I love this Food
by Zita Muhsin of Hopkins, Belize
Dish Prepared: Falomo Hudut
Location of Interview: Olney, Philadelphia
Date of Interview: January 29, 2016
Interview: Pascale Boucicaut
Photographs: Adachi Pimentel
Zita uses the word love a lot, but manages to express the emotion completely and without minimizing its meaning. I imagine a big part of her ability to evoke love is that she is very much in love, and newly wedded to the love of her life, Waliyyah Muhsin.
"Part of the reason I fell in love with her," explains Zita, is "that she came into my life and embraced my culture... Now she's texting me in Garifuna!" This is all the more impressive considering Garifuna is a language that people are fighting to preserve. In the town of Dangriga, where Zita's ancestors first landed in Belize, a school has recently opened with the purpose of teaching young people to speak their ancestral language and preserving it for future generations. "[Garifuna] is not going anywhere," Zita says with assurance. "They just need to really work, the kids, they need to start speaking Garifuna and be proud of who they are and where they come from."
Zita learned to be proud of her language when she moved from Hopkins - a small town on the Caribbean coast of Belize, to Chicago - a big city at the foot of Lake Michigan. It was 2001 and after moving in with her aunt, Zita started to realize that her little cousins in the United States weren't speaking Garifuna at all. It was in the absence of hearing it spoken regularly that Zita started to love her language more. "I just love it." She says. "I love it. There's just something about it... The Garifuna culture is rich."
Much of the cooking the Zita grew up with is also rich - in flavor and in history. Like the Garifuna language, she started to fully appreciate the unique cooking of home here in the United States. I think many of us can relate to that experience. There's a longing for certain feelings and flavors that I find are most satisfied through my taste buds.
Zita taught us to make Hudut, a special mash of green and sweet bananas which is served with fried fish and Falomo, a seasoned coconut milk broth. Cooking it was labor intensive and time consuming. While grating the coconut, Zita told us stories about preparing hudut as a child. It was a dish she loathed because of the time and effort it took to prepare. Her colorful stories made our hard work pass quickly, and we were so happy to enjoy the aromatic and luxurious dish, which we ate together with our hands at the table.
And she just loved it. And so did we.
using the hana to make hudut