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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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Ghana

Blogvember #29: The Baby Steps Gourmet.

Cooking is an art form. And in a world of cuisine Van Goghs, I’m best described as the lady with tracing paper who would love to just copy the art without doing all the work. When I was 15, my mother devised a plan: she, my sister and I would take turns cooking. She showed us how to do the basics, some recipes along the way, that sort of thing. I grumbled about it, of course, because what teenager doesn’t grumble? It’s in the teen DNA. But it was actually pretty awesome. I gained skills and became quite confident using them. Eventually, I could whip up a stew or Jollof rice in no time. When I moved out at 24, feeding myself was doable. I could cook my own food.

And then I moved back home.

There’s something about your mother’s cooking that makes your attempts laughable and inedible. And undesirable to yourself. Back home, I would whine to my mother that, rather than me cooking dinner for the family at the stove, she could do it much better. Her eye rolling in my direction was massive. But not doing it regularly like I had in the past wore away at my cooking confidence. When it was time to get to the stove (because all that mid-30s whining wasn’t cutting it with Mother), I found that I forgot simple steps or didn’t move with the confidence I had in the past. So I ultimately decided that I would move to TX and live once again on my own, what shocked me the most was that I actually looked forward to getting back to cooking for myself.

Don’t tell anyone.

Anyway, these days, I cook here and there. Working full-time and engaging in life and worship and new friends and new areas leaves little time to actually devote to homemade cuisine. But I’m working at it. Cooking at home is a money saver, can help me experiment, and at the end of the day, it just feels good to create my own meals.

Don’t tell anyone.

Last night, I decided to recreate my favorite (it deserves italics: favorite) Ghanaian meal: fried plantains and bean stew. Or red-red. Previously, when I tried to fry plantains years

redred
This isn’t my red-red. I ate it too fast to take a picture.

and years ago, I almost burned my mother’s house down. This time, I plowed ahead with my plans to make this pretty easy meal, fears of burning down my apartment building pushed aside and ignored. I pulled out the deep fryer and got to work. I also cooked a stew comprised of black-eyed peas and other yummy things. Back to the italics: it was delicious. I mean: I wanted to lick my fork. Maybe I did. But the very best part, the most awesome, was the phone call to my mom later that evening to announce that I successfully pulled off a meal that, to date, only she has been able to prepare to my liking. (And a Ghanaian restaurant that I was obsessed with frequented back in our area.) I could hear the happiness in her voice. “I guess you’re really growing up,” she also said. We laughed. Because I’ll always be 9 years old where she’s concerned, and I don’t mind one bit. Nevertheless, it was nice to see that all my silly fears (well, only one fear: it’ll taste like dirt) about cooking are just that: silly fears.

Just call me the Baby Steps Gourmet. But I’m still bringing utensils and paper goods to every event I’m invited to, so don’t get too crazy.

Blogvember #15: Your Square Peg.

Had no clue what to talk about today. My equilibrium is off and I want to nap. So here’s a photo of me at 8 years old, sitting for a passport photo, giving you frosty face/don’t come at me/who do you think you are?/just try me. An expression that has served me well through the years.

Happy Tuesday.

Throwback Thursday: The Scowler.

SquarePeg1

Meet your Square Peg, a.k.a., me.

I found this photo in my mom’s “secret” stash of photos one evening last week. I should tell you that my mother’s things–her clothes, perfume, shoes, etc.,–have long fascinated me, which means that since I was little girl, sneaking into her room to see what I could find and gaze at lovingly remains a pastime. Don’t worry: I leave most things undisturbed. Except the clothes. Anyway, I love that she keeps hidden photos and mementos that we don’t have access to. When I found this, I snapped a quick photo and placed it back into its hiding place.

This was taken in August 1983 in Accra, Ghana. I was 4 years old. I’m 100% sure my Dad was the photog, being that he loved taking photos of his children and family, even when we were sullen teens and refused to smile.

My birthplace and my home.

