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GO: Petworth Community Market

20131004_164852While Reese was off being brilliant at Food For Black Thought in Austin earlier this month, I made some time to explore my world. I received a pretty groovy invite to Vintage Fashion Night at the Petworth Community Market and had every intention of going, that is until the day of the event.

After working 8 hours at my temp job, during what felt like the Washington, D.C. heat wave of 2013, I was seriously ready to head home and shower. Seriously, taking the train in any direction that was not headed home was quickly sliding off my radar, but something said I should go.

And I am ever so glad I did. The Petworth Community Market is held every Friday from May 3 to Oct. 25, from 4 p.m. to 8 pm. According to its blog, the market is a non-profit organized by people who live in the Petworth neighborhood as an economic and social stimulus. Not only do vendors at the market take credit and debit cards, they also accept SNAP benefits.

On Vintage Night I was pleasantly surprised to find vendors of all stripes selling everything from fresh from the farm fruits and veggies, to vintage menswear, women’s apparel and even vegan/raw cheesecake. Best of all, there were samples and I was hungry.

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Christopher Williams, curator of Brown & Williams Clothiers

Christopher Williams, curator for Brown & Williams Clothier, really caught my eye because he was so sharply attired. Brown & Williams specializes in fine mens vintage clothing imported from Britain and Christopher was showcasing a fabulous selection of mens jackets and blazers that would be perfect for the man of discerning fashion sense.

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The fabulous custom bow ties designed by Elizabeth St John.

Christopher was rocking a fabulous reversible bow tie designed by Elizabeth St John. Elizabeth specializes in couture bridal wear and incredibly cool custom bow ties too.

In addition to checking out cool fashions I also got to try the sweet treats — vegan, raw cheesecakes to be exact — produced by the ladies of Sweet Raw, who specialize in gluten-free, vegan and uncooked goodies.

Alas, I went home with two bunches of beautiful swiss chard, green tomatoes from Shlagel Farms, and apple cider from Kuhn Orchards. While Vintage Fashion Night was a one night only event, there are still two Fridays left before the regular market shuts down for the season. Plan to go this Friday!

— Ricks


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Food for Thought: Race, Gentrification, and Food

“The foods of different peoples, shaped by habitat and by our history, [became] a vivid marker of difference, symbols both of belonging and of being excluded.” –Sidney Mintz

As many of you know, I’m a doctoral candidate in my offline life. As a PhD-in-training, I’m expected to share about my research at conferences and in publications. Last week I attended Food for Black Thought at the University of Texas-Austin where I was able to share about the work I’m doing in D.C.  Talking to Ricks, I realized I haven’t shared much (if anything) about the research I do on the blog, so here you go. Last Friday morning I was up way before sunrise in Austin, Texas thinking about the presentation I would give that day. I sat up in bed and wrote:

I’m awake in Austin, Texas. I present at Food for Black Thought today. I slept very little last night; maybe I’m anxious. What do I want people to know about Deanwood? About my research? I want them to know Deanwood is a place with history. It isn’t perfect but most of the people who live there-especially the elders love it precisely because of it’s history; because it has become the place that it is because of Nannie Helen Burroughs, Carter G. Woodson, and other black folks who invested time and money into it. I want them to know that it’s changing; that the city has prioritized Deanwood as a site for “revitalization” (read: gentrification), and retaining current residents is not high on the priority list. In five to ten years, Deanwood won’t look the way it looks now. As for food–it’s complicated. Just like other places that are labeled “food deserts” (I have a love-hate relationship with this term), it has the corner stores, the liquor stores, the fast food joints, and carry-outs. but we have to be careful of leaving the story there, because Deanwood also has a rich history of trading goods from gardens (long before community gardens were a “thing”), supporting hucksters selling door-to-door, and being a commercially vital neighborhood, earning it the nickname “a self-reliant” community). I don’t mean to idealize the space. This history primarily lives in the minds of residents and in the life of oral traditions, since there is very little written history about the neighborhood. These histories are threatened when we talk about food deserts as having no past and potentially no future. These spaces/places are always in flux and the changes are complicated, set in motion by a number of things: elders dying, rapid globalization that affected local industry, young professionals moving into the neighborhood, lack of economic investment, etc. etc. etc. And here we are in the present where the biggest thing I want people to know is food is never just about food. Deanwood is such a powerful example of what a neighborhood (complete with traditions and history) looks like after systematic disinvestment. Food is simply nestled within layers of power and culture and to meaningfully engage, those layers cannot be neglected.

