dancing my way to a tropical paradise with Joséphine Baker
and one arm tied around my neck:
rice and coconut milk smoothies
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. I had been in the kitchen testing recipes all day and like Maria being called to the Alps, the hills of Mulholland were beckoning me. It was too beautiful to stay indoors. Time for a running break and enjoy some fresh air. That run and the aftermath that followed, with a little inspiration from Joséphine Baker, led to this week’s simple pleasure: rice and coconut milk smoothies.For those of you who do not live in Los Angeles, Mulholland Drive is a lengthy, curvy paved road on top of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills (there is an unpaved portion too but I was not there). As a reference, “carmageddon” was due to the partial teardown of the Mulholland Bridge, the part of Mulholland that crosses the 405 freeway. Mulholland divides the Valley cities on the North from Beverly Hills, Bel Air, West Hollywood, and Hollywood on the South.
Mulholland is not the safest place to exercise. There is not much shoulder, cars have a tendency to drive a little too fast, and the the side of the road consists of uneven payment, gravel, broken glass, roadkill as well as various objects which people have inadvertently dropped (or sometimes purposely left behind). That being said, it is a beautiful run; the view is unparalleled and the cool breeze on your face with the sun on your back makes you feel like you are on top of the world. I am not alone and on the early weekend mornings it is me and bands of cyclists.
I had 6 more miles to go when I slipped on the shoulder and fell. It was a bad fall. I got up quickly (so not to become a speed bump). Bloodied (and actually quite cross about falling) I assessed the damage: bloodied leg, shoulder, hands, both knees, and smashed ipod. As any runner, I worried about my knees so I began running again make sure I did not hurt them. All good; however, my left arm was beginning to hurt, especially my wrist. I removed my SPIBELT (a lycra-spandex thin pouch that holds things and is worn around your hips) and wrapped it tightly around my wrist like an ace bandage. I finished my run with my SPIBELT-wrapped left arm held over my head.
That night friends helped clean me up. A wine bottle cooler served as a icepack for my wrist and since I could still move my fingers, I figured I did not break anything and the hospital did not seem necessary despite the throbbing pain. Furthermore, there is nothing that the company of good friends and aged bottle of Brunello (my favorite wine which my friend generously brought over) cannot make feel better.
I was wrong and early the next morning I was in the ER (which pathetically felt like an early Mother’s Day gift because, as most mothers will tell you, it is rare to be the one wheeled around and waited on). I had an “intra-articular distal radius fracture.” I left with a temporary splint from my fingers to my elbow only to be later replaced by a cast and a visit to an orthopedic surgeon.
So I return home with this heavy monstrosity on my arm and several prescriptions for the pain. No running today and no cooking …um. I sit down and start work on menus and production schedules for the upcoming week. As I do, Joséphine Baker singing La Conga Blicoti comes on the sound system.
For background purposes, Joséphine Baker (no, unfortunately no relation to me) was an African American/Native American singer who danced and sang her way into the hearts of the French in the Jazz age of the 1920s. She became a French citizen in 1937. Probably best known for her costumes, her pet cheeta Chiquita, and her seductive performances (as well as her personal life including her bisexuality and six marriages) she was an amazing woman and overcame poverty, sexism, racism, and abuse. She was the first American-born woman awarded the croix de guerre (cross of war) for her work assisting the French resistance in World War II. She was wonderful. The song is zippy and fun (and you can find it here just to get you in the mood.
Getting to the recipe “at hand.” So I am doing paperwork, listening to La Conga Blicoti and the beat is making me dreamy. The zippy song reminds me of island vacations, balmy weather and I feel I should be learning how to belly dance or wear a grass skirt with a coconut-shell top (like something out of South Pacific nowhere near the Congo..but let’s not let the facts get in the way of the story).
Perhaps it was the Motrin, but before I know it I am on my feet and my white-girl hips get to swaying to the music. Distracted, like a pigeon to a shiny object, I leave my paperwork and my eyes focus on the fresh mangos, coconuts, and the strawberries in my kitchen. My escape fantasy takes culinary form and I cha cha myself over to the pantry, grab some rice and boil it on the stove. I grab the coconut milk and then the fruit and begin chopping fruit with one hand while the left arm hangs in a sling around my neck. My immersion blender becomes a maraca, and my one functioning arm hits the repeat button (because the song is way too much fun). My stainless steel “maraca” purées the ingredients, adding ice this time to the smoothie and not my arm. I am transported momentarily to a tropical paradise. Sometimes you just have to go where your imagination takes you even if it is only a cha cha between the pantry, the walk-in and the stove (and you do it with one arm).
So why am I sharing this ridiculous story of clumsy, self-humiliation? Summer will be here soon and with the warmer weather people want something refreshing to cool them off. The fresh fruit and coconut milk is hydrating and a great alternative to dairy-based smoothies (and kinder than a milkshake to your swaying hips but just as yummy).
Coconut milk is made from the coconut meat (grated and pressed in cheesecloth or a sieve and soaked in warm water). However, you need not go to this trouble as you can buy it in the grocery store. Coconut milk is slightly sweet and (surprisingly) does not really taste like coconut (which means your flavor profile is not limited to tropical fruit and you can use any fruit, fresh or frozen, you have on hand). Buy unsweetened coconut milk that way you have control over the sugar content in your smoothie. The recipe uses 3 tablespoons of brown sugar (which is less than one tablespoon of sugar per serving); however, you can use less or more, depending upon how sweet your fruit is. You can also substitute stevia or agave nectar, but sweeten to taste (the substitution will not be equal as they are sweeter than brown sugar and you will use less).
Rice gives the smoothie a creamy texture. One great thing about this smoothie is that you can store it in the refrigerator (before or after you add the ice) should you want to save some for later. The starch in the rice will cause the smoothie to thicken a little but you can control the consistency by adding more ice or coconut milk.
A dairy-free smoothie that is so easy to make you can do it with one arm tied around your neck; and so versatile you can use any fruit (fresh or frozen) you have on hand. The transportation to a tropical paradise, if only in a momentary, culinary sense, is an added bonus. La Conga Blicoti and shamelessly swaying in your kitchen with your immersion blender, optional but highly suggested.
The recipe in the following post for your printing ease.
Je vous souhaite un bon appétit !