Nigerian wings! And a reconsideration of “trailer trash”

I’ll be updating news on what happens with Ranked Choice Voting in the State House as it happens. Three very different bills are up for consideration this week, including a very practical solution to be presented by Rep. Kent Ackley (I-Monmouth). Stay tuned. But now, some good eats!

Super spicy Nigerian chicken wings

 

The nearly unspeakable tragedy of this terrifically tasty dish is that you will probably never make it. Why? Because you need to buy some African spices that are hard to find: uziza pepper,  which comes in peppercorns and needs to be ground, and Cameroonian black pepper. Tropical Tastes International Market in Bangor, owned and operated by native Nigerian Angela Okafor, may have them – just call ahead. Otherwise, they’re available online at AfroFood.com, in Marietta, Georgia.

It’s a two-step dish: making the rub, and then the marinade. It’s adapted from http://www.nigerianlazychef.com/2016/11/spicy-nigerian-chicken-wings.

Here we go. You’ll need, for the chicken rub:

  • 12 chicken wings
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. Cameroonian black pepper
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • salt to taste

For the marinade:

  • 3 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 “knob” fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp. Cameroonian black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. uziza pepper, freshly ground.

What to do:

  • Mix all the spice ingredients for the rub together and massage into the chicken wings.
  • Mix the ingredients for the marinade together until well blended and pourable.
  • Pour the marinade over the chicken wings in a bowl and thoroughly coat them. Then transfer to a sealable bag and stick in the fridge for at least an hour, or as long as 12 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 375. Arrange the wings on parchment paper or aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning the wings over about halfway through.
  • Se the oven to broil, and finish off the wings for about 1 minute close to the broiler.

After photographing them, we ate them! Very spicy, tolerably hot, and delicious.

The wings, rubbed.

The marinade, before mixing.

All marinated, ready to be bagged for the fridge. (all photos by me and my wife Carla).

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

“Trailer trash” reconsidered

From Wikipedia:

Trailer trash (or trailer park trash) is a derogatory North American English term for a small percentage of poor people living in a trailer or a mobile home. It is particularly used to denigrate white people living in such circumstances and can be considered to fall within the category of racial slurs. The term has increasingly replaced “white trash” in public and television usage as the latter expression became more politically incorrect.

Well, I think we all have a sense of the “trailer trash” stereotype. They’re poor, or living in very modest circumstances. Undereducated. Unrefined. Not necessarily living in trailers – “trailer trash” can live anywhere. Single wides. Double wides. Small homes falling into disrepair.

We may also think of them as ideologically locked into conservative, sometimes extremist values. They may be bigoted, anti-elitist, anti-education, and, well, not too bright. Regardless, I’m not crazy about the term “trailer trash,” because it’s widely viewed as derogatory. “White trash” is even worse – it comes very close to being an ethnic slur. I don’t like it at all.

But here’s a morsel of subversion: we’ve known people who have, on occasion, referred to themselves as “trailer trash” – often with an ironic, self-deprecating smile. To me, people in these circumstances are the working poor, and every one I’ve known works very hard not to be poor, to take care of their kids, to do the best they can against difficult odds. One of our best friends was so besieged by poverty that she was homeless for nearly a year (she’s fine now).

Where I grew up, several of my best friends could be regarded this way. When we’ve traveled, many of the most interesting and friendliest and most genuine people we’ve met could be regarded this way. They’re cursed by bad circumstances, but many of them are blessed with a reservoir of nobility that most people don’t recognize.

Remember the phrase “station wagon liberal”? Read on.

One of the jobs my wife had in public health had her working with a team of professionals – mostly women – who were well-educated, smart, politically liberal. They believed in helping improve public health services for the broader population. They wanted to do “the right thing” for the underserved, the less fortunate. The secretary/admin for this team – let’s call her Paula – was “trailer trash” – no two ways about it. The team saw her this way and treated her like crap. Icy disdain. Verbal abuse that sometimes brought her to tears.

My wife and Paula soon became friends. She came to our house for dinner. We went to her place for dinner. She was not well-educated, but she was brimming over with heart and soulfulness. In the end, my wife decided her only true friend from that experience was Paula – because she was the real deal. The others talked a good game, but ultimately it was all fake.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Source image for the back cover of STRING THEORIES – the female heroine Sage Stipes: “trailer trash” on a Buddhist path.

“Trailer trash” people prevail in several of my novels. The female protagonist/heroine of String Theories is nearly the epitome of “trailer trash” – but she’s discovered Buddhism as a way of seeing the world through a different lens. A child abandoned by his “family” in Place is “trailer trash” pure and simple – but too young to know the sting of the term or to see himself that way. In Calling Out Your Name, my young hero, a rural Georgia teenager, is just this side of being “trailer trash.” Each of them, in different ways, shows grit, guts, rebelliousness, and intelligence that bust the stereotype wide open.

I think the larger rubric for what I’ve written here is classism. Like other forms of bigotry, it can be blatant or it can be subtle, but either way it’s nearly as insidious as racism. I don’t see it much here in Maine. Maine feels nearly classless to me. Many of the people we admire most, enjoy conversing with, like having around are working class people – some of them just squeaking by. Maine, once again, exemplifies a specialness of culture that should be the envy of the rest of the country.

So when you drive by trailers with all kinds of stuff in the yard that looks like a permanent yard sale, I suggest not making any assumptions about who lives inside, how they think, how they feel. People are full of surprises.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Please visit my book site.

 

Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.