck on Field Roast Chao forever, claiming that as grocery store winner. Yet, my social media pals are singing the praises and I caved, attractive to the green packaged mozzarella.

gardein's ultimate beefless burger is amazing!

I first made the burgers piled with Field Roast Chao Tomato Cayenne, mushrooms, red onions, and lots of ketchup.
So Delicious Dairy Free Foods have stepped up the bat with this tasty cheese that truly does melt great.
It only made sense to blend these two products together in a sensational macaroni and cheese dish that reminds one of simple childhood pleasures-- mashing a pan seared patty to smithereens and joining it with creamy macaroni and cheese.

Mac N Cheese With So Delicious & gardein Ingredients and Preparation

1 1/2 cup macaroni
1 cup broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup So Delicious Mozzarella Style Shreds
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 gardein ultimate beefless burger, cooked and chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian Seasonings
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare macaroni to package directions.
Add cooked broccoli.
Mix in olive oil, So Delicious mozzarella, almond milk, and nutritional yeast until melting evenly.
Combine remainder of ingredients together and serve.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Books and Intersectional Feminism: 'Aphro-ism' and 'Sistah Vegan'

International Women's Day came and left. Women's History Month remains.
My paternal grandmother would have turned eighty-five-years old today. She was one of the first women to encourage me to follow my dreams, to pursue creative avenues that I had yearned setting up for myself. Although I have yet reached cusp of those familiar desires, they are close and attainable, not some distant fictional realm. For now, I continue writing on this six-year-old blog discussing food and art-- the things that matter.
Thus, I haven't branched into personal reading. First of all, there are two imperative books that should be alongside everyone's library among usual suspects of Oh She Glows, Terry Bryant, and other vegan staple reads. Vegans should peruse other challenging roads this topic can steer, especially when these curved, seemingly uncomfortable roads pertain to matters of feminism, black identity, animal compassion, and pop culture.

I appreciate the work of Aph and Syl Ko immensely. They are smart, outspoken, and brave.
Their amazing jointly authored Aphro-ism came out last year. It is a container of thoughtful, intelligently crafted essays that pertain to life's many intersections. From the way we eat, how we exist and grow in respective environments, the explosive racism that undeniably reveals itself in different components of veganism's "public face," and seeds implanted in the entertainment industry often told in voices that are not our own, are these detrimental conversation points that Aph and Syl dissect. With concise language and profound insight in their personal writings, they offer eye opening tools that work the wheels behind our ways of thinking about layers of our daily interactions, our accessibilities. Most importantly, the sisters ask, "how does a black woman vegan see herself in the stratosphere that slowly, very slowly offers granules of inclusivity?"

Sistah Vegan's Dr. A. Breeze Harper's curated Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society, a classic among black women vegan literary circles, is an incredible body of various voices that entail each woman's path to discovering veganism whether through love, family, interest, health, etc. Each story is unique, a spoon full of plant based delicious goodness meant to provide the ravenous soul of sweet medicinal healing satisfaction that simply cannot come from murdered animal flesh. This compilation of wise words, moving poetry, guttural heartache, harrowing manifestos, and sincere compassion soothes my frustration on roughest days, those days that are filled with bacon "jokes," "what about protein," Bible stuff, and other annoying meat eater interferences. Before finding this book's existence, I felt alone, isolated in the world. I rarely saw myself in the vegan brochures or on peta or on the very products purchased at Whole Foods. I also didn't see black vegans on television or black vegans voted as Most Beautiful Celebrity. Yet when I found, acquired, and began reading Sistah Vegan, I was reading from companions located in various parts of the globe, entailing their own isolations and turmoil, finding solace and comfort in their words and recipes.
So yes, vegans need to read black women vegan's prose and writings on our struggles and triumphs of this travel we've all decided to embark upon together. Read the Ko sisters and Dr. Breeze's tremendous efforts. With beautiful, valiant dignity and precious grace, they offer strength and courage necessary to carry forth our message of attaining freedom for all nature's sentient beings.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Philadelphia Flower Show: Please Go Chasing Waterfalls Edition

