My Mum; A Three Pots of Soup Story.

She would have been 62 years today; my Mum and today, I choose to reflect on her memories with joy rather than sadness.

Today also being Easter, I remember clearly my Mum’s kitchen activities, not just during the festive period but when she has to do major food preparations. Like most women in her generation, my Mum had a large kitchen, not only in size but in operations, sometimes catering to about 15 people or more on a daily basis.

“A luo m ofu uzo olu”, she would usually exclaim after a hard days work in the kitchen or maybe when she’s done some major clean up in the house.

My Mum paid great attention to the ingredients that went into her food, making sure they were sourced from the best, she paid even greater attention to the cooking process. When she’s in the kitchen, her theatrics could be major, especially on those days she would be cooking three different pots of soup at once; “Uzo ofe ito”. A pot of Egusi soup on one gas burner, a pot of Bitter leaf soup on the other burner and then we would be lined up somewhere slicing Okro for the upcoming Okro soup, my Mum was an “uchu!”; a term referring to someone working really hard at something.

Vegetables were hallowed things in my Mum’s kitchen. We were made to wash the Ugu or Spinach countless times just to make sure that there was not a tiny bit of the tiniest grain logged in somewhere.

“Gbanye mmili, gbanye mmili” she would say with every sense of seriousness instructing you to add enough water to the veggies. “tinye e nnu”; would follow, a reminder that you should add salt. And if she perceived you weren’t washing them hard enough, she would intervene, saying “chee ka m bia”, and take over the washing, shaking the leaves with her two hands in the water with the instructions to observe her “na ene m anya”.

It was clear to us that having sand in the soup was a taboo. I grew up imagining what it would be like to have the dreaded “sand in the soup” experience. Any movement in the kitchen at key points when my Mum cooked her numerous delicacies would probably be met with hushed exclamations of “Aja!”, Sand! as though mentioning it loudly might actually introduce the sand into the soup. If someone was pounding in the mortar and another person walked past; she would caution against sand “Aja! Aja!”

Mum displaying food at a catering practical

If cut vegetables or other prepared foodstuff queued up for addition to the soup, were placed on the work surface and you probably opened an overhead cupboard; my Mum would go like; “Hey! Aja oooo!!!” Till date, I inwardly duck when I open my overhead kitchen cupboard if there’s cut foodstuff on my work surface with thoughts of “Aja!” on my mind.

Then the process of washing dried fish; you had to first soak them in brine to extract the first layer of dirt/sand, then wash them delicately with a soft sponge to extract the remaining and then rinse them as many times as it would take to get all the sand out.

What do we now say to the washing of offals? The cow intestine also known as afo anu or roundabout, the rough part of the meat which we called “towel anu” but known as shaki in Lagos. Truth is, I rarely eat roundabout meat outside home and I can’t remember the last time I cooked with it either. You see, my Mum would sit down and strip that meat of every interior fat and dirt irrespective of the quantity she cooked, leaving it very clean and that’s the taste I’m used to, sometimes in ordering outside food, that care is not taken because it’s a time consuming process.

It is said that repetition is the law of deep and lasting impression and that’s how my Mum taught us to make some complicated Igbo soups in addition to the observation process. She would chant the steps over and over again so that it would sink in your mind and if you were at a loss on the next step to take, just repeat the chant. For Bitter leaf soup, she would go;

“I tinye ede, ede ghee, i tinye mmanu, mmanu suo, i tinye ogili, ogili ghee, i kwako nyi e ife nni”.

“Put the cocoyam, when it’s done, add the palm oil, when it boils, add the locust bean, when it’s done, then add the spices.”

While we loved to cook with Mum in the kitchen (did i really?) It was always great when my Aunties visited because they simply hung out in the kitchen with her and took over whatever it was we were doing in a very casual but firm manner and who are we to say no to such marvelous help?

The passing on of a Mum is something you never really get used to, some of my friends lost their Mother’s recently and I can just imagine the many memories flooding there hearts on a daily. We are grateful for the hope of the resurrection that Easter brings and we look forward to the rapture morning when the dead in Christ will rise up first and we’ll all ascend to meet the Lord.

Keep resting Fashion Mazi o, till we meet again.

The Storytela

In Ever Loving Memory of Lady Benedette Ugwunwa Ezeanya (4th April 1959-29th June 2019)

My Mum- Nwa James Enechukwu

I write this with a smile.

A smile that must mirror that of my Mum when she talked about her Dad.

Now the smile gets even broader.

You see, I didn’t get to meet my GrandFather, Chief James Enechukwu, but I heard so much about him and ofcourse saw his pictures and if I must say, he was quite handsome and my Mum has some resemblance to him.

My GrandFather must have been a good man, not because he’s my GrandPa, no, not at all but like my Mum would say; 40 years and more after his death, his name was still opening doors for them.

We grew up hearing my Mum and her sisters refer to themselves as “Umu James Enechukwu”, they were proud to be his children, this is not withstanding the fact that he passed on quite early; when my Mum was about 12 years old.

Chief James Enechukwu was not only a devout Christian and a wealthy businessman, he also had the renowned position of being the Treasurer of St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in my hometown; Uke, Idemili North Local Government Area, Anambra State.

