Memory Dishes: Powell Family Cooking Highlights

Memory Dishes: Powell Family Cooking Highlights


NIA POWELL: Mom’s cooking. Then she’ll usually,
like, rice [INAUDIBLE] and some sort of meat,
either chicken or– what else do you make? NEVA POWELL: Like, pork. NIA POWELL: Pork. NEVA POWELL: Beef. [LAUGHTER] NIA POWELL: We’re all
in the living room. And then she’ll tell
us dinner’s ready. Then, like, one by one,
we’re all just getting here, and we’re all eating
dinner together. NEVA POWELL: And what do you do? You help. KIRK POWELL: We help out. NEVA POWELL: Nia helps make
plates for her brothers. NIA POWELL: I make plates
for Caleb and Cade. NEVA POWELL: Yeah. KIRK POWELL: Sunday
dinner, you know, is big. It’s big for me. You know, I always
had Sunday dinner, so it’s kind of, like,
one of the big things– NEVA POWELL: Became
our tradition. KIRK POWELL: –For
me growing up. NEVA POWELL: Yeah. KIRK POWELL: You know,
so that I kind of insist on having every
week with the kids. Hopefully they appreciate it and
carry it on to their families. NEVA POWELL: So my name
is Neva, and this is Nia. NIA POWELL: Hi. NEVA POWELL: And
I’m going to make– I’m going to make a
couple of things actually. I’m going to make
oxtail, my version of traditional
Jamaican-style oxtail. And then I’m going to
bake some chicken too, because my kids don’t
really care for oxtail. So I want them to, you
know, have something that they might eat. They’re a little picky. And then I’m going
to do rice and peas. And then I’m going to
do a salad with it, like a coleslaw type of salad. You know, black people,
back in the day, you know, they were unable to
get the more expensive cuts of meat. So it’s one of those
things that was just the leftover part of the
animal that nobody wanted. So it’s a tougher cut of meat,
if you don’t let it cook down. It’s not very appetizing
unless you know how to cook it. Kind of like chitlins, and pigs
feet, and all of those things that we’ve made into
delicacies in a way. It’s something that
I’ve learned how to make over the years
being with my husband. This is one of his
favorite things we eat. SPEAKER 2: How did he
learn how to cook this? NEVA POWELL: Oh, he was
always in the kitchen. It was like a
requirement for all of them, him and his siblings. My mom, you know, she
was a single parent, so it was a lot of convenience
foods, but also homemade foods. I would say– my mom
calls it semi-homemade, is what she would say. But I would say more, like,
I remember my grandmother, she cooked a lot of stuff like
that, like liver and onions and stuff like that,
that I didn’t necessarily like as a kid. These are just my– these are seasonings
that I grew up using. My mom, I feel like
she seasoned everything with Lawry’s garlic
powder, onion powder. I’ve added in Slappy Mamas,
because I like this stuff, and [INAUDIBLE]
seasoning for the– I like the color
that it gives food. NIA POWELL: [INAUDIBLE] Caleb’s
actually interesting looking. NEVA POWELL: Yeah, it’s a
requirement at this point. But I already– like, I
encourage my middle son anyway to cook with me
because, I mean, he likes it. Certain things that we’re
doing anyway in here that I know he’ll be
interested in, like, if we’re baking, for instance. Because I do think it
should be a family thing. But right now it’s
mostly just me. That’s why, you know, I’m
usually in here by myself. I come in here and I turn
Pandora on, and I just cook. I don’t– unless, like I
said, it’s a big event. Then we’ll all be
in here together. And same with Kirk, even,
like, when he’s here, like, sometimes I’ll sit right
at the island, like Nia is, and that’s how we engage. But he’s– I guess his
cooking days are over. What he says anyway. A little bit of ACV. And then we need some butter. All right. There we go. Yeah, it’s always
been me and my mom– me and my mom cooking. When my– now that I think about
it– when my grandma was around though, like, what we used
to do things together too. KIRK POWELL: For me, growing
up, my mom did all the cooking. Like, my brothers
knew how to cook. I knew how to cook,
but we never– we never cooked, you know? But I picked up cooking just
because she was always cooking. NEVA POWELL: Yeah. KIRK POWELL: You know,
breakfast, lunch, dinner. Just everything was cooked. So just running in and
out of the kitchen, you know, we just kind of picked
up on how things were done. We used to do this thing. In Jamaica, we
