Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dominican Vegan: Featuring some of my Living Food Dishes Part 2

I started developing my cooking in college. I couldn't afford the meal plan, the food was nasty anyway,  so I ventured off it with some of my friends, like Oscar and Jose. I would call my mom and ask for her to explain the process of cooking certain foods. At first, my rationale was that it had to be done by the book since we were beginners in it. Just a few months ago, Jose and I remembered me getting so mad at him for interfering with the cooking on the chicken. Eventually, we would freestyle some of the food, without knowing what the outcome would be. In the end, we stuck to our favorite types: Caribbean and Mexican.  After I became a vegan, I switched the dead parts, for best parts. The real protein-plant based ones. Below are some of these dishes I've made over the years.

Arepitas
You can never go wrong with a side of Arepitas. Traditionally they are made in the Dominican Republic with yucca, one of the most popular root vegetables consumed by the Tainos.  The Yucca is pealed and cut into smaller pieces. Then grated using a grater. The grated yucca is turned into a ball of dough by draining any liquid using cheese cloth. It is mixed with butter and anise seeds.  The dough, broken into smaller balls, are then fried and flattened as they cook.  In this vegan version, you do not need any additional binders, aside from Earth Balance butter.  They cook perfectly well without any eggs.  What allows them to bind so well is the lack of extra liquid inside the grafted yucca. 

Ensalada de Rabano y Berro

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I grew up eating salads of watercress and radishes, when the traditional enselada verde was not available. It's very simple to make using lime, salt, and pepper. Watercress can actually be cooked/heated as well. This is a perfect medicinal salad.  Both radishes and watercress have healing properties.


MANGU! 



Mangu is literally mashed plantains. It is arguably the most popular dish in the Dominican Republic because it can be eaten at any time of day. People eat it with eggs, meat, salami. I eat it with Tofu or Tempeh and make it using soy butter and the pickled onions are made with apple cider vinegar.


Platano Relleno, Arroz con Gandules, Repollo
Puerto Rico is like my second home that I've never been to. I grew up with Boricuas and quickly realized there weren't many differences with the exception of how the U.S. dealt with our respective countries. Our foods are extremely similar and we make many of the same dishes with slight differences in preparation and ingredients. Here I made the rice dish using jasmine brown rice and organic gandules that have to be soaked for 8-12 hours. The stuffed plantains are uniquely from Boriken and you make it by cutting the green plantains into three quarters, frying them, and slowly scooping some of the plantain "meat" off the center. That space is used to put cheese, meats, etc. I stuffed it with tofu and vegan Daiya cheese. The cabbage is universal all throughout Latin America. We usually have it as a simple raw salad with tomatoes and in the Dominican Republic is commonly known as repollo.

Peace!

Monday, May 28, 2012

MGT, Cooking, and the Original Woman

Note: Throughout this piece, I am using the phrase MGT to denote any training women have engaged in for their growth and development as it relates to the maintenance of the home.

These past few years, I've been deeply immersed in the culinary arts. It has not always been this way. I grew up watching my mother prepare food. Food was always around me. As I grew older, I didn't quite successfully undertake my responsibilities as the young lady of the house. Gender values were passed down and acquired by the women in my family through generations of assimilating into the dominant codes of the Christian Spaniards that lived and survived through the ideas of my people, who represented a myriad of shades as a result of Moorish/Christian/Taino/West African influences. While I was proudly living up to this standard it was not in the traditional Dama sense, but rather through the feminist liberal Anglo-Saxon ideology of the women of the United States. To me cooking represented oppressive domestic affairs. It represented a form of slavery brought by gender constraints that women lived by. I saw my mother every evening being demanded of and yelled at if food wasn't ready. Her passively answers of reassurance was all I remember. Thus, I rejected it all together. Among many other personality traits, which are deserving of their own blog, it garnered me the phrase of "el hombresito de la casa." 

