As promised (to myself), I completed a clip to promote my documentary foodie project “The Church Lady Cake Diaries.” Let me set this up. This clip features Johari Rashad. By day she’s a federal government employee (not appointed) and professional development trainer. On Saturdays she attends the Capitol Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church where she’s an active member. I’ve been chomping on Johari’s pound cakes for years. In the clip, she’s making a batch to take to her friends in New Orleans during Mardi Gras (I went with her). It was Johari’s first trip back to the crescent city since before Katrina. It was my first trip to NOLA ever! There’s more to the story. But press play.

Two weeks ago, I had my first day doing lunch prep in my church kitchen, All Souls Unitarian. I came away with red finger tips after julienning (is that a word?) fresh red bell peppers all morning. I’m like my aunts on my father’s side; I don’t do crowd cooking so well, but I can manage dinner for 4. Perhaps I’ll learn something from the “kitchen ministry.” Afterall, if I’m going to do the Church Lady Cake project, better practice what I preach.

BTW I did bake a coconut cake from scratch last month. Haven’t made a layer cake in years. I found the cake recipe on the Epicurious recipe site. It’s the Shubox Cafe of Cedar Grove, NJ coconut layer cake. The liquids are Coco Lopez cream of coconut (your pina colada ingredient) and buttermilk. I don’t use the traditional egg white icing; I use a buttercream. Unsweetened crushed pineapple in the center. It was yum!

The “wellness” policy is in the name of what’s best for “the children” and addressing childhood obesity. Personally, I’ve never seen anyone pig out at a bake sale especially when the goods are home baked from scratch — that should always be the criteria IMO. Piggies at the convenience store? Yes. At fast food joints? Yes. At family picnics and Thanksgiving? Yes. Yes.

The NYC Board of Education issued a 3-page memo in June outlining the new policy. Basically, there’s only one student bake sale per month and not during school hours. The exceptions are parent groups and PTAs, only if baked goods are sold after the lunch hour. There’s a cultural piece in this that is triggering a negative reaction to the policy. There’s probably a business piece, i.e. who’s getting the contracts to be a preferred vendor. I’ve said, putting down people’s food is like talking about their momma. Will bake sales become a Libertarian cause? The New York Times editors were sweet on eclectique916’s comment [“Editors’ Selections“] #61 to their article:

October 3rd, 200910:34 am
It’s highly probable that students will buy less if they pay $2 – $3 for a cupcake at a fundraiser bakesale, than buy more and pay less for convenience foods (at the sports games after school for example) which are the real culprits for childhood obesity in addition to lack of exercise and parental supervision over food available at home. We had bake sales. Our parents and other family members made cakes and cookies for special occasions such as holidays and birthdays. We were rationed servings. Guess what? I’m not over weight, and I don’t suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure. In other words, I had loving, caring and wise adults around me.

Food stuff is a delicate balance.

Byron Hurt and I are due for a chat about his new doc project SOUL FOOD JUNKIES. It’s about the good, the bad, the ugly, and tasty bits of those BBQ ribs, greens, beans, chicken, mac and cheese, comfort foods known in the urban African American community as “soul food.” Soul Food’s grand mother is southern cooking. I guess the soul is a reincarnation from the great migrations. For some people, soul food is all they eat, all they know. Byron seems to want these folks to step away from the table for a second and assess the damage. I sent Byron the CHURCH LADY CAKE clip after seeing his SOUL FOOD JUNKIES clip. It’ll be an interesting conversation. Byron is accepting donations to complete SOUL FOOD JUNKIES. Visit his website for more information.

Bryant Terry’s VEGAN SOUL KITCHEN: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African American Cuisine
You’ll see Bryant in Byron’s clip. But during my little window of opportunity at the end of summer when I had time to cook, I checked out a few recipes in Bryant’s cookbook at the recommendation of public health nutritionist and vegan Tracye McQuirter of byanygreensnecessary. Bryant definitely appeals to my need for flavor. I’ve tried other vegetarian and vegan recipes and left the table feeling okay, healthy but not satisfied. Bryant knows the value of appealing to all the senses. Any chef who isn’t afraid of cayenne pepper is a chef after my own heart. Each recipe comes with a recommended soundtrack. So far I’m sold on his Red Beans and Brown Rice with Red Wine-Simmered Seiten. The soundtrack for this dish is “Beans and Cornbread” by Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five. I didn’t have that in my stash, so I turned on Queen Ida’s Zydeco. Bryant Terry is a star in the organic food justice orbit. He’s based in Oakland, CA.

Conde Nast puts GOURMET MAGAZINE on the chopping block or board
I was shocked! Or should I be? Being that I’m a home cook, GOURMET was the magazine I turned to as an aspirational resource. I may have made 3 recipes from the magazine – and I had a subscription. Not all of their recipes quite hit the mark especially for the novice cook. I always had to work with them a bit. But the photos and the articles were phenomenal.

GOURMET and several other magazines including COOKIE and two bridal magazines were discontinued as a result of an assessment by the McKinsey consulting firm hired by Conde Nast to evaluate the financial health of the corporation and its publications.

Granted, in the early days GOURMET’s writers and readers were privileged foodies. The magazine was founded before the US entered World War II. If these foodies couldn’t get the food at home; they were willing to get it abroad. Good food and flavors were best experienced in their native land.

I noticed in the last couple of years GOURMET focusing on what regular folk in these destinations ate on a daily basis or for special holidays — there was street food (last issue) and comfort food. I remember an issue dedciated to food featured on comedy and dramatic TV shows. It included a recipe for Alice’s “Pork cheeops N Apple Sauze” (“The Brady Bunch”). I still have that issue. Road food was added to the mix and the 10 minute gourmet.

Editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl took the magazine in a direction that made all food and the people who make it special and phenomenal. She’s cleaned out her office and is on a book tour for the cookbook Gourmet Today. Reichl appears to be finishing out the season with the GOURMET brand. She plans to write a book about her experiences. I’m sure it’ll be well received by today’s foodies. Her new 10-part television series “Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth” will premiere this month on PBS stations. “Diary of a Foodie” was GOURMET’s first television venture.Sunday, I bought the recent copy of GOURMET (October). November will be the last issue (updated info.). Today I browsed the same food magazine rack at Borders. GOURMET was nowhere to be found. Perhaps there will be life after “good living” for GOURMET in the digital world.