Kelis was profiled in Time this week and the mother of one and foodie talked about her new album and song Jerk Ribs. The video for Jerk Ribs, the “cornerstone of the album” premiered a few days ago on Time.com but I didn’t have time to post or critique it. I did see it, however. It’s a behind the scenes look at Kelis getting made up for the video shoot in Cali. I think it was directed by Estevan Oriol judging the style and the Chicanos featured. I loved what I saw, though: a very womanly Kelis giving 1960s superstar.
The Time article mentioned a cooking show Kelis will star on in a few weeks so I thought I’d dredge up the past in the form of this article I wrote for VIBE back in 2006. This is just the transcript of the interview, the published article was too polished for my taste.
Anyhow, Kelis ‘ s new album Food will be out soon. Her cooking show will be on the Food Network. To prepare for it, she studied cooking at Cordon Bleu for two years, not that she needed lessons. Her Milkshake did bring all the boys to the yard.
What’s up, Kelis!
KELIS Aint nuthin! How you doin?
I’m good. How are you?
KELIS I’m alright
Thanks for taking my call, I appreciate it.
You’re in LA, right?
KELIS Yes, right now I am.
What are you doin’ out there?
KELIS Just working, finishing up my album.
How’s that comin’ along?
Really, really good.
I just saw your King Magazine cover story. It looks great! Congratulations
KELIS Thank you.
Yeah, Haitem, the photographer, is a really good friend of mine.
KELIS He’s actually great.
Yeah, he is. One of the things I wanted to talk to you about was something you discussed on The Wendy Williams Experience last week, about how Europeans get you and Americans really don’t. Why do you think that is?
KELIS I didn’t say that. I think it was something Wendy said.
KELIS I didn’t say that. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.
Are you sure? I heard this conversation…
KELIS I said it must have been something that Wendy had said cuz that’s not how I feel about it. I didn’t say that.
Oh, Ok. So, how different is this album from your last?
KELIS Well, I hope its better. I think it’s really honest. There’s no compromise on it. I think it’s really musical and melodic. Nothing was spared, you know.
One of the songs I liked on Tasty was Trick Me. The line I like a lot goes something like, Freedom for us has always been a trick/freedom for you was whoever landed on your dick. How do you reconcile writing Trick Me vs MilkShake?
KELIS What do you mean?
Well, there’s a lot of implications there in Trick Me. There’s stuff about black people’s place in society, in America moving from slavery to the present…
KELIS OK, OK, OK. You’re saying how do I write a song like that and write something as funky as Milkshake.
KELIS Laughs… Honestly, I don’t know. I think you know the answer to that. I think in life there’s always two sides to things. At the end of the day, it’s the music and its entertainment. I am a real live person. I don’t always feel one way. There’s a time to be sexy and there’s a time to not be sexy. There’s a time to be funny and light and to not think too much about it and to just enjoy life and everything else. And there’s a time to talk about things that are real. You can’t do both all the time.
What are some of the things you’re talking about on this new album?
KELIS Oh, goodness!. Love, life, music and industry, and I guess people’s opinion of me and me taking charge of my own life and career and everything. I think I take on a lot of stuff on this album.
You worked with Scott Storch, Too Short and a whole bunch of producers. How does this album feel musically compared to working with Pharell?
KELIS Well, The Neptunes you mean, as a group, was definitely great. Scott Storch didn’t necessarily make my album but working with him was really cool. And working with all those other dudes I worked with was great. I was really able to kind of spread my wings and do what I wanted to do. I think what’s great about it, too, was because there’s so many different people on it, it made a well rounded sound as apposed to being one thing, you know.
You changed the title of your album to Kelis Was Here. Are you a fan of graffiti?
KELIS It’s just part of my era. It’s a part of my generation so whether I am a fan of it or not its definitely part of my age group. Being from NY and being a NY kid you definitely tagged up in the bathroom and stuff like that. I don’t anymore. It’s definitely something I can relate to. It’s part of our culture.
What did you used to tag?
