I made bone-in tilapia last night for dinner and it was a reminder to me of why I don’t make a lot of “traditional” Zimbabwean food. Now, just so you know, I love most of the food I grew up eating in Zimbabwe. Some foods that I didn’t like as a child, I now love and have an appreciation for, especially now as I try desperately to hold onto my roots. Enter my American born kids; they just don’t have the same appreciation for my beloved Zimbabwean cuisine.
It’s little incidents like this that remind me that I’m caught in the middle of 2 different worlds. The world of my childhood in my country of birth, Zimbabwe, and the world that I now call home, The US. I have officially been in the US for more years than I was in Zimbabwe, 19 to be precise. It’s funny though how I still feel a stronger sense of belonging to Zimbabwe than I do to the US. There are so many things that I love about the US, but there’s always that yearning and sense of belonging I feel for Zimbabwe that I wish my kids would feel, love and embrace too.
My husband and I have had many talks at length about whether or not we will ever go back to Zimbabwe and every single time, no matter how feasible it seems for us to go back, it always circles back to our children. It has been a hard and bitter pill to swallow but we have come to understand and accept that our kids are very much American in every sense of the term. In as much as we try hard to impart our culture to them, which they love, they just don’t and will never appreciate it as much as we do. Our kids love it when we take them back to Zimbabwe and show them some of the things and places they hear about from my husband and I in our many stories of growing up in Zimbabwe, but like us, they have a different and stronger sense of belonging to the US because it is where they were born and it is where they established their earliest memories.
A part of me feels sad that they will never know the Zimbabwe that we knew and loved, but I’m also grateful that they get to experience 2 worlds, very different from each other, but can call both home.
They love to share stories and experiences of their travels to Zimbabwe with their friends and I encourage them to because I want them to always share with others who may never set foot in Africa what it’s like “there” based on their personal experiences and in the process educate them of a world outside of these United States.
Isn’t it crazy how something seemingly so mundane as a meal can evoke some deep musings on life? As for the bone-in tilapia? The consensus was, we like, not love, like how it tastes but, “it’s too hard to eat because we have to pick out the bones which we are afraid to accidentally swallow and have something terribly dangerous happen to us because those bones are sharp mom.” My response in true Zimbabwean mom form was and is almost always, “well, one day you will come to appreciate my laboring hard for you in the kitchen and you will come begging me to make this and many of my dishes that you don’t appreciate now!” The same response we would get from my mom when we were kids whenever we showed disdain for some of those very meals that I now love to make and enjoy with my family.
Do you have any dishes or meals that bring back special memories? Please share them with me in the comments below, I’d love to hear all about them!