I waited for my last daughter to return from school for long vacation before I executed my plot.
Not even my wife was carried along in my well thought out plan as I didn’t want any modifications.
Like a school principal, I awaited for all the members of my household to converge in the sitting room before I began to read the riot act, the new policy that would reign throughout the holidays period in my house.
“Ifenkili my wife, please indulge me, you need to give your cook a 2-month leave with full pay effective next week; also the cleaner that comes every weekend should be asked to resume in September. I shall happily bear the cost of their temporary lay off”, I started as my wife looked surprised because I never interfered with the way and manner she managed her domestic staff.
And I went on.
“My daughters, as you are aware, you shall soon finish from secondary school, enter university and soon after pursue your careers and may never have the opportunity to cook for your Daddy. That wouldn’t be fair as I must enjoy your culinary prowess before your husbands.
“Therefore, you are required to stay around the kitchen and watch the cook make the normal cuisines and by the weekend, you will watch your mother prepare our native soups. It is key because effective next week, you will start cooking all the food and soups in this house on your own without your mom’s assistance. We shall all eat your errors until you get it right.
“It should never be said that a daughter Ikenga Ezenwegbu cannot make native, national and intercontinental delicacies at a short notice. You must do better than boiling yam, cooking Indomie and boiling white rice. You should be able to beat your mum in excellent cooking”.
And the bombshell. “I’m sorry to tell you guys that we shall not be traveling abroad this summer because your father’s account couldn’t balance. You can watch CNN and BBC on DSTV and imagine that you’re in America and London”, I said to my children who were not amused.
My kids thought I was kidding. They must have reasoned that their mum and I could not implement this policy given our tight work schedule. But I had it well planned. I had applied and secured a two-week vacation.
One after the other, starting with my first daughter, I would select a local dish which they had watched their mum cook, and would ask them to prepare a list of ingredients and drive them to Oyinbo Market. They knew the market very well as their mum had always taken them along as she did her monthly commodity and foodstuffs shopping.
While sitting in my car reading newspapers, my girl, whose turn it was, would enter the market and buy items on her list. The rule was that they must buy all they needed to cook their selected dish as their mum’s food store would be locked while the cooking was going.
House cleaning was also done in turns and I was the supervisor during my leave period.
Not only did my wife upheld the standards, she withdrew from the kitchen until the children returned to school or on those days she wanted to cook a special delicacy for me and I usually decoded the embedded message.
I wasted my time and money to achieve my objective. I didn’t want to wait for them to learn naturally and I was happy with the ingenuity the challenge brought out in my children.
Many people think that I married my wife out love alone. No way! My decision to marry her was taken after I had tasted and liked how she prepared Ofe Onugbu, Ofe Oha and Ofe Nsala in addition to the speed with which she prepared them. I like well prepared food and can say that in my wife I have a wonderful cook.
The professional or career demands of today’s parents have made it difficult for us to raise our children the way we were raised. Also, ability to hire cooks and other domestic servants makes many parents forget their responsibilities in domestic training of their children. By the time the parents know it the girl-child has moving from boarding school to a university and then to marriage.
I sincerely appreciate the fact that boys should be taught to cook well too but unfortunately I’m a traditionally oriented man with overdose of Nnewi values.
In a typical Nnewi tradition, young boys are trained to do the harder part of the house chores ; those difficult parts like chopping ukpaka and iroko woods and building houses, tapping palm wine and and palm nuts as well as felling trees, harvesting yam tubers and clearing forest for cultivation. The boys till the farms while the women tend it. A conscious and serious effort is made by elders to dissuade a male child from getting used to the kitchen lest he forgets that a man’s lot is to go out to make the money. The practice is different in a family with only male children. They must cook to help and to eat.
My son is being brought up to cook the essentials but not to be so good in cooking specials so that he would not delight in cooking instead of developing money making ideas and pursuing same. If he wants to become a chef, that’s OK.
No Nnewi would brag in public about his cooking skills except he so specialized cooking for his Oga or grew up in a male only or males first or last family. We rather brag about how much food money we bring home.
From experience, most men that cook so well are rarely satisfied with their wives’ food. It sometimes causes marital frictions.
Nnewi people believe that the need to have someone to cook for a man is one of the pushing factors that makes a bachelor hasten a commitment to marry, all things being equal.
A married Nnewi man with an ọzọ title is banned from the touching his wife’s pot or seen cooking in the daylight. The wife’s sister or a the man’s female relation can always come handy whenever the wife is indisposed.
I stopped cooking immediately I married and I am forbidden as Ikenga Ezenwegbu from going to even dish out soup in the kitchen except if I’m a chef by profession. I rather cook money-making ideas and allow my wife to cook real food.
My boy could learn how to alternate cooking with his wife if they share house expenses but for me oo, a tuber of yam outgrows being roasted.
But, under gunpoint of hardship, I would dust my cooking skills or I learn
Jokes apart, if many home-food loving men who married economically privileged ladies would open their mouths, some mothers would hide their heads in shame.
For how long would a married young man eat out?
Not all newly married can afford to hire cooks or domestic servants at the early stage of their union.
But parents should help married young men who work so hard to earn money by training their daughters in home economics, cooking and sanitation. But if the woman is making the money, let the husband do the cooking abeg!
By Anayo M. Nwosu