Through the years, as I grew comfortably into my womanhood and unveiled myself of some of my older ideas, I came to understand cooking not as a mandatory requirement of wife duties, but rather as an art to discover part of what womanhood is about. Through cooking, you are revealed an aspect of who you are as a woman. Within the 120 lessons of the Nation of God and Earth, the 14th degree of the 1-14 set, states
"What is the meaning of MGT and GCC?" 
The answer states, "Muslim Girl Training and General Civilization Class. This is the name given to the women and girls of Islam in the wilderness of North America. Teaching them: How to keep a home, How to raise their children, How to keep their husband.  Sew, cook, in general, how to act at home and abroad."  
This degree mentions the main duties that a woman dealing with Islam, as a non-mysterious concept, should have mastered and ultimately possess as qualities.  MGT and GCC simply detail the skills that a young woman develops all throughout the course of her years prior to establishing a relationship with a man. Man and Woman are extremely similar creatures, yet they are each born with predominant traits that are correspondent with their gender. The myth that gender norms are socialized and made up, thus concluding with the idea, that each individual should define their gender how they want to live it, is partly erroneous. Obviously, people will express their femininity and masculinity in unique ways that befit them. However, their dominant gender, naturally received through birth, will inform who they are.  Gender goes in accordance to the universal laws of the mind and nature. The corresponding traits to gender are ones that are beyond time and space. Tehuti, one of the most prominent ancient figures we learn through our ancient history, articulated the laws that govern the universe and Earth. These laws are neither bendable nor can be dis-proven, they simply just are and have no beginning or ending, even when we don't see it with the physical eye. Of the 7 universal laws, one is the Law of Gender. This ancient principle details the manifestation of both genders in all things. Examining this law one will learn that masculine and feminine are not necessarily opposites, but rather are interrelated shades of gender, where people manifest aspects of both in all they do while one has a more dominant role than the other. Even something as masculine as a punch contains both elements of gender. When one throws a punch it is the force used that represent the yang (masculine) aspect. Simultaneously, it is the grace and sharpness used to give the strike shape, that represents the yin (feminine) aspect. One can see that even in movement this principle is present, that without it creator and creation it would not exist. The law of gender also plays out in the Human form as man and woman. Each being is composed of one another, but have predominant traits, that uniquely make them who they are and how they functional within the planet Earth. Man and Woman have been in tune with one another. While man's nature is inclined more towards the heavens, woman's nature is connected more to the world/Earth. Dr. Charles S. Finch has stated,
 "Farming was almost certainly a female invention; it strengthened and amplified the matriarchy while materially and symbolically enriching it."(1)
Vandana Shiva, an eco-feminist (a feminism not in adherence to white woman ideology, but rather one that goes in accordance with man and masculinity because nature herself is made up of activity and creativity, the former representative of man, the latter of woman ) wrote in her exemplary research,
"Nature and women have historically been the primary food providers in natural farming, based on sustainable flows of fertility from forests, and farm animals, to croplands...Women were the world's original food producers, and continue to be central to food production systems in the Third World..."(2)

It is no coincidence that notable scholars' work has revealed to them the idea of woman being intimately connected to nature at such an extent that it is truly the original woman who embodies historical roles of innovation that are directly related to the Earth. Indeed, the feminine principle is one that correlates with the woman. It makes sense that women are naturally drawn to work that is related to the planet. These traits then become embedded into the society as the predominant role of woman. What we call gender norms and roles. It doesn't mean she cannot do anything beyond that, but these must be mastered before moving onto other endeavors. This is the ideology upon which MGT is rooted. It is neither a sociological construction, nor an adaptation based on one model. It is simply the application of an irrefutable truth based on science and mathematics that are not theory based to measure part of the whole.  Rather, it is based on the subjective study of the original Black man and woman, reflections of thought and nature, father and mother of civilization. MGT then are the tasks that naturally continue to develop since the original woman's existence. As civilization expands along with dissatisfaction(3), women's work become diluted through  linear mentality that has guided European society since it's formation. Women's main roles become constricted to only the most obvious, of which are house duties and food.

