He/Him/His Secondary English Teacher Candidate Lifeguard & Swim Instructor US Navy Veteran Storyteller Artist fadedharbor.com sjarguides.org

Vobster, aka “vegan lobster,” or “the poor man’s lobster roll” for those adverse to the vegan title. Regardless, an affordable and delicious take on lobster rolls. Note: Recipe adapted from Purple Carrot found here. Serves 3-4, depending on how much you stuff your roll.

Be extra generous with your seasoning
Roasted to get those crisp, bronze edges
Butterfly and roast your hoagie rolls
Garnished with lemon wedge, paired with your favorite summer side

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans Heart of Palm, drained and patted dry
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise or Vegenaise (to stay truly vegan)
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill (or more to taste)
  • at least 2 tbsp Seafood Seasoning (such as Old Bay), or more to taste
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil (olive or vegetable)
  • 4 hoagie rolls, cut 3/4 way through the side, and then split open (see photo 3 for reference). Do not slice the bread completely in half.

Procedure:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Slice the heart of palm into 1/2 inch thick rounds, place into a mixing bowl.
  3. Add oil and seafood seasoning to the heart of palm and mix thoroughly.
  4. Spread heart of palm along baking sheet, ensuring that each piece has its own space.
  5. Place baking sheet on top rack of oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until heart of palm rounds have golden to bronze coloring (see photo 2)
  6. Meanwhile, in another mixing bowl (or the same one from step 2, cleaned) combine lemon juice from one of the lemon halves, mayo, shallot, celery, dill, salt, and pepper. Take a taste test and add more salt, pepper, or dill to suit.
  7. When heart of palm is finished roasting, add the heart of palm to the bowl of dressing.
  8. Immediately after step 7, add opened hoagie rolls to baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes until golden (see photo 3 again).
  9. While rolls bake, mix the heart of palm and dressing thoroughly (see photo 4).
  10. Once rolls are done, give 1-2 minutes for cool down. When able to touch, scoop the desired amount of the heart of palm mixture onto rolls.

Not quite authentic Cajun cooking, yet much better than many other recipes you’ll find on a Google search. Recipe following the pictures. No backstory required.

Lots of ingredients and prep, yet so easy to put together.
Cajun Caldron pt. 1, just after most ingredients added.
Cajun Caldron pt. 2, after 20 minutes of cooking.
A bowl of feel-good cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound medium (51-60 count per lb) shrimp (thawed if store bought frozen)
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced diagonally
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Fresno pepper, halved and then thinly sliced
  • 6 okra pods, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 3 green onions, sliced diagonally
  • 1 28 oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes (do not drain tomato water)
  • 1 quart broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2 tbsp (or more) smoked paprika
  • Cajun spice (recommend Tony Chachere’s Creole blend)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Procedure:

  1. Prep the ingredients accordingly as described above.
  2. Set a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to pot and swirl to coat surface. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery to the pot and “sweat” them until near translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Stir occasionally and adjust heat as needed to prevent burning.
  3. Meanwhile, set a large pan over medium-high heat. Add a little bit of oil and add chicken when warm. Dust the chicken with Cajun seasoning. Cook until all sides are light brown and set aside from heat, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Set a small pan over medium-high heat and add a small bit of oil. Add okra when hot. Saute each side of okra for 1-2 minutes, or brown. This step will remove slime from the okra. Once done set in small bowl.
  5. After the vegetable mixture has softened and began turning translucent, add garlic, Fresno peppers, paprika, a fair load of Cajun seasoning (probably 3 tbsp), and enough salt and pepper for your preference and stir thoroughly.
  6. After 1-2 minutes, add rice. Stir thoroughly.
  7. Immediately after rice is stirred in, add chicken, sausage, can of tomatoes, okra, and broth (your pot will look like picture #2 above). Bring pot to a low boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to medium. Stir every 5 minutes.
  8. After 15 minutes of cooking, add shrimp and stir.
  9. Remove lid after 20 minutes of cooking and stir well. The jambalaya may appear stew-like (see photo #3). If you desire less broth, continue cooking with lid off for 2-3 more minutes.
  10. Serve in bowls, top with sliced green onions.

