Cucumber Salads That
Nourish Undeserving Men

Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey

“Cucumber Salads That Nourish Undeserving Men” was published in Active Cultures’ Digest, Issue 14, November 2022 (edited by Nneka Jackson).

Image: Food, styling, and set design by Mennlay Goloeh Aggrey. Photos by Nora Bergan. 2022.


Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey is the author of The Art of Weed Butter and co-founder of the Xula—a botanical brand for better periods + cycles. She is an interdisciplinary cannabis professional, working in the legalized markets since 2005. Based in Mexico City for the past 7 years, her work explores the intersections between cannabis, foodways, and the diasporic connections between Africa and Latin America. 

She also proudly sits on the board of the Floret Coalition, the anti-racist cannabis collective funding monthly equity-oriented actions for the Black, Indigenous, and Latin communities most harmed by the war on drugs. Her work has been featured in Bon Appétit, Washington Post, Vogue, and others.

Reading the table of contents of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor’s cult cookbook classic, Vibration Cooking: or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, her recipe, “White Folks & Fried Chicken” nearly took me out. I flipped through the pages frantically to see what kind of chisme she had. I was hoping it would be more substantial than what I’d seen in those bland chicken split-screen TikToks on Black Twitter. It was more than that:

“French folks always covering up the meat with some sauce or another. Most of the time, it is to cover up the rancid taste of the meat. Poor as we was, we never ate no bad meat. My mother would take it back or throw it away before she cooked with it for us…. If we couldn’t have meat we had greens and rice and we ate plenty of that but my mother never cooked none of that weird ‘tuna casserole.” (p.145)

Late to the game, I quickly recognized that this was an entirely new way of writing about food that went beyond the dialectical concepts of fiction or nonfiction, culinary anthropology or prose. She created an entire lane for Black women to tell their stories about foodways through the lens of nonsense, sarcasm, sex, racism, history, and straight-up gossip.

Smart-Grosvenor was an American anthropologist who wrote for publications such as the New York Times, Village Voice, Ebony, and more. Her work is now a critical reference point for new scholars researching African Diaspora studies– which is shocking to think that Vertamae (according to herself) was only discovered after a poetry book written by her daughter was accepted for publication. For me, she awakened a genre of storytelling that I needed in my life, that I didn’t know was acceptable or even existed through the lens of foodways. As Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson writes in the cookbook’s forward, “The acts of telling, sharing, remembering, and listening to stories are often part and parcel of the lexicon of African American women’s writings. . .” Finally, I could enjoy writing about food that didn’t feel like a constructed dissertation, but a juicy connection to self through the meditation of recipe development.

Through these recipes and this essay, I want to tell the story of my personal experience as a Black woman in Mexico City cooking for men, an activity that most times are a disappointing experience for me, the home cook.  Exploring the prepared cucumber dish as vignettes, each an experience with a different person I am allowing a peek into my romantic journey, each memory building towards and cultivating a nourishing, cooling, and restorative recipe.

Cucumber is a natural nervine, meaning that it naturally calms the nervous system while also soothing and providing nourishment to your body. There was a time when I found myself constantly calming down enraged men. I went home with one to help him wash the blood from his face after he got into a fight at the rave in Centro Historico. If I’m being honest, which I am 80% of the time, it was sexy cosplaying “the nurturer '' to this drastically erratic man. The blood dripped from above his eye down to his chest, smeared across an admirable mosaic of questionable tattoos. Had it not been for all the other Black women he exclusively dated (light-skinned mostly), and the fact that he was a bald, dark copper-skinned Mexican man, you might think he was a skinhead because of his behavior. Standing in front of the mirror with him, I gently dabbed bloody cotton swabs over his inked face. Luckily he had cucumbers, onions, and shitty vinegar in the kitchen so I made a fast cucumber salad. Shaking it up in a plastic bowl to spread the sauce over each bite, I knew that this was the first and last time that I’d live out the fantasy of fixing a broken boy.


Omar sat at the table with a phone in one hand and a fork in the other. He stabbed at the julienned cucumber I had meticulously and lovingly cut in a shallow bowl for us to share. It was his last day in town visiting and instead of eating me out on the dining room table, or at the very least making strong eye contact as he devoured the salad across from me, he was on his damn phone. By the time he put it down, I was nearly done eating what I had served myself and had no intentions of slowing down. When he left to fly back, his leftovers remained. I ate them right out of the glass tupperware sitting on top of my kitchen counter and reminded myself how good it felt to eat alone in my own company.


Giselle asked if I needed anything from the market as soon as she saw me chopping produce on the cutting board. It was a genuine ask, not the fake sort, the polite gesture. I didn’t need anything this time but it was sweet that she asked so I made a mental note to reward her for this gesture later. G had finally finished her manuscript draft while in Hawaii on sabbatical and it had been months since we’d seen each other. I was still having a difficult time matching her voice to her face. Our relationship developed mostly over the phone while she was away, so we knew the sound of each other intimately before getting to know each other’s bodies. Don’t get me wrong. I knew what she looked like and that pleased me too. Cucumber salad isn’t really a main dish, and for being something that requires no cooking, the prep took me nearly an hour to prepare it in a way that I knew she would thoroughly enjoy. All the waiting turned me on and I couldn’t wait to see her put that first fork full into her mouth. It soothed me.

Cucumber Salad That Nourish Undeserving Men

What You’ll Need

2 medium cucumbers, scored with a fork and sliced as thick on this as you desire
2 medium courgettes (zucchini), scored with a fork and sliced very thinly
½ cup fermented rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons agave
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of hot water from steeped cilantro
1 tablespoon shoyu or flaky salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
½ serrano pepper thinly slides and soaked in cold water
¼  small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of cannabis-infused chili oil

What to Do

  1. In a shallow bowl arrange alternating layers of cucumber and courgettes, onions, and soaked serrano slices.

  1. Whisk the vinegar, agave, hot water, shoyu, black pepper, and canna chili oil together and pour over the layers of cucumbers, courgettes, onions, and serranos.

  1. Marinate for at least 1 hour before serving. Eat with a side of brown rice, butter, and greens.

Active Cultures is a cultural organization that explores the convergence of food and art in contemporary life.