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.”
THE HEALTH-FOOD DINER
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.
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!
ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT CORN BREAD
(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.
**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.