“Darling, I am in the airport now. I will be home in couple of minutes”
My husband’s voice ranged out of the phone. It was a bombshell!
“Dear, do you mean you are already in Lagos?”
“Ah ah!…darling, of course. The plane landed few minutes ago”
“Oh! Welcome. I will be expecting you” my heart started beating fast.
“I hope…” he was saying but I had already dropped the call. I picked my purse and phone and down the stairs I descended.
“This guy and his surprises though! Now, for his mind he is surprising me ehn?”
Dave travelled to Australia a month ago and going was even a tug of war. His friends called him ‘Liz’s wrapper’ because if I wasn’t going anywhere, he wasn’t going to go. He loved to be with me, eat my food, see my face and all.
The telecommunication company he worked for- TECAB PLC singlehandedly told him he was to represent the company at an international summit in Australia but he declined. It took my pleas and momentum from me before my husband could bulge! Even then, he looked at me with a “are you cheating on me that you are sending me away” kind of look.
Dave was to come back on Friday and its only Thursday and he is saying he is around. He thinks it’s funny, right?
One thing I forgot to mention is his love for my food. If he got home without his food being prepared, then calmly without fight, my husband’s mood would just switch.
Right now, I am in Victoria Island.
Our house is in Ajao Estate.
Can you imagine the distance and the long snake of traffic that would be on the way home?
On Wednesday, I had gone to Oshodi to get all the ingredients that I would use to prepare my husband’s best soup of Egusi. Everything is in the freezer. I only brought them out this morning into the fridge to thaw. In the next 20 minutes, my Oga would be home and there would be no food for him.
Ba abinci! Hausas would say.
“There would be fight today o!” I muttered as I turned the ignition key. I accelerated out of the compound and as I approached the road, the horrible traffic greeted me welcome!
My heart was troubled and I started crying! I really love Dave and I have missed him and now, his bad moodiness would start because not only would he not meet his food, he would also not meet his wife. I didn’t know who to tell. I didn’t know who to call on.
I put my head on the steering and tears flowed. Then I saw Blossy’s face in the mirror of my tears. I raised my head quickly, smiled and picked up my phone.
My 7 year old daughter, Blossom would have come home from school. It’s already some minutes past 4 and the school bus would have dropped her.
Her phone was ringing…
“Hello mum” her always enthusiastic voice greeted me
“My Blossy. How are you?”
“Mum I’m good. Is anything wrong? Your voice is shaky” She said sounding so worried I could feel the thickness.
“Blossy, dad is back. I have not prepared his food.”
“Mum! That’s big o! is it Egusi you want to prepare?”
“Blossy yes! I believe in you!”
“Mum! Are you saying I should do it? I have never tried it before” she was almost crying.
“Dear, you are my intelligent baby and I believe in you. Just do as I say. You have seen me do it a lot of time. So, let’s try it. Hmmm?”
“Ah…Okay o” she said with doubt. I smiled
I believed in my daughter- If not in her hands, in her brains! She is so intelligent. She is an extraordinary girl. When she was five, she watched Dave and I arguing. She watched like a vast marriage counselor with her right hand supporting her chin. When I realized, I stopped shouting. Dave stopped too! She looked on at us at intervals, shook her head and said
“Are you guys done?”
We were so ashamed that day.
“Every time, you say your marriage is heaven on earth. Do they shout at one another in heaven? I am disappointed”
I couldn’t say anything that day. In fact, I couldn’t beat her. She is sharp, intelligent and capable. Even this Egusi, she can do it.
“Mummy, I am in the kitchen already. What should I do?” her voice jolted me back to reality.
“Good dearie. Open the fridge and bring out the cow head. It is in the butter bowl. The ground pepper is in the red bowl and I wrapped the stock fish in a black nylon. Bring them out.”
“Okay mum. They are out already. They are not frozen. Thank goodness!” she added
“Get an Onion from the tray on the cabinet. Get seasoning bowl for Maggi and bring out the salt container”
The traffic was just as congested as it was when I hit the road. I pray Dave is also held up in traffic on the mainland o!
“You know the Egusi bowl shae?” I asked
“Egusi bowl? Noooo”
“The big custard bowl on the cabinet contains Egusi. Climb the stool and bring it down”
“Ok mum…it has been grounded already o”
“Yes dear. It has.” I was happy. Things would work out, one mind told me.
“Also, bring out periwinkle and kpomo from the green bowl in the fridge. The white bowl beside it contains ugu and bitterleaf that I have washed. Bring it out too”
“Now, cook the meat…the cow head. Rinse the pieces well and add two cubes of maggi, one bulb of onion, a spoon of salt and put on the hot plate.”
“Alright mum. Let me do that.”
Holy Spirit, direct my daughter. Let her get it. I am trying to keep my marriage. Please help me Lord.
“Mum, that is on fire already”
“Okay love. Bring out the small mortar and pestle that I use for Egusi.”
I heard some dragging and pulling.
“Then?” she asked
“Have you cleaned it? I asked
“That is what I have just done ma”
“God bless you my dear. Put two cups of the ground Egusi in the mortar. Have you done that?
“Get hot water from the water dispenser. Now, add little”
“Ok mum. Then I should start pounding?”
“Yes love. Pound until it becomes just one lump of Egusi just like pounded yam” I started hearing the sounds. Oh, my baby’s hands!
“Is it stressful?” I asked
“Mum, do we have any choice here? Of course it’s stressful” she sighed and pounded on.
“The meat should be done. Lower the gas.” I drove a little bit and then stopped again as the traffic warden directed me.
“Mum, the lump is formed. Like, Pounded yam”
“Good of you my dear. Leave it aside and let’s go back to the meat. Turn the gas on and add the washed catfish in the blue bowl on the cabinet.”