It was a real treat to experience Philadelphia Flower Show -an eight-day event held every spring since 1829- for the first time ever.
Headed by the Philadelphia Horticulturist Society, with theme "Wonders of Water," the downtown Pennsylvania Convention Center had been transformed into an eye opening floral decadence. Sporadic corners of enchanted glory brought out the inner horticulturist gardener growing wondrously inside. From lush tropical rainforest designs to soothing serene splashes of tranquil waters flowing in various artfully crafted arrangements, the whole place sparked engaging interest and provided much needed TLC.
Although crowded at times, the Flower Show featured great highlights: flowers hanging from ceilings, ribbon prize winning plants, cacti, orchids, hyacinths, roses, topiaries, demos, garden teas, and various vendors selling soiled pots, seeds, fountains, and so much more.
Next year's theme is "Flower Power," a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock-- sounds like that'll be funky outrageous fun! It would be wild to see a Jimi Hendrix piece sculpted from flowers....
For the "Wonders of Water," I took many pictures and these are my curated favorites:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cake

Imagine a bad day. A terrible day. The most vicious.
First of all, personally speaking, I rarely have smooth time of the month orbits. Some vegan women do. They have discussed that their cramps go away among other painful side effects of these three to seven day body things, even going as far as saying that they no longer have them or what else comes with Mother Nature's arrival. Again, that is not me. I suffer. Not every month, however.
Last month, I hadn't had one. Yesterday it came on top of the horrific bad day of snow fall and bus cancellations and likely no refunds for the planned journey to Baltimore for Njideka Akunyili Crosby's solo show at the Baltimore Museum of Art (which closes this coming Sunday) and lunch at the pristine black owned vegan restaurant Land of the Kush.
I was miserable and teary eyed and in emotional, mental, and physical anguish throughout, angered and disillusioned, having waken up at 6AM, made it to the bus station, and being told that no buses were going out. It sucked.
Chocolate saved the sadness. I found a recipe for chocolate cake on Eggless Cooking and altered it a bit. I didn't take pictures of the batter of beets and chickpeas. The pretty pink had an effect on me, this lively pink like that of some color on an oil paint palette, seemed to uplift my dwindled spirits.

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cake Ingredients and Preparation

1 cup beets
2 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup baking cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chocolate chips

In a medium saucepan cook beets and chickpeas together for 5-7 minutes.
Drain a little bit of the water and blend the beets, chickpeas, and coconut oil inside food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and coconut flakes.
Combine wet and dry ingredients.
Add vanilla and chocolate chips.
Pour batter into desired pan. (I used a 10 inch foil pan from the dollar store)
Bake for 40-50 minutes.

It won't rise much and it's pretty dense and moist. More like a fudgy brownie than a cake.

Topped with So Delicious Coco Whip on a colorful flower plate.

Chocolate cake heaven.

Snow may be the foe of the day, but chocolate almost saved me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Amy Sherald Expresses Innermost Turmoils and Breakthroughs In Her Committed Painting Practice

Award winning artist Amy Sherald presenting a compelling autobiographical narrative.
Last Friday, PAFA's Historic Landmark Building contained a full house on deck for its Visiting Artist Program lecture, rescheduled from weeks ago. Amy Sherald spoke on her personal painting history, providing a thoughtful, humbling backstory for the many young, hungry artists present in the room. It was a treat to watch this incredibly gifted artist discuss the journey, a hard, long, prosperous journey, that eventually brought an attentive, rapt audience vital inspiration.

Little Amy (right) and her siblings.
Colorism contributed harsh experiences growing up in the problematic South for Sherald. Born and raised in Columbia, Georgia, with her fair skin and auburn hair, few with the exception of her family believed her to be black, especially horrid smaller children believed this perception. She recounted a story of a child who used the "n" word around her. And this was the late seventies, early eighties.
She then addresses being uncomfortable with being called "redbone," a term formerly described dogs with a red coat. "Redbone," a popular Donald Glover song, is said as an endearment. Meanwhile, it is a destructive adjective that her beauty, her attractiveness is privileged to having white inherited attributes, dismissing her blackness.

