Current lunar phase: New Moon

AUGUST

2008


Tumbleweed Slim's Bushwick Bodega Rice and Beans

by JAMIE FELDMAR

In the barren desert, animals and humans alike must forage for a meal. Traditional desert foods include an assortment of hardy berries, nuts, grasses and root vegetables.

Some desert dwellers slaughter goats, sheep and birds for protein, and many have also adapted some type of grain, like rice or couscous, to their diet. To survive in the desert landscape requires diligence in gathering the most nutritious foodstuffs available.

In the urban environment, too, there are marked shortages of fresh, nutritious food. Although the modern metropolis may appear abundant with provisions—produce glistening under the fluorescent lights, meat neatly shrink-wrapped and bloodless—there are plenty who go without these familiar grocery scenes. A food desert (a term lately bandied about the various social sciences) is an urban area with limited access to the kind of foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. Food deserts are usually, though not always, in low-income, non-white areas where bodegas or corner shops offer the most readily accessible source of food products. This is, of course, an oversimplification of the issue: “access” is a fluid term — (lack of) physical access, financial access and access to information are all encompassed in the word — and urban anthropologists are still mapping the roots and long-term effects of food deserts across the country.

For my adventure in urban foraging, I ventured into the wilds of Bushwick, where 82% of food stores are bodegas, of which only 10% carry any kind of leafy green. My goal was to create as nutritious of a meal as possible from whatever food source I could find. I ended up at 443 Bushwick Grocery, a bodega near the intersection of Bushwick Ave. and Flushing Ave., nestled beside an empty lot. Despite its unassuming exterior, I was lucky with my choice. 443 Bushwick, unlike many similar corner stores, had a small refrigerated section which allowed me to purchase chorizo and an acceptably fresh tomato. The $.99 pumpkin seed snack pack was something of any impulse buy when my combined purchases failed to merit the $10 credit card minimum.

My meal was a success, insofar as being (relatively) complete and nutritious. The $12.67 I spent on ingredients yielded enough to feed four people. Much like a natural desert, some amount of foraging is necessary in the urban food desert to create a healthy meal. But it can be done. While the urban food desert will never be as breathtaking as nature’s own, there is a certain beauty in transforming what appears barren and dry into a thing of life.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box Goya™ “Spanish Style” Yellow Rice
  • 1 can Goya™ Black Beans, undrained
  • 1 pkg Mexican-style cured sausage (chorizo)
  • 1 can Goya™ Mixed Vegetables
  • ½ medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tomato, roughly diced
  • 1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 handful dried pumpkin seeds

PREPARATION:

Prepare the rice: In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add rice and 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir. Boil for 1 minute, then cover tightly and reduce heat to low. Cook for 25 minutes, or until water is absorbed. In the last minute of cooking, add the can of mixed vegetables, stirring gently to incorporate.

Prepare the chorizo: In a sauté pan, place sausage links and 1 tablespoon each of water and vinegar. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, turning links to ensure even browning. Remove cover and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Prepare the beans: In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Add the beans, ½ cup water, and the oregano. Bring to a boil, then add the tomato and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes have gone soft.

Presentation: Place rice in the middle of a plate and ladle beans over the top. Add sliced chorizo and avocado on the side. Garnish with pumpkin seeds.

Serves 4

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