Cooking & Crooning: Nick and Lena Black’s Facebook Show 

The couple displays their talents weekly on Facebook Live.

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Nick Black and his wife, Lena, are cutting up in the kitchen.

While Nick sings, his wife chops onions and other vegetables as she prepares vegetarian dishes. In between, they joke back and forth.

When they're not doing this in real life, the couple does it weekly on Cooking & Crooning, which airs at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays on Facebook Live.

"I love cooking," Lena says. "I think I'm probably a good cook. Nick says I'm a great cook. I come by cooking naturally. My mom is the biggest feeder in the world. She taught me to cook and to have a stocked pantry.

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"I have a lot of grains, a lot of 'cheater' things — boxed things, flavored rices, pastas, canned beans. Some things are better canned. Canned corn. Canned tomatoes. Some recipes you can't do without canned tomatoes."

Lena came up with the idea for the cooking/singing show when the quarantine began. Nick, a pop/soul artist who recently released his new single "IRL," was "making it a priority to figure out different live streams and reach people. I said, 'Hey, maybe I can help him.'"

She told him, "We can do a live stream together. You sing. I cook. We call it Cooking & Crooning. I can make interesting meals just with what we've got on hand, which is great for quarantine. Nick can sing songs off the top of his head."

What goes on in Cooking & Crooning, now in its 10th week, isn't much different from what goes on at home. "That's life with us," Lena says. "When I'm in the kitchen, he's making up songs about me chopping potatoes."

Nick demonstrates by coming up with a song on the spot: "You got a friend in me. You got a friend in me. When the road gets rough and you're miles and miles from your nice warm bed, she's cooking onions. And that's what I said."

"I thought it would be fun every now and then if people could get a little slice of what it's like to live with him," Lena says. "He makes a little song that pretty much narrates things around the house. That's a daily phase. It can be about the most banal thing. It can be about dusting."

Viewers sometimes suggest dishes, but everything must be vegetarian. "I'm a staunch vegetarian. And Nick is basically an at-home vegetarian. We don't buy meat anymore. But he won't refuse it if he goes somewhere."

Lena made Buddha Bowls on one show. "Typically, it's a bowl of some kind of grain," she says. "Lots of fresh vegetables and some cooked vegetables with some sort of bean or sauce and nuts or seeds." She made "crabless crab cakes" on another show. "It's made from palm hearts instead of crabmeat. And it's delicious."

"We had a pretty epic Cinco de Mayo episode where she made vegetarian tacos with homemade tortilla chips," Nick says. People comment, cook along with them, and ask for song requests from Nick, who plays his originals as well as cover songs and impromptu material.

They also raise money for Edible Memphis, No Kid Hungry, and other groups.

Nick recently began live streaming Nick Black's 30 Day Twitch Sample Challenge (twitch.tv/nickblackmusic), where he asks viewers to give him a riff, which he then uses in an original song.

Lena is Theatre Memphis' director of education and outreach. "While she's working, sending emails, and sending content for Theatre Memphis, I'm kind of just always around the house singing to myself," Nick says. "I thought it was a good idea to hole myself up and channel that energy. It's definitely helped with my musical ADD."

Cooking & Crooning usually lasts an hour and a half. "She may have a few more minutes on the dish, and I'll do my last song and we'll say goodnight, play the theme one more time, and put up the photo of the meal on Instagram — @lenawallaceblack — and Facebook," Nick says.

Then what do they do? "We sit down and watch Netflix and eat," Lena says. "Leave the kitchen a complete disaster and come back and clean later."

To watch the next show, find them at facebook.com/nickblackmusic.

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