This past Sunday was our final performance of, “Our Daily Bread” at CounterPULSE. After a two week run which included 8 sold out performances and one show for students from Mission High School, I am still feeling the overwhelm of such a wonderful, ass kicking, joyous and painful experience that was the making and performing of this work. It has been a journey that felt so right to complete it where it all began-at CounterPULSE. The process was magical in the way that I believe magic really works. Not the Hollywood version of magic where everything sparkles, angels sing and a shaft of white light that speaks to you in a loud booming white male voice telling you what to do next. No, it’s the kind of magic where I thought I was up to my neck in what felt at times like a pool of shit wondering whether I should be worried that I would drown in this mess. But somehow I managed to surrender and accept that the pain of this process must be what it is supposed to be. Ultimately I believe that magic is really just a manifestation of faith. The beauty for me in this experience was the deep connections and sense of family/community that was made between all of the artists involved in this piece, everyone of which reminded me on a daily basis that some how we would get through it. Everyone involved surrendered to their ancestors who really guided this piece from the beginning. Andrew Packard and Erica Jordan’s video, Dana Kawano’s costumes, Laura Diamondstone’s Lobby installation, Lauren Elder’s Set, Ajayi Jackson and Guy de Chalus making music and Ellen Sebastian Chang being the daddy and directing this piece. Then there was the crew; Chichi, Del and Alejandro holding it down in the theater. And of course the performers; Stephanie Bastos, Eyla Moore, Alicia Walters, Adriel Eddo, Aimee Suzara, Pippa Fleming and Elizabeth Summers committing themselves completely in this work. And then there was the beautiful sense of community in the audience. There were familiar faces and there were faces that felt familiar. And by the end of every performance, I felt like the family grew. Folks hung out after each show to eat more blackeyed peas, write recipes on the wall in the lobby, help wash the dishes in the kitchen and sometimes drinking up the rum (as guests in the house do at times! I ain’t mad! it means they felt at home!) I am so filled with gratitude for this experience and everyone who I have come into contact with during the making and performing of this work, and all who supported the whole process. And it really began with CounterPULSE.
Honestly, without the absolute support of CounterPULSE in the making of this work from it’s beginnings as a work in progress 2 years ago, this piece never would have happened. Big ups to Jessica Robinson Love, Shamsher, Julie, Kat, Del, Mariana, Grace and Randy for being so gracious and enthusiastic in their support, stopping their work in the office to break bread with us which was an important part of our creative process.
This process continues to teach me so much about what community really means. The food we served during the show was cooked by me in my kitchen fresh each day before the performance.. This was extremely important to me and somehow through my exhaustion, I was always invigorated by this ritual. Everyday before the show, I would get up, go to the farmer’s market and get fresh berries and vegetables for the blackeyed peas and love bread that was served during the show (oh and yes, it was all vegan and all organic). Vegetables that we cut during the show, were then washed and cooked up for the show the following night. My hope with this piece was for people to have the experience of being fed and to leave thinking deeply about the food they choose to eat. It is something that I continue to try and commit myself to deeper everyday….
The last week of our show marked the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill in the gulf and I was reminded of how we must continue to develop deeper consciousness about how everything is connected. Industrialized farming and agriculture relies heavily on fossil fuel…eat local…have reverence for your food and where and how it comes to your table…Let your reverence for your food and the earth it comes out of be more important than whether it is cheap, quick and convenient….
We hope that we have the chance to continue to evolve this work and share it with more audiences in the future..there are many food stories to tell and we are grateful for all the wonderful people that shared their food and food stories with us in the process. At the bottom of this blog you will find a recipe for the blackeyed pea stew that I created for this show. It is written in the style of my Louisiana ancestors who never measured anything..just feel it…
I want to close this blog with a poem written by the beautiful poet Joy Harjo. Thank you Macklin for reminding me of this beautiful piece…
Perhaps the World Ends Here
BY JOY HARJO
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
Digest in Peace ya’ll,
Onile’s New Day’s Black eyed Peas (inspired by New Year’s Black eyed Peas)
Note- this recipe will feed a small army so adjust accordingly but in the spirit of community, make it as is and invite your all your folks to partake!
15 large handfulls of dried blackeyed peas
2 bunches of collard greens (kale or other greens can be substituted)
4 large onions chopped real good!
2 heads of garlic chopped so fine!
8 carrots cut in thin circles
1 head of celery (or is it a bunch of celery?) chopped fairly fine
2 bunches of Cilantro chopped fine
liberal amounts of cumin (one small handful)
Salt to taste
1 can of coconut milk
enough safflower oil to cover the bottom of your pot
Wash all your veggies real good then get to cuttin’!
while you are cutting your veggies, put your blackeyed peas in a pot and cover with water and bring to a boil. Make sure there is more than enough water as your blackeyed peas will expand. Chop onions, garlic, carrots, celery and cilantro as noted above. Separate the veggies in different bowls; onions and garlic together, everything else in their separate bowls. Take your collards or which ever greens you choose and roll them length wise then chop them fine. Set aside.
After you finish chopping all your veggies, drain your blackeyed peas which should be boiling by now and have expanded somewhat. Drain them in a colander and leave them there. Clean out the pot and set it on the burner on medium/high heat. Add your oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Pour in the onions and garlic, stirring the whole time. Make sure not to let them brown. Next add your cumin, cilantro, salt and keep stirring. slowly add carrots and keep stirring not letting anything burn, adjusting the flame as necessary. once the onions soften, add the black eyed peas and a little more salt and cumin. continue to stir. Once all of the vegetables are integrated start to add water little by little, stirring the whole time. Make sure to only add enough water to cover the mixture but not to make it soupy. Once there is enough water to cover the mixture, add the celery then cover with the flame on high. Check often. Once the mixture starts to simmer, add the collard greens which should be thin enough as to appear shredded. Stir until the greens are fully integrated. Turn heat on high and let it come to a boil. Taste the stock often adding salt and/or cumin to taste. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the flame down low and let simmer for approx. 30-40 minutes. Check often during this time and add water if it appears dry but be careful not to make it too soupy as your coconut milk will round out the stock. After simmering for 30 minutes, add the coconut milk stirring well then let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes making sure not to let it boil.
Serve with or without rice or hot sauce but always with a lot of love!