Growing up, it was stressful watching my mother cook everything we ate as a family from scratch. This was probably because she always told me that at some point I would have to do the same for a family of my own.
It was the weekend ritual in our house to start early in the morning with grocery shopping for the week. The rest of the afternoon would be spent grinding down tomatoes, onions and pepper for stew or boiling a large vat of beans before submerging it in ice-cold water to remove the skin for moi-moi.
As delicious as the end result was, I felt trapped in the kitchen.
My brothers were never asked to peel yam or grate okra. I constantly lied about having homework or whined about the pain of grating little pieces of my fingers into the okra. Eventually my mother would relieve me of my duty, figuring she could work faster alone, in silence.
My personal form of teenage rebellion was relishing in all of the pleasures of eating out, which was not expressly forbidden but seriously looked down on in my house. From the exotic flavors of pizza and burritos to not having to worry about doing the dishes, I fell in love with restaurants. They provided all of the self-indulgence of eating with none of the work. This became my go-to treat to celebrate everything from graduations to surviving through to Wednesday.
All this was before I moved and home was a six-hour flight away. My nostalgia for homecooked ofe nsala with pounded yam forced me back to the kitchen. I’ve become one of those aunties in the airport, trying to avoid making eye contact with customs officials because my carry-on is loaded with ground crayfish, ijebu garri and iru beans. Now, my weekend self-care routine is Facetiming with my mother as I make okra soup, still seasoned with littles pieces of my finger.
Words by Ugochi Nwosu