Roasted Plantain and Fish

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    The smell of freshly caught fish filled the air as the women and children cut them up and cleaned them out. The young men by the fire had set up the grill and were ready the throw the wide-eyed fish onto the burning charcoal heat. Just beside them were women sitting on small wooden stools, diligently peeling the skin off big ripe bunches of plantain. The younger maidens were ready with the palm oil, tomato, pepper and the secret spices of their community.

    The drums started. Loud and glorious. The little boys ran amok with large frying pans to get in their places. It was time for the dance to begin.

    The horn went off and the women gave a loud cry. The cleaned out fish was held upside down to drip dry and then was thrown up in the air and grabbed by the young men by the grill. The catch was greeted by intense cheering as the women dipped into the bowl of fish again in a dance-like synchronization. The routine was repeated; grab, drip and throw but now the sizzling sound of fish on the hot grill added more rhythm to the movement. The men caught the fish and threw them on the grill in such swift synchronized movements that was just beautiful to watch.

    The second horn went off. The women with the plantain began their own dance. They sent the plantain up in the air and it landed on the smaller charcoal grill set up in front of them. Each successful landing was greeted by loud cheering.

    A third horn went off. The young maidens picked up a calabash of a tomatoes and spice mix and began dancing around the simmering hot pan of palm oil. When they have completed a successful revolution, they simultaneously threw in the mix into the pan and began stirring.

    The sound was beautiful and the aroma divine.

    Another horn went off. A voice spoke over an intercom;

    “We have begun our descent into the city of Port Harcourt, and we will be in the gate in about twenty minutes. We’d like the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for arrival. We want to thank you for flying with us today…”

    Preye wiped the saliva from the side of his mouth. One hell of a nap, he thought. As he walked out into baggage claim, he could only think of the closest route to a roadside bole stand.


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