That Mustang, which was my mother’s. (Yep, Mama Square Peg rocked a Mustang!)

Those fat braids. (This was obviously was my go-to style.)

That dress.

Those shoes.

That face.

Oh, that face. Most photos from back, back, back in the day rarely found me smiling. I was a serious kid. I discovered those teeth a bit later, as you can also see from that ruffled, picture day photo. Other ones are of me coolly staring into the camera, as if we’re moments from battle. Ah, memories.

Happy Throwback Thursday.

calling all big heads.

Let’s get right to it, shall we? For most of my days on this planet, I’ve been reminded by my mother about how this thing that sits on my neck nearly cost her her life. If you have a large coconut, I’m sure you’ve heard similar stories from your mom. And lest you think Mom is exaggerating or teasing me unnecessarily, kindly note that for my high school graduation, my cap had to be special ordered from another state because the ones they had at school didn’t fit my head.

Now you understand.

Obviously, I rarely wore hats throughout the years. Moreover, once this lovely fro of mine was nurtured and came into bloom, there was no way I was going to attempt to fit a hat on it. Alas, however, I soon discovered that sometimes the old college try works out: a big head and an afro aren’t obstacles to anything (other than sitting in front of the television). See Exhibit A below.

hatgirl

The caption says it all, no? So now that we’ve obviously mastered hats and fros, the next thing I’d like to try are head wraps. I’ve always been fascinated by the head wrap look, primarily because I grew up with Ghanaian women who could tie a wrap around their heads like nobody’s business. These days, I also love seeing my fellow chocolate ladies rocking them, too, especially other naturalistas. And just like a larger-than-the-average-bear sized head/fro isn’t going to keep me from adorning it with a hat, the next stop is head wraps. Naturally, I sailed on over to Pinterest for some styling ideas, and also to get some, uh, tips on actually tying one. (Mom has shown me more than once. Just like binomials, I don’t get it.) Here are a few beauts I saw.

Don’t you adore the looks? Chic, practical, fun, gorg.

Summertime, and the wrapping is easy…

Tell me: are you a head wrap lady?

Umbrellas.

Unlike Southern California, it really doesn’t rain in West Africa. With the exception of the Harmattan season, where I have sweet memories of my mom gently rubbing lip balm across my lips to protect against the dry, windy weather outside, nothing really disrupted the hot, sunny days back home. Imagine the interesting reaction me and my sister had when we witnessed actual seasons upon moving to States. Months after we arrived, we saw our first snowfall. There’s a picture somewhere of the three of us (me, sis, and little bro) outside our first apartment, bound in tight, wool coats and knee deep in snow. Anyway, all that said, snow wasn’t rain.

Oh, rain. Like this lady, I don’t care for it. Not only because it’s wet and messy and sad and wet, but because every rainfall reminds me of my issues with the umbrella. I recall my bestie watching me struggle to close an umbrella while trying to get into her car one afternoon–without getting wet–and, after finally getting in, hearing her say, “Aw, you don’t know how to use an umbrella, do you?” I know how. I just don’t do it gracefully. I fight it. I grapple with it. I get wet. Can you blame me? I had to get used to a brand new object! Come on.

This morning, as I prepared to head outside, I almost shook my fists at the heavens. Rain. Which meant the umbrella.

Care to read up about that pesky item you carry in your purse (or murse)? Here you go.

Umbrellas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Umbrellas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

 

 

The Unmarried African Woman. (shudder)

Some of you know this woman. She’s your sister, your friend, your fellow cubicle dweller who insists on playing 70s soft rock on her Pandora station, your daughter, your cousin. Some of you don’t believe that the fact that she’s an Unmarried African Woman (UAM) needs to be capitalized, or even an issue. And if that’s you, then you’re surely not African.

