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Comfort Food During Quarantine

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved the kitchen and learning how to make delicious meals. My father was my first teacher when it came to Caribbean cooking.

From pelau, to mauby, to fried or roast bakes, I learned it all watching him in the kitchen. Men who think cooking is “women’s work” are missing out! My father was a fantastic cook.

I learned how to bake from my mother, along with how to make sorrel, and other sweet treats like homemade soursop or rum raisin ice cream.

There was never a time that delicious meals were missing from my life. I can still taste the lentil soup made by my maternal grandmother, or smell her callaloo, though she passed away five years ago, and stopped cooking it many years prior to that.

Until this morning, I thought that Caribbean foodways alone were my most important culinary influences. After all, Grenada and Trinidad are where my parents were born.

This morning I saw a msg in my Facebook inbox from a friend, ​​which brought tears to my eyes. It said simply, “DOLLIE REID’S GOOD OLE SOUTHERN COOKING!!!!”

The message was in response to my Facebook post about my Southern dinner I made a few nights ago. The tears were in response to how could I not acknowledge another major culinary influence in my life, the beloved Dollie Reid​​, my mother’s nursing school friend, who welcomed our family into her home for many hot Virginia summers, and fed us so many Southern delicacies? Southern hospitality!

Cooking is a form of self-expression, of nourishing oneself and others, and also a way to keep the memories of our beloved ones alive.

So-called Black people all over the world have been the authorities and go-to people for delicious culinary fare, since ancient times. As descendants of enslaved Africans, our foodways have each taken on a unique twist, according to the regions we were held captive in. We have maintained and transformed our food traditions, as well as passed them on to our children, in joy and in sorrow.

There is a reason we call certain foods “comfort foods.” Most of what is today known as Caribbean and Southern cuisine, are the celebratory meals of the Black folks of those regions. Or, the struggle meals made tantalizing through the use of complicated cooking techniques & elaborate flavor building, using spices & time.

During this global coronavirus pandemic, many people have been returning to the kitchen. Time is now available to spend on recipes which require more preparation, skill, or focus. We are remembering old recipes and cooking “special food.”

Throughout the Caribbean, descendants of enslaved Africans have kept the ritual of cooking “special food” as part of the pampering of postpartum mothers. The Black folks in the South and those of the Caribbean are the same folks, on a different boat.

As Dr. Ivan Van Sertima stated in the title of his aptly named work, “They Came Before Columbus.” Yes, before and after as well. The toil and the hardships of chattel slavery in The Americas are etched into our DNA. The diseases that manifest from the crushing racism that our ancestors experienced and we still experience today, are often triggered by our diets. They can also be healed by it.

As the world prepares to open up for “business as usual,” let’s not return to that abnormal norm. Let’s remember our ancestors, loved ones, and friends-turned-family in our cooking, even if in moderation or revamped recipes.

Social distance has stopped us from gathering in our neighbors kitchens. We are justifiably retreating and isolating. But in this collective moment of silence, we can still make an extra plate at our dinner tables by sharing our recipes virtually or even through snail mail.

Drop something healthy and nourishing off for a postpartum family. Leave some baked items hanging on their door. Or make an extra bottle of your homemade beverage of choice.

You will be remembering those special people who influenced your palate, both living and dead. You will be celebrating the Black history of food as both resource and resistance. You will be providing comfort and facilitating healing. Even more, you will bring togetherness, during a time of separation that will always be remembered. Do it in love!

Rest Easy, Kobe Bryant

Yesterday during one of the happiest & relaxing weeks of my life, I learned the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing.

At first my reaction was shock, then disbelief, then numbness. Next, sadness and guilt. Did I deserve to be in such a happy place, while a person so full of life had just lost theirs? When I learned that his daughter Gianna also died in the accident, my heart ached even more for his wife Vanessa, and family.

I thought back to meeting the Black Mamba at a NYC club roughly 20 years ago, and how important it was for me to thank him for being someone my junior high school students looked up to. At the time I was teaching in Fort Greene, Brooklyn & the hoop dreams were infinite.

Kobe smiled, and accepted the acknowledgement. He was humble & gracious, even though he was at the height of his fame.

I’m sure nearly every person who ever had the slightest interaction with Kobe Bryant is thinking of those moments right now. His smile was magnetic & his talent awe-inspiring.

At this point, there have been 9 confirmed dead in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe & Gianna Bryant. 9 people whose families will mourn & try to celebrate the lives that were lost.

The city of Los Angeles is in mourning, while a short distance away, Compton is still grieving the loss of the legendary Nipsey Hussle.

For Black families, the tragic loss of our men has been a constant feature of life in America. Even if not killed in a racist attack, the racism endured by our men during their lives is an unseen killer.

No matter how rich, how famous or infamous, how righteous or broken he is, very few seem to escape early deaths. We have constantly been in a state of grief and sadness, tempering our happiness with the reserve that comes from expecting the other shoe to drop.

