Sago Stew

A Short Story by Shakeelah Ismail – 22 years old


  • 500 grams of meat 
  • Salt to taste 
  • Large onion diced 
  • 5 allspices
  • 1tbsp of cooking oil 
  • 5 potatoes cut into quarters
  • 1/2 cup of sago soaked in water
  • Ground black pepper to taste 
  • Something you’ve forgotten
  • Pinch of nutmeg 
  • 2 tsp of finely chopped parsley 



  1. Heat the oil and braise the meat with salt, diced onion and allspice, until brown. Add water a little at a time. Remember how the sago looked like butterfly eggs before you soaked them. Remember how you would stretch over the counter to watch your ouma cook. The vapour rising. The soft tilt of her eyes. Her face isn’t as clear anymore, but you know her eyes curved upwards like yours does. She lifts some up for you to taste and it’s just right even though it looks like little tadpoles now. 
  2. Add potatoes and simmer until potatoes are half done. There’s something you’ve forgotten. 
  3. Add sago and cook till transparent. Play while she’s busy. There are still caterpillars crawling around the garden and your hands are covered in mud. You shape the dirt into a heap of food and dig your feet into the ground to lift it up. Feed some to the caterpillars. Glimpse at her through the window. A couple years later, after she’s passed, you’ll be looking at your aunt through the same window while she makes the same meal. You’ll be in the garden with your cousins, running around through to the garage. They don’t like the meal too much, and you’ll get to have seconds and thirds. It tastes a little different from what you remember but still good. Your mom’s tastes different too. 
  4. Add nutmeg, pepper and chopped parsley. Try to remember the taste of it. There’s something you’ve forgotten.   
  5. Serve hot over warm, fragrant white rice. Think about her when you make the meal for your baby cousins years later, years after she’s passed away and moments after you’ve washed their hands. “It tastes better than it looks,” you’ll say. And it does. But you haven’t made it since you were their age. But it doesn’t taste like hers. Or your aunt’s. Or even your mom’s. There’s something you’ve forgotten. There’s something you’ve forgotten.