(I’m aware that other cultures may experience similar discussions and silly opinions about their unmarrieds and singletons, but my vantage point is mostly African, so I’ll be commenting on my personal experience)

The truth is, this particular community doesn’t understand mid-30s and singleness. It’s not in the DNA, ya’ll. It is not. Marriage and family are the very center of lives and culture. And this isn’t a criticism, by any means. I’ve come to a place where I can look at everything with humorized (not a word) irritation. Sometimes, it’s just pure humor and downright laughter. Anyway. This is generally what I hear as a UAM. Get ready…

  1. Is Your Daughter Waiting for a White Man? This is an interesting question, huh? My mother was asked this question by a family acquaintance about yours truly. (The question in its entirety was, “Is your daughter waiting for a white man? Is that why she’s not married yet?”) Stunned by his question, she very succinctly informed him that her daughter was waiting for the right individual for her, and she wasn’t about to just marry anyone, white, black, or green. Go Mama, huh? When she’s not suggesting I marry someone who just needs to be “polished” (more on that later), she’s definitely on Team Square Peg. Anyway, I suppose he took in the fact that I’m your atypical African woman (read: Americanized, which is a completely subjective term), raised in the suburbs and speaking with her accentless Valley Girl twang, and assumed that I’m waiting for my white knight. Who knows? Who cares?
  2. I know the PERFECT Man for You. No, you don’t. You don’t know me. We’ve spoken two times. Literally. Let that one die.
  3. He Just Needs a Little Polishing. I get that one quite a bit. The future man in question apparently just needs a little varnish provided by me and my lurve, and he should be fine. It doesn’t matter that he’s typically seen talking to himself in a corner somewhere, or laughing at a private joke that only he and the invisible person next to him have shared with each other. Hey, I get that in a relationship, both will be enhancing one another here and there. I embrace it. But that’s a lot of polishing, ya’ll. He (they) needs medication. Not me and my varnish.
  4. So, Is Attraction Important to You? Nope. As a UAM, I definitely want to meet a man who looks like the creature from the black lagoon. No big deal. After all, I’m only getting older, right? And who wants to be vain and superficial? Bring it him on. (But don’t, ok? Don’t do any of that.)
  5. Perhaps Your Standards Are too High. Soooo, we have standards for the car we want to buy, for the pizza we want to eat. And don’t tell me you don’t get hot if they add anchovies when you asked them not to. This is forever. I have standards. Hopefully, so does he.
  6. Honorable Mentions. Don’t marry a short man (Mama), and don’t marry a man with a big head (also Mama). Those are my personal favorites. The reasoning behind these caveats are usually followed by curious African anecdotes that I never fully understand. But I love hearing them.

I’ve no doubt that some of these interesting comments cross cultural lines, but there’s just something about a crotchety African woman telling you that you need to stop being so picky. Kinda feels like home.

Can’t imagine what I’ll hear when I become a MAW (Married African Woman). Sheesh.

from the start.

I’ve always been different.

I entered the world quietly. No crying or whimpering. As a result, the doctor gently swatted me on the bottom. My mother said I turned my brand new head toward the doctor and seemed to gaze at him with disdain. Like, did you just SWAT me, fool? I then responded to the swat with a slight whimper. She had arrived.

And so she has.

"You wanna fight me?"
“You wanna fight me?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was born into a world of beautiful women who never hesitated to speak their minds; into a colorful world filled with electric sights and sounds; into a continent that can best be described as enigmatic and compelling. Yet I came in quietly and remained that way. I observed; I feared speaking up; I sat still. But I also loved what I loved, held on to what I wanted despite the opinions of others, and leveled that same seconds-after-birth expression of disdain to whomever warranted it.

Painfully shy yet unflinchingly stubborn. Wanting to be like everyone else for a long time and hardly a thing like them at all. Never fitting into the mold people expected of me, including the things I wanted for myself. And finally, finally proud of the person I am.

This square peg…is about me. The writer, the worrier, the dreamer, the art lover, the travel lover, the thinker, the overthinker, the African girl, the African woman, the American woman, the silly, the serious, the foolish, the fearful.

Come away with me…

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