A Homemade Life

These past few days, fried, sleeping restlessly, sometimes in pain, spending much more time than I want glued to my chair, churning through data, I’ve been more likely to scroll through the “diversions” content of my news reader (all food blogs) with my morning coffee than content on policy or ‘Africa news,’ which fortunately led me to this interview with Molly Wizenberg, which led me to her blog (which has me thoroughly bashful about my food photos, though okay, I wasn’t necessarily trying to impress), which led me to her first book, A Homemade Life.  It’s a sort of autobiography/collage/essays on recipes and pretty much what I was looking to read at this time, and somehow her ginger chocolate banana breads and cookies and slow-roasted tomatoes and all things requiring ovens isn’t making me angry, just a little hungry and trying to figure out how I can better put to use my little gas jiko.  Mostly, I love the connection of food with feeling (in a way that’s a little more sober than, say, Like Water for Chocolate) and memory.  It’s totally calming to me.  Because I feel a lot of the time that food or drink, but usually food, is one of the few things that can bring me to the present or bring the present in focus as it connects so concretely to each moment and changes each moment completely; although I do tend to race through eating and sometimes cooking food, needing to get back to whatever work I’m doing or needing/wanting to put something in my stomach, I enjoy the details of cooking and eating, and for once it helps to move slowly, with precision.

I remember one day a few years ago, resolving to be more slow about how I do things in the kitchen, because it’s so important, not wanting to burn the garlic or overcook the meat, which is so easy to do and because the simplicity of things coming together in the right way is so satisfying.  But equally needing to resolve to eat slowly, because I somehow have this habit of picking up my plate as I take my last bite and bringing it to the kitchen.  (Partly because the aesthetic of an empty plate is just too horrendous to deal with most of the time, UGH.)

In any case, the food/life writing has calmed me down a little bit.  I’ve been pretty abrupt in my conversations lately, wanting to mostly get out from under them–partly because I’ve been having a lot of nerve pain, and when I combine that with people it doesn’t always go that well.  Especially when I’m disembarking from the bus in town and am met with the immediate Where are you going, madam???  Are you going to Kisumu??? (I assume there are three ? attached to that statement), or trying to sell clothes (I’ve really never met an aggressive fruit/vegetable seller?), sometimes grabbing my arm, and my patience totally evaporates and I’m on the defensive until I get away from the noise.  But at least I’ve been a little slower in my conversations, like with Brother John and Wambui and the waiter at Java who likes to ask me about my research.  And even I was really happy to see my usual fruit supplier in a different location on Monday and I had the chance for once to say “umepotea!”–you’ve been lost! or really “where have you been?” when I am usually on the receiving end of that statement, having not gone to a particular grocery store for a week.

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