As a woman, there are certain expectations the society demands of you – they want to see you bear children – (whether you want them or not and if you don’t want them you are a witch); they want you tocook up a storm, (a magician in the kitchen, churning out dish after dish of scrumptious meals to the delight of everyone); you must be able to snag a husband, (whether you are ready or not – willing or not); you must be able to keep a home, (after all it is often said, it is the woman that keeps the home) and you must be ready, willing and without complain to sacrifice all else for the good of your family.
Now, all of these expectations do not necessarily come in this order but you get my drift. You can then understand why I squirm at the reaction of people when I say for instance that I hate cooking. I don’t even like boiling water. They go like, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself” or some will be like, “You mean, as a woman, you won’t cook for your husband and kids?”
At the beginning, I tried to be apologetic when I saw the disgust on their faces, “Errnmm, I have other sterling qualities…”
“Ermn, I can keep a house clean…”
“Clean house my foot, any maid can do that. Didn’t your mama teach you to cook!”
“She did, I just didn’t learn!”
I hate cooking; I get by with ordinary meals but don’t ask for anything exotic because I just might poison you.
Someone asked me, “So you won’t cook for your family?”
“Probably not, especially when I can hire a steward!” I would reply gleefully as if I could afford one.
I failed to learn to cook from my mother because half the time I was resentful of the long hours she kept my siblings and I holed up in the kitchen preparing just one meal. For mother, her daughters had to learn to cook from scratch; and took an average of four hours to make just one pot of soup. First, she would drag us to the market, haggling over slabs of meat until the butcher threatened to chop off her hand at the ridiculous prices she often offered. It always surprised me how after threatening her with their sharp knives and swearing madly at her, they capitulated and sold the meat at the same price they had sworn by the gods of iron and commerce not to even contemplate, (they usually bit their knives then gazed skywards as evidence of how determined they were.)
After selling to her and warning her never to come near their stalls again, (she always went back and they always sold to her and would repeat the same ritual over and over again.) Mother would insist on them not cutting the meat for her, she always believed they would cheat her!
In the kitchen, she would make us hold the meat while she sliced them into the sizes she desired. She did the same with vegetables, never allowed the seller to pluck and cut for her, she preferred to torture us with the task at home. Same with pepper, “use the grinding slab,” she would always insist. The ritual of cooking all of that food was long long and arduous; we would blend the ginger and garlic to boil the meat, stir the broth at several intervals and almost choke from the palm oil she bleached to cook the soup so “the juices will come out.”
I promised myself I would be rid of all those rituals once I had my own home. And I did. I worked from 8am to 6pm, many times till 7pm or 8pm or even later. I had kids and because I refused to let my maid do my cooking I faced a fresh dilemma; where on God’s earth would I get the time to go to the market and move from butcher to butcher haggling over meat? Where would I find time to cut vegetables and slice meat? Who wants to spend four hours in the kitchen after spending hours writing copies and making presentations at meetings?
No bi me o!
At first, I went about my wifely duties with pain. I did my cooking on Sundays because many Saturdays would either find me at the office, market or on a make-up date with my kids. Sundays after church were for cooking and I would spend some five hours or more slaving over the gas cooker cooking different soups, stews and meals for the week or more as my job often required travel, so bulk cooking was the way to go.
How did mother do it raising four kids and still managed to look sane? I didn’t want to find out, I just knew I would grow grey fast with all that stress so, I decided to get someone to do my cooking. I got the olopo (those great cooks from Cotonou, Benin Republic). She would cook a variety of stews and soups and I’d store all in my deep freezer. What this meant was that I spent a good deal of money on petrol to power my gen that powered my freezer because NEPA was never reliable.
No be today NEPA wahala start o
Then the cook got sloppy and greedy and began to slip up, that was when I told her one of the facts of life: “Don’t expect me to eat crap simply because I didn’t prepare it, if I paid for a tasty meal, I expect a tasty meal!”
Her reply was fast: “Today’s menu has two choices, take it or leave it!”
She left me cold! “Aww crap!”
So I called on my mother to do the cooking and I was almost flayed for it.
Your mother! Cooking for you? Are you crazy?
I changed gear and grudgingly went back to doing my own cooking and slowly poisoning my family as they swallowed my many burnt offerings with plastic smiles.
But I was soon to be put out of my misery, I discovered there were like minded women like me, women who perhaps due to the nature of their jobs and the stress of life in a crazy city like Lagos go to the market and buy cut meat, vegetables cut, okro and all kinds of ingredients half done before they even get home. Super! (Mother would have balked at this.)
I wasn’t done discovering, I also found out there’s a market for the likes of me who don’t like to cook. Yeah. Call to order online or offline whichever you like; Soups, stews, any kind of delicious home cooked meals delivered at my door step for a fee not too much from what I would pay if I did the market and cooking myself. When I was slurping over my first order, I imagined the scandalized look on my mother’s face if she found out, it pleased me!
Here’s the thing, I’m not a super woman. I can’t be in the office from morning till evening, then rush off to the market to haggle over meat, get back home and head straight to the kitchen to sweat off the fat around my waist preparing meals and feeding hungry mouths, while monitoring homework and maintaining a cool façade – that’s for superwomen. I’m not one! I hail those who pull it off with ease, but believe me; I don’t want to be like you.
Today, I have nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, I am a woman who hates cooking and I make no excuses for it even though I enjoy food. Ironic, right? And it had better be tasty or else…