European women learned the arts of food because to be a good wife meant knowing about different types of cooking styles, as well as going to the market to shop for meat, vegetables and fruits. A woman successful at marriage was one that knew how to bake, stew, and shop for food.  I know this specially to be true for the half original Spaniard criollos living in the Americas.  Of great reference to illustrate this point, is the famous telenovela Corazon Salvaje, set in colonial Mexico, where the two main characters in their conversation, specifically discuss a woman's role in the household and society at large.
Juan: ¿No me digas que te metiste a la cocina?
Monica: ¿Por que te extraña?
Juan:  ¿Sabes cocinar?
Monica: Claro que si.
Juan: ¿Esto que es?
Monica: Miel de Buen dulce.
Juan: ¿Estara bueno, o en vez de azucar le hechaste sal?
Monica: Juan, si se hacer de comer.
Juan: Bueno, haber que tan buen cocinera eres.
Monica: Si, enseguida....
...
Monica: Tambien se hacer mermeladas, curtidos, licores...
Juan: ¿Donde aprendiste? ¿En tu casa o con las monjas?
Monica: En los dos lados.
Juan: ¿Que mas sabes hacer?
Monica: Bueno, se coser, bordar, hacer las compras. Tambien toco el piano y hablo un poco de Frances.
Juan: Es decir, todo lo que una buena esposa debe saber.(4)
This shows the Europeans had their own versions of MGT, where being a woman translated into the many qualities that she was able to develop. As in Monica's case, she grew up fostering the skills that would make her a successful wife. She knew how to take care of her home by cooking, shopping, sewing and embroidering. She was also expected to reflect her womanly prowess by developing entertainment skills, as well as others that would show she was somewhat worldly.  This meant either knowing an aspect of the arts (singing, playing an instrument, or dancing) and the spoken word (adequately carry a thought-provoking conversation).  The second component of the woman's preparation is exactly what is meant by "how to act at home and abroad" in the 14th degree.  Behavior and level of involvement in different ciphers was a reflection of the mastery women had in exerting themselves dependent upon the climate and conditions of the occasion. Women would exert their talents at gatherings at the request of the guests. All of this was achieved through years of schooling and preparation, which meant that it was also dependent upon class.  Women that were worthy of marrying were usually chosen from the upper classes.

The idea of MGT learned through institutionalized schooling, reminds me of the Geisha's in Japan. Geisha's were mainly poor peasant girls that when orphaned, or whose parents were unable to care for, were sold to a Geisha house in Japan's cities. If the lady of the house saw fit, the girl would either be a servant or go to school to become a Geisha. At the schools, the girls would learn the art of dancing, singing, instrumental music, hygiene, and literature. Erroneously, Geisha's have traditionally been viewed as escorts or prostitutes, when in reality, they were extremely intellectually skilled entertainers. Due to their disposition as women, the topic of sex must be discussed.  How did these women incorporate this into their lives? The only time this would happen is to sell their virginity, which occurred because it was the only time a Geisha was able to make the most money in her lifetime. They did this did to pay their debt with the ladies of the house, who had bought them and paid for their schooling. It was in this way in which a Geisha would pay her "Mother" back. This is where the confusion of the Western world lies. The entire process occurred through outlined principles/rules that retained the morality of the women involved. In the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha, Michelle Yeoh's character says to her young apprentice,
"Remember Chiyo, Geisha's are not courtesans and we are not wives. We sell our skills, not our bodies. We create another secret world, a place only of beauty. The very word Geisha means artist. And to be Geisha is to be judged as a moving work of art."(5) 
Although Geishas did not become wives, as they were not allowed to marry, they did possess the qualities that would make a great wife. This is why eventually each Geisha, depending how strongly she exerted her skills, would receive the economic protection of a sponsor. He would provide her with food, clothing, and shelter. Again, we must understand the social context of these ladies. They were poor and this was the best available option at growing decently. It really was MGT for the poorer women of Japan.

