Monday Meal Review: Mozambique

THE SCENE:

Recently Tulsa was blown over by some pretty mighty winds. Trees scattered their branches – the old, the cracked, and the decrepit littered the neighborhood streets. The next day I walked with Ava while she rode her tricycle.  Every few minutes I stooped over to the pavement, gathering small twigs and branches until my hands were full.  I would use the firewood in our chimnea.

While I hate to see something good go to waste, I still felt a twinge of shame when the occasional car passed us by.

I was that lady. Picking up sticks for no apparent reason at all. The weird lady.

Ava pedaled happily along, occasionally pointing out another stick for me.

Her simple, unquestioning willingness to help me, her mother, moved me. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of the jaded years to come.

I silently looked to the sky and said a few words of thanks for the child.

Thank you for not judging me with jaded eyes.

Thank you for helping me with eager hands.

Thank you for smiling with all your heart.

I also asked, ever so quietly, that she would never change.

A few days later, when I cooked Mozambique, I ran across this picture:

Firewood in Mozambique. Photo by Steve Evans.

As a developed society, we have so few resources that we can provide for ourselves, without relying on industry – without pulling out our wallets. Chickens aren’t allowed in the city limits, so I can’t have my own eggs. I certainly can’t have a cow or a goat graze in my yard, for milk or meat. I don’t have time to go fishing or hunting all day.

Bottom line: I have very little control when it comes to providing for my family all by myself.

But I can collect firewood after a windy day.

It’s a small thing. It’s almost silly, really. But this simple act is beautiful. It makes use of the unwanted. The forgotten.

Using the resources in my very own street, rather than purchasing firewood for $4 at the grocery store, makes me feel closer to my community. But, ironically, it makes me feel closer to Mozambique, half a world away.

That afternoon, as I walked next to my smiling child, I felt closer to real life.

THE FOOD

Swahili Ginger n’ Milk Tea [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

The ginger gives a mildly spicy, tickle-your-throat kick that is at once warming and comforting. The milk and sugar round the tea out, making it nearly impossible to put down. I made this with decaf black tea so Ava could try some of mine. I could barely get her to stop guzzling it. She loved this tea.

What I love least about this dish:

Personally, nothing. But Keith, a.k.a. Mr Picky, left his mug 2/3rds full. While he tried the tea hot, he was also very quiet about this drink, which leads me to think he wasn’t crazy about it. I’m planning to make it for him cold, like I did for Ava. I think he’ll enjoy it 100% more on ice.

Chicken Mozambique with coconut Piri Piri [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

This chicken surprised me. I expected a strong, almost overpowering flavor, but instead the marinade proved light and subtle. Think tropical, thanks to the smooth creaminess of coconut milk. The lemon juice and chilies in the piri piri make for a bright, spicy kick. I was nervous about feeding this to Ava but the heat wasn’t bad at all and she loved the skin, requesting pieces of skin every other bite. Keith liked it too, remarking how beautiful the skin was.

What I love least about this dish:

The key to getting the most out of the flavor is to marinate the legs as long as possible. You can also score the skin to help it soak in. Be sure not to brush the chicken too much towards the end of cooking, to maximize crispiness.

Lemon Piri Piri [Recipe]

What I love most about this dish:

This piri piri is fresh, quick and delightful. Honestly, I thought I’d just barely tolerate this sauce, but the lemon juice and garlic really gave it a nice, happy flavor that went beyond plain ol’ burn-your-mouth-off hot sauce. I was also very proud of Ava who ate some of this directly on her rice. While she guzzled some water afterwards, she did not cry or complain one bit. Even Mr Picky enjoyed this (although he would have preferred less lemon juice).

What I love least about this dish:

Not much – if you’d like to put something a little hot and unusual on your Global Table this is a fun way to do it.

Ava’s Corner

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Comments

  1. Jessica Bennett says:

    I love that you come up with a perfect story (and write it so well) to share every week. I think that’s what keeps me coming back to this blog on a regular basis. Of course the recipes are wonderful, and I come back here when I want to make something specific (or just need an idea), but I really like reading your stories and watching Ava grow up. Thank you again, for sharing your life with us. And yes, certain things are easier to eat with your hands before fully developing fine motor skills, but she’ll get there :)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thanks Jessica – so much of the fun, for me, is finding those connections between my life and the life of people in another country. It adds so much richness to our lives. I’m glad you enjoy it :)

  2. They don’t automatically get jaded with age, mine didn’t and she’s 23, now. I think the trick is to treat being curious and open-minded as the unremarkable norm, while always expressing surprise and a little sadness at the negatives that she will inevitably see around her.

    The chicken was milder than I expected, a pleasant subtlety, and the simple and quick piri-piri was nice, as I like to be able to temper the heat to my own taste.

    Mozambique, a definite win and repeat for guests!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Oh, I’m so, so, so glad to hear this! And thanks for reporting back on the chicken and piri piri – I’m thrilled you tried it :)

  3. I think Tulsa does let you have chickens now in the city limits… I think it has to be less then 5 or 6.

    • Yeah, you can have chickens but not roosters, and not more than 5.

      • Sasha Martin says:

        Hmmm… something to think about. Considering my cat left a pile of feathers at my back door this morning, our household might not be the best candidates for chickens. :-/

  4. Love, love, loved this post Sasha. Thank you

  5. Ruby Libertus says:

    I thought of you picking up sticks as I picked up stones from the Philly State Park to use in the fish tank and water fountain-why not use those from nature rather than store bought and am sure the fish can sense the difference ;).

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