if you can’t do anything, just collect your mother’s recipes


10 • Reflections

Volume 10, Issue 02
April 8, 2024

if you can’t do anything, just collect your mother’s recipes.

It’s a lesson from my favourite photographer – Vanley Burke. Look him up, then come back to this.

We were discussing missed moments. The time left between the constant photos, spaces experienced but not captured. The people he knew, loved, hugged and laughed with – but aren’t held in his photos. He reminded me, as kind older uncles 1 often do, that there are things we do now to tell stories for later.

But later seems like an odd discussion. Now has a strong grip. While we watch worlds crumble through black mirrors, hope fights to keep her head above water. Ten years from now doesn’t seem any more loving than today. For me, it is only in collective that we begin to hope. There are things, small collective rituals, that can package that hope for later.

To him those things didn’t have to be photos alone. They could be a phone call, a letter, a voice note, a diary entry. Or a book of your mothers’ recipes. 2

I invite you to join me and package a piece of hope for later.

So, Call someone – And ask them for the recipe of the best thing they make.

Here is my mother’s recipe for Akara - it’s a Nigerian dish that can be eaten at any time, but morning/afternoon is preferred. I’ve loved it since I was a kid.

Wash 500 g of brown African honey beans
Add peeled and roughly chopped onion, 1 big white onion best
Add fresh scotch bonnets pepper
Add 2 knorr cube original
Blend with a bit of water, maybe 80 mls
Ensuring thick consistency
Add a pinch of sea salt
Fry in a deep frying pan until golden brown
Turn regularly to reduce absorbing oil

Things to note - they won’t mention everything that makes that meal special. That’s for you to add. My mum forgot the very specific brand of custard and agage bread we eat with it. Or that old oil can be more flavourful. Or that I will always be reminded of eating it with her every time I make it.

It’s a powerful practice, collecting. But the re-enactment, the making, the rewriting and layering, that is where the hope is stored.

Collect your mother’s/brother’s/uncle’s/friend’s recipe. Add the special things they miss. Then make it.

  1. Uncle – affectionate term for older men who may or may not be related to you. ↩︎
  2. Read ‘The Mothers’ by Brit Bennett to understand the pluralism here. A beautifully written story. ↩︎

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