I made some Hausa koko this afternoon for Olivia and myself. Ellie wandered in and decided she’d like a taste. She left the room and returned with her own spoon a minute later.
“Mommy, what are you eating?”
“Koko,” I replied.
“Hmm..it’s good. What is koko?” “Wait! I have an idea…! Let’s look it up in the dictionary!!!”
I almost died of laughter in my thrifted wingback chair. “You won’t find “koko” in the dictionary, Ellie.”
My kids have an affinity for African food. I’ve mentioned this before. Macaroni and cheese–not so much. Ellie absolutely detests potatoes—she prefers african yams. I can forget about spaghetti Os.
Palm oil and leafy greens are etched into their DNA so deep they practically made me crave African food during my pregnancies with them. I don’t mind. It’s taught me to trust my gut when it comes to feeding my kids. They eat what I eat. No special “kid” meals, not even for my one year old. She inhales jollof rice as fast as the rest of us, pound for pound.
It also makes me realize that most of the food sanctioned as kid friendly, and family meals, are crappy and processed. I don’t let the string cheese, toddler yogurts, or baby smoothie pouches fool me; they’re organic and processed.
From the beginning, I’ve made my own blended concoctions of baby food; whole fruits, green leafy veggies etc. But I also fed them real food from as early as 4 months old. (Thanks for introducing watered down light soup to Ellie at four months mom–much to my discomfort) But, in hindsight, that was the best thing because my kids ate early, and ate well. No confusion about what to feed them.
The problem I find with childrearing in the west is that there are no standard folkways to follow. Everyone is on a different method. There is no generational wisdom to follow. What was once standard is archaic five years later. New trends in baby care and baby gear are introduced each baby season of every year. There are new studies done, new philosophies preached, and tons of literature shoved down your throat in the maternity ward. No one knows what’s what anymore.
I’m not one to follow blindly, tradition or modernity. I like to blend, remix and make my own path. But I am grateful to make reference to West African folkways and generational wisdom on motherhood and parenting from my culture, and the African mothers that came before me. This motherhood journey would’ve been unnecessarily stressful, otherwise. We know what to feed our kids, and spaghetti O’s isn’t it.
Maybe Ellie was right; koko—a simple, nutritious, sweetened, millet porridge spiced with pepper and ginger—should be referenced in a dictionary somewhere for all to learn.