Toni Morrison in conversation at the Harlem Arts Salon Feb 24th

We are super excited to present Nobel Laureate, novelist, and grande dame of American letters, Toni Toni-MorrisonMorrison, on Sunday, February 24th from 2:00 to 5:30pm at the Harlem Arts Salon. Surely, it’s got to be one of the hottest tickets in town. Already guests from as far away as Tokyo, Montreal, Oklahoma and California have secured their places at this historic event. You should do the same. Guests will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis, and seating is very limited!

Ms. Morrison will be in conversation with pre-eminent African-American poet, writer, MacArthur Genius Award recipient, and our favorite iconoclast, Ishmael Reed. Meanwhile, poet and Miles Davis biographer, Quincy Troupe, our partner in all things cultural and newly refreshed after completing  Earl the Pearl: My Story with ex-New York Knicks phenom, Earl Monroe, promises to keep the conversation flowing as moderator. Mildred Howard, renown for her sculptural installations and mixed media assemblages (and one of the most inspired cooks to ever sling some pots) is preparing  sumptuous somethings to munch on, as she did for the Earl Lovelace salon. That food that day was out of this world! I’ve yet to come close, never mind master, her phenomenal bread pudding! (You can find her recipe on our  April 2012 blog entry.)

We have reached full capacity, folks! If you’d like to be on a Stand-by list, send us an email to

Feeding the hand

Oh, how lucky we feel at the Harlem Arts Salon to have the inimitable Mildred Howard as our guest chef at our Sunday, March 25th salon featuring Trinidadian novelists, Earl Lovelace and Elizabeth Nunez.

Mildred will try anything. That is, anything that involves stretching the limits of the imagination. She’s GOT to be the hardest working woman in the art business. She should be awarded a MacArthur Genius Award for her prodigious output of installations, paintings, glass houses, mixed media sculptures, and prints.

So it’s not surprising this super duper artist extends her creative energies towards food, preparation and presentation receiving equal attention. Among her long list of chef credits is her stint as interim executive chef at Alice Waters’ (founder of the five-star restaurant, Chez Panisse) Edible Schoolyard.

Come Sunday. The food’s going to be yum yum. Mildred’s shipping the sweetest, ripest California oranges for a mouth-watering orange & olive salad. She tells me she’s sending five different varieties! AND a box of Haas avocados that I remember as wonderfully mellow, rich and creamy for guacamole. There’ll be black bean chili and home-made vegetarian tamales.

Our relationship with Mildred goes way back to our days in lovely La Jolla, sunny San Diego. Hers was among the most successful exhibitions mounted at Porter Troupe Gallery. Howard, who lives in Berkeley, California, probably has more site-specific, public art sculptures in San Francisco than any other living artist! (at least I can’t think of any other). Mildred Howard will join in a panel on Friday night, March 23, at the NYU Black Renaissance Noire magazine release party, where she’ll give a slide presentation about her works. In case you didn’t know, Quincy Troupe is BRN’s editor.

As for trying anything, here are a few of Howard’s recent projects:

Photo courtesy Mildred Howard

Her solo exhibition Parenthetically, It’s Only a Figure of Speech, consists of fifty-two oversized red and black glass punctuation marks that spanned five walls at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA. Parenthetically Speaking: It’s Only a Figure of Speech is is a new collection of work by Mildred Howard comprising more than 40 glass punctuation marks, proofreading symbols and musical notes inspired by At the End, a poem by Quincy Troupe. Both the poem and the exhibition reference punctuation as a metaphor for the passage of time.

Howard’s Blackbird in a Red Sky (a.k.a. Fall of the Blood House) was one of the outdoor art installations displayed on the Mezzanine Plaza at the Museum of Glass inaugural opening in 2002. The piece consisted of a house made of red glass panes set alongside dozens of red glass apples floating in the reflecting pool.

Image credits: Mildred Howard (American, born 1945), Punctucation Marks (Exclamation Point, Curly Brackets, Semicolon), 2011. Blown glass, 36 x 16 x 10, 30 x 10 x 7 and 12 x 7 x5 inches, courtesy of the artist and Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco, CA. Photos by Duncan Price.

In 2011 she completed and installed three large works and is in the process of completing four major public art works. At the Palo Alto City Hall, she has installed a phenomenal piece called Clear Story, inspired by the architect Joseph Eichler and comprised of 97,000 bottles in varying in sizes. About 94,000 of them range in sizes from 3/4 inch to one inch. Imagine counting all them bottles! It’ll be there through May 2012.

Clear Story

Clear Story. Courtesy Mildred Howard

The House that Cannot Be in Color But Its Own, 2011 is a permanent piece at the Sacramento International Airport. The title for the piece came from one of Mary Jo Bang‘s poems. The house is made of purple glass and fragments of mirrored glass that reflects the scaled up parts of bits of personal letters written during the California Gold Rush days.

The House that Will Not Pass for Any Color than It\’s Own, 2011. Courtesy the artist.

By 2014 three other major public art works will be mounted at the San Francisco General Hospital, two 12’ x 40’ faceted Corten steel pieces at the Richmond Bay Area Rapid Transit where a poem by Ishmael Reed will weave in and out of the structure and a 16’x16’ empty Rococo Frame (I think this is my favorite piece, at least today it is!) will sit atop of Hunters Point Hill in San Francisco.

