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Broke Cuisine

I recently heard from one subscriber to this blog – my sister, to be exact. She said she hadn’t read my views on John Edwards’ infidelity (pretty much a Democratic party male norm, to wit: Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Antonio Villaraigosa, Rev. Jesse Jackson (not only a philanderer but a spiritual counselor to philanderers)) or seen any comments by me on the passing of Isaac Hayes or Bernie Mac (both major losses to the African American creative community). What happened to Black Woman Blogging?

She’s now Black Woman Sleep Deprived. Now that I have a ‘tween living with me five days a week and going to PS 7, my days are planned around carpools, back-to-school night, checking homework and making lunches. My day starts at 5:00 am and ends at 10:30 or 11 pm. A big transition from my DINK (Double Income No Kids) lifestyle of less than a month ago.

In fact, when I embarked on this path, I became yet again in awe of my mom, SWIE, and the fact that she did what I’m doing with not just one child but with six children, seven days a week, not five. And of how she would make dishes that seemed so special to us but were in fact the product of two facts: 1) She was broke; and 2) she had six mouths to feed. I call these dishes “broke cuisine.”

I started thinking about “broke cuisine” because I had a hankerin’ for one of my favorite broke cuisine foods: Egg rice. My mother used to make this for breakfast on Saturday mornings, and I couldn’t think of the last time I had had it. I asked BMNB if he’d ever had egg rice. He, the Southerner for whom a day without grits is a day without sunshine, turned his head sideways and looked at me as if I were an alien. Nope, he had never even heard of egg rice. I exclaimed, “Egg rice was THE BOMB!” When I mentioned egg rice to my older sisters, they reminded me that that was what SWIE would make us for breakfast when she was broke. It figures – egg rice consists of leftover white rice sautéed with onion, with a seasoned scrambled egg or two added with crumbled bacon bits and salt and pepper to taste. Good eatin’, folks. I had no idea as a child that we were having egg rice because she was broke. I thought it was a special treat.

As a child, I also thought that “breakfast for dinner” was a special treat. I would rack my tiny mind trying to figure out what we kids had done that was so special that we got to have breakfast for dinner – pancakes, eggs, bacon, you name it. Again, Mom was broke. When I would brag at school the next day that I got to have breakfast for dinner the night before, my mom would later tell me not to tell people that we had had breakfast for dinner. As a small child, I couldn’t understand why. Now I get it.

One of my older sisters reminded me of another “broke cuisine” specialty of SWIE: Pork fried rice. My mom would take one or two leftover pork chops or any leftover pork, chop it up into tiny, tiny bits, saute them with white rice, add soy sauce and saute some more until the rice turned brown, add a seasoned scrambled egg and – here’s the variation – green onions. To this day I think my mom made better pork fried rice than most Chinese restaurants.

My oldest sister reminded me of another broke cuisine staple: Bean burritos. SWIE would take leftover chili beans and put them in burritos with rice to make the beans stretch. Again, good eatin’. I was blissfully unaware as a child that this was indeed broke cuisine. I was too busy smacking my lips and going back for seconds.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be as creative in the kitchen as my mom was. Through her cooking creativity, she shielded me from the truth of our condition – that, more often than not, our family was broke. You couldn’t have told the six year-old me, though – heck, I’d just had breakfast for dinner last night, so life was good.

What’s your broke cuisine?

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