On a typical Saturday afternoon, the tilapia is caught straight from the bay of Luanda, whose waterfront gives rise to the capital of Angola on the southwest coast of Africa. After marinating in seasonings, the fish is screaming with flavor, sizzling away in a small metal barbecue.
The beans are slowly cooking in palm oil, seemingly taking forever. My mother boils plantains, yellow as the sun, plus sweet potatoes and cassava, white as snow. She chops tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cucumber, adding olive oil and salt.
As I wait for lunch to be served, I am banging on the table with my knife and fork, creating a song: “Where’s the food? Where’s the food?” My mother tries desperately to get me to be quiet: “Stop that noise before I really lose it and get the rod.”
My dear mother: who worked hard in airport security; who always made sure food was waiting when I came home from school; who had friends in the market so she knew where to get the best produce—never frozen, always fresh. When I was young, she told me to go and play while she was cooking, but had my older sisters in the kitchen with her, gently showing them how to be the master cooks that they are today.
Lunch arrives at 12 noon sharp. The plate is a party of colors, coming together in a single dish. The tilapia fish smiling with the onion sauce on top; the plantain, sweet potato, and cassava on the side; the palm oil beans sprinkled with gari (tiny grains made out of fried cassava). And mufete, a famous dish from Angola, the beautiful coastal country in southern Africa, is served.
After the meal, sometimes my mother would share with us some family history from her childhood, how her mother used to be very strict in the kitchen, with a military style of teaching her girls how to cook and be the “perfect housewife.”
Now my mother and I are closer than ever. We live together, and she has become my “outing partner”—we go almost everywhere together. She is my absolute everything.
Madalena Sangossango is a student in London with a business making cards, party favors, accessories and personalized gift boxes. She can be found at @maggiescrafts2014 and Facebook page Maggie’s crafts.
5 whole tilapia, scaled and cleaned
2 T. salt
3 cloves garlic
handful of parsley, chopped
juice of a whole lemon
Molho de Cebola Picada (Onion Sauce)
3 onions, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1 green pepper, diced
Crush salt, garlic, and parsley with a mortar and pestle.
Transfer to a small bowl, and add 1/2 c. water.
Makes 2 or 3 small cuts across the fish on both sides.
Pour the marinade mixture over the fish, filling the small cuts, as well as inside the fish.
Squeeze lemon juice on fish, and drizzle with olive oil.
Grill, turning once, until fish flakes.
Combine onions, tomatoes, cucumber, and green pepper.
Add 1 t. salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and juice of half a lemon.
Serve with grilled fish.