Notes:

  • Most recipes I’ve found online use long grain rice in order to prevent a mushy texture. Arborio rice doesn’t seem to have this problem for a shorter grain. Though the grains may clump together easier like sticky rice, the rice remains tender and firm.
  • Regarding measuring oils and spices: I don’t exactly measure spices and oils with spoons but gauge with my eyes, tongue, and nose…if something looks dry or is burning then add more oil. Make sure to take tastes of your creation as you go, and add more seasoning when you think is appropriate.
  • This recipe makes somewhere between 4-8 servings depending on the serving size. If you have leftovers, I suggest sprinkling some water onto your serving before reheating to prevent overcooking and that mushy texture that could result from overcooking.

Still working out some design kinks to the website. For instance, on these pages I’d like the posts to appear more as thumbprints/teasers where clicking on it will take you to the full post.

More updates will be coming soon and will include: a recipe, a photo essay, and pop culture commentary about Candyman (1992).

Next week my wife and I will be moving apartments, so the updates may be sporadic. Keep checking-in for the latest!

-Stefan

For a detailed premise of the novel, please visit the novel’s main page here.

Progress Report 1:

As of now I’m seven chapters deep with 70 or so pages completed. This first part follows Robbie driving with DeJon Heyward from Colorado Springs in the ASA to the outskirts of Houston in the KCR. Since they’re driving though Kansas and Oklahoma with not much to see, much of the story so far is conversations between Robbie and DeJon. Some notable topics they’ve covered so far is their respective back stories, the need of being aware of prejudices (Robbie must wait at a de jure all-Black “ward” before he can get transferred into his suburban hometown), not believing in everything one hears, some backstory about the second civil war, and now an upcoming conversation about what really counts as courage.

I’ve been writing 2-3 pages (on average, some days are better than others…) every weekday since early April, a couple of weeks after our shut down here in Washington state. The first twenty pages were easy since that first chunk had been written and edited back in late 2017 when I applied for UW’s creative writing program. And just like 99.5% of people who apply to creative writing programs, I got rejected. The COVID shutdown has given me plenty of time to devote to writing again, but after writing diligently for a couple of months I had to give the novel a rest. The Floyd BLM protests sprang up all over the country, and I felt that my efforts toward the novel would be better placed toward other projects in support of BLM. I started Social Justice/Anti-Racist Guides as a project that serves social justice in the now because Vultures, while it is a novel based in social justice, is a long term project with an unknown completion date.

The break over the past month from the novel has been needed. I feel like I’ll be able to return to it with fresh eyes and renewed energy. I won’t be hitting it every weekday anymore, but more like once or twice a week with more focus to get 5-6 pages completed in a sitting. Having other projects like SJ/AR Guides and other content here on Faded Harbor to do during the week should prevent another burnout from happening. I feel it’s odd having a bunch of things going on at once as a form of sustainment, but whatever works…

Anyway, here are some other pending items of concern I have toward the Vultures:

–I have Robbie describing a scene where the KCR comes into his neighborhood. I’m worried his descriptions of the scene are not described in his language but in a style that’s closer to the narration.

–This talk about what courage really is needs to be the last in the series of topics covered by DeJon and Robbie. I need to introduce some action and conflict into the plot again.   

And here’s an ongoing dilemma I’ve had with the novel’s premise that I could really use some feedback/input on:

The novel revolves around Robbie learning from oppressed communities their struggles for human rights and freedom. I’ve chosen the Black, LGBTQ, and women’s community to highlight in the novel. The sticky part for me involves taking researched histories, insights, and goals from these communities and sticking them into fictional characters of my creation. By doing this I feel I may be appropriating the struggles of oppressed communities, especially if Vultures happens to get published and take off. Like, who the hell am I as a straight cisgender white man to write characters who express their pain and struggle to Robbie when I never have and never will live those experiences?

On the flip side, this novel is ultimately about a young white man and the decisions he must make as to whether he will join and serve the Power or if he rejects the Power and works toward dismantling the oppressive state so his new friends get the human rights they deserve. While the supporting characters are from oppressed communities, I’m not making them the characters the narration follows because ultimately their stories of pain and struggle are not mine to tell (but I am telling bits and pieces of it when Robbie interacts with them because these are stories Robbie must hear in order to even consider rejecting Power, and in that sense these stories are necessary). I can only really tell a story that’s about the conflict a young white man faces when choosing between the Power or the human rights of others.  

It feels like a good old-fashioned paradox. If I continue on this path I feel like I do run the risk of appropriation, but not including these stories of pain and struggle leaves this novel feeling inauthentic. This is why I’d really like some feedback, especially from people who have lived through oppression. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings, I greatly appreciate it!