Hello Ndi Nkem! Hope you are doing alright. Honestly I can’t even say I am doing well. This year has been very trying for me. I have lost friends, opportunities, and many more. I have also gained loved ones and people that I can’t trade for the world. One thing I’ve been dealing with is a lot of uncertainty. I’m going to talk about this at a later time but it’s definitely been a problem. How about you? Feel free to share in the comments. I want to hear how you are doing.
Well on to the topic of today. Cooking is one of those conversations that I don’t have with everyone. It exposes certain vulnerabilities about me, so talking about it with you means that I really trust you. I grew up in a very traditional Igbo household. My mom cooked all our meals, while my dad brought in the bacon. Cooking was a duty set aside for the girls. In fact, many times during my childhood, my brothers were chastised for being in the kitchen. “This is not a place for boys,” was commonly thrown at them. So much so that my brothers didn’t even do their own dishes growing up. They would leave it in the sink, if it even made it that far, and one of the girls would wash it.
As the first daughter, I was expected to be an adult early on. That meant that a double responsibility of serving my younger ones while also leading them. I performed this role with precision, but the one place I failed continuously was cooking. I hated it. I guess all the pent up anger of society’s expectations of me as a woman and my parents’ first child, was directed at cooking. I made no effort to learn and constantly rebelled when asked to be involved in it. I remember the day my mother shouted at my sister and I for being in our rooms while she cooked. She forced us to come to the kitchen and watch her cook, even if we didn’t do anything. I cried the whole time. I kept thinking, ” Why do I have to suffer through this mess while my brothers can comfortably play their video games?” It made me angry.
However, my anger with cooking wasn’t even about the cooking itself. It was around all the expectations it carried for me as a woman in the society. My lack of culinary skills growing up would often be accompanied with “Is this how you will disgrace us in your husband’s house? When he sends you back, you will know.” It infuriated me. Rather than ‘motivate’ me to want to learn, it actually drew me away from the kitchen. It fueled my rebellion and caused me to see cooking as an indentured servitude to men.
Furthermore, my mother made the kitchen an unsafe space. No one was allowed to make mistakes, not even my 11-year old self. “That’s not how to cut okro! At your age, you can’t even fry plantain. Common eba you can’t make, what a shame!” These were the words I was met with when I did attempt to cook. It was no wonder that I ran as fast as my legs could carry me away from the kitchen.
Although my childhood set me up to hate cooking, something kept drawing me back to it. In senior secondary school, I took both Food and Nutrition (F&N) and Catering Craft Practice (CCP). I did so well in them that I won the Best in CCP when I graduated. However, it wasn’t until my third year of university that I started falling in love with cooking. For the first time, I was allowed to be a bad cook. I could cook nonsense and it was ok. Cooking was no longer a form of indentured servitude. The only person I had to please was myself. It became a creative outlet for me: coming up with new recipes was therapeautic.
Today, I am a food blogger on Instagram (@_cookingwithclara) and I share my recipes with people. If someone had told me that the kitchen would become one of my favorite places, I would never have believed it. I won’t lie, I still feel some type of way cooking for men. I can’t shake off that feeling of indentured servitude from my head. Also, my immediate younger brother actually enjoys cooking. He still has some ways to go, but he is on the right track. Cooking is a basic survival skill that I believe everyone should have to an extent. However, the way we hold it as a ransom over women will never be ok. So what about you? Do you hate to cook? What is your relationship to it? I hope your bp has dropped from when you read the title? Let me know in the comments. Hope you enjoyed this read? Till next time, Bye!
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