Thursday, September 06, 2007

One side of the story

Baby’s heritage project got me thinking about the traditional versus modern families and how we portray families in books.

Each week she’s to make a presentation about some aspect of her culture (maternal and paternal) to her class, and bring items (like food, clothing or piece of art).

It’s been easy for me to tell her stories, answer some questions and help her do additional research on the Internet about Setswana culture.

But my knowledge of her paternal culture is mostly intellectual, and we’re relying on the Internet to fill a lot of gaps. Somehow that part of the presentation doesn’t have the same richness because it lacks personal anecdotes and experience.

It got me thinking about the fact that:

- Kids from single parent families get a skewed sense of identity as they live and learn about the culture of the custodial parent and little about the other party.

- Single parents have to make an effort to teach their kids about the other half of their heritage. This is difficult if the separation was acrimonious/the child is adopted and you have no clue. School projects like this one go a long way to get the process started.

- Local books portray different permutations of what a family is, and that is a good thing. Sure there are still traditional families abound - I grew up in one, my older brother raised his kids in one and I hope my younger sister will too. But there are times when that is not possible, and our children's books should tell that story too.

Anyway, Baby and I discussed the menu for the presentation. She decided to take bogobe ba mabele (brown porridge) to school. This is a traditional Setswana staple.

You can eat mabele with savoury dishes like meats and vegetables or with milk and sugar.

To cook mabele, you boil water, mix it a fermented mixture of the porridge + water mixture to make porrdige the consistence of cooked cereal, let it simmer for 15 minutes, then add more dry porridge for stiffening (not too hard). Cook for thirty more minutes in low heat, and mix it together every ten minutes. Serve.

Baby says she wants to try this dish.

She's familiar with the white porridge, which we eat regularly, but she has never tried the traditional morogo ( wild leaves). Morogo looks like spinach, has a harder texture and slightly more bitter. Cooks very well with onions and tomatoes, a dash of salt and pepper, and a spoon of oil.

Or you can salt it a little bit, add spoonfuls of peanut butter to flavour and serve. If you have ground nuts, throw in a handful or two. Goes well as a side dish.

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