By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. – Coco Chanel
Throughout U.S. history, Black cultural traditions passed down from generation to generation have significantly impacted and transformed American culture.
Most American trends have originated from Black culture, from fashion and music to political and social activism.
Yet, what we haven’t allowed to die out, or others to steal or appropriate, the war on books, history, and diversity, equity, and inclusion has attempted to “erase our memory and purge the historical record.”
What is clear is that the Black community has experienced habitat destruction – both literally and figuratively. In other words, the cultural ecosystem that enabled our community to overcome the Transatlantic Slave Trade era, Jim Crow segregation, and mass incarceration has been severely damaged by the social pollution and disease introduced by the current climate of hate and intolerance.
Perhaps no cultural tradition is in danger of being lost to the Black community more than our culinary capacity when at its finest. Indeed, we are known for our ability to make something out of nothing, taking what Whites threw away and making a delicacy out of it.
But, before the fast-food craze, it was primarily women, like my grandmother at New Home Baptist Church or Sis. Tellos at Morningstar – who took fresh peaches, marinated them, and rolled the dough, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar, and butter, to make fried or baked pies. They would taste so good – it would make a young boy like me sneak out of the sanctuary before the benediction to be first in line to purchase after worship.
Or, the elder sisters of the church would – for any occasion – bake homemade rolls from scratch. Hot from the oven, slathered – with butter, the women “presented” – wrapped with the checkered gingham of fine linen and laid carefully in a wicker picnic basket to keep them hot – the delights that would melt in your mouth.
Those culinary traditions, characterized by simplicity, understatedness, and subtlety that exude effortless grace, and require no excessive adornment or showiness but value sophistication over grandiosity and quality rather than quantity, are dying out.
What am I saying?
Sunday dinner doesn’t always have to be mounds of chicken, greens, cornbread, mac and cheese, and candied sweet potatoes. Neither does traditional Sunday dinner have to be stressful or expensive. Instead, we can rely on quality rather than quantity, as our ancestors did.
So put away the aluminum pans, pull out a centerpiece of flowers or fruit, and a set of actual (not paper or plastic) dishes.
The following is an example of what to cook for a quick but elegant light summer Sunday dinner that you can prepare and still have time to enjoy your guests without being tired. More importantly, the meal preserves our culture of culinary excellence and keeps a valued tradition of simple elegance alive. Remember, though, Presentation, Presentation, Presentation is the key!
FRIED LOBSTER TAIL
4 (4-6 oz) lobster tail, shelled and thawed
peanut oil for frying
1 cup of buttermilk
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 cup self-rising flour
2 tsp Louisiana or Tennessee Sunshine hot sauce
Stir buttermilk and hot sauce in a bowl. Add lobster tails, coat well, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes. Combine self-rising flour, salt, and onion powder in a shallow pan. Remove lobster tails from the buttermilk and skewer lengthwise in order to prevent from curling up during the frying process.
Dredge the tails in the flower, coating well and place in the pan of oil. Fry until golden brown and turn carefully to brown other side. Cover pan and cook an additional five minutes. Drain on paper towels and carefully remove skewers.
CREAMY SUMMER SUCCOTASH
3 cups frozen baby lima beans
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 tbsp fresh minced garlic
4 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (about 6 ears)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
salt to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups grape tomatoes cut in halves
1 pound of thick sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled (save drippings)
Combine lima beans with enough water to cover in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
In a Dutch oven, heat bacon drippings. Add onion and garlic, and cook 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add corn kernels, lima beans, cream, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally until corn kernels are tender. Add tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes until tomatoes are heated through. Top with crumbled bacon.
EASY MINT-CHERRY LEMONADE
2 quarts of water
1 ¼ cups of sugar
1 small jar of Maraschino cherries and juice
Combine the juice of three lemons, one, and ¼ cups of sugar into two quarts of cold water. Add the cherries and juice of one small jar of Maraschino cherries and a few mint leaves. Serve ice cold, or add White Tequila for a cocktail.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org)