The Personal Narrative
The students of Democracy Prep Harlem High School have written a series of personal narratives, taking on a variety of forms. Featured here is an example that explores the significance of food to a scholar’s family.
There is no objective history. When we reflect on the events in our lives, they are already filtered through the limited lens of our own perspective and interpretation. Therefore, in writing our stories, we revisit the past to seek greater honesty by asking questions.
We share our stories and we make ourselves vulnerable: to criticism, to claims of partial or complete untruths. In the best moments though, once laid bare, we realize that our personal stories bring together a wider community of those who share our lived experiences. In this act of self-identification between the reader and our story, we and the reader feel slightly less alone.
The Passion Behind the Food
By: Daniel Bamah
“Why, why you do you continue to make this food if we are in a new country?” I ask.
“There’s a passion in sharing it,” my mother says. “It’s something that brings the family a little closer together.”
Before they left Ghana, every evening around 6 pm, my grandmother would go into the large kitchen with my mother and a few of my aunts and start preparing food for the family. Each time we go back to visit, they pick up the same tradition. The kitchen floors are covered in uprooted tiles and lined with huge pots that still smell of soap. The cabinets are usually left open to allow fresh air to flow in and dry the damp plates resting inside.
The smell of the kitchen swiftly moves around the house, capturing the nose of everyone there. One by one, everyone rushes to the living room tables waiting for the food. Adults sit at the glass table and kids sit at the wooden one. The TV, with speakers behind it and wires that run across the wall, is always tuned to the soccer station so my dad, brother, and uncles could watch the international games. Tall lamps hover over a torn-up sofa bed, which was ripped from children jumping on and off of it. We usually wait a while because we came too early to the table and the food takes some time to prepare. But it’s moments like these, waiting, that bring everyone together. We sit there and talk. The adults talk about their day, politics, and sports, and, on some occasions, they will crack jokes, while the kids talk about school and play games.
Sometimes it takes 30 to 45 minutes of waiting for the food to be brought out but, because of the laughter and joy, it seems more like 20. When the food arrives, everyone closes their eyes and one adult and one child prays over the food. We often eat Jollof rice, Wache, Banku and tilapia, Omo Tuo, Gari, Fufu, Ampesi, and Kontomire Stew. Sometimes if the food requires, we dip our hands in a bowl of water.
As we eat, we begin to talk and treasure the meal to the fullest because it only comes once a day and it’s the only meal that brings the family together. My mother especially cherishes these moments because they only last for so long.
Now, after school, I come home and do my chores around the house before we sit and eat. It’s something that everyone looks forward to after their day. My mother makes dinner feel more like a norm than a special occasion, because she wants us to follow this tradition on a regular basis. The kids sit around the wooden table and my parents around the glass. We sit, pray, eat, and talk, and relieve ourselves of the day’s hardships. For my mother, food will forever be more than just what we eat.