I had a full house a couple of weeks ago. It was great being with my family and I was very thankful for the opportunity to be together, given our different countries of residence. All the kids were happy to sleep camp-style on the floor all over the house, and it provided a perfect opportunity for them to bond with their cousins and eat treats until 2am in the morning. The best part was that my sister was on hand to help with the cooking because if truth be told, I don’t enjoy cooking.
I once told a friend this fact, and the look she gave me was as if I had just declared that I bought one of my children from Ebay. “You really shouldn’t say such” was her outraged comment. I tried to explain to her that I am a proficient cook but not a passionate one, but all she heard was “I can’t cook”
What is the difference between a proficient cook and a passionate cook? For me, I can cook a wide variety of dishes, some very well indeed. In fact, I have some cousins who took to calling me ‘Aunty Biola Jollof Rice’ because they loved my jollof rice when they were little. Now they are at university, I always try to cook them jollof rice whenever they come to visit. I also cook asaro, beans and fresh fish soup like no man’s business. My hubby’s favorite dishes are seafood okro (with ten lives) or grilled whole fish and fried plantain with fried pepper sauce . I usually cook the seafood okro when I want to apologize for being wrong. It takes days to source all the ingredients and I cannot come and kill myself, jare!
Anyway, I can cook well as my family and friends know. I just don’t enjoy the process. On Saturday mornings when I do my bulk cooking, I wake up with a frown and banish everyone from the kitchen. If I am to clean fish I have to cover up all the plates, cups and utensils and appliances because I can’t stand the smell of fish on items afterwards. I cook furiously for hours, only stopping to give the hubby and kids their breakfast and lunch. After cooking bowls of grilled tilapia with sauce, beef with sauce, beans in palm-oil, fried rice, jollof rice and chicken curry sauce, and grilled a bag of drumsticks for the week and loaded the food in the deep freezer, I then start the laborious process of washing all the pots, pans, bowls and utensils and using a safe disinfectant to clean all the surfaces and floor so that we do not contract salmonella or some other vicious bug from eating from contaminated surfaces.
I do all of this because I am the mum and wife and it is one of my responsibilities to provide meals for the household. In fact, I dread cooking days and the boring grocery shopping that I also have to do days before the cooking day itself.
I suppose I have always hated cooking. My dad is partly to blame. I remember he used to make us participate in the killing and de-feathering of turkeys at Christmas time. The worst was when we were made to wash the intestines of a ram that was butchered for a family event. I remember telling myself I would never cook that when I grew up. I almost succeeded but for one day a few years ago when my hubby brought home a butchered ram, plus intestines. I didn’t sleep that night because I couldn’t clean it and I couldn’t put it in my fridge.
My sister, on the other hand, loves cooking. She is talented in many things and cooking is one of them. She cooks to relieve stress and she loves trying out different recipes. She can cook everyday all day, as long as there are people to eat the food. She loves baking and all things culinary. She makes smoothies, jellies, BBQ and roasted chicken. She can boil, braise, grill, steam, pressure cook, fry or ferment any food item and produce finger-licking food.
Many people still believe that a good wife must be passionate about cooking. Not so. Being passionate about cooking is a talent. Some people have it, some people don’t. It doesn’t make a woman less of a good mother or wife if she doesn’t enjoy cooking, as long as she can feed her family effectively and proficiently. It is the same with being able to weave hair. Some women have a natural passion for it; some women can only weave hair proficiently for their children, but do not enjoy the process at all. Some women can barely plait a braid.
Many men expect their wives to be sensational cooks, as if cooking was one of the natural attributes of a woman. Some don’t even appreciate their wives’ other talents and focus on her ability to cook as the be all. Guess what? Any woman who cannot cook can learn to cook from anyone willing to teach her or at a cookery school. She may not enjoy it but she can learn to do it reasonably well. If she enjoys it her family is doubly blessed because she will go over and above to turn out buka-tasting food all the time. If a woman cooks because she has to, as long as she hasn’t poisoned the family, she must still be celebrated for her other talents which obviously don’t include cooking.
Men also carry out a number of household chores with varying levels of proficiency. Some can’t even do any DIY or fix anything around the house, much to the profit of builders and handymen. All I am saying is that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. No one is perfect and women, as wonderful as we are, can do without unrealistic expectations from menfolk.
Ladies, that joke that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach is clearly dated and untrue. If your man is with you mainly because you are a great cook, beware he is shallow and may well leave you for the next woman who can cook better than you. And what rule book says men can’t cook for themselves? Time to stop measuring a woman’s worth by the taste of her pot of soup!
BTW: I secretly threw part of ram’s intestines into the bin. The fight afterwards was epic but it had to be done. I made seafood okro and also ikokore for one week to compensate my ijebu man. We now buy butchered whole ram without the intestines.
Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listen to her musings on everything