“Nawa o! Catfish again….ok o. I have done it”
“Add the stockfish, periwinkle and kpomo also dearie” The traffic ceased for like ten minutes so I raced off.
“Mum, are you there? Where are you now?”
“I am almost at the Mainland dear. Don’t worry I will be home soon”
“Now, carry the crayfish container and add four spoons. Then, add palm oil. A spoonful is enough. Cover the pot”
“Being a mummy isn’t easy o, chai!” she said
“I am sorry for being a bad mum dearie”
“Mum, I didn’t say that o. that’s when you will be putting words in one’s mouth. You are the best mum ever” she said. I could sense no smile in her voice. She must be tired.
“It’s almost done dearie. Don’t mind me. Now, add maggi and a big spoon of pepper.”
“Put the whole lump into the soup. Don’t stir it. Just cover it”
“Mummy, are you going to pound yam?”
“Yes o. I almost forgot. Just bring out the pounding machine for me. Take it easy o.”
“Its out already. How many yams are we cutting?”
“1 tuber is enough dear. Can you cut it”
“If I can prepare Egusi, what is yam?” she said. I sensed that she was smiling so I played along.
“So, what are you feeling like?” I teased
“A wife and a good cook of course” she smiled and I heard her childish laughter. My heart blessed her.
“Blessed girl! Just go to the Egusi jhur. Open the pot and gently bring out that lump again!”
“Geez!” she exclaimed
“Take care o my dear. It would be hot already.”
“Where should I drop it. Mum, be fast” she talked as if the heat was too much
“In the mortar…be careful. Now, beat the lump in the mortar into tiny particles before adding again to the soup”
“Nawa o!” she started pounding again.
“Pele omo daadaa” I tried to pacify my baby girl in my language.
“Is it okay already?” she asked
“Add the small lumps back to the pot… Good of you. Now, add the bitter leaf and Ugu. Cover it”
“Mum, that should be all right?”
“Yes, after five minutes, stir together and switch off the cooker. If you can cut the yam for me, please do. If not, no wahala. The road is now free. Let me hurry home”
“Mum, drive safe” she said. I smiled and I zoomed off as far as I could go.
As I entered the kitchen, I saw Queen, my 8 month old baby on my Blossy’s back sleeping peacefully.
“Blossy, I’m home” I announced
She turned to look at me and a puddle of sweat had formed on her face. My heart yawned out of pity. My ‘ajebo’ daughter! She ran to me.
“Mum, for all the food you have prepared for me in my life, I say thanks” she said, hugging me.
“You are welcome dearie. But don’t tell me you had Queen on your back even as you cooked?” I asked
“Sure I did. Aunty Funmi brought her from the crèche”. I hugged my daughter and tears gathered in my eyes as I surveyed my kitchen. The yam was almost pounded in the machine. I walked to the cooker and there was the Egusi soup. I opened, served myself a spoon in the soup bowl. I tore at the meat and wow! She did it!!!
I quickly tidied up the whole kitchen, wrapped the pounded yam, served Dave’s food, laid the table, laid my baby and saw Blossy to her bathroom to have a cool shower.
As I came out of our bathroom where I went to prepare Dave’s warm water for bath, the doorbell rang and I scurried to the door.
“Who is there?” I teased him
“Your concubine” He replied, feigning another voice
“Which of them?” I played along
“What!…Open this door before I break it down” he shouted jokingly. I opened and there he was- Olowo Ori mi! He looked as radiant as he always looked.
He looked into my face. Then, his eyes ran over my body from head to toes. His smile reduced
“Are you just coming back from work?”
“Yes” I replied. I wanted to collect his briefcase but he didn’t give it to me
“But I called you when I got to the airport” he attacked
“But you misled me dear. You said you were coming tomorrow. Why are you here now? The traffic on the way was mad!”
“Liz, did you even miss me at all? If yes, then you should have at least made sure something was…”
“Is it because of food, lets enter first at least we can grab something from Shoprite or something sha” I was enjoying the anger that was forming on his face.
“Really! Me? Shoprite?” his voice was rising
“At least, enter first. Let’s close this door. Mosquitoes are everywhere” I pulled him in gently and closed the door.
“I am sorry” I told him as he walked up the stairs. Then he stopped. He walked towards the dining section, sniffing like a dog that has sensed a big, fat bone. He smiled happily, dropped his briefcase and started walking towards my side in the sitting room. I was already sitting on the chair wearing an angry face.
“Why must this man like food like this!” I kept wondering. He sat beside me and pulled my ear gently.
“I have always known that you love me. Thank you” he said but I didn’t bulge. He paused
“Are you angry?” He asked. I gave him no response
“See love, it’s not that I prefer the food to you but I really want to be assured that while I am away, you are thirsting for me. You are thinking about me, about my stomach and all. I am sorry if you are feeling bad. You definitely know I love you dear.”
I didn’t even blink!
“Mummy look at your son, your baby boy, your husband, see my collar bones. They didn’t feed us well. The Egusi they prepared in Australia is nothing! I now weigh 74kg and I weighed 75kg before going”
I couldn’t contain my laughter but I tried by looking away. Just a kg? and here is he almost pulling down the whole house. He saw my hidden laughter and started tickling me. He tickled me till I had no choice but to laugh. We laughed until we rolled on each other.
My husband’s stomach is his cross. I have to bear it because I love him.
Thank God for Blossy. She saved me!
NB: If my 7 year old Blossy could prepare a beautiful Egusi soup that you are seeing the picture, then you can do it! Try it and you will know that you are also a bundle of surprises- a great cook!
Also, The Cactus 3 would be out next week. Watch out!