It’s like a metallic-y lemon smell, Chelsi thought popping open the repurposed milk tin storing dried beans. There was a crisp crunch when she pressed a weevil into the metal wall with her finger. More and more and more began to crawl up the walls. For as long as she could remember, the word weevil had been a part of her vocabulary. But for what reason she didn’t know; for up until she began living in Zambia she would have been able to describe them.
“Like tiny beetles, with round bodies, pointed heads, long antenna.” She fished one out of the tin on the tip of her finger. A hard top shell clicked open and soft wings fluttered out. “Like crushing a peppercorn,” she said to the empty kitchen bring her index finger and thumb together; weevil in between.
There was nothing dangerous about them, but the idea of eating beans with such an infestation reviled her. In nearly every bean at least one hole was bore, the home of the little beetle. Most of the beans sported four, five or even six holes, more weevil then bean at that point. And though there were few thing Chelsi could not stomach, there was something about the smell of the weevils, almost tangy, that left the beans unpalatable.
“But wasting them totally would be such a shame.” She emptied the entire tin in to a large pot, filled it with water and set it on the large burner on the electric stove in the Prov house. “But perhaps I’ll be able to make it in to animal feed.”
She remembered back to the fourth grade, visiting at a friend’s house. Her friend’s family stored all their breakfast cereals in air-tight tuber-ware containers.
“Why do you do that?” she had inquired.
“My dad says it’s the only way to keep the weevils out.”
At the time she did not know what a weevil was, but just the name gave the indication that she should shutter. Over the years she forgot about the little beasts. Something about the sterilization and quality standards of the American food supply; they were not a part of everyday life. She had to laugh a little now though when she thought about the idealized conversations she had with friends about pesticide-free, organic food. This is what pesticide-free means.
When the beans were soft she drained off the water and mashed them by squeezing them between her fingers. She wondered all the while if hand cream makers knew how soft mashed beans made your skin feel. What was now a paste was spread on several cookie sheets and left out in the sun to dry.
Back in the house she laid out the rest of her ingredients: Five parts starch, she hoisted an old bag of corn flour, or roller meal, the table, one part fat, she placed a green cellophane bag full on pounded peanut next to the roller meal, one part wood ash, she had always seen this list on ingredients for animal foods but never understood until a gardener explained that the wood ash was a dense source of minerals. Then three parts protein, the beans where just finishing up drying in the sun.
As she started measuring out her ingredients in to a large plastic bin she came across a couple black, fuzzy caterpillar looking things in the roller meal. I guess its good I’m using this up too.
To get what was otherwise a powder to stick together in pellet form she had been told to use cassava flour as a binder. That was it, there were no other instructions, but she had eaten cassava nshima before; when cooked down the stuff is like puttie.
“If I cook it down, then mix the powder in when it’s sticky, when it dries it will stick together?” she filled a small pot with water and boiled it on the stove. Slowly she whisked in the cassava flour to avoid lumps. It was long before the whisk became stuck in a paste. Bubbles on the surface grew, and grew, and grew, be releasing a long hiss. “That’s probably good,” she reasoned.
The paste burned her fingers when she tried to scoop it out on to the cookie sheet. But she felt the pressure to rush. The cooler the paste became the hard it became to manipulate. She was worried the feed mix would not adhere properly.
She poured some of the pre-mixed powder over the gelatinous mush. What now? She thought poking it with her finger. Poking it again and again, the powder began to penetrate the mush. She poured on more powder, poked it some more. Now squishing it between her hands, covered in the grey colored feed powder, it reminded her of a sea anemone; the shape and squishable consistence.
Adding more and more powder, she began to knead the mixture like bread, until it could not take and more. What did not happen that she was expecting was for the mixture to crumble on its own in to little pellets. Wishful thinking. So, she pounded it down, about a quarter of an inch thick, then used a fork to break it up in to little pieces; pellet size. It took about fifteen minutes to finish the first mound of mush. But it was finally complete she should the cookie sheet out and took it outside to set in the sun.
It looks pretty good, she thought to herself. Certainly better then trash. She wondered if her dog would eat it, but figure at the very least maybe she could feed it to the doves when she finally moved home and acquired them. Sometimes I really wish it had a pig.