Wednesday, 3 August 2016
"And we can get…" She stops, bows her head in frustration.
"Can you describe it?"
"We used to call it meeli in Kenya."
My Swahili is limited.
"You hold it and you bite off bits of it…"
"I hate this! I hate losing words!"
Later, I check Google Translate, which tells me that the Kiswahili word for corn is mahindi. I check for different types of corn, different African languages dialects (there are at least five in Kenya), different spellings. Meeli doesn't come up.
Demeter is adamant. She and her siblings called corn meeli.*
We get the corn, but it's too early and it's bitter.
(*Update: Friend of the Right Hand tells me it's mealie, from the Afrikaans word mielie, so my mum and her family somehow got the word from South Africa, despite living in Kenya.)