The confusion lies with the transferring of MGT in the European context. It is here where MGT takes on a shape that is exclusive and oppressive. Instead of viewing MGT as the qualities that women are most naturally in tune with because of their natural connection to the Earth, literally the personification of the planet, in Europe MGT becomes more of the "obligations" that women must comply with. Men set the guidelines for what MGT meant. This means the MGT was incomplete because it confined the woman through an appropriate freedom where her mind and thoughts were not appreciated beyond the home. The white man applied gender without balance. The woman was to be dominated and not allowed to contribute to the growth of society. This condition subjugated the woman to the home and did not allow her to develop other aspects of her being.  As Juan told Monica,  
"Por supuesto que una mujer debe saber cuidar su casa...pero eso no es todo...que ademas de ser esposa es mujer, un ser humano que piensa, que puede opinar, decidir." 
To this Monica answers, "A mi me han enseñado que la mujer debe de ser prudente, obedecer y acatar la ordenes del marido." 
 Juan then replies, "¿Y si no estas de acuerdo? ¿Supongamos que yo ordeno algo que esta equivocado, que harias?...No quiero una esclava, si no una mujer. Asi que pelea, discute, di lo que sientas...No se te ocurre que podrias convencerme?" (6)
Although women of high rank in Europe had exemplary skills and their own MGT preparation, they experienced a strong societal oppression, where their thoughts and ideas were not taken into consideration.  They had no rights in terms of owning property or being involved in other aspects of society aside from the home. In other words, in matters outside the home, the woman had no power(5) that could extend the culture(4) of the home into an equality(6) of who she was to the man(7). Meaning, a true equality of who she was to man could be achieved allowing the interaction of gender to play out, where the culture would exert its power precisely by allowing an interchange in different situations that dealt with inside and outside of home and were carried by either husband and wife and not limited to a box that kept each gender there. Juan, of course, was the exception to other caballero men.  He had grown up poor and this had given him the understanding of equality not only of classes, but also of gender. He saw the woman as an equal counterpart, rather than a secondary inferior sex. The European experience of MGT is the teaching of a role confining the societal state of women as people that were to be treated as the possession of the man. Her sole existence was her duties in the home of which the main one consisted bearing of children. It was a customary in European culture for the man to solely marry with the purpose of using the wife just to conceive. Her sensuality rarely developed. It was common practice for the husband to release his sexual needs with a mistress that dependent upon the situation, would either live with husband and wife or in a home relegated for her use. The white woman was to be dominated because unlike a slave, she was to be naturally subjugated by man due to her condition as a woman. This is really the law of mathematics misapplied and not understood by the European man when he learned it from our Original ancestors. This is also why MGT is interpreted by western-educated Black and Latina women as work that is degrading and oppressive that does not put them in societal equality with men. The manifestation of gender by the Europeans becomes a legacy of social norms we as original people inherit. In Latin America, this translates to "machismo" and in U.S.A as sexism or white capitalist patriarchy.
 
Marie-Antonie Careme
This is also the reason why cooking becomes an art that is dominated by men. In cooking schools throughout the western world, the faces that represent the food industry are men. The most notable Chefs are men and to study with them means to be acknowledged as a legitimate "food scientist." The European country that is most notable within this field is France. People like Marie-Antoine Careme and Auguste Escoffier get credit for innovating different aspects of the culinary field. One is referred to as the "King of Chefs" and the "Chef of Kings"(7) who was one of the main innovators in haute cuisine, where focus is placed upon the presentation and elaboration of food to be served to the upper society. The other is known as an exemplary chef, restaurateur, and culinary writer that is famous for adapting traditional french cooking techniques into a modern context. He is also known for further subdividing the kitchen by what is known as the brigade de cuisine system and introduced new cooking methods along with his recipes (8).  These two male figures are seen as geniuses in the history of  cooking. However, what is not given credit to are a few facts that must be taken into consideration that can easily put to question and/or dismiss the idea that Europe is the root of the culinary arts: 1) The travel of the Greek and Romans (ironically the same territory what would later become modern day France, Italy, and Greece who today are popularly known for the cuisine) into Egypt for education, 2) The Moorish establishment in Europe, which coincides with the European cooking innovations that can be traced back only after the medieval period, and 3) The travels taken during the colonial era by Europeans into Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These three major movements of contact, mostly of violent aims, with original people cannot be disregarded. They almost instantly influenced Europe in all sectors, of which included not only the new variety of foods, but the preparation, cooking, and storage of food. It is with this idea, that we start to uncover what MGT is for the original woman.

Auguste Escoffier
Feminists have failed to socially understand MGT, specifically through the aspect of cooking as a true art that only elevates the level of culture and refinement of a woman. And that puts her more in tune with her predominant feminine nature. This is where the MGT of the European goes wrong, whereas it is entirely understandable in the Japanese case due to the social status of the women. Geisha's were not looked to as inferior because their MGT was precisely to elevate the status of women that would be in misery otherwise. Because of the condition of the European woman, as MGT being something that was an obligation added to her oppressed reality as no more than a mere object, westernized original women have also rejected MGT.  To embrace it would mean to give up all the other aspects that society offers in acquiring preparation into a professional field of choice. It would simply mean giving up the change to be like-man by getting ready to cater and serve the husband to be. Western women, starting with the grafted, have reacted to the limitations set up by the white man by wanting an equality that is not in accord to their nature.  It is a false equality that is based in being like man and not one that accentuated and uniquely added to their womanhood. Meaning, that white women focused on getting rights and recognition so they could do and act exactly like white men, instead of fighting to extend the depth of their MGT schooling that could flower into other realms dealing with studies/activities associated with man.  This is a true building of oneself that deals with a proper equality with the traits that go in accordance to the Godly nature of Man. Western feminism has failed to nourish the feminine principle (being a lipstick lesbian is not enough) in a way that allows her to adequately contribute to the world with a proper freedom.

