It started last spring. I felt lost and unwell. Eventually I saw my doctor, who prescribed antidepressants. I was going through a serious depression and didn’t even know it. But my mum knew what was happening before I did, recognizing the symptoms and preparing me for the journey ahead.
When I was younger, I didn’t know my mother. I was raised by my father, who didn’t allow me to see her, although I would disobey his instructions and sneak out to visit her. When I was ten, my father sent me to Ghana, his homeland, to live with his sister. I returned to England, and my mother came into my life, when I was 13.
My mum is a very knowledgeable woman. I’ve always admired her for that and been grateful for her advice. I’ve never resented her. Although we’ve never really spoken about it, I believe she had her reasons for leaving, and at the time felt that’s what she needed to do. I don’t hold any animosity towards her at all, as I had a lovely relationship with my father.
Mum is Danish but was raised in Great Britain and is more of a traditional British cook; my dad was more of an African cook. I was always excited to eat with my mum after years of Dad’s food. It made me feel “British.” I’d watch her prepare a roast dinner, then try her recipes on my own and call her if I got stuck.
I was 16 when I left home, pregnant with my first child, and I survived with government benefits, in a one-bedroom apartment provided by the local council.
Then last year, things took a terrible turn. I’d drink and take pills, unaware of the panic I was causing, and eventually ended up in a psychiatric ward. That’s when I felt my mother’s pain, her cry with relief that I was safe. I was overwhelmed and ashamed but determined to find a way out. And my mum’s commitment to getting me better was extraordinary.
Today I am in recovery; depression still lingers, but I can manage. My mother has been my rock. We have been through some of the same experiences in life, especially in relationships and friendships, so we relate to each other very well, more as best friends than parent and child. Both of us left home at a young age, had big responsibilities, and learned how to fend for ourselves early on. I can talk to her about anything, and she understands me. I have two children, and she’s there for them, just as she should have been for me. I believe that she has some guilt and tries her best to make up for it.
When I think of my mother, I think of warm and tasty comfort food, and nobody else’s tastes as good as hers.
Nicola Asare lives in London. She can be found @Lala_Asare.
Jollof (African Rice)
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 small green red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 - 2 large Scotch bonnet peppers, stem removed
3 cloves garlic
1 t. vegetable oil
4 T. tomato paste
2 c. medium- or long-grain rice
1 t. salt or to taste
In a blender, combine tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, Scotch bonnets, and garlic until smooth.
In a large pot, heat oil, and fry the blended mixture for 10 minutes over low heat.
Add tomato paste to mixture, blending well, and continue to cook over low heat.
The oil will come to the top.
Rinse the rice and add to the pot.
Add water to cover the rice.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cover and cook over medium heat, adding additional water around the edges if necessary, until rice is tender, approximately 30 – 40 minutes.