African men don’t cook but my father—full bearded, with powerful arms at either side of a taut potbelly—was emancipated from this stereotype, if only partially.
He only cooked on Sundays.
Any other day, he didn’t step into the kitchen unless he was trying to reach our frail second floor balcony. He was a powerful man and the insecure railings squawked in muffled anxiety as he leaned against them while imperiously giving orders to the scurrying workers or kids below.
Sundays started early in my house. Back then my father was the most devout of Catholics, attending mass seven days a week—Sunday being the culmination of his piety. For my father, mass might have been welcome, but for us kids it was insufferably long.
At the beckoning of the reverend father, an interminable ritual of would begin: stand, kneel, sit, stand, sit, kneel, keep kneeling. Keep kneeling. Never mind the kneel rest wasn't cushioned. My nine year old body was so preoccupied with the hard wood pinching my knees through my smart Sunday pants that I routinely fumbled my Hail Marys.