My First Culinary Experience
My name is Onyemaechi. I was raised as a regimented young man. Within the barracks I came in contact with different ethnic groups that spoke different language. There was nothing like ethnic differences here. We first saw ourselves as Nigerians before bringing our ethnic roots to bare.
My first encounter with a Northerner was when we moved to Akwanga in the old Plateau state now in Nasarawa. His name was Umoru. He is so handsome that one could be tempted to call him beautiful and even pretty as one of his attributes.
I made Umoru my friend since I wanted to speak and understand the language of communication. I had finished eating cooked maize and wild pear also known as oka ke ube in my dialect. Umoru promised to teach me Hausa. Although I later realized that he was Fulani by tribe. He has a step brother elder called Agbii (name not properly spelt but sounds thus) from another mother. Both of them are not in good terms because their mothers are at loggerheads.
With promises in place, Umoru led me to the field on my second day with him. He told me that I should call out to Agbii and shout ‘Uba nka’ I inquired what the word stood for. Umoru responded that it was a word of appreciation to anybody working.
I decided to try it out on Agbii who was tilling their garden.. I kept caling out to him in order to appreciate him with my new word in Hausa dialect. I kept calling out until I got his attention.
‘Agbii, uba nka‘ I said with all smiles thinking I have communicated in the right direction.
‘Uba naa? ‘ Agbii asked with such grin.
Yes, I responded thinking he approves of my new found word in Hausa. I observed him carefully as he left his tilling materials and approached me with a belligerent spirit going ahead of him.
‘Ze marieka faa! were the words coming out from his mouth as he approached with the sole intention to fight me. Of course I gave him the beating of his life as I am not intimidated by any one no matter your size or colour. Agbii and Umoru later became my friends. I reconciled them and they later reconciled their parents.
These duo, Agbii and Umoru will later teach me the art of hunting of crickets, bush rats, scorpions and birds, kunu drinking, and so many other things.
After the fight with Agbii who was regarded as the greatest within the walks of the barracks for children within his age, an invisible staff of authority was given to me and I reigned in his place. We later became best of friends and played football together.
One fateful day as we were busy enjoying ourselves on the field of play with spectators cheering on us, I heard a scream from the side line. Adamu, whose father was considered one of the richest in that neighborhood, had been bitten by a snake. The snake, brownish in colour, was killed and Adamu was taken to REDEMPTION CLINIC as we were later told. It was not too far from the field of play. We stayed back as we await their arrival. Adamu could have died from the snake bite if he was not taken to the hospital on time. At that instance, I developed herpetophobia (fear for crawling objects).
Apart from playing football, I enjoyed running errands for my parents. I derive joy in doing this because I feel blessed contributing in my own little way as I help my mother in her restaurant business which was christened Hotspot Restaurant. It was so named because our food is always hot through out the day and our water was as well chilled from a locally made pot known as udu which was buried underground to harness the temperature.
Myself in company of my brothers will transport the pots and coolers of food from our house to our place of sales. This will continue for the next one month until my mother was able to get a wheelbarrow to transport these things to her shop. We will not worry about any wheelbarrow in as much as our heads were still intact. Even if it will take one year to buy the wheelbarrow, we will still be happy carrying the pots and other items on our heads.
One fateful day within the week, as we transported the coolers and pots of stew and soups respectively, the unimaginable happened. My younger brother was behind me with the cooler of rice on his head while my elder brother was at the rare with a pot of soup on his head and a gallon of water being dragged with his hand. I had the pot of stew on my head as I walked majestically enjoying the stroll with the fresh air that assisted the aroma of the stew stream into my nostrils. What a wonderful stew I imagined within myself.
Lost in my thoughts, I suddenly saw, with the speed as lightening, a brownish crawling object that looks like the snake that released some venom into the body of Adamu during that fateful training session with the barrack boys. I threw away the pot of stew on my head with an accompanying screaming. The pot that will take care of many empty stomachs this morning which happens to be a Monday. It is usually a day of rush.
I was lost of words at the same time shocked as the effort of my mother since four o’clock in the morning has been ruined as I looked at the pieces of meat on the ground covered with sand. My elder brother dropped what he was carrying and moved over to the front to examine the situation. He could only but laughed as he observed the creature that freaked me out. He simply announced to me that it was not a snake but something else which was also poisonous when ingested. Mother was informed of the mishap caused by a crawling object.
Immediately my mother arrived, I was thinking I will get the spanking of my life, but my thoughts were wrong. She pulled me closely and examined me to ensure I was not hurt by the stew that I poured away. Mothers have unwavering love and my mother was not an exception. She quickly asked me to gather the meat so we could sell it to Ubong who trains dogs and Okoko who sells pig. We proceeded to the shop while she rushed to the market to get ingredients for another stew.
That day became history as we sold like never before as my mum had to visit the market again to get soup and stew ingredients. I also had the chance for my first culinary experience with stew as the first point of call. In addition to the culinary lessons, I was able to distinguish between a snake and the crawling object that played a fast one on me thereby activating my fears. Although, everything is in the past now as every crawling objects including snakes and their likes are under my feet by the power of my God who has empowered me to trample on them according to his word in Genesis 1: 26 which said And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Family history and the world will remember this today and always that a crawling object which I thought was a brownish snake which wrecked me an havoc was simply not a snake but a millipede. We all have our fears at one stage in our lives.
Opia-Enwemuche Maxwell Onyemaechi
PS: I like stew not because of its color but the aroma that emanate from the pot that house it. I like inhaling its aroma before tasting the physical.
PSS: My younger brother could not help but laughed a little while my elder brother examined the crawling object carefully, a fearless fellow.