Only when you combine the 14th degree with an Original Black value system can you see its true worth for understanding how and what does the Original Black woman do. The number of the 14th degree itself, which we measure through Supreme Mathematics, the law and order of the universe, explains the process that women engage in when learning of their universal role, not something that is assigned by man. Man in the previous sentence is defined through what has been shown and proven by the social history of humanity through the onset of dissatisfaction as it was experienced by the original people themselves. This is manifested through the division and linear defining of all things, the inability to view gender through holistic lens where both the masculine and feminine principles are aligned with each other mathematically, but rather where one is placed above the other in an oppressive reality.  Man is thus being contextualized through the reductionist, linear and fragmented mind frame, which disrupts the harmony between man and nature. This is the only way where gender roles are not given, but naturally lived out by the black woman as they go in accordance with who man really is: Allah, the spark, the creator, the Black man.  In the supreme mathematics, 1 means Knowledge and 4 is Culture. Knowledge is an initial awareness, a thought that has not been given a shape or form, it lingers, until we delve deeper to explore it. Knowledge are also facts and information gathered throughout time by previous scientists, mathematicians, and historians. Culture is how we live our lives. It is constantly enriched by add in it the understanding(3) acquired through the application(2) of our knowledge(1). When the original woman starts to become aware of who she is and retraces this by learning herstory of the history, understanding her experiences and the interrelation(6) between her and man(7) she can then properly know how to add-on to her culture. It starts in the home, but extends outwardly. For man it starts outside, but reverts back to the home Islam. This is knowledging your culture.

Of course, women can develop themselves as scientists, mathematicians, writers, etc, but all of this must occur with a proper mental balance. An accurate conception of who they are, a foundational preparation, and a projection of the talents/skills they want to develop will allow an accurate process of women's contribution to society and the world. Currently, this is only possible on a micro level, where certain communities can provide the deeper teachings of woman, such as the Nation of God and Earth, as a stepping stone to her full realization. Or as we say, to take it from knowledge(1) to born(9).

As for myself these days I no longer think of the oppression my mother experienced, through the internalized European patriarchy of her husband, nor do I think about her inability to change that situation. It was precisely her undetected earthly nature that did not fight it. Nowadays, I welcome all aspects of MGT that can add to my growth. Food and cooking not only reveal how I can uniquely transform food for consumption, but how I present it, like or unlike others. This says a lot about who I am. Cooking also informs other talents, like writing, where sometimes you have a set plan of how to do it, other times you just freestyle especially when you are unfamiliar to the spices. Reaching physical, mental, and spiritual enlightenment through the practice of yoga is also connected to cooking. Through it, not only does one have the proper nutrients to engage in the training, but the way in which one expresses the asanas (postures), will give you clues as to their process of cooking.  What is unique to the way one cooks? All these things, eventually take me to a deeper place, where I want to learn about how to grow these fruits, vegetables and herbs. I also want to organize and work with women farmers of the world in saving seeds that might become extinct due to the genetic manipulation and dissemination worldwide by so-called green revolution authorities. Western society would call this ecology. If this is the case one of the areas I want to dwell more into is agriculture and ecology. In the end, I am applying who I am in what I do. MGT leads you and informs the original woman to what her contributions will be in the outside world.

Peace!



(1) Chandler, Wayne. Ancient Future.  Atlanta, Georgia: Black Classic Press, 1999. pg. 140.
(2) Shiva, Vandana. Staying Alive.  Brooklyn, New York: South End Press, 2010. pg. 96 and 104.
(3) Dissatisfaction as it is being used here, was a term coined by Elijah Muhammad to denote the birth of the climate that would bring forth the issues that will characterized Babylonian society.
(4)Zarattini, M. (Writer), Rendón, J. (Director). (1993). Episode 14 [Television Series Episode]. Rendón, J. (Producer), Corazón Salvaje. Mexico: Televisa. 
(5) Marshall, R. (Producer/Director). (2005).  Memoirs of a Geisha [Motion Picture].  United States: Columbia Pictures/Dreamworks.
(6) Zarattini, M. (Writer), Rendón, J. (Director). (1993). Episode 14 [Television Series Episode]. Rendón, J. (Producer), Corazón Salvaje. Mexico: Televisa. 
(7) Marie-Antoine Carême. (2011). Retrieved May 28, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Antoine_Carême
(8) Auguste Escoffier. (2011). Retrieved May 28, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_Escoffier




 
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