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Me, Michael Twitty, and Naya–sorry, you can’t see the yellow shoes that give an extra pop of color 🙂

So there you have it folks. This is the type of research I do. I’m very grateful for spaces like Food for Black Thought and colleagues like Naya and Michael Twitty (check out his blog http://www.afroculinaria.com). In that type of space, I don’t have to separate myself into different beings. I can bring my whole self, and I think because of that, I’m growing into a better scholar. That’s part of the reason I’m inspired to share here. Writing a dissertation is a big part of my life these days. Makes no sense not to share with our faithful readers, right?

I might start blogging more about research in the future, but for now, this is what I would like you and the world to know. For the readers who might be interested in food justice or health disparities, I hope this inspires you to start from the questions, who are the people I am invested in helping? and What is the history of this particular place? There is no one size fits all model for anything. To deny a place and people’s history is to exclude them from meaningful processes. Food is never just about food.

(P.S.–I was really cute at the symposium *two snaps*. Who says you have to wear a suit to look professional?”)

If you’re interested in learning more about Food for Black Thought, check them out on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Food-for-Black-Thought/359534887456758. Also, check out this article about the event here: http://www.austin360.com/weblogs/relish-austin/2013/oct/08/food-black-thought-race-food-and-gentrification/

If you’re interested in the work I do, drop a line. Ask questions. I’m happy to share.

-Reese


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Too Thrifty Cooks: Lookout for the Cookout

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There is very little that we love more than getting together with friends to eat, drink and make merry. But let’s face it, we all have lives and nailing down the schedules of a handful of our favorite friends is a beast! Lucky for us, everyone (including the thrifty chicks) was in town post Fourth of July, which weirdly fell on a Thursday this year.

We wanted to invite our friends for a casual cookout that included good eats and drinks, but what do you do when a friend is allergic to strawberries, another does not eat mushrooms, some friends are strict vegetarians, some are eating “clean” and the rest are flexitarians like the two of us?

You ask people what they want to eat, what they are willing to eat, you cook it and keep it moving! We bought the most adorable, tiny grill, some charcoal and prepped to get it in! To keep this thrifty gathering cost-effective we asked our friends ahead of the event to chip in $10. This way they didn’t have to cook a dish, or rush to the store last-minute to pick up something that everyone could eat.

If you’re sweating how to afford feeding everyone for a gathering, consider just asking everyone to chip in toward the cost, or do what you can to cover the food and ask your guests to contribute wine, spirits or some other extra thing. Most times your friends won’t come empty-handed and will want to contribute something so you might as well ask for something you need.

20130706_202444Our friend Kim makes the bomb sangria. WE MEAN THE BOMB! Instead of chipping in money we asked that she bring that. So she brought both a red and white wine sangria. We blended up our own summer fruit drinks including an adult beverage and…let’s just say a good time was had by all.

Check out our menu, which was a serious hit with our friends!

Lookout for the Cookout Delicacies

Seasoned wild-caught salmon skewers: These are previously frozen salmon filets that we cut into bite sized pieces seasoned with salt, pepper and a lemon herb blend to taste. You can certainly use fresh salmon if you can catch it on sale. We put about three pieces of salmon on each regular size skewer (four if the pieces were smaller). Let the seasoning marinate at least 30 minutes to an hour. Cook until to fish is firm and flaky.

Tandoori wild-caught salmon skewers: Same frozen salmon filets. Mix about half a packet of tandoori 20130706_202236seasoning that you can probably find in your local international market with a small container of greek yogurt. Coat the salmon in the sauce and let it marinate until you’re ready to cook. Bake until fish is firm and flaky.

Wild-caught shrimp and homemade pesto skewers: We used previously frozen shrimp of a good size to get about three shrimp to a skewer. Feel free to use fresh shrimp if you can catch it on sale. You can use store-bought pesto, but we make our own using basil, walnuts, grated parmesan cheese and olive oil. Coat the shrimp and let them marinate  for about 30 minutes to an hour. Grill until shrimp is firm and pink.

Wild-caught shrimp and barbecue sauce skewers: Same shrimp. We used a zesty store-bought barbecue sauce from Trader Joe’s and added some teriyaki stir fry sauce . We also let these marinate. Bake or grill until shrimp is firm and pink.

Baked sweet potatoes: Slice them in thin rounds and fold them in packets of foil. Add some cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar if you’d like. Roast in the oven until tender. The steam inside the packet will cook the potatoes.

