Matson on Music
Video with rant: "Fou Lee" by Seattle's Blue Scholars
Posted by Andrew Matson
Newsflash: My favorite song from Seattle rap duo Blue Scholars' new album "Cinemetropolis" has a video. "Fou Lee" is named for a Beacon Hill grocery that sells a lot of raw and packaged Asian items, and has hot food for right-away eating. It's down the street from MacPherson's Fruit & Produce, where I do a bunch of my personal shopping — some of the cheapest fruits and veggies in town, y'all.
I'm into the video (directed by the well-named Canh Solo) because it glorifies community cooking and eating, which I'm all about. The plot is that Scholars rapper Geo and DJ/producer Sabzi go to Fou Lee, make chicken adobo and rice, and feed themselves and a group of friends back home. That's it. I could rhapsodize all day about the benefits of such a thing.
The cost-effectiveness of stew-type dishes compared even to dollar-menu fast food. The obvious health angle. The way cooking at home makes the space smell good, and changes how you behave in it — you suddenly start tidying up, feeling pressure to elevate your life to the goodness of the smell. Even just dicing an onion and putting it in a hot pan can make you feel that way.
And of course the way food brings people together, the conversations it sparks, alladat. There's nothing more positive than coordinating a community meal and breaking bread, literally. You'd be surprised what you can come up with if everyone chips in two dollars. And how little you need TV, how easy conversation is to make. Just like in olden days!
The message in the "Fou Lee" video is that you can do this, too. Cooking is intimidating to a lot of people — I think because we are taught to believe WE do the magic, when in actuality it's temperature and time — but that fear must be broken down. For real. There are certain thresholds we need to get past.
Like, once you realize you can put a whole chicken in the oven with no preparation whatsoever, and cook it for an hour and a half at 400 degrees, and it comes out great — how does that not change your relationship to chicken? You are now empowered to feed four people off that, if you make rice. A chicken costs six dollars, and rice price is negligible in that quantity. Everyone eats, and eats well, for a dollar and change.
And with vegetables, there's often just cutting and slicing to be done. Washing and that's it. Really, the less you do to a vegetable, the better. Salads and slaws are just about knowing how to make dressings. One-third citrus to two-thirds oil is a good one. Or for the "AZN" cabbage/carrot/onion/ginger slaw I've been making a lot, half and half soy sauce and rice vinegar, with a heap of sugar.
Most soups are just water, with stuff floating in it and some stock thrown in. An easy one is ten cloves of garlic, and equal parts stock and tomatoes, enough for however much soup you want to make. Blend it, heat it up, it's delicious. You think the garlic is going to be intense, but it's not. If you don't have a blender, cut everything up small and cook it at a low heat for a while to break down the fibers and whatnot.
To me, home cooking is central to music because I listen to music while I cook. It gives me a chance to beat my own ADHD, to stop switching the song all the time and soak in a whole album. And it should be central to musicians, too, because they are some of America's most brokest. They too often survive on mini-mart food — no hate to mini-marts.
Anyway, rant over. "Fou Lee" is a call to action. Let's do this. Cook something today. The life you save might be your own.
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