Monday, March 26, 2007

Sunday Scribblings - In the Kitchen

This was our kitchen in Chimoio, the place where I would spend the bulk of my time during the 9 months I lived in that crazy shared house. It was dirty and constantly in a state of disarray despite the fact that we had a maid, but I loved it despite the chaos. Cooking was somewhat of an escape for me, a chance to be away from my housemates and have some quiet moments to mull over the day's events and my general feelings about being in Mozambique. At times it felt like being in the kitchen was the only thing that kept me sane...

One day as I sauteed portabella mushrooms for an omlette (an exciting once-a-year find at Shoprite), I contemplated death.

It was the day after one of the scariest car rides of my life. I had felt completely out of control careening down a dirt road on the side of a cliff with one of our housemates driving. I suspected he was drunk and on pills. I pleaded with him to stop the Land Cruiser, to let me drive. He refused, and I cried in the front seat while trying to hold on to the door handle. There was no seat belt. At that moment I was certain we would have an accident. My mind went wild imagining the possibilities...the vehicle toppling head over tail into the banana plantation below, or perhaps slamming into a tree on the side of the road. I was anticipating the possibility that I could die out there on the dirt road from Chimoio to Espungabera. In the end, we made it with only one minor incident where we went off the road into a cane field. I never got in a car again with this particular person driving.

Cooking the mushrooms gave me a chance to decompress, to re-live and then recover from the trauma of being at the mercy of a vengeful, dangerous driver. The emotions were so strong that I started to cry. A few tears splashed into the pan with the mushrooms, sizzling briefly. As we later sat down to eat, I imagined for a moment that my tears might have an intoxicating effect on my housemates, like Tita's powerful cooking in "Like Water for Chocolate", bringing everyone at the table to silence as they accepted the concept of impermanence.

Now that Rico and I live in Maputo, cooking still is my favorite time to contemplate my life, as if chopping tomatoes, adding a touch to curry to a soup, and struggling to peel the tough outer layer of manioc root were the catalysts for introspection. Being in the kitchen now, however, is no longer an escape; rather is all about the joy of inventing new flavors, experimenting with ingredients and sharing healthy food with the person I love.


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Frances said...

That kitchen looks like it has stories to tell.
I could smell the portabellos!
So nice that the kitchen has become such a joyful place for you and your special someone.
I thoroughly enjoyed your post.
Now why did the first comment have to be a spam?
Have a marvelous week,

Lacithecat said...

And your little friends, who get a lovely treat when shopping for jewelry!

I want summer to arrive so I can drap everything around me again!

African Kelli said...

Wow. Such a great post! I love that movie -- the way her emotions were played out in the food. And I can relate. I've cried into food before. And laughed into food too, for that matter.
I am so, so glad you didn't get into a serious crash.

Alina said...

I wish I could spend so much time cooking. i do it rarely and generally don't like it.

As for that jerk, well, I knew the story, but I still feel like kicking his ass. If it happened to me, that would have been the first thing I'd do after getting off. Beating the hell out of him.

Yes, it is not girlie or nice, or polite or forgiving of me. But I'd surely do that!

Bilal said...

ooh, thats nice!

Amber said...

How scary that ride was! You poor baby. I would have been the same way.

...Although I would never cook mushrooms. Yuck! lol But happy it worked for you, babe. ;)


jenica said...

LOVE the post! your words always wrap me right in. and even though i'm not a fan of squeaky food (mushrooms), i do think your roomies must have experienced some of that emotion through the mushrooms.