Watermelon-Shrimp Salad

Watermelon is one of the first foods that come to mind when I think of 4th of July bar-b-ques and picnics.  It’s a summertime favorite.  Sweet, refreshing, good for you.  Yet, the association of watermelon with Blacks in America, pictured as lazy simpletons, made for some distastefully juicy humor at the expense of a nation of people who loved the fruit as much then, as we all do today.

It was with the popular satirical blackface American theater performances from the 1830s through the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s that spread such racial stereotypes.

It’s disheartening to know that some Black people will not eat watermelon to this day because of this stigma, regardless of how good it for you.  Watermelon is soaked with nutrients, each mouthwatering bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C and is nicknamed “liquid love” because it is a rich source of citrulline, an amino acid that enhances male sexual performance (it relaxes and dilates the blood vessels much like Viagra) making this slave diet food all the rave of late.  It should be noted; however, that the sweet watermelon can be found in a medieval manuscript, the Tacuinum Sanitatis, which is a guide to healthy living based on an 11th century Arabic manuscript.  It’s what the angels eat.

As we celebrate the independence of the 13 colonies that represented America in 1776 from Great Britain with fireworks and feasts sure to include watermelon, it’s hard not to recognize that it wasn’t for almost another 100 years, by executive order in 1863 (the Emancipation Proclamation), that the Black people in America gained their independence; all the while, the nation’s laughing stalk. The United States is the largest producer of watermelon and no doubt the farmers of this crop in those early days were Black.  The under mindedness of the value placed on Black people and this bountiful crop was crude and shameful to say the least.  It’s glorious though, to see the influence and the evolution of both Black people in America and of the recipes starring watermelon.  It was the recipe on the cover of the July/August 2017 issue of Louisiana Cookin’ for Watermelon Shrimp Salad that inspired me to write this post.  It is a beautiful, flavorful summer salad that I instantly said yes to, a “done up” watermelon salad with a “done up” watermelon cocktail. I curated a cooking playlist to make this dish and another recipe from the New York Times for my beach picnic and discovered a song called Watermelon Man by Johnnie Taylor on Spotify, the Watermelon Man is super cool and appropriate for what I felt as I danced and cooked.  My Beach Picnic Playlist connected me even more to my cooking experience.

Watermelon Shrimp Salad and Pink Cadillac Watermelon Margaritas

Fried chicken, another American favorite, has negative connotations associated with Blacks and is also another common dish found in summer celebrations.  For my beach picnic I used a The New York Times  recipe for Fried Chicken Biscuits with Hot Honey Butter.  Talk about movin’ on up.  I enjoyed the results of the double-dredged crust for the fried chicken that the recipe called for.  One layer of flour and cayenne pepper and one layer of panko.  I would have customarily used the flour mixture for each dredge.  The recipe also called for the thigh, which I also like because its the juiciest part of the chicken, the dark meat.  A feeling of nostalgia overcame me while making the biscuits, that seems to always happen when I do anything related to baking.

Fried Chicken Biscuits with Hot Honey Butter

A signature drink is always a fun addition to celebratory dinners.  Aretha Franklin’s Freeway of Love named the pretty watermelon margarita, Pink Cadillac.  Trading out triple sec for Grand Marnier and for all of the health benefits of fresh watermelon juice makes this cocktail a high-end ride just like Aretha’s whip.

Pink Cadillac Watermelon Margarita

  • 2 cups Watermelon, cubed & juiced
  • 1 cup Silver Tequila, 100% Agave
  • 2oz Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 cup Lime Juice, juiced
  • 1/3 cup Simple Syrup, infused with orange zest

Watermelon and fried chicken is a mainstay in American cuisine with a cynical history no matter how we dress it up, it’s bitter-sweet, yet it is a part of  this nation’s food history that makes the fabric of this country.

Happy 4th of July ~ 2017

The Telltale Kitchen (cafelamour.me; alovecafe; gina’skitchen, spellbindingcuisine) reveals traditions, beliefs, myths and secrets of food and cooking.


The Harvest Thanksgiving Feast 2016 - Gina's Kitchen

Thanksgiving Harvest Feast 2016 – Gina’s Kitchen

There are invisible forces at work in my kitchen that go far beyond the teaspoon.  My invisible cooking counsel, which includes my Grandmother, Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, Julia Child, Christopher Kimball and Justin Wilson,  I guarantee, were with me during the preparations of this year’s Thanksgiving harvest feast.


Il faut mettre la main a la pate! (Feel the dough in your hands…put your foot in it..it other words, throw down!) – Making Cornbread Dressing

Homemade Honey-Wheat Dinner Rolls ~ The 2nd Rising

Homemade Honey-Wheat Dinner Rolls ~ The 2nd Rising

I decided to make as many of the traditional dishes from scratch that I could manage.  On the eve of Thanksgiving I baked to the tunes of soul music streaming through my headphones while I made homemade honey-wheat dinner rolls with honey butter (very proud of this accomplishment), an old-fashioned lattice apple pie, a sugar & spice pumpkin pie with  brandied ginger creme chantilly and a carrot cake.  I cleaned.  I slept.  And when I awake the next day, before dawn, I cooked. A citrus-herb turkey, cornbread dressing, greens, macaroni and cheese and candied yams.

