Maya Angelou's Cooking Advice: Ignore The Rules

To enjoy meals, slow down and ignore the rules, says poet Maya Angelou. Here, she celebrates her 82nd birthday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. i i

To enjoy meals, slow down and ignore the rules, says poet Maya Angelou. Here, she celebrates her 82nd birthday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. Steve Exum/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Steve Exum/Getty Images
To enjoy meals, slow down and ignore the rules, says poet Maya Angelou. Here, she celebrates her 82nd birthday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C.

To enjoy meals, slow down and ignore the rules, says poet Maya Angelou. Here, she celebrates her 82nd birthday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Steve Exum/Getty Images
Great Food, All Day Long
Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart
By Maya Angelou
Hardcover, 176 pages
Random House
List Price: $30

Read An Excerpt

When it comes to America's approach to food, poet Maya Angelou says too much rushing around — and too many rules — are enough to crush good cooking. Eating good food, she says, should be a time to enlighten the spirit.

Talking with Morning Edition guest host Don Gonyea about the food of her childhood in Stamps, Ark., Angelou says her family always ate vegetables from her grandmother's garden.

"Dinner time was generally boiled; meats were smoked meats," she says. "If there was an old rooster, it might get boiled. And we'd have boiled chicken, and maybe dumplings."

Yet that dinner table was much more than a place to break bread.

"I'm concerned that Americans are losing that place of meeting," she says. "There are very few times we can be more intimate as to share food together."

Angelou has worked that spirit into her new cookbook, Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart.

A Wide Variety

The recipes have ties to many different regions and traditions, something Angelou attributes to her wide-ranging travels. As a result, she says, "I cook in different languages."

"I wanted to offer to the reader a chance to actually be in Mexico or in Stockholm or in South America or in Mississippi," she says. "The book offers nice little visits to different parts of the world."

Of her recipe for "California Green Chili and Cheese Pie," Angelou says the comfort-food dish helps break some of the rules associated with cooking and eating.

"It's great for dinner. It's also great for lunch. And it would knock a cup of coffee off the table for breakfast," she says.

"You can eat anything at any time," she says. "Who made the rule that you have to have eggs in the morning, and steak at night?"

Good Cooking, And Writing

Angelou, of course, is well-known as a talented writer and poet. And she says she applies the same skills to her cooking.

"You need the best ingredients when you're going to cook," she says. "The writer has to take some nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, et cetera, and boil them up in such a way that you can throw them against the wall and they'll bounce."

"When you cook," she says, "put all these things together in a way that the person who eats says, 'Mmm, this is really good.' "

The author also has some very basic advice for readers who pick up her book: "First, sit down. And give yourself a half-hour to read something. Have more patience with yourself."

Recipe: 'Mixed London Grill'

Great Food, All Day Long
Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart
By Maya Angelou
Hardcover, 176 pages
Random House
List Price: $30

Many years ago I was invited to be a distinguished visiting professor at Wichita State University. I taught there for four weeks while staying with family friends.

My hosts, Dr. and Mrs. George Rogers, had two daughters and the first microwave I had ever seen. The daughters were very clever teenagers, who cooked everything they could find in the microwave oven.

I elected to cook some special dishes for the family. I prepared a beef bourguignonne one night, and a beef stroganoff a few days later. On a Sunday I cooked curried lamb and served it with mango chutney, cucumber, cashew nuts, raisins, and diced tomatoes.

While the adults enjoyed my creations, the young ladies could barely choke them down.

My husband, Paul, visited from California for a weekend, and he offered to cook his version of a London grill. He fried steak, liver, bacon, a beef kidney and pounds of sliced onions in butter. The Rogers girls loved the fried dinner. They ate bites of everything and then as we sat around the table they said, "We know who the real cook is in your family, Auntie Maya. Your meats were OK, but the gravies were horrible, and it took you so long to cook everything. Uncle Paul has come and within an hour he has us all sitting at the table eating a gourmet dinner."

I kicked Paul under the table.


MAYA ANGELOU'S MIXED LONDON GRILL

Ingredients

1 lamb or veal kidney, halved

2 teaspoons salt

1 whole bratwurst or other sausage

2 lamb chops

2 thin slices pork loin

2 pounds top sirloin, sliced

2 pounds veal cutlets, sliced

2 pounds calves' livers, sliced

1/4 teaspoon pepper

8 strips bacon

1/2 pound onions, sliced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Instructions

1. Wash the kidney halves and remove all the veins and fat.

2. Soak in water with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt for 1 hour and pat dry.

3. While the kidney is soaking, season the bratwurst, lamb chops, pork loin, beef, veal, and livers with pepper and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

4. Grill the pork loin in a grill pan on top of the stove until cooked all the way through. Then grill the kidney, bratwurst, lamb, beef, veal, and liver until medium done. Set aside in a warming dish.

Maya's Suggestions:


Serving Size:

1 spoonful of onions, 1 forkful of each meat, 1 slice of bacon, and 1/2 slice toasted bread. Be careful with portions, and be discreet. You can always go back.

5. In a large skillet, fry the bacon until crispy, turning frequently. Remove the bacon and add to the dish with the grilled meats.

6. Return the skillet to the stove, and fry the onions in the oil.

7. Mix all the meats and the onions together and put over low heat for 5 minutes or until all are warm and cooked through.

8. Serve on a warm platter with a 1-inch-thick slice of grilled or toasted sourdough bread.

Serves 6

Excerpted from Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart by Maya Angelou. Copyright 2010 by Maya Angelou. Excerpted by permission of Random House.

Books Featured In This Story

Great Food, All Day Long

Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart

by Maya Angelou

Hardcover, 156 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Great Food, All Day Long
Subtitle
Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart
Author
Maya Angelou

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.