KELIS You know what? So many different things. I’m sure my girlfriends can remember. I can’t even remember.
Your last album was called Tasty and now you’re coming out with a cookbook. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
KELIS I’ve always loved being in the kitchen. My mom was a chef and I kinda grew up cooking all the time. I have three sisters and I think I was the one who was always with my mom. My mom had a catering business then. I was her little sous chef. All my friends would come over to my house and I would have people over, we would have dinner parties. Wherever we were they were like, “Kelis you’re a great cook, you should do a cook book.” I thought you know what… So I called my mom and I was like, “Mom, help me out with this cookbook,” and she kinda guided me through it. And we did this thing and I am really excited by it.
What’s the book called?
KELIS You know what? I am playing with a title right now. I have a few that I like but I am not sure yet. I have a deadline so I better lock one down soon.
When is the book coming out?
KELIS At the end of the year.
Do you cook for Nas?
KELIS Oh, yeah, of course.
What does he like to eat? What’s his favorite dish he likes you to make?
KELIS I don’t know if he has one. He eats whatever I put in front of him. I’m pretty versatile so I can do a plethora of different things. I guess it depends of the night and what my mood is. He doesn’t really care. Honestly, I ask him and he’s like whatever so I just make what I want to eat.
And what’s that?
KELIS It depends. Some days I have a craving for Chinese, a craving for Italian or soul food or Cajun or Caribbean or whatever. I can pretty much do it all. I guess one of those things I’ve gotten into for the past 3 years was baking. I’ve been baking a lot. We went over to a friend’s house last night and I made red velvet cupcakes to bring over. I just really enjoy baking.
If I was to pin down one of your favourite foods to prepare, would it be found in the cook book?
KELIS Yeah, definitely. The thing I love about the cookbook is that the thing behind it is for working people who don’t have a whole day to be in the kitchen. It’s really easy to understand, its really easy to do. There’s nothing in there that’s like really crazy. I’ll be honest. At the end of the day I can make pie dough. I got a lot of options. I can tell you can do that, you know buy from the store, make it faster. It gives you options of the easy way to do it and the hard way. Kind of like the healthy way and the way it should be done. It’s a condensed version of everything. I wanna do more than one book. This is one of many and this is kind of like the basics, everything from cheese cake to arroz con grandules. There’s a bunch of different stuff in there. It goes from Spanish to Italian to straight to American to soul food to stuff like that.
I am gonna put you on the spot.
I work from 8.45am to 5.15pm everyday and I am usually in bed by 10pm. What’s the easiest and fastest meal I can make?
KELIS: It depends. What do you like to eat?
Cuban food. Some rice and beans with platanos.
KELIS You can do it Spanish style or Jamaican style with rice and peas. One, you would use coconut milk and the other, you would use chicken broth. It depends on how you like it. If you get your grandules dry, it’s gonna take a long time. If you get it from a can..
OK. What’s an easy Latino desert to make?
KELIS I don’t eat flan. I know how to make it but I don’t eat it because I am not a fan of the texture. But I make good flan. My favorite thing is like a coconut custard pie. Its really easy to make.
How do you make it?
KELIS You can make your own pie dough or buy it. Obviously, it’s way easier to buy it. No one will know the difference
Take your fork, poke it in the pie crust a little bit,
Stick it in your oven. Let it brown so its not gummy or gooey. Let it get golden brown and take it out. Usually this recipe is for two because it goes so quickly. So you need:
1 readymade pie-crust. Take your fork, poke it in the pie crust a little bit, stick it in your oven. Let it brown so its not gummy or gooey. Let it get golden brown and take it out.
1 can of Coco Lope (Creamed Coconut)
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
1 bag of Angel Flake Coconut
Mix that all the ingredients together
Take your fork, poke it in the pie crust a little bit
Pour mix into pie crust
Bake for 20 minutes or until its golden brown on top at about 425 degrees.
You can make your own whipped cream which is just heavy cream and powdered sugar or you can just put vanilla ice cream on top.