call it run a boat. You know, so for
instance, you know, I would have an [INAUDIBLE]
tree in my yard, so I would bring [INAUDIBLE]. And then, you know,
somebody might have flour, and they would bring that. And we’d just kind of
create, like, this potluck. And, you know, we
would all cook. And that’s kind of
like, how, once again, the experiment in trying. It might not be as
good as, you know, Mom did, but that kind
of just, like, honed it and made it better as you get
older, you just kinda learned how to do it. NEVA POWELL: My mom
definitely taught me the stuff that she knew how to cook. And then, yeah, a
lot of observation. And I have to give
credit to Kirk, too. I know he’s waiting for it. KIRK POWELL: I’m over
here waiting for it. NEVA POWELL: I knew
he was waiting for it. He did– he did– because, like, you
know, like I mentioned, my mom did semi-homemade stuff. And his family, like, they
did– everything was homemade. Everything was
made from scratch. And so I definitely picked that
up from Kirk once we, you know, started living together. The rice is definitely
something I feel like I’ve perfected over the years. I don’t say that
about too many things. Watch me mess up the rice
today because I said that. So Kirk and I had just
moved in together, our very first apartment. And I’m still getting
used to his culture, and, you know, the foods
and everything else. I was still pretty
new to cooking. This was, like, 15 years ago. And, you know, just
the terminologies that they use, that
Jamaican people use when referring to what Americans
would say, rice and beans, they would say, rice and peas. And so, you know– [LAUGHTER] –Remember? KIRK POWELL: Mhm. NEVA POWELL: I was
making the rice. It was white rice in the pot. And he was like, all right,
so add the peas in there. And so I took a
can of green peas, because those are
peas to Americans, and I added them into the rice. And it was just– he made fun of me for that. And he even called his
mom to have a good laugh. She added peas into the rice. So– but she actually had my
back because she was, like, you should have told you to
put beans in there, not– [LAUGHTER] But, you know. All of these vegetables
will break down as it cooks and
add to the gravy, the sauce, whatever
you want to call it. But, yeah, it does, of course,
adds to the flavor as well. SPEAKER 2: So is there is big
or small Jamaican community in this area? NEVA POWELL: This area? [LAUGHTER] NIA POWELL: In North Smithfield? Because there’s no black
people here in general. [LAUGHTER] NEVA POWELL: There’s a handful. NIA POWELL: I identify
as black because– [LAUGHTER] KIRK POWELL: Because
you’re black? NIA POWELL: Because I’m black. But also because,
like, I wouldn’t say that I’m African-American,
because I’m not just African-American. Because I’m a little
bit of everything. So, like– NEVA POWELL: What
do you mean you’re a little bit of everything? NIA POWELL: So I’m
African, I’m American. [LAUGHTER] I’m also Jamaican. So take all that. So I just say I’m
black because it’s– KIRK POWELL: Too many labels? NEVA POWELL: Too much? NIA POWELL: Yeah. Too much stuff. So put it all in one. KIRK POWELL: Two meals that
was consistent in growing up was Sunday dinner. Rice and peas and some
form of protein on Sunday. And on Saturday, it was soup. NEVA POWELL: Soup on Saturday
is definitely a Jamaican thing. And yeah. KIRK POWELL: I know. Definitely Sunday, rice and
peas is definitely Jamaican. The whole thing, you know? But I don’t know about the soup. NEVA POWELL: The soup is. KIRK POWELL: You know, think. I would say, yeah. I would say it is. You know, as we’re
older now, you know, like why are
we always eating– drinking soup on a Saturday? My mom does it. And I was just like,
that’s what she did when she was growing up. So it was just like,
that’s what we did. So we just kept it
going, you know? I can’t get both, so
I chose Sunday meals and make that my
consistent meal. NEVA POWELL: Anybody
who cooks oxtail in any pot that
doesn’t look like that, I wouldn’t trust nothing. So I’m taking the
meat and I’m kind of separating it from the
vegetables, just a little bit, because I don’t want to
add the vegetables in yet. I just want to try to
get all the meat in. All right. I’m just gonna– OK. So the water is adding– well, it’s going to
simmer in the liquid. But you know, it adds to
the gravy to the meat. And it helps to get it nice and
tender as it simmers over time. And I’ll– like, as