Mildred Howard Roccoco frame

Roccoco Frame. Courtesy Mildred Howard

Finally, Howard has twenty two-dimensional works completed in February 2012 at Sharks Ink in Lyons, Colorado, that will be featured at the 2012 Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair (April 28-29) that travels to New York and later to the San Francisco Art Fair. This is the description on the BMA website “For one weekend every two years, more than 20 presses, printers, and dealers convene in Baltimore for this exciting two-day event. Spend an afternoon in the company of remarkable prints and people buying limited editions, drawings, multi-part portfolios, single prints, and photographs.”

Fast Food in Harlem

I’ve never considered cooking as a profession, because, as much as I like cooking, I don’t have the passion for it. I like cooking only for special occasions, say when company’s coming or for a special celebration. Then I can really get into it, and when I’m really into it, the thing I like most about cooking is the physicality of preparing it, balancing the creation of an ambiance, and the intensity of timing required to get it right.

In order to enjoy cooking on a regular basis, one needs to get the thrill I get only occasionally, all the time. So I guess you could say I’m a pedestrian cook. I know how to make a succulent dinner now and again, but on those days I’d rather be doing something else, I can make dog food!

Tonight, is an example of a time I don’t feel like cooking. It’s 7:30p already, and I haven’t thought about it. I don’t want to think about it, but I do have to do it.

So what have I got to start with? I’ll use what I can.

1 1/2 chicken breasts
an avocado
one red pepper and one green pepper
some fresh okra
some wheat bulgur
some fresh garlic
some onions, scallions (I hope)
some fresh flat parsley
some quickly rotting Campari baby tomatoes
some baby Confetti potatoes
some quickly aging lemons & lime
almost rotting sweet plantains
olive oil
an assortment of dried spices
dried nuts

And 41 minutes to feed a tight-jawed, finicky husband. What to do?

I pound the chicken breasts and season them with freshly ground black pepper and a seasoned salt (my favorite is Goya’s Adobe). Setting the breasts aside, I quickly chop 1/2 of the green pepper, crushed cloves of garlic, and rinse and chop off the inedible ends of the okra. Sautéeing the garlic, green pepper, and whole okra in about one tablespoon of olive oil, I add a bit (perhaps a teaspoon or two) of dried oregano, dried minced onions, some seasoned salt, freshly ground black pepper, about a tablespoon of curry powder in a tagine (a great cooking utensil, by the way), stir three or so minutes until the okra has softened but still not mushy and set it aside. Then go back to take care of the chicken breasts.

Sautéeing the garlic cloves in about 2 tablespoons of butter, I add the breasts. By now the sauté pan is quite hot, so hot in fact that it has turned the butter brown. The breasts cook quickly and require frequent turning. To add more flavor, I put in some sprigs of fresh tarragon and pour fresh lemon juice (of one lemon). Not having any white wine, I go with a splash of dark rum. This released the sugar cane in the rum and smelled really good, although the liquids it makes the sauce too watery.

Hmmmmm. Now the breasts are going to be overcooked. I should’ve taken them out and set them aside, while this liquid sauce reduces itself. Oh, well, next time….

So now, I have my side dish of curry okra, and I have my entree of chicken breasts, what am I going to do for the starch, since my time has been quickly eaten up?!

I go for the potatoes instead of the bulgur, because I’m not sure how long it’ll take to cook, or of the taste of plain bulgur, or how it’ll taste with the sauce, or if it’ll be okay color-wise, since everything’s looking kind of brown already. I’m thinking the potatoes are a better bet. I wrap them in Saran wrap and nuke them. The potatoes are so small,and they take maybe 4 minutes (probably more like 3 minutes) to cook.

While the potatoes are being nuked, I make an avocado salad, slicing the avocado into eighths, adding some sliced onions, quartered Campari tomatoes, a dash of salt salt and my homemade dressing of rice vinegar and olive oil.

I go back to the okra dish and add one half of a white onion, sliced lengthwise, and some of the Campari tomatoes, and let them cook about 2 minutes. The microwaved potatoes actually come out perfectly, and so very fast. The sauce of the chicken breast did reduce to a nice syrupy texture. I’d added a chicken bullion cube to it because as I was tasting, the sauce seemed a bit weak, despite the lemon and rum.

When I place everything on the plate, I see that another color or texture would’ve greatly enhanced the presentation of this meal. And I’m a bit leery about the texture, because okra can be such a slimy number to begin with, even though I really love it. When you consider the color of the chicken breasts (brown), the okra (green, red, some hint of white), and the potatoes (purple, and white) the dish is a bit too low-keyed. But hey, this is 40 minutes. For dessert, we have the option of cherry vanilla ice cream, or fresh peaches in a red wine sauce with peach sorbet.
When I bring the food to Mr. Hungry Lockjaw, he’d opened a fantastic bottle of Denis Carré Pommard Premier Cru 2003 “Les Charmots”, which proves an excellent, delectable accompaniment.

This is what the food looked like…

Dinner arrived on the TV stands around 8:30p (there was a football game on television!).

Oh, and what was his reaction? He said, “I really like the chicken.” LOL.
When I asked him about the okra, he said, “You know, I always like okra.” He also asked, “Is this all?” And when I told him there was avocado salad and a choice of dessert, he seem quite satisfied.