New Year’s eve and a bottle of Cao Lila. I’m seated with my lady at Mama Ashanti, the new one at Waterfront Mall. We are eating West African food because that’s what Mama Ashanti is all about; goat pepper soup, chicken suya, kelewele [deep fried plantain], my favourite), pounded yam.
I’m telling my lady about foo-foo balls, the Nigerian delicacy I read about in The Concubine, the high school set book by Elechi Amadi.
She’d never heard of these things I’m on about on the account that 1, she is much younger than I am and two, she didn't go to school in the country.
Of course, were it not for the whisky and the great music from the live DJ, I'd be boring her with this literature hoo-ha.
The palace is full of families out eating. An old couple in a booth, lonely grandparents, and children all gone and living their lives.
The old lady nods to the Afro music. She’s the fun one, you can tell. The man is probably a surgeon. At another table, a middle-aged couple with two teenage children. They look exhausted. The man sips a beer while the lady whispers with the daughter.
Another table, two families on a date sharing from many plates. At a table for two, a couple. The man’s thighs are the size of a hippo. He fills his chair. He's having a fried goat, tearing at it with his hands. There is a private room upstairs where a big family is having a big private last meal of the year.
My lady is having the seafood okra, which she swears by. I’m having the Eforiro, an assortment of meats and offals cooked together. All in all, looking around, you get the feeling that a major feast is ensuing and is celebratory as West African food feels.
It’s boisterous and busy and waiters run up and down, feeding this moment when the year ends and we step into the next, full and hopeful to always fill our stomachs and our hearts.