June 28, 2017

He Cooks, She Cooks, Who Cares? – Viola Okolie

He Cooks, She Cooks, Who Cares? – Viola Okolie

Legend tells us that my mum was a rakish tomboy in her teens.

One of those legends tells us how her father had been insulted by one of his contemporaries in the village square. My mom had witnessed the insult and felt pained, taking an oath to revenge the assault on her father’s dignity.

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One day, she had trailed the insulter on his way to tap wine from the palm trees and waited for him to climb all the way up. Then she had packed his clothes and everything he would need to regain his dignity on his way back to the village and run off with them.

The poor man had to device hasty means to keep his unmentionables covered until he got back home.

You know the Maria in Sound of Music? That was my mum – how do you catch a cloud and pin it down? Studying in a convent didn’t help matters too, at some point it became easier to count her among the sons of her father than among the daughters. She was that much of a handful.

Until she caught the eye of the swashbuckling, Biafran veteran, Engineer returnee from the North. He was approximately 12 years her senior.

They fell in courtship (they didn’t do love in those days), travelled around the country chasing his career and finally settled down in Kaduna.

By the time we began to make our appearances and became conscious of our family situation, husband and wife had fallen into a routine which they introduced their children too.

I don’t know about gender roles, there were little to none in our family, bear in mind that this was in the early to mid 80s; my father was an engineer earning bags and bags of money consulting with the NNPC while my mother was a classroom teacher in the nearby missionary school, earning a sum of money that could just about fuel her car for a week; my father was a well travelled man of the world and at least a decade older than his wife yet…

Every Saturday morning, one of the parents would pull up a bowl of water and soak the clothes everyone had worn throughout the week, while the other would pick up broom and mop and tackle the house cleaning.

We the children were portionned out to whichever parent could tolerate us the longest without going crazy and we either mopped after the sweeper and cleaner; or rinsed out clothes after the washer.

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Cook?

Hmmmm, my mum had to leave home for stretches of time to pursue a degree in education. The practice was usually, that she made enough soups, stew and food to last us for as long as she would be away – my father’s task would be to warm the food and ensure we were well fed.

What she didn’t know however, was that my father was extremely generous with the food helpings and would lavish us with all we could eat and more.

We would eat until we were stuffed.

We would eat and feed the dog until she was stuffed too.

We would eat and throw away.

If my dad made beverage for you, it would be as thick as akamu. His akamu, would need fork and knife to eat. Soups did not get diluted down with water, we ate it as concentrated as you may wish…

So usually, mummy’s two-week soup ended up lasting like 4 days and when we saw the “made in China” at the bottom of the soup bowl, daddy would pack us all into the car and we would journey down to the market and purchase ingredients enough to keep us going till mummy returned.

Maybe it was the fact that my father spared no expense when making his soups – he made them bachelor style – too much of everything and not enough water. Yum!

Maybe it was the fact that he was a clown and made both the trips and the cooking super fun.

Whatever it was, one day soon, we worked up enough courage to say to our mum as she was fretting over what to make before she left for school, “don’t worry mummy, just go. Daddy will handle it.”
“He will?”
“Yes now, he has been making soup and stew and porridge and the rest when you travel.”
“Ehn, but let me make mine at least you will eat well-prepared food for sometime.”
“Don’t worry mummy, his food is always delicious, even more delicious than yours.”

Oops.

Anyway, shortly after, even the cooking chores were somewhat split between both parents with my dad opting sometimes to take over the kitchen while my mum did something else.

There was nothing to it.

Did I mention he earned like 75 times what my mother did, was a civil engineer consulting within the petroleum sector, was at least a decade older than her, held a plethora of titles both traditional, academic and social, blahdeblahdeblah…

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Have you ever noticed that those who criticise food and cooking the most can hardly ever lift a spoon to even stir soup without upturning the entire pot?

And those who worry so much about gender roles and who should cook and who should be ‘ormble and who should submit to whom are usually not worth the effort?

Most of the times, it is some dumbass, brokeass nigga who lives from paycheck to paycheck that believes a woman should… a woman must… a man is supposed to be disandat.

The people who are comfortable in themselves and their own skins hardly notice or bother, they do not seem to think that another human is a pack horse designed to lift and carry and work themselves to death?

Sometimes, I wonder what children of these days were weaned off – could it be the cow milk?

Because our parents who were weaned off fufu and breadfruit and who paid heavy pride price to marry their wives, seemed to understand a whole lot better,  the dynamics of running a functional home.

Small wonder all the strong, empowered women of the years gone past did not need social media space to declare their strength – they simply were strong.

Because homes way back then, were simply functional with members simply filling roles as they arose without wondering who was the man and who was the woman.

Have you noticed that just like when you have to ask, “do you know whom I am” (hint: a bloody nobody); men who have to remind you “don’t you know I am the man?” are just part time boys and full time wimps?

The ones who really are worth knowing, who really are men, do not need to stress it. It shows in all they do, even when they lead by stirring the soup pot or bathing the baby.

It doesn’t diminish their manhood, neither does it take away the “man” from them.

They simply just want to have a functional home where things work irrespective of who is making them work – the way homes and families are supposed to run.

Again, maybe it was just us.

And maybe we were the dysfunctional home – who knows?

Read more from Viola

Men also suffer domestic violence – Viola Okolie

Letter to the wife of “my” Aristo – Viola Okolie

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