My Mother’s Hands

I often think of my mother when I am in the kitchen. Her love is written in a language that is rich with aroma, spice, and deep flavors of home. Since my mom lives in France, it really matters to me that I can conjure her up with a simple meal.

I have recently begun sharing stories of how my mother valued the art of cooking as an expression of love. Storytelling is a cultural tradition I take great pride in, though I am still a humble learner. My hope is that these stories resonate in deep and meaningful ways with people in my community.

This vibrant photo tells a story of her gifts in the marketplace. A couple of years ago, my mother and I traveled home to Benin, her from France and me all the way from North Carolina. Going home is always a gift I cherish and this visit was no different. At some point in the journey, it was time to gather the ingredients for a meal with family. I could not pass up the opportunity to witness my mother in her element at the 'tokpa market in Cotonou. There is something about the familiarity she holds in these spaces…the way she greets other women, her sharp but warm negotiation of price. She always managed to get exactly what we need, whether she was hunting for spices or plantains to make one of my favorite snacks, talé talé.



Alongside her, I can deeply appreciate the lives and labor of the women that bring this marketplace alive each day. Her dedication to feeding her family good, nutritious food is one story of many in that region. Bringing her creativity and the traditions of the women in my community to my work is an honor that I am eternally grateful for. Especially when I can share these gifts with others.

I hope that one day my daughter feels the same warm feeling when she walks by a stall in Benin, finding the perfect ingredients for a recipe she may be trying for the first or 50th time. I hope it is the gentle loving reminder that this community, this sacred rhythm of commerce and food and love is gift from her ancestors that no one can ever take away.

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