Onitsha Ado, the city where we spent the most part of our childhood and the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State, located in the Eastern Part of Nigeria has lots of markets.
From the very popular Onitsha Main Market, one of the biggest and busiest Markets in West Africa, adjoined to the Ose food market to the not so popular ‘Slaughter House’ market, which was mainly an abattoir but then people sold foodstuffs there too.
The Slaughter market was a walking distance from our then house at Ideani Street, Omagba Layout, Phase 1. We had to cross the express road to get there though so my Mum wouldn’t send you until you got to a particular age. By the time I turned 15, we had moved to Trans-Nkisi and we; the older kids could easily access Ose Market.
Now, my Mum’s shopping lists were rather very descriptive. Before she sent you to the market, you would be debriefed with elaborate details on what you were to buy; each sentence punctuated by hand gestures and facial expressions and sometimes thoughtful pauses as though considering if she should kukuma go to the market by herself.
Ehe! I ya e gote akwu, nee m anya, ya abukwana nke lebii onu. I ya akaba aru fu n’odi fresh
So you’ll buy Palm Kernels, look at me; (she would then turn her hands with her palm facing upwards and run her left fingers across her right finger tips) the tips should not be rotten, check to be sure they are fresh. Palm Kernels
Gote Onugbu, nke aroo na mmili, ya enukwana inu
Buy bitterleaf, the one that was washed besides the river, it should not be bitter.
Washed bitterleaf in a plate
And then the list gets even more specific…
Gote Ede, akili achi, mobu ede eko
Buy Cocoyam, and she would specify whether it’s akili achi or Eko
Cocoyam (don’t ask me which one)
And then she gets really specific;
Gote Ora Abagana, Ogili Alor, Azu Mangala ma o bu Azu Isi, Egusi aka, egotekwana nke ingin…
Buy Ora leaves, the ones that were grown at Abagana village, buy Ogili, the ones made at Alor village, buy Mangala Fish or Head Fish, buy hand peeled Egusi (Melon seeds), don’t buy the one peeled with machine o! Then she proceeds to explain in details the differences between the two …
And then she would describe the customer that sells Okro to her (the specie that gets done easily), another that sells Crayfish (Oroni), the one that sells Fresh Ukwa– breadfruit, Nweke; the meat seller and of course, fruits specifically bought by the Police Station.
All accompanied by threats of how you’ll eat the food alone if you buy the wrong items…
I remember the list in my sister Ifeyinwa’s fine handwriting;
List of Things To Buy
- Ogili Alor
- Ede eko
- Onugbu aroo na mmili
- Ora Abagana
- Egusi aka…
Imagine our chagrin when we grew up and relocated to other parts of Nigeria and the abroad only to find out that we had very limited choices of Igbo foodstuffs.
Abi we should start asking Lagos Market women if they washed their Bitterleaf at the Lagoon?
Later on, we would joke amongst ourselves whenever we were about to go grocery shopping as we remembered our Mum’s elaborate shopping lists.