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Nutrition Month: Food Rebel Malcolm X

Frederick Douglass Opie, Babson College

Navy bean soup, recipes below (photo from http://belleofthekitchen.blogspot.com/)

In my book Hog and Hominy http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-14638-8/hog-and-hominy, I have a chapter called food Rebels; Malcolm X fits that definition—one who opposed the traditional African American culinary traditions like eating lots of pork and other southern eating habits. Starting in 1954, Malcolm X and the members of Temple 7 in Harlem were the face of the Nation of Islam’s message about food in metropolitan New York. The only African Americans he knew of “who had any sense of being very disciplined nutritionally would probably be the Muslims,” says Harlem native Roy Miller. “I think that Malcolm X personified that publicly,” maintains Miller. On many occasions “he spoke very vigilantly about, ‘you don’t eat that pig,’ and all that sort of stuff.” In what he said and how he lived, Malcolm, says Miller, “made a lot of people conscious about what they were eating and being very careful about what you were eating.” Rudy Bradshaw, another Harlem native, had a brother who was very close to Malcolm. He said that if you went to a place to eat and ordered pork, “Malcolm would ridicule you in a joking way . . . he did that with [Harlem intellectuals] John Hendrik Clarke and Dr. Benyohagen [aka Dr. Ben].” He would remind them that the pig is the dirtiest animal on the farm and subsequently over time persuaded them and others to reform their eating traditions. In contrast to soul food restaurants, Black Muslim restaurants served beef and fish meals with brown rice, fresh vegetables, bean soup, and bean pies. Below are navy bean soup recipes that are most appropriate for this slice of black history.

Nation of Islam Navy bean soup recipe (recipe from http://www.seventhfam.com/scmhwc/ourfamily/vegetarian.htm)

1 pound of small navy beans
1 large onion
3-4 bay leaves ground parsley
ground peppers salt
(All of the above to taste)

Soak beans overnight or quick soak by bringing beans to a boil for 2-3 minutes and soak for I hour. Soaking cuts cooking time by approximately 1/2 . Rinse the beans thoroughly, discarding all of the water used for soaking and clean the remnants of the water from the pot used. Replace beans in a full pot of clean, cool water and place on top of the stove at a medium to medium high setting. Dice or thinly slice the onion and the cloves. Add the whole bay leaves. Cook until beans are tender, then add spices, reduce heat and slow cook until the desired consistency of beans and bean stock is achieved.

Malcolm X Stories with Related Recipes: http://www.foodasalens.com/search?q=Malcolm+X

Nation of Islam Stories with Related Recipes http://www.foodasalens.com/search?q=nation+of+islam

Nutrition Month Series with Related Recipes: http://www.foodasalens.com/search?q=nutrition+month

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