Harvest is the debut collection of vignettes from Amanya Maloba. Each piece in this collection focuses on a different aspect of our relationship with food and drink.
Harvest, the title vignette of the collection looks at how the whole concept of harvest has been poisoned by both slavery and by Monsanto:
"Is it the duty of the ex-slaves to defend the land we were brought here to cultivate, systematize, bleed and die on? Even now the stolen land is controlling us. Master Monsanto is poisoning our breast milk."
Taking us back to a simpler relationship with the land and the food it produces is Dirty Roots (Angst):
"when I buy vegetables and get home to find dirt hiding in the crevices of sweet potatoes or clinging to dark, leafy greens, that makes sense to me. Then I feel perhaps I have an iota of a clue about things that happen every day"
I was certainly nodding to myself as I read that passage and the vignette ends wonderfully:
"...a dirty potato to admire, stretched out in front of me in my palms, ceremoniously, welcoming it into the world to be forever cherished".
Of course, some foods may be simple for some people and not so for others. In Termites, Maloba visits Kenya and finds it difficult to eat this local dish:
"my father eats one last critter, still giggling at my self induced horror."
On a much more wide reaching level, Perfect White Rice explores our relationship with rice. Rich white people just enjoy their dish of white, but in this powerful pieve Maloba teases out how rice production is intertwined with the history of slavery.
Slavery and the stereotypes often placed on slaves are explored in The Watermelon Man, a piece that immediately appealed to me as I too, like the narrator, cannot stand to eat watermelon!
Not that all these pieces are weighed down with serious issues. There are pieces about people drinking coffee and wine, eating chappattis, the comfort of food, how some books make you feel hungry and comparing people to fruits.
There's also some beautiful writing here. In Beignets and Trumpets, which weaves food and music together, Maloba describes an ear-worm thus:
"The music is pond water you cannot shake out of your ears"
And this is a collection that you can't shake out of your head, and yes, some of the vignettes may make you feel hungry.
Harvest by Amanya Maloba is available in paperback or as an e-book from Vine Leaves Literary Journal.