Saturday, September 19, 2009

Space is the Place

It's time to take a look at one of the strangest people in American history—Sun Ra.

Sun Ra (1914-1993), born as Herman P. Blount, was a black musician who played with the Solar Arkestra. Their music included swing, be-bop, free jazz, boogie-woogie, and avant-garde jazz, and most of their music was created in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Sun Ra is mostly associated with his experimental jazz music, and he saw this music as a “living myth” that would bridge black Americans into the future. He believed strongly in astrology, numerology, Egyptology, and the wisdom of the cosmos.

Music itself was viewed as a universal language by Sun Ra, and the poetry and music he created was art or the sake of human consciousness, enlightenment, and beauty, not for political purposes. He wished to use his art to spread a message of the potential of humanity and universal harmony. His views culminated in his 1972 film, Space is the Place, where he discovers a planet in outer space that has the appropriate vibrations and then travels to earth to bring all the black people back to his newly discovered peaceful planet where they can finally live in harmony.

So what does any of this have to do with food?

According to Sun Ra’s biographer John F. Szwed in Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra, when the Arkestra was short on money for food Sun Ra would take over the cooking, and “his cooking was like the music, individualized, spiritually guided, mysteriously concocted. Moon Stew was his chief dish, a mix of green peppers, onion, garlic, okra, tomatoes, and ears of corn. And when it was done right, he said you could taste each ingredient individually. Once when he was asked to share the recipe for a musicians’ cookbook, he warned the authors that there were no fixed proportions to it, and that it required the ingredients of sincerity and love, to say nothing of the ability to make the fire burn with psychic intensity.”

Sun Ra told the authors of the cookbook, “You can’t say, ‘One teaspoon of this, or one teaspoon of that.’ Like a musician, you improvise. It’s like being on a spirit plane; you put the proper things in without knowing why. It comes out wonderful when it’s done like that. If you plan it, it doesn’t work.”

Sun Ra himself is an elusive cosmic being, but it is possible to create his food. Want to try to make Moon Stew yourself? Just put on some of Sun Ra’s music (I recommend his earlier albums, such as Sun Song, Music From Tomorrow’s World, and We Travel the Spaceways), and get to work, letting the stars and planets guide you!

Moon Stew

Green Peppers
Butter or Vegetable Oil
Broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1) Chop the vegetables.

2) Bring the broth to a simmer on the stove while making a rue. To make the rue, melt the butter or vegetable oil in a pan and add flour, stirring until it reaches the consistency of wet sand.
Stir a little of the broth into the rue and then add the rue into the broth.

3) Add the vegetables, salt, pepper, sincerity, and love to the broth.

4) Cook for at least one hour and serve to family and friends!

If you want to learn more about Sun Ra, check out his biography by John F. Szwed, which was mentioned above. You can also check out the opening scene to Sun Ra’s movie, Space is the Place, here:

"They'll come back in ships of gold
With wisdom never told
A touch of myth-world's splendor
Then they'll take back the others
Who are not of earth's dimension one
The others who are ready
Melody harmonic rythmic planes,
Chromatic magic is eternal,
Outward on pleasant spheres,
Nothing is, yet everything is all
A splendid neverness..."

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