Speaking with author Nisi Shawl about any topic whatsoever is one of my great pleasures. Hearing her read is another. And singing? That’s the best.
The acclaimed short story writer, and now novelist, joins us this month to talk about food (of course), community, and re-engineering history in Everfair, just out from Tor Books!
This month’s Cooking the Books Podcast, #027: Feeding Community – Cooking the Books with Nisi Shawl contains:
- Singing at the table
- Singing on the podcast
- Singing in the book
- Also mangosteens
Podcast #027: Feeding Community – Cooking the Books with Nisi Shawl
Acara á la Nisi
- 1.5 cups dried black-eyed peas
- 5 cups or more of pure, clear water
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups peanut oil–or palm oil if you can get it!
- The main ingredients used in making acara are beans and time. Start soaking the beans at least 25 hours before you want to eat your acara. Soak them in enough water that when they swell up they won’t rise above the water’s level and so dry out again. Let them soak about eight hours.
- Next, remove the skins from the beans. This takes a while, too. Giving them a couple of thumps with a potato masher helps. Rubbing them together helps. Every once in a while you can immerse them in water and pour away the skins when you pour off the water. But mainly you just have to get through this part of the recipe by telling yourself how delicious the results will be.
- Chop the onions very coarsely. Combine the onions, the peeled black-eyed peas, the pepper, and the salt in a food processor and blend them till they make a nice, smooth batter. Let the mixture sit another eight hours. Or longer. A couple of days, if you can stand it.
- Now heat the oil in a heavy pot–a deep, cast iron skillet is good. It should be around 360 degrees Farenheit, or 180 Celsius. Form Tablespoon-sized balls of the batter and drop them into the hot oil. You can cook more than one at a time, of course, but not too many–there should be plenty of room for the hot oil to circulate. Fry the acara about 4 minutes, then turn them over and fry them about another 4. Take them out and drain them on a paper towel. Expect to get a dozen or more acara from this recipe.
- Acara are best hot, but they’re yummy after they’ve cooled to room temperature, too. They can be served with a spicy dipping sauce or as an accompaniment to a soup or stew.
There are many variations of this recipe. Most use double the amount of cayenne, and some advise you to blend whole Scotch Bonnets or other fresh peppers into the batter. You may want to build up to that.
Acclaimed short fiction author Nisi Shawl’s first novel, Everfair, came out from Tor on September 6, 2016. Her 2008 collection Filter House co-won a James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and she’s co-author of Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, a handbook of techniques for helping authors depict characters who differ from them. Shawl co-edited Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany; and Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler. She takes daily walks with her cat, Minnie, at a feline pace. You can find her at nisishawl.com and on twitter @NisiShawl.