Monday, July 30, 2012

Ropa Vieja - Old Clothes Never Tasted So Good!


Ropa Vieja actually means "old clothes" in Spanish. Ugh! Why would anyone want to eat something called old clothes? Well, if you let the name stop you, you're going to miss out on a real treat! I've never met anyone who's tasted ropa vieja who doesn't like it!

It's actually a Cuban dish, but many of those of Spanish Caribbean descent cook it. It was a favorite of my Cuban godmother, Leonore Dome, but it was my Puerto Rican godmother -- Maria Jiminez -- who taught me to cook it.

Below is my ropa vieja recipe. I hope you enjoy!

*4 pounds of beef chuck (get the toughest -- i.e. cheapest -- piece of beef here. For ropa vieja, it won't matter!)
*3 large onions (1 sliced, 2 chopped)
*Black pepper
*1 large bell pepper (sliced)
*1 large red pepper (sliced)
*1/4 cup of olive oil
*3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed) or 4 teaspoons of minced garlic
*1 large can of crushed tomatoes
*2 large tomatoes - chopped in large pieces
*3 bay leaves
*1/2 cup dry sherry
*1/2 cup capers

1.  Season beef with salt and pepper, and let sit for an hour.

2.  Place beef in iron skillet with enough water to cover, add sliced onion, cover skillet, and put on low heat. Let cook for three hours (keep adding water as needed) then remove beef from pan, and let cool.

3.  Place the water left in the skillet in another container, and set aside.

4.  Use your fingers to start shredding the beef. The finer your shred it, the better the meal!

5.  Heat olive oil into skillet on high, then add garlic.

6.  Reduce heat, add the chopped onions, bell pepper and red pepper. Let cook for 10 minutes.

7.  Add beef, dry sherry, and 1/2 cup of water that was set aside from original pan (if less than 1/2 cup, just add tap water.). Stir until mixed.

8.  Add can of crushed tomatoes, chopped fresh tomatoes, and bay leaves. Stir until mixed well. Let cook for 20 minutes on low heat.

9.  Remove from heat, and remove the bay leaves (they are a choking hazzard!!!!)

10.  Add the capers as garnish

Serve your delicious ropa vieja with yellow rice and beans ( I recommend black beans or chick peas!). . . and a nice garden salad!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Is There No Longer Honor Amongst Authors?

 Everyone knows I'm about my hustle when it comes to selling my books, so maybe that's why a young woman emailed me to boast about selling her own books in the parking lot outside the store where another author was having a signing.

I don't think that's hustling. I think that's some low-life stinky shit.

But maybe that's just me.

Me, however, being me . . . I told this author exactly how I felt about her actions. And while I always welcome other authors to my signings -- and always shout them out -- I asked to please make sure she misses mine.

I don't understand whatever happened to honor between authors -- but I find it more and more rare as time goes on.

I've always encouraged authors to help each other out by exchanging bundles of postcards and bookmarks. If one author is going to a book event in San Francisco and another is going to New York for a book event, then by handing out each others cards they are helping each other promote in places they may not otherwise be able to do so.

I've done this for years! Some of the authors whom I have supported and who have supported me in this include Gloria Mallette, Mary Morrison, Tracy P. Thompson, Zane, Victoria Christopher Murray, and many others.

So, I recently had lunch with a new author whose debut book I had read and enjoyed. She lives in New Jersey, but was in Philadelphia for a book signing. I couldn't make her signing, but I called her and arranged to take her to lunch to make up for it. Over lunch I gave her as much advice as she asked for, told her again how much I enjoyed her book. It was the weekend before the Harlem Book Fair, and I shared with her that I would not be able to attend. We then exchanged postcards and bookmarks, with the understanding that she would give mine out at the HBF and I would give hers out at the next events I attended.

Something came up, and I was able to attend the HBF after all, and I ran into the author. I was so excited, as I had arranged for one of my editors, Brigette Smith of Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster), to meet me with excerpt booklets for An Angry Ass Black Woman, but since Brigette wouldn't be there for another hour or so I hoped to get the postcards I'd given the author to give out.

The author seemed excited to see me, also . . . but then when I asked about the postcards, she turned and started talking to someone else. I waited until she finished talking, and then asked again. She again started talking to someone else. This time, I was rude . . . and broke in and asked if she had any of my postcards. She got a strange look on her face and said, "No, but if you can leave some here at my booth if you'd like."

I audibly gasped, and she averted her eyes.

If she had just said she'd forgotten them I would have understood. That happens. But for her to make believe she didn't know what I was even talking about . . . well! I thought it was rather disrespectful; and not a very honorable way to act.

I walked away, very upset. But not so upset that when I host my event next week that I won't give out her bookmarks.

It's the upright and honorable thing to do.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review - Homer & Langley

Title: Homer & Langley
Author: – E. L. Doctorow
Publisher – Random House
September 2009

Reviewed by Karen E. Quinones Miller for The Philadelphia Inquirer

I need – yes, need – to start off this review of E. L. Doctorow’s latest novel, Homer & Langley, by saying that I’m a fan of Doctorow. I’ve read most of his books (Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and Waterworks are my favorites), and have been looking forward to reading his new literary work for months.

When I read the very first line in the book, “I’m Homer, the blind brother, I didn’t lose my sight all at once, it was like the movies, a slow fade-out,” I let out a sigh of pleasure. The writing already proved to be exquisite. And the writing remained a masterpiece throughout the book; it was the story that I found lacking.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Freedom Riders of the 1960s - Do You Know Who They Are?

The bravest group of people in the 20th century were the Freedom Riders. These young people -- black and white -- risked their life and freedom when they decided to board buses from the North to help end segregation in the South.

Many wound up in prison. Quite a number of them were physically attacked.  A few of them were killed.

And they knew before they boarded those buses the possible fates they lay ahead.

And still they boarded. They didn't just talk about the need to bring about equality; they risked their lives to do it. How brave. How worthy of being honored, even a half-century later.

Don't know about them? Read about them. This is OUR history.

And I don't just mean black folks history . . . this is our nation's history, the history of using non-violence to achieve civil rights. Whether you are white, black, red, or brown --- Democrat, Republican, Liberal, or Conservative . . . this is a story that encompasses us all, no matter what your personal view. Love them or hate them -- cheer them or ridicule them the Freedom Riders made history.

I read In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s years ago, and I heartily recommend it to all! The author, Clayborne Carson, did a helluva job documenting the start of the Freedom Riders, and how it led to the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and it's role in the Civil Rights Movement.

I think, after reading this book, you'll agree that the Freedom Riders deserve icon/hero status.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Texted or Texted . . . how should the word be pronounced?

Texted or Texted . . . that is the question. 
Whether tis Nobler to the ear to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of insecure people
Or to take courage and correctly pronounce the word with two syllables.
 Text - ted. Not Texttttttt. 

Look.  I grew up in the sixties and seventies, and back then "text" was a noun, and never a verb. Like "desk," "text" was always a thing, never an action.

It was only in the late 90's that all of a sudden text went from words on a document to something people do on a cell phone.