Assignment: Tell us about your favorite childhood meal – the one that was always a treat, the one that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you, and has deep roots in your memory. Feel free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event that it marked. Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.
I was not a picky eater in my childhood (or teenage years or as an adult, no matter what my siblings may say) but I cannot remember having a favorite meal as a child. I will refrain from going into psychotherapy mode and asking myself, “What does it mean to you that you do not have a favorite childhood meal?”No need. In the words of Dr. Sigmund Freud, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But I digress.
What I do remember is that there were several foods I relished and still do to this day: slightly ripened plantains with salt fish; cook-up rice (a mixture of peas, rice, chicken or other meat); roti and curry; pholourie (made with peas and spices, shaped into small balls and fried) with mango sour (images included below in the order foods are mentioned*).
I also remember that certain meals were reserved for specific days of the week. Thursday, for example, was the day for cook-up rice; Saturdays and Sundays (expect when Christmas Day fell on a Sunday) were reserved for mettagee and soup, respectively. In my family, mettagee was typically made with ground provisions such as plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, and yams, boiled in coconut milk, and topped off with fried fish. Saturday was also the day when bread was baked. Ah, to a child, there was nothing quite like eating a slice just out of the oven covered with melted butter.
I do not know when and why these traditions began in my family but strong memories are attached to them. I recognize now that they added consistency to my days and, combined with other aspects of family life, contributed to the stability I experienced at home. To this day, there is no gathering of our clan that does not include plantains and cook-up rice. I am sure my siblings will agree that, during these gatherings, there is something about the time together preparing these meals (or observing the meals being prepared, a privilege I enjoy frequently as the “baby” in the family), that connects us to our past in ways that we cannot fully explain.
*Images found on the web.