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Who’s Full? By Selina Nwulu

Contents Grace Tracing Paper 16 Ways to Eat Well Sweet Talker Even Kim Kardashian Loves Them A Prison on My Plate Every Last Drop Hunger The People of the Corn If We Knew Their Names Weathered Everything is Everything


Tracing Paper

First we eat, then we do everything else - M.F.K. Fisher

My mother’s Okra Soup does not taste the same. It does not come with drums, no precise crunch in honour of the shears that cut them down. Green no longer brazen, but a faint flaccid flop.

A language without words, life’s narrator punctuating every milestone, a nourishing companion, tickler of senses; Convenor of the unruly family, centrepiece of gluttony, treasure trove in plain sight, unraveller of memory; Time capsule, builder of bodies, best and worst mirror, an everyday abundance, routine and extraordinary; A traveller, every bite preceded by a farmer’s knowing, small miracles of nature adventuring over to us, each meal a little harvest, reminding us to live.



16 Ways to Eat Well

Sweet Talker

Don’t eat meat, obviously.

And I’m not sure when you became a sickly whiplash, your two hands gripped around my throat hissing platitudes through cloyed breath. You rattle my teeth, send some kind of shiver through my veins and I cannot tell if I like it. You’re some kind of high I’ve lost the shape of and my heart beats too hard for you. I cannot tell if your love is delicious or a decay to my insides. But you leave sugar on my lips and I always find my way back to you, somehow.

Scrap that, go Keto: high fat, low carbs. Hello? A plant-based diet is the way. Eat what you want - but only 5 bites of it. Well actually, you should only really eat according to your blood type. Try intermittent fasting. Rid yourself of acidic foods, follow an alkaline diet. Calorie control. SmartPoints. Juice cleanse! No, don’t eat meat - only fish on special occasions. OK, wow. Fish is the worst thing you could eat. Steer clear. Look, whatever it is you do just don’t eat gluten. Protein, protein, protein. Become a raw vegan.

Avoid carbs, naturally. Fruitarian, anyone? ***

Meanwhile crops across fields wait, sway, hoping to be known by their truest selves


Even Kim Kardashian Loves Them Avocados. Are. The. Best. Fruit. In. The. Whole. World Avocado trees along La Ligua river drink deep, their roots a straw to the bottom of a cup. No offence, but there’s probably something wrong with you if you don’t like them Riverbed now a callused song, water currents a haunting. You should probably go and grab one right now; hug it, thank it, then eat it— or put it in on your face bereaved soil, raw and exposed. Seriously though, mix it with agave, yoghurt and cacao nibs, then slather it on your face to stop wrinkles from forming. Who needs botox, amiright?? Trees present black green offerings, puckered rivulets on their skin in honour of their river. Avocados are super fattening, yes, but a good kind of fat, the kind that’s good for your heart even Kim Kardashian loves them! Avocados growing in full flourish till water becomes a rumour. They’ve got a ton of fibre in them so they’ll make you feel fuller for longer. An extra round of avocado toast much?! A village water pump rusts,


a well becomes a parched throat. Love your food but trying to eat healthier? Swap in the super-fruit for butter in all your favourite recipes How did washing water turn into a ghost, the livestock a bleating cage? Avocado cookies, avocado cheesecake avocado brownies, avocado cupcakes The river exhales life into her offspring at all costs. Avocado ice cream, avocado banana bread Avocado soup, avocado smoothies, There are so many ways to put avocados in your diet - the list is endless! Mourn for this river that ran too hard. Long live the avocado.


A Prison on My Plate

Every Last Drop

Monocultures are nutritionally impoverished. Monocultures are nutritionally impoverished. Monocultures are nutritionaly impoverished. Mnocultures are nutritionally impoverished. Monocltures are nutritionlly impoverished. Monoculturs ar nutritionally impverished. Monocltres are nutritionally mpoverishd. Mncultures ae nutritionaly impverished. Monocltures are ntritionlly impvrished. Mnocltures are nutrtionly impvrished. Monocltres re ntritionaly impvershd. Moncultrs a nutritinaly impvershd. Mnculturs r ntritinly impvrihd.

I. Her parents say it’s all about the rice seed. The right one is a prophesy of brilliance, made for travel across oceans. But first watch the soil, plough till it is a mixed up version of itself spread like open hands, waiting to speak a new prayer. Bring the water, let it touch the crops as it would a lover giving and nurturing till the rice plants become stretched boasts of themselves. This is akin to weaving silk, tending each husk as an offspring waiting to deliver its promise.

‘The models of agriculture that chemical farming has promoted are monocultures... the same acre of land using biodiversity, using organic and ecological methods, could produce 5-10 times more nutrition than a monoculture can’ - Dr Vandana Shiva


II. Her hands are a jitter of butterfly wings for today she is cooking an inheritance a small offering, the rest bulk cargo waiting to be sold. She counts in God’s name 1.5 cups of water to a cup of rice, for every teaspoon of salt. She’s seen far too many days back broken in rice paddies. Mother and father massaging apothecaries into the ground. Overcooking would be blasphemy, excess salt, like spitting on each and every grain, a spoon too much water, a drowning. 1.5 cups of water to a cup of rice for every teaspoon of salt. She counts in God’s name, lets the grains dance on heat as they simmer a new story, become an open mouth

Hunger full of steam and praise. What means love more than a bowl of rice cooked to the grain of its glory?

