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Ode to my Father and my brother…

February 3, 2011

I’m cooking as fast as I can!

big brother and little sister in the Tenderloin National Forest

A week and a half ago, I found myself cooking for one food party after another and no sooner than I finish washing my trusty pot that I cook my stews in does Julie Phelps and Keith Hennessey call me and ask me if I can come cook for 150 people at the amazing marathon performance they produce at Dance Mission called, Too Much!
What do I say? Hell yeah!
I had a blast… There were performances happening in the theater, in the hallway and a stellar line up of performers had been doing their thing all day long. Around 6pm we set up the small dance studio at Dance Mission with Table cloths on the floor with candles and soft lighting, and I had folks line up for Recession stew, rice and Jamaican coconut cornbread. We encouraged folks to share dishes and eat together…It was beautiful…no one ate alone…and that line went on forEVER! I think it was the first time I scraped that pot bare!!!! It was so beautiful to see everyone huddled up together on the floor, sharing food, sopping up stew with their cornbread…

Somehow, I always have energy to cook…it is feeding me…deeply…
Even if you don’t get a chance to really talk to folks when you cook or serve them food, you do get to feel them…
This experience makes me understand my papa a little more. Any time we had family gatherings he would rarely come out of the kitchen, preferring to stay cooking and washing the dishes while everyone was in the dining room or breakfast room talking. We would complain that he wasn’t engaging in conversation with us, not part of the discussions…but I think this was his way to connect to everyone all at once. Maybe he understood that his tasty Barbecue Chicken inspired our conversations. Or that his traditional new year’s Blackeyed peas, neckbones, Greens and Cornbread was what was bringing us together in the first place .
This is how we enjoyed him the most. He loved to cook for people…never a great conversationalist but always a phenomenal cook. My Papa doesn’t cook anymore…dementia has robbed him of that ability…but when my family gathers, he still ends up in the kitchen. He still likes washing dishes…                                                              and we love that he is here…

I have definitely inherited from my papa the joy of listening to the conversations of others while they eat the food I make. I don’t need to be active in these conversations..I am present in other ways…

Family is blood is community is nourishment is food is love..

This whole process is bringing me closer to both my blood family and my community. I am getting to know folks I have known in this bay area community for years in a whole new way. As my friend DJ Carlos Mena said to me recently, “A friend is not a friend until you share a meal together”.. this is so true

And this process has brought my brother Darryl and I together to collaborate for the first time. Darryl is the co founder, director and curator and I say, tireless visionary of The Luggage Store Gallery along with his partner, Laurie Lazer. We have been collaborating on this monthly Potluck food party called, Fresh from the Oven that we do one Saturday a month in the Tenderloin National Forest. This food party has been a profound experience for both of us. We are both really committed to having folks come together who might not normally intersect and the diversity of the community who comes through these events has been amazing.. I talked about this in the last blog so I won’t repeat myself about the last event. But I really didn’t mention in the last blog how Darryl and the Luggage Store make magic with all that they do and how this event we are coming together on has been inspiring both of us to continue this tradition as long as possible…

Come to the next one if you can. It’s on Saturday, February 19th from 1-4pm in the Tenderloin National Forest( 509 Ellis @ Leavenworth St., SF). As always, we will be serving up home cooked food, Arizmendi pizzas baked in the brick oven and this time local spoken word performing artists Aimee Suzara and Ramona Webb will host guest artists who will be sharing spoken word on the themes of Love, war and uprising. Aimee’s sister Aileen will share some yummy vegetarian Filipino cuisine and stories about food.  Luggage Store artist in residence,  Minori Yata will have an art installation in the gallery next to TL Forest that will be open for view as well. These food parties are always free and potluck but no one ever turned away for lack of food

Come get some nourishment in many forms…

Red beans and ricefully yours,

Amara T. Smith, Daughter of Clarence Smith, Baby sister of Darryl Smith

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