Remembering Maya Angelou through her own words, recipes

features@beaufortgazette.comJune 3, 2014 

Maya Angelou's love for food shows in her book "hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes."

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How tender and powerful she was. Her poem "When I Think About Myself" makes one do just that. She made women into ladies when she spoke of "The Heart of a Woman."

Of whom do I speak? Maya Angelou, of course.

This was a poet and dancer who was born in a town and state not even on my travel bucket list: Stamps, Ark. She is probably the most famous person to hail from there. With her talent and drive, she rose above all. She left paths of words, song and dance to inspire the young and old, the talented and smart, to handle everything with grace even while deciding just how to fight battles with her words "and still I rise."

As I began mourning for a person who became my friend through the printed page, my first stop was at the bookcase to retrieve her books. She will never know how much her life story has meant to me, how many times her readings have inspired, her stories gave hope, her actions and song delved deep into the souls of those who knew the traits one needed to become a "Phenomenal Woman."

Here was a woman who could be honest about herself and move on. She often said one did not have time to whine and feel sorry. The world needed people to help people. She loved people, writing and food -- Maya loved a kitchen, which is evident in her cookbook, "Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes." The book, which features short reminiscings and many recipes, is one of my favorites.

To her, a kitchen was a social center. You can envision her mother, Vivian Baxter, teaching Maya's son, Guy Johnson, that "cleanliness is next to godliness." With that in mind, he was also told "A good cook washes his hands 10 times an hour; a great cook, 20 times."Baxter taught Guy how to make bread pudding, and Maya learned that even a 6-year-old could be self-reliant.

The cookbook is dedicated to "O, who said she wanted a big, pretty cookbook." Everyone knows how close Oprah Winfrey and Maya were. It began when Maya presented a series of seminars. Many had been denied interview requests, but then this voice asked for five minutes of Dr. Angelou's time. She was won over. On the following day, the interview was held. At this time, the two of them did not know each other. After the five-minute interview, the reporter gave her card to Maya, thus the beginning of their friendship. Oprah visited Maya often and always said her house felt like home. Maya's smothered chicken was so good that Oprah wanted the leftovers, instead of grits and sausage, for breakfast.

Maya's friends Valerie Simpson and Nickolas Ashford, the duo Ashford & Simpson, were singers who loved more veggies than meats. When Maya made a salad that was so good that Nick raved about it, she named it after him.

There are many people who can warm your heart and swell your belly. There are many whose lives are just so rich from encouraging and giving. To remember Maya Angelou, I may gather with friends or sit quietly alone. I will listen to her stories and hear her songs. I will pray. Surely her wings will fit her well.

Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition.

BREAD PUDDING

Makes: 6 servings

1 loaf stale sliced white bread

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease with butter 3-quart casserole dish.

Butter both sides of bread slices, place on tin foil and put into oven. Toast slices on both sides.

Place raisins in bowl of hot water to plump. Cover, soak for 20 minutes, and drain.

Combine sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Mix well.

Break up toasted bread and put in casserole dish. Add drained raisins. Pour egg mixture over bread and stir.

Bake 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Source: "Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes"

SMOTHERED CHICKEN

Makes: 8 servings

2 3-pound fryer chickens

Juice of 2 lemons

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 medium onions, sliced

1 pound button mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

Wash and pat dry chicken. Cut into pieces and put in a bowl with lemon juice and water to cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Wash lemon water off chicken and season with salt and pepper. Dredge pieces in 3/4 cup flour.

In large skillet, fry chicken parts on high heat in butter and 1/4 cup oil until dark brown. Remove from skillet.

Add remaining flour and oil to skillet. Cook flour until brown. Add onions, mushrooms and garlic, stirring constantly. Put chicken back into skillet. Add chicken broth and water to cover. Turn heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes.

Source: "Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes"

ASHFORD SALAD '96

Makes: 6 servings

2 heads romaine lettuce, with tough outer leaves removed

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced

1 large ripe tomato, cut into small wedges

1 large cucumber, sliced

Wash lettuce, dry, wrap in paper towels and put into refrigerator.

Mix oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar and garlic in large salad bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mash avocado with potato masher and mix with ingredients in salad bowl. Check seasonings. Mix in tomato and cucumber.

Just before serving, remove lettuce from refrigerator. Break into large pieces, and toss into salad bowl. With salad tongs, mix vigorously until each lettuce leaf has been flavored with dressing.

Source: "Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes."

RELATED CONTENT "The Welcome Table": Recipes from Maya Angelou, an interview with NPR Old friend shares secrets to senior living, cake recipes Delicious casseroles that'll have you wanting to 'eat your broccoli' Artist shares love of Beaufort architecture for walking tour of sacred sites All columns from Ervena Faulkner

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