These days I find myself cooking more often than is usual. I don’t know; maybe eyaf reach time for someone to make an honest man of me.
Today sha, feeling adventurous, I decide to make Catfish Peppersoup. I go to the market, buy stuff and get to work. Roughly two hours later, house smelling like curry leaves, I open the pot to look at my handiwork.
Sure, there’s ‘catfish’, there’s ‘pepper’ and ‘soup’, but the way I just separated them in writing is how they are separate in the pot. I sigh – and then, start to laugh.
I laugh because I remember something that happened years ago. I used to love moi moi a lot, so one day my mother decided to teach me how to make it. She started me from the beginning of the process; she gave me my own beans to grind – even though the whole house was having moi moi that morning. I brought it back home, mixed it, added all the other supplements and portioned it into leaves – myself.
And then, I set it on the fire.
About thirty minutes or so later, she opened her larger pot so I opened mine. Where hers was a happily boiling pot filled with moi mois resplendent in heat, mine was a boiling pot of ‘a mess of beans and water’. I hadn’t wrapped the leaves tightly enough so they’d opened mid-cooking.
I sat there feeling miserable. I must have thought that was my breakfast floating around in hot water – or maybe I was sad because I missed a chance to impress my mother. Whatever the case, I sha sat in the kitchen, pot before me, feeling sorry for myself.
My mom noticed and came to sit with me. I cannot remember her exact words, but it was something to the effect of; “You tried, right? Right now, you know more about moi moi than you knew last night. The next attempt will definitely be better than this one.”
I remember asking; “What if it isn’t? What if I make a mistake again?”
She said, “Wa je egba ni yen!” meaning “You’ll be flogged, then!”
But she smiled at me and kissed my forehead.
And I think about that now and realize; while my mother’s reference in that moment may have been moi moi, she was actually talking about life. And how sometimes, things don’t work out the way we intend them to, how sometimes we blame ourselves for our failures and shortcomings – and forget to tell ourselves; ‘At least you tried’.
At least I tried. And though it didn’t turn out like I expected it to, I’m better for the effort. I’ve learned one more way to not kiss a girl, to not write a book. To not create an ad, to not write music lyrics. To not treat a spouse/partner, to not talk to a friend.
And more importantly, how not to make Catfish Peppersoup.
So I’m in my workspace now, chewing catfish, munching pepper and drinking soup. And with a pure water sachet at hand, I drink a toast to Mrs. Josephine Iyabode Odukoya, the only woman in nine realms who could have raised me.
Mama Mia. Mi Amore Forever. La ‘mour ne pas nu frontier.