While you’re making your dinner, while everything is simmering and cooking, you can have your pie and it’s still warm by the time your dinner is ready. Honestly, I swear to you: it’s the easiest thing to make. You can go and make that right now and call me back. First of all, it comes out custard-y but its not like a flan where its like jiggly but it’s so, so good. People literally call me and ask me to make them pies. My sister, which is so funny, she learned how to cook too, in the past year since she’s away at college. She sells pies in school!
Are you serious?!!
KELIS: She’s got her own pie business, its hilarious
That’s so Lena from A Different World.
KELIS It is, it totally its. I love it. I think cooking I really therapeutic. People think it’s a task or a chore but the thing is once you get comfortable you can experiment a little bit and get confident in what you’re doing then you start to realize that certain things go together and certain things don’t. It’s really funny. I am teaching one of my best friends to cook and she calls me literally everyday saying, I messed it up, what do I do. Usually it’s something really simple. People get nervous and they panic. It’s just really simple stuff. So that’s why I had the idea of the cook book cos most of my girlfriends don’t cook. And I don’t think its because they can’t. I just think its too muck work and they would rather order out or go get something to eat. But sometimes I love when people come over to my house whether I am making tapas or spinach dip and like beggars purse and a bunch of different pies or cheesecake or whatever, to making a full dish like curried lamb. But I enjoy sharing and stuff like that.
Does your mom still have the catering business?
KELIS She doesn’t still have it. But she cooks all the time, she’s amazing. It funny because I am great cook but I still call my mom, “Hey lady I had this idea would this work,” and she, “like yah try it.” The thing is too, what makes my mother really great and allows me to open up and be a great cook, is the fact is that she is very experimental. She’ll go somewhere and taste something and know exactly what’s in it and come home and make it. She’s really special like that. People don’t realize that cooking is an art and a science together. Once you realize that there’s nothing to be intimidated by. Its all common sense. Cooking is all common sense… when you think about it you realize it doesn’t make sense.
Do you agree with the statement that the best chefs are men?
KELIS A lot of people say that.. I don’t know if that’s true. I dunno, honestly. I don’t have an educated answer for that. My husband always tells me the best chef are men. To me, my mom is the best. I think that maybe, and this is maybe a cliché answer, men are not cooking because they have to. I think they’re cooking as a choice. I think that takes a lot of the pressure off. A lot of times women or wives or mothers have to do it. They’re like, “Quick, what can I do fast to feed everybody and get it over with?” You can do that and still make it great. I came home from the gym this morning and I was exhausted and I feel like I was coming down with a cold and I was totally not in the mood to cook . But I was hungry but I didn’t want to order anything. I had some tilapia in the fridge, took it out, seasoned it really basic, put a little bit parmesan crust on it. I didn’t even have to turn my oven on. I did it in my toaster oven…It took me 20 minutes..I had a healthy full meal. It’s that simple. Honestly, too, because I work I don’t want to be 200 lbs…Its not healthy and it’s not good for you. In my cookbook, you have choices. There’s something so you don’t sacrifice. Red velvet is so lush and decadent anyway, and for me to use a low fat cream cheese to make my frosting, no one will know the difference.. That’s something I can sacrifice. Sometimes I’m like you can’t sacrifice, like when you’re making mac and cheese. I am not skimping on the mac and cheese. No one wants low fat macaroni and cheese. It depends, you have options. Cooking should be fun and I enjoy it and I enjoy feeding people around me. Everyday is a party.
Last question. I know you gotta go and do your stuff…
KELIS I am making split peas soup today.
You are? Right now?
KELIS Yeah, I am defrosting my turkey.
My mom makes the best split peas soup.
KELIS I love it, I love it. The funny thing is I eat pork and a lot of people around me don’t so when I am by myself I make it with the hambone and all that. When my family and my friends are around, a lot of them don’t eat pork, so I do turkey wings , which are really flavorful.
Did you make any dishes for any of the producers on your album?
KELIS Did I? Yeah, you know some of them came over to eat. I have a habit of cooking a lot of food….