As the days move forward & the collective grief is heightened, let us remember that self-care is crucial to our survival & thriving.

Kobe Bryant achieved greatness at an early age, & lived out his calling.

Today we are alive to live out ours. Seize the time.

The Best Holiday Gift

“It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity.” -Cesar Chavez

Everywhere we look, the statistics and numbers for Black families are dismal.
During the holiday season, many of us look for ways to bring joy and mirth into our lives.

At a time when Black people enjoy so much “freedom” compared to our enslaved ancestors, we are dying in childbirth many times more than they did. No one seems to know the solution, though we know that racism is the problem.

Black babies die within their first year of life at a higher rate than White babies.

Black mothers die in childbirth at many times higher rates than their White counterparts.

Policies are created.

Rallies are held.

Funerals are attended.

Tears are shed.

Families are torn apart by the loss of hope, the loss of life, the loss of vitality and enormous grief.

Rinse, repeat.

Rinse, repeat.

Our ancestors left birth & postpartum wisdom on record.

This ancestral science has kept us alive until this day.

Flatbush Doulas has launched a training academy called House of Shiphrah & Puah, named after the Biblical midwives who saved the Nation of Israel by saving the male children alive.

The premiere course offering is a childbirth education class for Black families called Birth & Postpartum, For Us By Us.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Foods, rituals, & medical care models are explained and discussed, from preconception to postpartum. The course features live video sessions & online assignments/discussions.

Best of all, you are trained in the tools to become a historian of your own family birth wisdom!

This year, give yourself or someone else the best gift ever: tools and instruction in taking back the empowering and essential knowledge of how to prepare for and execute healthy conception, childbirth, and postpartum.

You will become part of an ancient line of freedom fighters, who used their limited time on earth to benefit generations to come.

See you in class!

REGISTER NOW

-Yael B. Yisrael, Founder & Lead Instructor

House of Shiphrah & Puah

Flatbush Doulas presents a new training academy: House of Shiphrah & Puah|”Childbirth Education For Us By Us”

Yael B. Yisrael, Owner of Flatbush Doulas
Photo by Amanda Liew

Greetings Family!  I’m so glad you’re here.

Thank you for your interest in this course!

Are you a modern-day Shiphrah; a midwife carrying on the tradition of medical support during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum?

Or are you a modern-day Puah; a birthworker skilled in the tradition of educational & physical support? 

Perhaps you are a parent-to-be, looking for some ancestral wisdom to navigate the uncertainty of childbirth and postpartum? 

Or maybe you are a student of culture, eager to research your own family’s birthways and history? 

Caterpillar on parsley plant
Photo by Yael B. Yisrael

Either way, you are in the right place to continue learning and honoring the herbal, nutritional, hands-on rituals of our ancestors.

Why Rituals?  Why Now?

Rituals of reproduction and parenting have been implemented, passed on, and preserved, by people of African descent since time began. They carried these rituals to the Caribbean & the Americas when they traveled here before Columbus did.

Hundreds of years later, when European chattel slavers kidnapped them in massive numbers to the Americas, these skilled masters of birth traditions continued to use ancestral science to keep women and babies safe during birth & beyond. 

Ancestral science and ritual go hand-in-hand. 


This course will introduce you to birth & postpartum rituals 

rooted in the 5 senses, and also the 6th sense: 

Mysticism.

The entire reproductive cycle will be discussed, in relation to the rituals which correspond to each stage. Your sense of the miracles of conception, childbirth, and postpartum care will expand with each lesson. 

Although the course will be self-paced, group discussion and live interaction with me will be part of this course.

The course is for you, about you, and will be tailored to you. 

Get into it. 

Dig deep and be ready for new insights, revelations, and solidified commitment to creating thriving birth and postpartum rituals for yourself, your loved ones, and/or your clients.

Subscribe for Course Updates

Take the first step in reclaiming your ancestral birth traditions TODAY!

Tune in Tonight for the Series Premiere of “Shiphrah and Puah Stories”

by Yael B. Yisrael, Flatbush Doulas Owner

Click here to tune in tonight, @9PM EST for the series premiere of “Shiphrah and Puah Stories”!

“Shiphrah & Puah Stories” celebrates Caribbean midwives and matriarchs, and documents the nutrition, rituals, and pampering practices that have kept Black women safe during pregnancy, childbirth, and throughout the postpartum period.

“Shiphrah & Puah Stories” is a call for us to save ourselves, despite dismal statistics for maternal and infant mortality rates among Black women and babies in America.

