BRENDA GATES: Cooking in Nashville since 1995


Dirty Page: Beans and Tomatoes and Rice

photo: Andrea Behrends

photo: Andrea Behrends

Brenda Gates has been in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, but she still mostly cooks the food of her native country Rwanda—like this recipe for beans and tomatoes and rice.

“I remember watching her make it,” says Brenda’s daughter Beatrice. “We use it all the time. Most everything I make, I learned from her.”

Back home, Brenda cooked often, but she made a point to leave her daughters, Beatrice and Alice, to their own devices during the summers.

“She’d say, ‘You guys are on your own,’” Beatrice remembers. “’You have to try to take care of yourself.’ Because she was working.”

After coming to the States, Beatrice and her sister Alice started a community garden for immigrants and refugees. “They’ve worked so hard,” Brenda says.

In the garden, Brenda has a plot for growing tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, hot peppers and corn.

As for the dirty page recipe of simple pinto beans and tomato served with rice, potatoes or cornbread, the written version is more for daughter Beatrice than it is for Brenda.

“It’s in my head,” says Brenda of her recipe. “What I do is just change some seasoning.”

Cindy Wall