Now at the dining table, stomach rumbling, she feels the saliva flood from under her tongue as the whetting wafts wiggle around in her nostrils and tickle her stomach further.
The next wave of rumbling is audible. She hesitates to clench her stomach and dampen the sound, but she is now hungry enough to give up all civility.
“Eh, madam! Is that your stomach?” Mother asks.
“I’m so hungry, I could eat a whole zebra!” she belts.
“With or without the stripes?” Mother asks.
They share a laughter that reminds her of the old days when Mother told them folk stories under the blanket of load-shedding. She can almost smell the cologne the grass wore and the insults the crickets chirped out before dawn came and the chickens were back to peck them off, one at a time.
Mother tows a plate overflowing with food but with none falling off the sides. She places it in front of her ‘little girl’. The opposite side of the table tips upward.
“Curry! With chicken! Mummy!”
Mother places a fork beside the plate.
“You still like it, yes? Oba you now only take ships-sheeken?”
“Hahaa. But you never give me ships-sheeken money, mummy..”
“Anti I’m not your father”
They both burst out laughing. “There’s more food, by the way..” Mother says as she returns to the kitchen wiping a tear off her face with her kitenge.
Her ‘little girl’ looks at the mound of food before her and savours the seconds. The hunger burns deeper now that its fire is yet to be quenched. Every second that goes by that she doesn’t dive into the food head-first is her taunting the hunger that has currently taken her stomach hostage. She considers whipping out her phone for an instagram collage but remembers she left it charging in her room when she came downstairs to eat. She smiles at the plate. The burdened plate shoots back a weary but glad smile.
She lifts her gaze to the tip of the food, where a blob of creamy-golden curry soup is oozing down the clumped vegetable rice, gently pausing in between the grains to seep through before continuing on down to gently glaze the already-glistening chicken drumstick. It pauses at the meat-laden end of the tender chicken piece and collects about itself before gently letting itself glide down the curves of the piece, to the doodo at the foot of the mountain of food.
She closes her eyes and inhales the royal white of the rice, the rich green of the doodo, the shimmering gold of the curry, the thoughtful brown of the chicken, and the broad broth of savoury scents gently nudging her heart to flutter.
She takes the fork from the table mat and takes a gentle stab at the culinary craft. The food responds gently and graciously. She lifts the fork out of the side with a bit of everything – rice, curry, a string of doodo, and a curry-chicken-fillet piece lodged in between the fork’s tines.
She opens up and offloads the entire fork’s contents. She closes her eyes and chews slowly, each meeting of the jaws raising her cheeks until a smile has formed on her face.
Then she speaks.
“Please Mummy, may I have some more?”