Jollof Party

I am a Canadian-Nigerian, resident in Scotland and recently married to a twenty-eight year old man of Yoruba extraction. Although he was born and raised in Canada (just like me), his family visited Nigeria twice every year. It was like a ritual.

Before our marriage, I had never been to Nigeria but have heard so many stories about the delicacies of the negro nation. I am more light skinned than I am dark, and so, classify myself as non-negro (whatever that means).

I subscribed to a number of YouTube and instagram accounts dedicated to preparation of Nigerian soups and local dishes. I soon realized that their foods were extra spicy and secretly desired to have a taste of some of them. I visited a couple of African restaurants to satisfy my craving and fell in love with Jollof rice.

During that time, I was seven months pregnant with our daughter and on work leave. My husband worked in a PR firm and bought us dinner every evening from my favourite restaurant.

He started to complain when I would refuse his takeaways and prefer to watch the television while he ate. He knew how much I loved the meals from that restaurant and worried that our baby wasn’t feeding well. I assured him that I was fine and made him listen to the baby’s kicks.

This continued for two weeks until one afternoon, during the winter when I heard a loud knock on the door. I was filing my nails while casually watching a soap opera in the sitting room since I wasn’t expecting any visitors. I quickly pushed my pedicuring tools under the wooden Centre table and rushed to open the door.

I saw a nice looking young man at the door holding a package and grinning from ear to ear.
“Hi. You got the wrong address?”

“No ma’am. Can you sign here for me, please?” He produced a tiny booklet and a pen for me to sign. I signed on it and took the package.

As he turned to leave, I scrunched to the floor and tore the package open. It was a bouquet of flowers from my mother. They smelt fresh and fruity. I noticed a piece of paper stuck inside it and gently opened it. She wanted me to call her right away.

Rather than go this length to give me a surprise, she would have just called my cellphone. I was feeling very hungry and tired. Angry even. I had missed out on some parts of the show and wished she had just kept the flowers to herself.

She was a sweet woman regardless. I was sure that she meant no harm but I did not want to talk to her. The last time we spoke, she asked why I wasn’t regular with my antenatal visits and scolded me like a baby. I hated to be shouted at because it made me feel small. Like I was some sort of a lab rat.

Oh well, I picked up my phone to call her number. It rang three times before she picked up.
“Baby, how are you?” It was the voice of my husband. I panicked because my mother lived three hours away from my city.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes. She came to the office,” my husband replied cheerfully.
“Oh…”

“Are you not happy that she’s here?” I wanted to say ‘no’ but I forced myself to agree. What child will not be happy to see her mother? I knew that my mother’s visit was borne out of my husband’s fears. He felt that he wasn’t doing enough because of my refusal to eat dinner with him.

The previous night, I heard him speaking to someone in my bathroom about my condition. I think that was his sister. He told her that I was planning to die but he wasn’t going to allow that to happen. His voice was that of a frustrated husband. He loved to get things done but I could tell that this was eating him up.

I wanted to tell him that I was perfectly fine but will he understand that his wife was now a glutton? I had eaten up all my savings and even borrowed some money from our neighbour -an older woman who lived with a cat and two squirrels- to be able to fend for myself.

It won’t take long for my husband to notice that I had exchanged his new hoodies and sneakers for buckets of jollof rice. I stored them in the lowest compartment in the freezer, away from his prying eyes and refilled every two days. Even though I disliked the feeling of inadequacy that accompanied my cravings, I was not detracted.

“You are going over to your mother’s place,” I heard him say.
“No, I can’t. I swore to marry you and not her. Please, let me stay. I promise to eat whatever you want me to eat. Please don’t let me go with her,” I begged. My husband was a foodie and was always happy whenever I joined him to eat.

Before we got married, I was anorexic and had a slim build. We attended several counseling sessions together before I began to eat properly. I made progress with him but now, he was afraid for me and for our child. I begged for another half hour before he agreed to let my mother return home.

I sat back on the couch and cried. I was no longer comfortable with hiding in my own house. I washed my face, dried my tears and got to work. He would see his wife in her real colours when he returns from work, I thought.

So, I brought out the five large buckets of jollof rice from the freezer and set them on the dinning table. I could hear my heart pounding as I called him on FaceTime. There was no better time to lay everything bare. I saw his eyes widen in shock as I showed him the full buckets of jollof rice garnished with large chicken wings.

He nodded and smiled. I thought he would shout or scream and call the cops but he didn’t. He told me he would buy an extra bucket of jollof rice on his way home from work and dropped the call.