III. A transatlantic drop off two for one at Tesco. White/brown/wild/pilau left to wheeze in the pan, the bottom a burnt kind of soil blackening.

I ate and I ate but I could not get full whispered one more bite became my own lie. Secret scavenger tracing fingers across the depths of my shelves for another packet, another promise. I ate and I ate but I could not get full was lured to the mecca of the fridge light, its radiance speaking of salvation humming another dollop, just one. And I, covert alchemist, adding and taking. I ate and I ate but I could not get full and my body a slow bloat pleading one more taste to muffle this wail, sate the emptiness, please. My stomach a full plate, rotting.


The People of The Corn ‘If these agrochemical companies try to do away with our maize, it will be like putting an end to part of the culture that our Mayan ancestors bequeathed to us’ - A Tzotzil Maya elder

Ancho. Apachito. Arrocillo. Azul. Blanco Blandito. Blando. Bofo. Bolita. Celaya. Clalqueño. Chapalote. Checchi. Chulpi. Chuspilla. Comiteco. Concebideñco. Conejo. Confite puneño. Cónico. Cónico norteño. Cristalino de Chihuahua. Coscomatepec. Cuzco Cristalino. Dulce. Dulcillo del Noreste. Elotes Cónicos. Elotes Occidentales. Gordo. Huancavelicano. Huayleno. Kulli. Mixteco. Motozinteco. Mushito de Michoacán. Naltel. Negrito. Olotillo. Oletón. Palomero de Chihuahua. Palomero Toluqueño. Pepitilla. Pisinkalla. Piscorunto. Ratón. Reventador. San Gerónimo. Serrano de Jalisco. Tablilla de Ocho. Tabloncillo. Tabloncillo Perla. Tuimuru.Tuxnor. Vandeño. Zamorano Amarillo. Zapalote Chico. Zapalote Grande

You tell me you were born on a kaleidoscope of maize. Ears of black, blue, gray, purple, green and red. Fifty nine types of wonder each with a colour and shape to suit its own mood. Some are too shy to stand up to rough winds. Others tame a soil gently will alkalise its acidic tongue. You tell me your maize is a kitchen, feeds you when others will not. Gives you ta-mal-les, gord-it-as, tos-tad-as chil-aquil-es. New words to me like a rich dark chocolate swirling in my mouth. How then to understand them disrobed, as if left shrivelled under a microscope? You tell me GM corn is a lonely laboratory of yellow and white. It brings you no canarios,1 too dull to be held towards the sky in praise. It knows how to grow but without listening. You do not recognise its voice.



Traditional music played for the corn festivities in Mexico


If We Knew Their Names


You think us fools for the fish and chips we buy, a bundle of heat held to us on our way home

There is a flood on my plate waves spilling over ceramic edges lapping at my roast dinner until it is a whisper. Thickening currents make my potatoes dance a bob around the plate, carrots lopsided like abandoned lifeboats and the lamb off cuts a pickled grey. Water levels rising as the greens begin to lurk like a swamp, my Yorkshire pudding a fickle sponge floating lifeless to the top and the gravy leaving murky splotches like oil welts. There is a flood on my plate a drenched dish of ebb and flow. My knife and fork two lost paddles, the taste of silt and grit in my mouth.

Tasteless for the crisps we consume, grab-bags of crunch, a rustle of crispy confetti full of salt and light Think us illiterate for those chicken drumsticks in cardboard boxes, amber coat crumbs on our lips bought for the change in our pockets. You never know, we might love hot boxes of burdock root, bowls of spelt and teff if they lived here, specially offered, Buy One Get One Free. Might relish a slice of jackfruit, freshly baked ezekiel bread chia and sarsaparilla if only they lived here, in this place and we knew their names.



Everything is Everything ‘Everything is connected... the idea that everything is this hard matter, unrelated to each other, is still guiding a lot of science... old patriarchal stuff. The real science is the science of interconnection, of non separation, that everything is related.’ - Dr Vandana Shiva

My mother taught me that one hand washes the other, a duo of dancers moving instinctively into the shape of each other, fingers mirroring and intertwining as the water glides over. So then, let us understand how we all move together; How a seed has to know the soil to become itself. The way many crops only know their name when a bee seeks it, before ripening into its own bloom. The rain must come, as must the sun, the weather offering a lesson in what it means to persevere in both shadow and in light. All this, tended by a farmer’s love, learning just when to sow, rear, pluck. We are eating a whole world. And we, once a seed, return back to the earth giving life to the soil and who knows what might grow in our memory?


Profile for selinan135

Who's Full?  

A series of poems I wrote after being in residence with the Free Word Centre and the Wellcome Trust. The collection looks at our relationshi...

Who's Full?  

A series of poems I wrote after being in residence with the Free Word Centre and the Wellcome Trust. The collection looks at our relationshi...


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