New Series Documents the Lifesaving Birth Wisdom and Traditions of Caribbean Midwives and Matriarchs

by Yael B. Yisrael, Owner of Flatbush Doulas

As the daughter of a retired Labor & Delivery nurse, childbirth has always been a part of my life. I remember listening to my mother’s stories of the joys, pains, and politics of giving birth in New York City. Her work as an RN in Spanish Harlem, was an intriguing topic of many family conversations. The real jewel of growing up as the child of an L&D nurse, was that my mother’s view of childbirth wasn’t limited to what she saw at work each day.

A culture of normalcy surrounded birth in the island on which she was born.

This cultural outlook tempered the medical side of her practice, with the strong belief that: 1) Women are capable, and 2) What they need most during labor and birth is care, support, respect, and more care.

“Shiphrah & Puah Stories” is a series that celebrates the contributions of Caribbean midwives and matriarchs, while documenting the nutrition, rituals, and pampering practices that have kept Black women safe during pregnancy, childbirth, and during the postpartum period.

At a time when maternal and infant mortality rates among Black women and babies in America are unconscionably high, “Shiphrah & Puah Stories” is a call for us to save ourselves.

The goal of this series is to highlight the continuum of African birthing wisdom preserved from ancient times until now, in the tradition of the Hebrew midwives who saved the nation of Yisrael through their wisdom and commitment.

The first episode, featuring part one of my interview with elder midwife Emelda Cox, will air tonight Thursday February 21, 2019 at 9:00 PM EST. Please feel free to tune in by clicking this link.

It will take you to YouTube, where you can subscribe to the Flatbush Doulas channel and set a notification before airtime. You can also request more information on this series, as well as the products & services provided by Flatbuish Doulas, by contacting us directly.

Like Flatbush Doulas on FaceBook, follow us on Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel, for more exclusive content!!

Featured post

Why Not Cloth Diapers?

Sign up for the No Child Wet Behind Diaper Drive 5K Walkathon & Family Fun Day, hosted by Flatbush Doulas on May 6, 2018 from 12-5pm in Marine Park.

Family Fun

Egg and spoon race at last year’s NCWB Walkathon. Photo taken by Yael B. Yisrael.

When running a diaper drive, there is a question which comes up repeatedly. Well-meaning folks always ask, “Why not give cloth diapers to those families who are in need?”

It makes perfect sense. However, America today is really not that cloth diaper friendly.

Many of the families who struggle to afford enough diapers for their children, do not have washing machines. Most NYC parents launder their clothes at local laundromats, which do not allow cloth diapers to be washed in their machines. Some parents may work one or even two jobs, in order to afford the high cost-of-living in NYC. To do so, they must place their children in childcare centers and go to work.

Donate diapers to the drive!

Did you know that the majority of NYC daycare centers do not allow cloth diapers? In times past, cloth diapers were the obvious choice for people who needed to save money. Because they are reusable, cloth diapers end up being very affordable over the many years that they last. Today, that isn’t always the case.

For parents who work outside of the home, using cloth diapers may not be a feasible option. If one is a stay-at-home parent, cloth diapers can make more sense. But as anyone whose child attends a daycare center, or is cared for by a solo child care provider knows, laundering diapers is rarely included in the childcare services!

Of course, cloth diapers are better for the environment and take up little to no space in our massive landfills. Over time, they pay for themselves with the savings one can hold onto when NOT buying diapers that are only designed for single-use.

Unfortunately, to avail oneself of the benefits of cloth, one must be able to either

1) Wash them by hand

2) Wash them in your own washing machine

3) Not enroll your baby in a daycare or childcare setting that is outside of your home

4) Teach the proper use and care of cloth diapers to any/all adults who are responsible for providing care to your baby

5) Afford to pay for a diaper laundering service

Or

6) Not work outside of the home

Flatbush Doulas is raising awareness about the 1 in 3 American families who experience diaper need, by hosting the No Child Wet Behind Diaper Drive 5K Walkathon & Family Fun Day, on May 6, 2018 from 12-5pm in Marine Park.

The diapers donated will benefit families, whose case management needs are being served by Hope and Healing Family Center. Flatbush Doulas will also reserve several packs of diapers, to distribute to families who are in need whom we may encounter throughout the year.

Flatbush Doulas is partnering with local community organizations to teach cloth diapering workshops to families. Having 5 or 6 clean cloth diapers on hand provides a backup for home, especially in times when disposable diapers run out and there isn’t money to buy them right away. However, cloth diapering is a lifestyle change that many families who are earning low income just cannot immediately make.

Do you have the ability to exclusively cloth diaper? Tell us more in the comments.

Does Cardi B Have to Choose Between Her Career & Her Baby?

This morning on Hot 97, Ebro in the Morning, Cardi B got vulnerable about her choice to have a baby while she is at the peak of her career in the music industry.

Are you a woman who has felt judged by others because you chose to start or expand your family while you were at the height of your career success?

Listen to Yael B. Yisrael, owner of Flatbush Doulas, as she discusses the thoughts that were shared in the interview. Please leave your comments below, so we can open up this important discussion.

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