By 3:30 PM, my two children, my daughter’s boyfriend and I sat around the candlelit table with golden, purple and orange flowers and relished in the bounty of the feast.   Our plates were filled to the brim with love and nourishment and our glasses overflowed with gratitude and optimisim as the winds whispered into the ears of all, “We give thanks!”


A Thanksgiving Plate

A Thanksgiving Plate



My grandmother would wake up before everyone in the house to take long aromatic baths that left the house smelling like a bouquet of flowers.  She would then float around in her gown doing one thing or another.  It wasn’t until I was older did I realized that she was performing a morning ritual that was preparation for her day’s work.


My grandmother once owned a candle shop, among many other ventures, called Wickies.  I knew that she practiced magic.  She was paid to perform and prepare spells.  But it wasn’t something that we really talked about.  It was just known.  When she did speak of it, she said that she practiced “white” witchcraft.  She was a keeper of the witches’ oath to “do no harm to others”.  Her mentor, “The Chicken Man”, lived in New Orleans, La.  She would often make road trips to visit him.  The drives from Denver to New Orleans consisted of road trip games, fried chicken, white sliced bread and music by the Gap Band (can you hear Charlie Wilson’s signature coo?) , I love road trips to this day.  We took a lot of them.  Once in New Orleans, there would be hushed conversation between her and the Chicken Man in his House of Voodoo followed by bags filled with anointed supplies she needed to practice her craft.  Back at the candle shop she had all of the things one would imagine a witch to have.  Candles, oils, stones, teas and herbs, sachets and such things.  The candles, in particular, fascinated me.  Black skulls, wax molds of naked male and female bodies, pillars of all colors and sizes and various designs of candle snuffers kept me intrigued.  Her counseling sessions; however, seemed to be held more so at home than at the shop.  I did my best to eavesdrop, but mainly I would just see people leave from the living room couch with enchanted sachets and very specific instructions on how to carry out the spells she cooked up for them.


The kitchen was also sacred space.  As it were, the practicing witch was also an amazing cook.  I loved her cooking.  In my opinion, no one’s cooking could compare.  There was a close second though; my daughter’s paternal grandmother can throw down too!   But ultimately, my grandmother’s cooking ruled supreme for me.


I was her right-hand girl when it came to kitchen responsibilities.  This included preparation of shopping lists, grocery shopping, cleaning, and assisting in the kitchen.  She was very well organized and structured in the way things were done.  Canned goods were always organized with the items having the earliest expiration date in front.  All labels faced forward.  All jars, wiped clean.

I knew I had been blessed with the kitchen wand when she called on me to make her breakfast.  It consisted of only one egg, over-medium, with a slice of toast.  The egg whites had to be cooked through, but not crispy and the yolk runny, as for the toast, it had to be golden brown and perfectly buttered from edge to edge.  It is a gross mistake to assume that cooking eggs properly is a simple task and for a young teen this was daunting.  Others had tried and failed.  I’m a perfectionist by nature and a people pleaser so I wanted nothing more than to show the matriarch that I could manage the kitchen.  This would be how I proved it.  I passed her test and was the only one of her children and grandchildren “allowed” to cook for her.    To have this seal of approval was an honor and I have been charming people with food ever since.


I certainly have inherited many of my grandmother’s ways.  After all, she raised me.  Drawing candle lit baths is a cherished practice I’ve adopted as my own as is making enchanted meals.  My ceremonial dress is a simple white Williams-Sonoma half-apron with crisp borders and double front pockets.  After my apron strings are tied into a neat square knot, I am bound to link my energy to the task at hand and cast my cooking spell.  Confections are the “easiest” to enchant because of their versatility.  They can be made with any flavor, formed into any shape, made into any color and decorated innumerously.  It’s plain to see the work being done.  With a few select ingredients, I’m working roots almost unconsciously.

the-dark-side-table-settingMy tabletop is my “cook’s altar”, I adorn it with sacred “artifacts” appropriate for whatever the eating occasion.  My tricked out Halloween theme this year honors the season of the witch and in particular my grandmother.

She enjoyed celebrating and having a good a time.  In that spirit, my daughter and I went to see the musical “Wicked” at the Gershwin theater in New York City.  We equally enjoyed the reading the book and the performance about the true story of the witches of Oz.  On Halloween night, however, I took my son to the midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  Something my grandmother did with us.  It literally horrified him.  It, along with the production team involved in the experience, far exceeded his threshold for vulgarity.  He admitted that he had never experienced anything like it before and he could just as well do without.  He couldn’t believe my grandmother took us to see this show.  I could, Tim Curry was brilliant in this film.

This was a harvest season to be remembered, apron strings 10-30-2016-gina-and-mani-elphaba-pillarreleased, my work is done.

Bewitchingly yours,








10-16-2016-the-dark-side-witch-finger-cookies-rackWITCH FINGER COOKIES