Fresh “Creole” corn: Take fresh sweet corn ears and cut them in half. Put a pat of butter, the amount is up to you, for each half ear in a packet of foil with as much corn as you can hold without spilling. Add creole seasoning such as Tony’s or Zatarain’s, a generous amount of garlic powder. Wrap them in foil and roast in the oven until tender.

Farm fresh squash and zucchini: Toss with olive oil, grill in a grill pan on the stove, outside if you have the space (we didn’t), or roast in the oven.

20130706_183719Reese’s baked mac ‘n cheese: You’ll need pasta and at least two kinds of shredded cheese. Use whatever kinds you like, just not pre-shredded. We used monterrey, pepper jack and gouda. You’ll need about 1/4 cup of milk  and seasonings such as garlic, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. You’,ll also need butter. Cook the noodles until Al dente, stir in about half the cheese and butter. Add enough milk to make it creamy but not watery. When the cheese has melted, transfer to a baking dish. Add the leftover half of cheese and stir until it is well mixed. Top with another 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and breadcrumbs if you’d like. Bake until brown.

We broke out our folding chairs, blankets and the Too Thrifty Chicks Photo Shoot playlist on Spotify and hung out in the park until long after dark! Good Friends + Good Food = Good Memories! This whole shindig was put together for less than $100 and a good time was had by all. To us, that is the hallmark of a successful, thrifty gathering!

Until next time,

— R&R


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Get in My Belly: A Few Thoughts on Cooking Everything

IMG_4164With the Operation Do Better spending pause in full effect for the entire year (gulp), cooking and eating are a big focus at the Thrifty Palace. We’re not big, traditional breakfast eaters, unless it’s brunch at the house, but we still need to have something for lunch and dinner, (or is it dinner and lunch considering our leftover habits?).

We are always trying to maximize our food dollars and we seriously don’t believe in wasting food or spending too much time in the grocery store. We’re eat it until it is gone kind of girls, so we make a lot of big, one pot dishes that last at least through one lunch and two dinners.

We know what you’re thinking: doesn’t that get boring? Well, yeah. Real talk. It does. But over the first quarter of Operation Do Better we’ve learned a few things that help us stretch our budget and beat the leftover blues.

Cooking is a process — a fun one. At the thrifty palace, we cook with our whole hearts, our whole selves and our whole kitchen. Sometimes we drink wine and sometimes we crank up the music and slide across the kitchen floor. The place usually looks like ground zero when we’re done. But at the end of the day we always have fun and that fun comes through in our food and the things we’re excited about making and eating. IMG_4134

Practice, practice, practice. So here’s the thing. We both could do a lot more than boil water coming into this process. We can cook, but our cooking skills were often about the necessity of having something quick and easy to eat. Quick and easy doesn’t always mean tasty. In fact, a lot of time it means functioning. But the more we’ve been about the aforementioned process of cooking the more opportunity we have to practice our skills. We get to experiment almost daily with what to cook and how to cook it and then we get to eat it all. And we do.

Spices, spices, spices. Cumin, chili powder, salt, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Our spice rack runneth over and so should yours. Trust us.

Recipes help you branch out. We are both the product of a long generation of women who cook with no recipe.  A pinch of this, a handful of that is how these women measure things. But recipes are a good way to get started in cooking and learning how to pair different seasonings and flavors, especially if you are straying far away from the food you were raised on. The way we make Indian and Mexican food, you’d swear both of us grew up eating it.  Recipes also help you see the possibility of how to increase the kind of food you can make, even if you buy the same things at the grocery store all the time.

Real cooks wing it. Once you’ve tried a few recipes you’ll see that the flavors are usually based on the palates of the author of the recipe. You might taste the final product and find it bland, or just missing something. We are quick to throw our favorite spices in anything, even if the recipe doesn’t call for them. Why? So glad you asked. If you generally like the food you are making and all it’s ingredients, adding your favorite seasoning probably won’t make it taste worse.

IMG_4199Have some quick and easy dishes. Even the Thrifty Chicks get burned out on cooking and eating leftovers. At some point, usually in the middle of the week, we’re sick of eating something, or in fact, we’re not sick of it, we ate it all. We’ve learned to make pizza, pasta dishes and generally have some kind of quick meal that we can pull off in the middle of the week or heading into the weekend. But just because it’s quick doesn’t mean that it can’t be delicious. We flavor our pizza dough with fresh herbs and garlic. We make our own pesto and add it to pretty much every pasta sauce we make. It requires a little extra time, but boy is it good.

Fresh is best. Buying fresh vegetables and herbs can be expensive and it can be a pain, but it really does taste better and the flavors are more vibrant. Yes, we use stuff in jars, but we make it a point to get fresh or frozen when we can.