Science fiction marked Sherald's earlier paintings.
Sherald entered painting later than most, having been declared pre-med in college (failing biology wasn't helping), changing her major to painting a few years before graduating. She wasn't sure exactly the path to undergo and hadn't received adequate "training" or having the artist vocabulary, but knew that figuration was a keen interest. Without the skills and resources of fellow classmates, she considered herself self taught, relying solely on instincts and research sessions from frequent library visits. It was also a challenge ascribing to racial and gender politics, disappointed through limited lenses her fellow peers and instructors had expected, which became "performative identity."

During a trip to Panama, Sherald explains dissecting backgrounds, a struggle that she fought valiantly against.
After college, she took a break from painting for four years.
The shocking confession brought apart startling insight, especially seeing as now post-graduate years are depicted as a crucial time to be in that eager need to network and find supportive benefactors.
All the while, Sherald also admits to frequently visiting New York City openings to talk to gallerists in hopes of attaining a show in the past, a hoop some young artists still believe would ring true to them.
In the end, as she continued reading books, going to the movies, and seeing gallery shows, she developed relationships with collectors and advocates.

Simple You, Simple Me is a poignant response to heinous acts inflicted on black children such as Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin, murdered for existing, for fitting "a twisted narrative." It serves as a painful reminder that no justice comes to those who are black and remorselessly left for dead.
Her influences were a wide range of scientific fascination and sideshow fantasies, finding exciting, colorful pieces at Panama circuses, at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, and in Tim Burton's dreamy tale Big Fish. However, the missing component was identity, the lack of blackness, of black people in experiences that mattered to her awakening imagination. Among her reading, she uncovered W.E.B. DuBois's compiled photographs for the 1900 Paris Exposition entitled, American Negroes. Sherald fell in love with his Georgia Negroes series, letting the "aha" moment sink. In that, she saw black dandyism-- black men and black women in suits and hats, appearing gorgeously confident and stylish at a time denying them existence, creativity. That was what she wanted to paint.
Inspired by photography, where she found images of herself leafing through her family's historic archives, formulated ideas around her penetration, curving away American perception of black pain, the effervescent knowledge that black photographers could create and own positive portrayals. In the process, her paintings became "meditations on photography," and realists such as Bo Bartlett, Kerry James Marshall, and Barkley Hendricks began to effectively shape her painting vocabulary.
The more Sherald painted, the more advanced her skills became, growing more so than what graduate school had offered her. She took a wondrous opportunity to study with great painter Odd Nerdrum in the Netherlands and continued on her trips to Panama.

Sherald was determined to change the set narrative, vowing to change how "history is limited in allowing black people their own narrative."

Sherald, an avid reader of poetry, considers her work to be "a whole poem conveying more than characteristics of the sitter." She points out John Virgil's theories on women's interior cameras, double consciousness, confronting the other (and or metaphorically speaking confronting imperialism, colonialism, slave trade) with outward gaze, freeing cellular memory.

"Identity for all us is this perceptual process. It's somewhat like constantly cleaning out and rearranging an attic. It's as much about throwing away furniture nd trinkets that no longer service as it is bringing in new ones. In that sense, it's just as important to continue defining who we are as it is to define who we are not." 
Amy Sherald gave a kind, humbling, relatable lecture for an artist who has gone on to win prestigious honors such as the Pollack-Krasner Grant, Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, and the Bethesda Painting Award. She has shown at Studio Museum in Harlem in New York City, New York, Spelman College of the Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Embassy of the United States in Dakar, Senegal. She is in collections at the Columbus Museum in her hometown, Columbus, Georgia, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery all in Washington D.C, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
She closes with a Kerry James Marshall quote, something along the lines of "nothing has never been able to transform the world."
Yet with Sherald's work, his L.A. Times discussion on the history of representational painting is most appropriate as well:
"When you visit an art museum, you're less likely to encounter the work of a black person. When it comes to ideas about art and about beauty, the black figure is absent."  
Alongside Marshall and a slew of other phenomenal black artists dismantling contemporary art field, Sherald is changing the way viewers look at painting, inserting blackness whilst examining its absence with utilizing greyscale as her figures' flesh tone. By learning preemptive steps she took to make it this far, she is certainly an artist to root for and champion, paving ways and breaking barriers to those who never believed they ever could.