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Malcolm X The Gardener

(photo from http://afoodiesquest.blogspot.com/)

This and other recipes below (Photo from http://www.ccrecipe.com/)

Lansing Michigan 1930s: “The bulk of the Negroes were either on Welfare, or W. P. A. or they starved. [W]e were much better off then most of the town Negroes. The reason was we raised much of our own food out there in the country where we were. Not only did we have our big garden, but we raised chickens. . . I loved [having my own garden plot] and took care of it well. I loved especially to grow peas. I was proud when we had them on our table. I would pull out the grass in my garden by hand when the first little blades came up. . . . And sometimes when I had everything straight and clean for my things to grow, I would lay down on my back between two rows and I would gaze up in the blue sky at the clouds moving and think all kinds of things.” (Malcolm X) During the Depression, many struggling families like that of Malcolm X had to eat almost like vegetarians, surviving on vegetables grown in expanded family gardens. Many turned to the New Deal relief programs started after Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932. Federal food relief came in many forms-emergency food stations, surplus food distribution programs, soup kitchens, breadlines, and relief gardens. I love the above passage from the Autobiography of Malcolm X because it delves into Malcolm most don't know. The guy loved gardening and the more I’ve read about him, the more I would argue that Malcolm was a foodie. However what is interesting is that he became the spokesmen of the Nation of Islam an organization that championed black economic independence, ethnic pride, Islam, and condemned the peas from Malcolm's childhood garden. For example the organizations leader Elijah Muhammad, who wrote two books, How to Eat to Live, volumes I and II, published in 1967 and 1972 argued that “Peas, collard greens, turnip greens, sweet potatoes and white potatoes are very cheaply raised foods [boldfaced in the original text] [that] . . . southern slave masters used . . . to feed the slaves, and still advise the consumption of them.”  Today most health care professionals and nutritionist would encourage folks to consume more of what Mr. Muhammad condemned slave food particularly when eaten out of your own garden and void of the ham hocks as seasoning.  Here are some good tasting heart healthy related recipes below and more Malcolm foodie stories.

A Split-pea soup recipe for Malcolm’s childhood reflection: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/vegetarian-split-pea-soup-recipe.html

Festivals and Food: Origins of the Pinkster Celebration

Food Rituals and Playoffs Games Part 1