The foods that matter

We talk a lot about food. It is definitely one of our very favourite topics of conversation! Probably because food is so rich in memories and associations, so deeply embedded in the human experience of life and community. Many of our conversations about our lives either start with or come back to memories of sharing food with others.

Back in June, we were lucky enough to have a virtual visit from the Scottish Poet Makar, Jackie Kay (find her @jackiekaypoet on twitter) In conversation with our group she shared three of her poems, two of which connected food with other associations or experiences. It inspired us to do the same. Several months and a large number of tangential conversations later ...

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I left behind attieke and grilled tilapia 
Even in my grave I will remember the gorgeous taste of this delicious food 
Two years have passed, but still I have the taste on my tongue, from eating it with my friends. 
I also left behind my sunny beaches 

I left behind delicious pommes pil├ęs 
A light dish made from cooking together a mixture of beans, potatoes, palm oil and onion. 
I remember eating it for the first time at my grandmother’s house 
I also left behind the beautiful weather 

I left behind gaou 
It tastes like a very comfortable foam, ready to sleep 
I happily remember all my friends sharing this together at snack time 
I also left behind those good times with my friends 

I left behind a delicious snack called gnomie with coco baca on the side 
Made with ground millet mixed with ground banana 
I enjoyed eating it with friends on sunny days. It reminds me of more peaceful times in my country 
I also left behind the love of being home 

I left behind fresh fish from the river Nile 
It is crunchy when fried with flour and spices; I can smell the smell of the river in it. 
I ate it with my family on weekends 
I also left behind my lovely family 

I left behind my mum’s version of koftas fingers 
The most delicious koftas I have even had in my life 
I used to have this dish in winter with my family in Sudan 
I also left behind my Mom 

I left behind my sweet-enough pancakes 
A rich creamy batter formed into a thick slice 
Eaten with my friends and family as a delicious snack with any refreshing drink 
I also left behind pains and worry 

I left behind delicious chicken bestaila 
Filo pastry with eggs, chicken, almonds and cinnamon inside; it is both salty and sweet 
We ate it with my family and my mum taught me how to make it. I miss it. 
I also left behind happy memories of my childhood 

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I brought with me okra stew 
A savoury dish with tender lamb meat 
I used to eat it back home and when my beloved wife joined me here she cooked it for me 
I also brought with me my memories 

I brought with me brown rice with fried chicken and tomato sauce 
Made with onion garlic, leek, parsley, mushroom, garlic and carrots 
It’s always a pleasure to share that dish with my friends and family 
I also brought with me a life full of endurance 

I brought with me potatoes keemah 
Minced meat with onions, spices, carrots, fried potatoes, green peas and tomato sauce 
Before, my mom made it for us and now I make this delicious dish. 
I also brought with me many expectations 

I brought with me Gbofloto. 
A delicious doughnut made with yeast, flour, butter, sugar and oil to fry it. 
I eat it with my family and my next door neighbours. 
I also brought with me the hope of new life inside me 

I brought with me attieke and fresh fish soup 
I love its spicy taste because I love chilli 
Its a very easy food to cook 
I also brought with me joy 

I brought with me jollof rice with fried chicken 
Rice filled with ingredients and different spices; the smoky taste makes it special 
I love to prepare it to entertain friends. 
I also brought with me a good character and a hope for a better tomorrow 

I brought with me gouagouassou soup with snails 
A mixture of okra and African aubergine 
I enjoy it after a wonderful Sunday service 
I also brought with me anxiety mixed with colourful hope 

I brought with me Moroccan bread 
Made by mixing white flour, brown flour, a little salt, yeast and water 
It reminds me of Moroccan traditions and we eat it everyday 
I also brought with me my heart 

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Here I have discovered a delicious food called vegetable samosas 
Made from vegetables and other spices that I don’t even know 
It is very tasty and I would enjoy it again if I could 
Here I also discovered canals and attractive canal boats 

Here I have discovered English breakfast 
Sausage, mushrooms, potato cakes, egg, baked beans and tomatoes; nice-looking and rich in protein 
My husband made it for me but I couldn’t finish it! 
Here I also discovered another side of my husband 

Here I have discovered bangers and mash 
A British traditional dish of sausages and mashed potato with peas and gravy 
It was a heartfelt welcome meal with a lovely British family. 
Here I also discovered the love of being a father 

Here I have discovered nkwobi 
Cooked cowfoot in chili sauce sprinkled with stockfish and potash, and garnished with Utazi leaves 
First, my friend prepared it for me and ever since, I often make it and enjoy it. 
Here I also discovered the essence of patience 

Here I have discovered fries and baked beans. 
I never in my life thought that I would like this food but now I love it and can eat it every week 
I eat it with my family and some British friends. 
Here I also discovered many different cultures 

Here I have discovered full British breakfast 
It's very filling and gives me energy for the day 
I love it and I could eat it every day! 
Here I also discovered a very welcoming people 

Here I have discovered masala fish with naan bread 
I like it a lot because it is delicious 
In my first Ramadan here, sitting with friends, someone brought it and I fell in love with it 
Here I also discovered lots of different friends 

Here I have discovered tuna with sweetcorn and mayo 
Its cold, so isn’t like the food I used to have but it is surprisingly delicious 
I eat it with my wife when we don’t have much time to cook 
Here I also discovered humanity

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  1. LOVE this and all the memories associated with food. I like the mix of old and new experiences of different dishes and the discovery of new things in a new country. I feel humbled that my poems helped inspire this. I have a lovely memory of chatting and reading to the group that will stay burning bright, like r a light from a fire, or a stove. A beacon of hope in these strange times. Well done everyone! Jackie Kay


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