On Meeting Dr. Angelou:
What an honor it was to meet Dr. Angelou back stage at the Arlington Theater before her talk in my town of Santa Barbara, California. She is as gracious and intelligent as she comes across in her books and on-camera. When I saw her I gave her a big hug and thanked her for her inspiring words, poetry and soulful culinary books. (See her book descriptions below). I had practiced all day about how I would say “Dr. Angelou” it is an honor to meet you while thanking her for her work. Then when I saw her I was overcome with much joy and happiness and instead I said “Maya, thank, thank, thank you!” She smiled and then said please call me “Dr. Angelou dear, because at my age I’ve earned it.” I quickly corrected myself and we had a lovely talk.
I told her I too was passionate about food and I had wanted to bring her some of my Mediterranean almond-zucchini-carrot muffins but I didn’t know if it was appropriate to bring them backstage to the show. She said “why not” with a fabulous smile. Next time I see her I plan to bring her some or perhaps I might be able to cook them for her and tape a segment of us in the kitchen. (Now, that would be a career and life highlight for me!)
I introduced her to my husband James who is an American Greek and she asked us about the origins of both our names. James' last name is Stathis and is Greek (shortened from Stathopoulos). And my last name Daddona, is of of Greco-Roman origins. Dr. Angelou said that her last name Angelou is Greek because her first husband was Greek. We were delighted to learn this. Meeting her was a memory I shall cherish. Her talk was very uplifting and I will remember her words about virtues. She said that the most important virtue to cultivate is “courage” because if you have that virtue you can do almost anything. Bless you and Thank you Dr. Angelou. I look forward to us meeting again.
I am so grateful that one of “the most renowned and influential voices of our time,” Dr. Maya Angelou, will be gracing our town of Santa Barbara with her divine presence at the Arlington Theater on September 9th at 8pm. Dr. Angelou is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. Her soul stirring words and essence have been an inspiring role model to me, the world and especially Oprah Winfrey, who was a young reporter when she first met Dr. Angelou.
Pulse Production will be presenting an “Evening with Dr. Angelou.” Michael Horne of Pulse Productions, who has presented Dr. Angelou to audiences over the years, says audiences enjoy Maya’s talks which are always uplifting and inspiring and the topics a delightful surprise.
As a journalist/author, home cook and host of RomancingTheTable.com, which celebrates life, love, food, travel and wisdom at the table, I was so happy when I discovered among Dr. Angelou’s many accomplishments that she can also be found in the kitchen cooking or at the table serving up meals made with love.
Her first food-related book Hallelujah! The Welcome Table is a delicious collection with stories and recipes that includes stories from her childhood in Stamps, Arkansas, the first night in her new home in Sonoma, California and the first time she invited M. F. K. Fisher over for dinner and served a cassoulet.
Maya's latest book, "Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart"
Her second book Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart was inspired by Dr. Angelou’s desire to become healthier. By using portion control of “good food, well made and eaten in moderation” she experienced a dramatic weight loss and her book includes recipes she hopes the reader will find “to be delicious and fulfilling.” Dr. Angelou will also be hosting a Food-related TV show on the Hallmark Channel that will air this spring. Just recently I was re-reading Dr. Angelou’s first food book Hallelujah! The Welcome Table and was touched by the story of how she began experimenting with vegetarian meals when Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson (singer/songwriters of some of Motown’s biggest hits) first came to visit her in North Carolina. Dr. Angelou said “Ashford and Simpson” were a “bright beautiful couple with gentle personalities” that won her heart and inspired Dr. Angelou to create several vegetarian recipes because Nick was a vegetarian. In her book, Dr. Angelou includes the recipes she made for the couple such as a tomato soufflé, a Moroccan stew, a mixed salad with feta and raisins and a salad made with romaine lettuce and avocado that she named the Ashford Salad – because Nick loved it so much.
Only days after rereading Dr. Angelou’s first book and the Ashford Salad recipe I felt sad after hearing that Nicholas Ashford had passed away at age 70. Dr. Angelou said in a recent interview by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, that Nicholas was like a son to her and she had just spent the last 36 hours holding his wife Valerie’s hand. On Dr. Angelou’s facebook page she wrote “If Nicholas Ashford had lived as long as we wanted him to, he would have attained kingship. As he did live, he was prince; a courtly, generous, kind, gracious prince.”
After I heard the news I decided I would make the Ashford salad. And so I did. Before I shared the salad with my husband Jim, I said a prayer in of honor Nicholas, his wife Valerie and Maya.
My husband and I enjoy having a salad each day, especially our Greek horiatiki (villager) salad that we began eating during our courtship. We found Dr. Agnelou’s Ashford salad to be a delicious combination of flavors and we especially enjoyed the way the mashed avocado adds texture and coats the romaine lettuce.
Below is the recipe. *When I made the salad I omitted the sugar and vinegar and made it with some extra lemon juice. Delicious Ashford salad recipe I made from Maya Angelou's Hallelujah! The Welcome Table book
ASHFORD SALAD ’96
From The Hallelujah! Welcome Table by Maya Angelou.
Serves 6 to 8
2 heads of Romaine lettuce, with tough outer leaves removed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar *
1 tablespoon of sugar*
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 large English cucumber, sliced
Wash lettuce, dry, wrap in paper towels and put in refrigerator. Mix oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar and garlic in a large salad bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Mash avocado with potato masher, and mix with ingredients in salad bowl. Mix in tomato and cucumber. Break lettuce into large pieces and toss into salad bowl. Mix vigorously with salad tongs until each lettuce leaf has been flavored with dressing. Enjoy!