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friday feast: noshing with maya angelou


This week I've been dipping into Maya Angelou's latest cookbook,
Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart (Random House, 2010). 

Inspired by her recent weight loss (35 pounds), the book features her favorite time-tested recipes and personal anecdotes. Her guiding philosophy is to frequently eat small portions of really tasty, savory food throughout the day, rather than obsess over counting calories or seeking "diet recipes."


In the section entitled, "Cooking Vegetarian with Courage I," she includes a satirical poem she wrote back in 1983, a kind of "self defense" prompted by a visit to Ye Olde Health Food Diner in Los Angeles. Although basically carnivorous, one day she craved broccoli and steamed rice. After placing her order, she took out a pack of cigarettes and was surprised when the waitress immediately chastized her for being a smoker. 

She looked around at the pale, pitiful customers in the diner and asked the waitress whether they were newcomers, hoping to "get better." The waitress assured her they were vegetarians who had been eating there for years, to which Maya replied, "Don't ever tell anyone that these people have been coming here for years, and are still looking no better than they do now."

I love seaweed salad! (Sifu Renka/flickr)

by Maya Angelou

No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).

Not thick brown rice and rice pilau
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I'm dreaming of a roast).

Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).

No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run


Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.

Copyright © Maya Angelou. All rights reserved.

Kale Salad by Salim Virji/flickr.

Maya's poem made me smile and remember a time when health-conscious eaters were called "nuts," vegetarianism was viewed as a hippie fad, and much of what you could find in a health food store was inedible. Happily, things have changed; Maya hasn't smoked in over 20 years and is "enchanted with vegetables." As am I. But I still crave a good burger or plate of ribs every now and then . . .

Here's Maya's recipe for cornbread, sure to please vegetarians as well as carnivores. She suggests cutting a piece in half horizontally, inserting a slice of Monterey Jack or Swiss cheese, then heating it in a toaster oven for breakfast. Nice change from cereal!

(makes 9 squares)

3 T butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups white cornmeal
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T baking powder
1-1/2 cups plus 2 T milk
1 egg, well beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in an 8-inch square pan.

2. Sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.

3. Stir in 1 cup plus 2 T of the milk and the egg, mixing only enough to dampen the cornmeal mixture.

4. Pour the batter into the pan. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup milk over the batter and stir.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

*Adapted from Great Food All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart by Maya Angelou (Random House, 2010)

♥ Anastasia Suen is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Picture Book of the Day. Take her a piece of cornbread. Secret password: Seaweed.

P.S. Just in case Maya's poem stirred your meat cravings:

Pork Chop with Mustard Sauce by naotakem/flickr.

**Note: Food photos in this post are not from Maya's book.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 10th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
A sit-down dinner with Maya Angelou...wouldn't that be lovely? I can't imagine a more glorious feast-for-all-senses!
Jun. 10th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know -- and the nourishment one could derive from her wisdom would be immeasurable.
Jun. 10th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
tanita says:
Oh, that seaweed salad is gorgeous.
I had no idea that Ms. Angelou was a vegetarian. I like her recipe - it always amuses me to see recipes and how they vary for something as building-block basic as cornbread.
Jun. 10th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
Re: tanita says:
I don't think she's vegetarian, just more understanding of those who are. :)Judging from the cookbook, she eats a varied diet -- but there are two sections devoted to vegetable dishes. I noted that the word "courage" is linked to them.
Laura Dickson Shovan
Jun. 10th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
no pork chops
for me -- the seaweed salad looks much more appetizing. I gave up red meat many years ago. I wonder if there are any poems out there about the politics of food. Hmmm.

I'm going to try the corn-bread recipe poem, Jama. Have a great weekend!
Jun. 10th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Re: no pork chops
I eat considerably less red meat than before, preferring mostly fish and veggies. Koreans are meat eaters; guess for me it's in the genes, so I can't give it up entirely.

Hope you like the cornbread. It's dense, Southern style. Nice warmed up with lots of butter.
Jun. 10th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, Jama - I always have to visit your blog last on the Poetry Friday tour, because I know I'll be seeing great photos of food and won't be able to resist getting up for lunch or a snack! Have to say that as pretty as the seaweed is (love the colors!) I'd rather have that pork chop with mustard sauce on my plate at dinner time. Ms. Angelou's cigarette I could do without, luckily - I have enough vices.
Jun. 10th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Yummers
As for me, I'd be happy with seaweed or pork chops -- or both together! :) No cigarettes, ever, though.
Jun. 10th, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC)
I thought I would be all right reading through that lovely story and seeing the pictures of leafy greens but that last minute picture of a pork chop just grabbed me by my throat. It looks so good (especially after the last stanza of her poem!)!!! Thanks for making my mouth water again and for the sweet history lesson :)
Jun. 11th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
The power of the pork chop! We do try to please :). So glad you dropped by to taste Maya's poem.
Jun. 11th, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
I was all set to comment on the cornbread and then my scrolling brought me to the pork chop and I started slobbering on the keyboard! YUMMERS indeed!!

Back to the cornbread. My favorite way to eat leftover cornbread for breakfast is crumbled up in a bowl with mill!
Jun. 11th, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
The pork chop strikes again! Seems to bring out the inner carnivore in us all. :D

I have some leftover cornbread and will definitely have some with milk this morning, as per your suggestion. Thanks, Mary Lee!
Jun. 11th, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC)
Man, that pork chop looks good.
Jun. 11th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
:) chew chew
Jun. 11th, 2011 06:09 pm (UTC)
Hi Jama!

I checked that book out of the library -- it's at my house right now. My gosh, I would LOVE to eat some of her cooking. You know it's delicious. Her Sweet Potatoes McMillan looks so good -- I would take that instead of a birthday cake.

Jun. 11th, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know -- so many tempting recipes to try. I'm thinking of making the quiche next. :)
Jun. 14th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
Oh my. We are totally going to try that cornbread. I bet even I could do it! And that pork chop looks fabulous.

Love the poem too but the food really got me this time. :)
Jun. 14th, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
The cornbread is easy -- a little denser than I'd like, but good heated up with lots of butter and jam. Probably excellent with chili.
Jun. 14th, 2011 03:02 am (UTC)
Why would anyone want to eat cornbread without butter? :)

Dare I say that my favorite cornbread growing up was always that packaged stuff, I don't remember the brand, in a blue and white box.
Jun. 14th, 2011 03:13 am (UTC)
Yes, I know the kind you mean. They still sell it, don't they?

Since you're a butter fan, I must find my other cornbread recipe, which I had mentioned to Melodye. Very buttery to begin with, and less dense.
Jun. 14th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
Mmmm...sounds good. I need to do more in the kitchen. Corn bread would be a good start.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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