Help! I have lost my Midas Touch with food and with it my compass to why I’m in Africa!

Is it any indication that I have yet to cook a decent meal in this house? I’ve been here a month today, and so far nothing I have cooked on the four-burner dual gas and electric stove has turned out like I planned it. Of course, it could be that I’m not attracted to cooking when only one burner is functional (the 3 gas burners have yet to be connected to a cylinder). As a Culinary Artist, I maintain that I am not really cooking until I am balancing 4 meals simultaneously, and churning out delicious recipes with nothing burned. I am trying not to let this phenomenon bother me too much because otherwise I think I would be paralyzed. Thankfully, I have had enough to eat over the last month such that it hasn’t really been an issue of starvation. But for a Culinary Artist like myself, I am beginning to think the Kitchen Goddess has abandoned me or there is a goddess in this particular kitchen who is not happy about the new inhabitant—me.  Both are scary thoughts, and up until today I have steered clear from actually contemplating the possibility of either pronouncement. But tonight it lies thick on my mind. I tried yet another dish and it came out too oily with not enough taste. Granted, I’ve really only been throwing things in a pot and hoping for the best; my usual mo when I was back in the US seems not to be working any longer. Perhaps it’s because the kitchen is much smaller than the one in my Berkeley studio. Perhaps it’s because the ingredients are not gotten from a supermarket, but rather from the street vendor on the side of the road. Or perhaps it’s a metaphor for what is going on in my larger life in general.

So what is going on in my larger life?

It’s been a helluva whirlwind the last month. I am at the end of week four of work, and still not sure it will grow on me like I first thought it would. Being a Writer-in-Residence is not all it’s cracked up to be especially since I’m teaching English and not Creative Writing. I’m correcting grammar and trying to explain why that is a clause and this is a phrase. Truth be told, I know it because I know it. I learnt it and it stuck, but I can’t tell these young 14 & 15-year olds why. I feel very torn each day as I drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to shower and look decent. We run from 7:30-5 each day; those of you who know me personally know how SO NOT a morning person I am! (I am aware of the incorrect sentence I’ve inserted). Will it grow on me as they are all chiding? Will I wake up one morning and just love it that I am going to teach young minds the skill set required to write a successful summary? Would I be doing more harm than good to own up to the truth that I dread waking up when the alarm goes off?

 

 

On the flip side, a week ago I made my debut in the writer-artist society. I read from the famed book, African Women Writing Resistance. Mamle Kabu and I were the writers for August at the Goethe-Institut. It was well attended and the comments from the audience were positive and productive. Talking about naming, skin color, and hair texture is much needed in this African country where skin bleaching is very much a big part of the culture and the weaves people invest in could feed poor families for days. I took 20 students from my school and they impressed me with how well-behaved and engaged they were. I met a lot of other writers and readers that evening and sold all the 15 copies of the AWWR that I had brought with me. The latter was a blessing since I had paid excess baggage fees on them in addition to the book cost and shipping.  I had a sense of accomplishment of sorts after this event because it felt like all my scribbling from way back when I was in school (in Ghana) had somehow come full circle. I had a ready audience of my people listening to my version of what had happened to me while I was abroad. Since there were also quite a number of expats in the audience, I received comments about their similar experiences.

Apart from doing the reading, it really has felt like I have had no life besides that life which being at work gives me, so as I scratch my afro to think of what else has been going on in my general life, I realize that they all have to do with work. But wait…I know! I went to Cape Coast last weekend! We went to visit the Slave Castles, the beach, and some other historic sites. We had two visitors to our campus and I had the privilege of showing them around. I felt really good to have been able to still melt into my environment and seamlessly act as a tour guide to them. Of course I suffered my own moments of feeling the outsider and being thought of as African American because of my “dreadlocks” (twists really), but that is a whole new story which I think I will do in third person. It was a great trip overall. It’s where my proper Fante roots originate, and as you all know by now, I think it’s always good to return to your roots. Of course it helps if you still speak the language of the people and you have enough disposable income that you can afford to overlook the over-priced cost of items because you have the presence of an “obroni” (white person) or you have been transformed into one in their eyes.

So it’s been a month and some days and a lot has gone on but mostly it has been an internal struggle to deal with my “call to the continent” and adjusting to my new job. I think the sad attempts at cooking have tons to do with my new kitchen, but also with my state of mind of having one foot in each “Home”. I wonder if for all returnees this is what happens. Do you always keep a light burning over there for when you might return home? Would I have been able to return here if I didn’t always keep one toe in Ghana? But then again, after my first few months in the US when my mother refused to buy me a return ticket back to Ghana, I tried to focus on keeping all ten toes on US soil for a while. Perhaps I will need to apply that rationale here as well, at least for now to calm my bi-polarized mind.

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3 comments

  1. Confucius said “When the chef is ready the cooking god will appear” or some variation of that… the guy spoke too much but that’s neither here nor there.
    Whether or not it grows on you know that you’re doing us all a great public service and reducing the number grammatically incorrect résumés that we’re going to be seeing.

  2. What did you read? (Women in Nigeria need to get the same skin bleaching/hair weave message.) How exciting that you hit the scene and that you sold books! I always mess up in a new kitchen.

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