it’s going to cook, the water is going
to continue to, like, boil down and boil down. I’m going to have
to keep adding more. And I just– I
want them to learn. Same mindset that
my mom, just wanting them to be able to take
care of themselves. So I need for them to be
able to cook for themselves and to have a decent meal if
they’re living on their own and not have it just be
peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese every day. Just, you know, fresh fruits
and vegetables and things like that are important. When I was a kid, the way
that they used to make it is definitely different
from how I make them now. I add some things in
there that my mom probably wouldn’t add in. They used to just let the
greens take on the seasoning from whatever smoked
meat they put in the pot. And I do that too,
but now, like, I feel like everything is cooked
with chicken broth nowadays. And I add chicken broth to mine. And my mom, I remember,
her like, side eyeing it. Like, what are you doing? Like, why are you putting
that in there, kind of thing. But it’s just, you
know, flavors change. And you know, people’s
taste buds change, I guess. And you know, I’m just a
little open to more seasonings and different flavors. So– KIRK POWELL: And you do the
same thing with rice and peas. You use– NEVA POWELL: I don’t put
chicken broth in there. KIRK POWELL: You experiment– NEVA POWELL: I have. I have put chicken broth
in my rice and peas, and those are good. I don’t know what
you’re talking about. [LAUGHTER] But I don’t anymore
because, yeah, he was looking at that too. Like, why– I do. I love chicken broth. I cook with it a lot. All right. So that’s going to
work for a little bit. And I will– KIRK POWELL: Like, growing
up, everything was done– was cooked traditionally. You know, like, like, now, you
know, on a pot, on a stove. You had to get– it was more
like fresh ingredients when– you know, growing up. And now, it’s kind of like– NEVA POWELL: Canned stuff. KIRK POWELL: Everything
is, like, in a can. You know, your
thyme is dehydrated and it’s in your– you know,
it’s in a jar that you get. You know, everything–
you know, pimentos. You know, your seasonings
that, you know, are all, like– they’re not fresh. To now, you know, rice
and peas now, here, is cooked in a rice cooker. [LAUGHTER] As opposed to on the stove. NEVA POWELL: Mhm. KIRK POWELL: You know,
and it tastes different. NEVA POWELL: Mhm. KIRK POWELL: But it’s
kind of just, like, convenience and kind of adapting
to, I guess, our busy lives. NEVA POWELL: Mhm. KIRK POWELL: And
transitioning to, you know, still trying to keep that core– still try to keep
the– the foods that you grew up eating and
still live in, you know, a transition life. NEVA POWELL: It’s
looking good so far. You can see that my
pepper has deflated. So I’m going to remove
him from the situation, because now I think
it’s going to be spicy. That looks good. KIRK POWELL: Coming
to the US was– you know, it was a big step. You figure, you know, you
have your entire family established in a country. And then, hey, you know, let’s
try to do something different. And to make that jump
is, you know, big on my parents part
and a big decision. But so how it applies
to, like, cooking, it was just really
weird seeing it– seeing it happen now, you know? It was really weird. For a long time,
we really didn’t do a lot of traditional
meals that we had. But you know, as time
went on and, you know, Mom working more, Dad’s working. And it kind of became, you know,
hey, this is what you’ve got. You know, you got to
make do, you know? NEVA POWELL: There’s
a lot of sauce. I’m going to have to put
some more cornstarch. We’ll see. All right. I’m counting. So you can’t talk to me anymore. So that’s one. Need to get you some water. Do some thyme leaves. Some– some extra
virgin coconut oil. Put that in there. Scotch bonnet pepper sauce. Some allspice,
ginger, some pepper. This is, like, my
favorites thing. NIA POWELL: Peppers,
peppers, peppers. NEVA POWELL: I already
gave you some peppers. See? You Got one there. NIA POWELL: A pepper. What am I going to
do with one pepper? NEVA POWELL: Caleb, you
don’t have to eat it. KIRK POWELL: Oh, take a bite. SPEAKER 3: One bite. [LAUGHTER] [INTERPOSING VOICES] SPEAKER 3: This is [INAUDIBLE]. NEVA POWELL: I’m trying
to get it altogether. NEVA POWELL: I love chicken.

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