Tradition stipulates that the perfect wife has an apron permanently pinned to her chest, smiling beside her perfectly clean cooker, that churns out scrumptious plates and plates of tantalizing meals. All this has to be done with the poise of a gazelle and the hair and face of a goddess.
Before getting married, I prayed for a man who wasn’t fussy about food. He so graciously answered. I have a beloved who is happy to eat whatever I put on the plate (bar Turkey – too much of a good thing during childhood is definitely a bad thing). I am aware that this paints the picture of woman who refuses to touch the cooker for fear her foundation may melt. Truth is, I am not that woman. I simply prefer other tasks to cooking. I’d quite happily organise a sock drawer according to colour and fabric, iron ten crumpled linen shirts and wash food encrusted plates than cook.
Growing up in a fairly big family, I was ‘encouraged’ to cook for the family, so much so that it became a chore rather than a past time. The only thing I am happy to slave over to cook is cake. And to be fair, that’s not cooking – it’s baking. I am amazed by and strongly admire women who run home to cook, developing culinary delights whilst journeying home from work. When hunger strikes, the first thing that comes to mind is: what is the quickest thing to make. My meals are selected on how much time I have.
And since my meals are selected purely on the time factor you can imagine that Nigerian food is the furthest from my menu. In fact, I think the traditional ‘red stew’ has only been cooked in my home a couple of times…by my husband. Everything about Nigerian food feels long. The purchase of the ingredients requires lengthy treks to negotiate rates with brash market traders and the selecting of the best leaves and herbs based on their colour and smell. Its preparation robs women of their Saturdays and leaves their hands smelling like the gut of a fish. The cooking of this cuisine, generates aromas that fill the house and beckon your beloved to the kitchen…though this aroma will also hang on your clothing and curtains…mmm…eau de naija.
Left to me, I would survive on a couple of slices of toast, spinach salad and pizza. Had it not been for my bestie at Uni, I would have either wasted away into a round size zero or I would have developed a healthy deficiency. During the day, I have to force myself to eat which is always a bone of contention between my beloved and I. I have to program myself to ensure that I peel myself away from the laundry or playing baby entertainer, to make an edible hot meal for my beloved.
When we’re out with our married friends and the subject of food/cooking comes up, you should see the horror when they hear that I’ve not made many traditional Nigerian meals since I got married. The eyes widen and jaws drop as though I’d said I would pose nude.
‘So…what do you cook?!’
Food; meat filled pasta, roasted sweet potatoes, Thai and Indian curry, brown basmati rice, fennel seasoned salmon, spinach and feta cheese salads and Sunday roasts. Our cuisine is made up of a blend of cultures which are just as quickly and easily prepared and they are eaten!
For some, this is an indictment on my upbringing perhaps, a mother who didn’t adequately train their daughter in the delights of Nigerian cuisine. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My mother regularly hauled us (I’m one of 4 girls) into the kitchen to take notes on what she was brewing and to ‘help’ her to cook. From peeling dusty gigantic yams to sifting through beans to pick out stones, we did it all. My naija bestie would say that my asaro (yam porridge) was and is the best she’s ever had. I just couldn’t turn my hand to pounding yam, I don’t think my twig like arms could quite transform the powder into the cream coloured light fluffy mounds my mother did. Others would reason that my reluctance to rustle up something more African is that I grew up in the UK. This may be so, perhaps if I’d grown up in Nigeria I would have a greater affinity to that type of food. It certainly may have been far less socially acceptable to plate up Quinoa to your in laws.
There will be women who will argue that my reluctance to cook will only expose my hubby to those who will. That he will be tempted by the hot pot of ‘efo’ soup cushioned with a mound of ‘amala’. I would argue that my sweet potatoes with peppered mackerel served with a warm spinach, mushroom and walnut salad, is doing a good of keeping him at home. The absence of ‘shaki’ and ‘cow foot’ has not caused any arguments though, the occasional whinge can be heard from family members when they visit.
Truth is, I am not defined by my culinary skills nor the repertoire of the dishes I can prepare. We are no better ‘wives’ by our ability to blend chopped tomatoes and soak beans. It is just a part of a much wider role as a wife. The way to my beloveds heart is not through a plate, it’s…now that would be telling wouldn’t it?!
Photo Credit: 123rf.com
Ruby Suze is a yummy mummy who has been married for 5 years. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others especially, youth. Follow her blog: Forever Newlywed and on [email protected]