Cooking with friends is lots of fun. This fact is kind of not a fair one to share, but we will anyway. We clearly have a built in cooking support system because we live in the same household. Cooking together is a shared experience and a cathartic process. Sometimes we cook with noise and sometimes we cook in silence. While we do have occasion to prepare a meal solo — if one of us works late, is out racing, or parked on the couch working on freelance stuff — it’s not as much fun or as meaningful if you’ve only got you to focus on. If you’re a singleton, invite your friends over and cook together. Make enough so that everybody has leftovers for lunch the next day. Win-win.

Make it meaningful. Making a meal for yourself or someone should be about more than the function of feeding one’s self. It should be about love, care and breaking bread, whether solo or not.

Going forward

Now that we’re moving into warmer months, we’re reevaluating what cooking and eating will look like going forward. Neither of us is into heating up the house by firing up the stove more than necessary. We also both tend to gravitate toward lighter foods in the warmer weather. We tried pasta salads, and while we liked a couple, we know we don’t want that all the time. We’ll keep playing around with ideas and share them with you!

Until next time,

R&R


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R&R Around Town: Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce

A research participant once said to me:

“D.C. is east of the river. DC was Ben’s Chili Bowl [before it became popular]. D.C. is neighborhoods outside of the better known neighborhoods. D.C. is Mambo Sauce and Chicken Wings. D.C. is Go Go. DC is Carryouts. That’s D.C.”

The first time I heard about mumbo sauce was during an interview I was conducting for my dissertation. The interviewee asked, “Have you been put on to mumbo sauce yet?” I shook my head no, and he looked as if I had just cussed him out. “You need to try it.”

So Ricks and I did just that. A couple times in one weekend.

That weekend sparked our quest to discover “real D.C.” and to document it in this new series we’re calling “Around Town”. It will feature some of the fun, foolishness, and fashion we encounter as we explore.

Chicken Wings an Mumbo Sauce: A Taste of D.C. Culture

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Ricks and Reese stylin’ for Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce.

A friend turned us on to a free art exhibit that was happening last month called, “Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce.” The exhibit was developed in response to a widely publicized exhibit at the Corcoran called, “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture in the 1980s.” The first exhibit featured local artists and the event’s namesake: chicken wings and mumbo sauce. It also helped kickoff our desire to really discover D.C.

What is mumbo sauce you ask? The short answer: no one really knows.

OK, people kinda know. It’s a condiment that every carryout in D.C. makes and is usually served with fresh-out-the-grease chicken wings. It’s a little different every where you go.

Some places make it spicier. Others make it sweeter, but ketchup and/or hot sauce seem to be the base ingredients. We were on a quest to sample this magical sauce that appears to be a part of growing up in The District.

We tried the mumbo sauce at the Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce event and honestly weren’t impressed — maybe because the chicken was cold and the sauce couldn’t do much to remedy that. Despite the cold chicken, we enjoyed the art, free beer, and general feel of the space. A diverse crowd vibin’ off each other’s energy. We dig it.

Pump Me Up: We Love Disco Dan!

The next day, we met up at the Corcoran to see the Pump Me Up exhibit. We wanted to see how the two compared to each other, plus admission to the event was FREE on the day we went. The exhibit was cool: posters, videos about go-go music, and an awesome mini-bio of Cool “Disco” Dan, a famed graffiti artist around these parts (who happens to be one of our new favorite people now, BTW).

IMG_4097 IMG_4093 IMG_4088Afterwards, we supported a friend who was speaking at a local university about food deserts in D.C. He dropped some serious knowledge about getting involved in communities and not making assumptions about the people you’re trying to help.  Of course we worked up an appetite, so we hopped in the car and drove from upper Northwest/Northeast DC to a carryout called Yum’s for one more round of chicken wings and mumbo sauce.

The wings and mumbo sauce from Yum’s was a nice way to finish off an exciting weekend. I don’t know if we were just super hungry or if it was really that good, but either way, there was nothing but clean bones left in those Styrofoam containers when we were done. IMG_4110

This was our first dive into deep exploration of “The Real D.C.” Not the Hill. Not the White House. Everything beyond and in between. The artwork at both exhibits was really cool. We dig go-go music, so it was nice to learn more of the history of it and see some of the awesome posters. IMG_4116

Chicken wings & mumbo sauce? Check! Now we’re off to try another adventure. Check in with us weekly during the month of May to see where our feet (and public transportation) have taken us and feel free to recommend a “Real D.C.” spot we should explore.

— R&R