For Eve, Africa is still the embodiment of life. Before Jerome, she returned to Africa time and again because she needed to be needed and she needed to forget. The mother continent, it was a web of life that reminded her she was a fraction of what it was to live. Wild and untamed, it shimmied along a dangerous line between survival and annihilation. She was not sure that she didn’t skate the same boundary–that everyone didn’t. It was just easier to know it in Africa. And Africa was a dream of a home, but it was too big to really define one. Jerome had ended all of that for her, but lately, its siren had been singing to her–beckoning her. She knew that entanglement would never end.
She cut the onion into thin semi-circular strips as Yemi Alade’s Africa blared throughout her small Manhattan kitchen.
She blended the cornstarch in the clean saucepan and gently heated it, adding the onions to saute until they turned brown. Yemi Alade’s playlist switched to Tumbum. She smiled. Perfect. She stirred in the pureed tomatoes. The aroma evoked so many memories the way sauteeing onions seemed to always do. It wasn’t just Africa. It was her life before, too. Daddy, Mama, and Terrell. The act of cooking entangled her in her memories.
Terrell. She combined the water with the tomato paste and stirred it into the onion and tomato mixture. Her Africa playlist switched to Kukere by Iyanya. Her hips swayed as she returned the beef and juices to the the pan. She pinched some salt from the dish she kept by the stove and sprinkled it over the mixture. The phone rang. Caller ID–her neighbor. No way would she turn down the music. She was entangled in the zone now. She switched the playlist to Collabo by P-Square ft. Don Jazzy. Her hips continued to sway as she slipped her tank over her head. Sweat dripped between her breasts and the walls closed in.
Eve leaned over the sink, opened the small kitchen window, and let the aromas slide out into the air that hovered over Manhattan. She gathered up her Mama’s wooden spoon and stirred the beef mixture. She let the stew simmer while she swayed into the bedroom, unclasped her bra and let it slide from her shoulders, and donned a loose yellow top that flamboyantly showed off her still beautiful ebony skin.
She returned to the kitchen. Jerome would be home within the hour. She measured the long-grain white rice and left it by the pan of already poured water. Steam lifted and she dreamed of jungles. It had been a long time since she had made Nigerian Beef Stew but she had been struggling with a yearning–no, a hunger that fired in her soul.
Her playlist switched to Miziki by Dobet Gnahore. Now she was gone. There was a part of her that no longer belonged in her tiny apartment. This was dangerous ground. She risked losing everything in the entanglement. She pulled out another pan and added a few tablespoons of oil to heat. She wiped the sweat from between her breasts and ran her forearm across her forehead. She added the onions that she had chopped fine with the tomato and green chile to the now heated oil and sauteed the mixture. After adding salt, pepper, thyme, and a pinch of cayenne to her boiled and mashed yams, she added the sauteed onion and tomato mixture.
Come and See My Moda by MzVee ft. Yemi Alade switched on and she took 1 beaten egg and 1/2 cup of bread crumbs and mixed them together. Forming small patties, she sauteed them in peanut oil until brown on both sides. Fiery Yam Fritters. Ha! Poor Jerome would be getting a taste of Africa tonight. She retrieved them from the pan and spooned them onto a paper towel clad plate. Wiping her hands on a kitchen towel, Eve retrieved a glass from the cabinet and poured herself a glass of wine. The scent of the yam fritters mixed with MzVee’s song brought her close to tears. She would never be able to tell someone to go see her Mama and she wished that more than anything. She took a long sip from her now condensation-coated glass and changed the song to Lazizi by Sauti Sol.
The rich male lyrics reminded her of Terrell. She threw down the kitchen towel and switched into Angelique Kidjo’s rendition of Voodoo Child–Jimi Hendrix and bad ass African queen rolled into one. She looked at the clock. There wasn’t enough time to finish. The stew and yams would have to be enough. She retrieved a spring mix and cucumbers to cut the heat and tossed the salad as the playlist switched to Chiwoniso Maraire’s Zvihcapera. Her mood lightened and she imagined the birds that would flutter in the treetops all those years ago. The music transported her. ChinChin would have to wait for another day. She wasn’t done with Africa anyway. Not by a long shot. She was a badass warrior African queen.
FIERY YAM FRITTERS
1 1/2 lbs yams
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 medium tomato, chopped fine
1 green chile, like jalapeno, seeds & stems removed, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c bread crumbs
Peanut oil for frying
Boil yams with skins on until tender; peel and mash smooth. Saute onion, tomato, and chile in a few Tb of oil until brown. Add seasonings and sauteed mixture to yams. Add egg and bread crumbs and mix well. Form into small patties and saute in peanut oil until brown on both sides. Yield: 4-6 servings.
From DeWitt, Dave, Mary Jane Wilan, Melissa T. Stock, “Flavors of Africa Cookbook.” Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1998, p. 64.