I remember one day, in a conversation with my husband in our sitting room, my Mum would talk about how good their Dad was to their Mum, his godly attitude and she would add with this proud look on her face; i makwa na Papa m bu treasurer? Did you know my Father was the Church treasurer?

Being a treasurer these days would mainly be a book keeping role as monies are expected to be deposited in the bank but this was not so in the 60’s. This meant that my GrandDad had access to Church funds and must have kept such a good account of it that he earned quite a reputation.

Moreso, he was a key player in the construction of the Church building in my hometown. About 50 years after his passing, as the Church dedicated it’s renovated building, Pa James Enechukwu’s name was listed in the Church brochure for his exemplary role. My Aunty, Mrs. Virginia Obi narrated this with mixed feelings as this was shortly after my Mum’s passing.

Back in the days, when there were no well written books on how to be a good Dad, my GrandPa chose to live right and modeled same to his children; those who were old enough to understand. This goes to say that being a good parent is more in the way you live your life, how you treat people, including your spouse and ofcourse your children.

A good man, out of the good treasures of his heart, brings forth good things… Luke 6:45a NKJV

Today, in telling my Mum’s story, I choose to honour her father, my GrandFather; Chief James Obumneme Enechukwu.

The Storytela

#LadyBeneLivesOn

#InEverLovingMemory

Stories of My Mother : Shopping Stories – Pt. 2

Mummy with Kobby, my nephew on his first birthday

“I na-ekwo ije”.

“You walk really fast”, my young cousin commented one day talking about my speed when I’m walking on the road.

I laughed.

You see, the skill of walking fast was something we had to learn.

You couldn’t afford to walk slowly when you go to the market with my Mum, else you might end up on ABS Onitsha News, the missing child advert section…

Of course, she would never have left us behind or even let us get missing but she gave us that impression. You either walked fast or you found your way home, and that option nobody wanted to consider.

This rule basically applied when we went to Main Market or Ose. You see those big markets; whenever our Mum had to go there, it was for serious business and she usually had a whole lot to buy, sooo, no time to waste time.

She would tie her white handkerchief folded into a triangle over her nose to protect her from the dust, especially in the dry season. She was allergic to dust and would start sneezing when unduly exposed to it.

Then with her handbag under her armpit and her shoulder slightly titled towards the right side, she would ‘change gear‘ as we approached one of the many entrances to the market from the Car park.

The market roads were narrow and the moving cars and thronging human traffic made them even narrower. Once Mummy moves, our singular target was to keep our eyes on her and keep up with her pace and that meant walking really fast.

When my sister Uju and I started going to boarding school and wrote our lists, we would be glad when Mummy came back from the market with our stuffs but a little sad when one or two tiny items weren’t bought.

I remember my elder sister Ifeyinwa, when she took over the shopping for our lists from my Mum would explain to us that the market was too big and the items on our lists scattered all over, so it was usually difficult to buy everything at once.

Well, accompanying my Mum to the market soon made it clear. “Mummy do we have to buy everything?” I would find myself asking.

Following Mum to the market was like a rite of passage. You observed how to shop, how to haggle, how to check for ‘original’; ‘the main the main’, how to pretend walk away so that the market seller would call you back and offer a lower price, how to frown at the item in your hands and look distracted while jumping on the inside at the very good deal you just got and how to check for expiry dates. You also got introduced to her preferred merchants, so you would just locate them when you start coming alone and continue the ‘Customer’ relationship.

Anyways, when I was old enough to start shopping for myself, by myself which was in my Senior Secondary/University, I’m not sure I bothered much. Let’s just say that shopping is not my thing.

I don’t know how my Mum did it though, for years, for a large family, eight kids, varied age groups, long shopping lists. Oh Lord!

It’s June and in some weeks time, it would be the first anniversary of her passing on to glory. Time does fly, so much has happened already but the memories seem just like yesterday.

The Storytela

#LadyBeneLivesOn
#InEverLovingMemory

My Mum- Her Mannerisms

Mummy o!

“Go and rub some cream”

I told him in Igbo language, “jee tee ude” while pointing with my left hand towards the direction of his room.

At that moment, I saw her, in my mind’s eye.

She was pointing with her left hand too, dressed in a simple dark green patterned Ankara blouse and wrapper, (iro and buba style) holding the curtain with her right hand and also indicating the direction I should go with her head while looking sternly at a younger me.

Mummy a da achi at all…

My Mum and her mannerisms; she was stern enough to discipline and command respect but soft enough to give me my space to vent when I disagreed with her decisions as a young adult. Though her decisions stood anyway.

I can’t ever remember her calling us names. The most I can remember was she complaining that I was slow while doing house chores (rolls my eyes).

She had her expressions though and we would later turn them to jokes. She would usually ask;

‘a ga akpo gi onye isi di nma ka o onye isi n’adiro nma?

Which meant; based on your actions, would they call you someone who is sane or insane?

And if the person was feeling bold, they would say; someone who is sane, “onye isi di nma” even though you obviously qualify to be called the latter.

She also doesn’t expect you standing around when work is being done especially in the kitchen, she would usually ask;

“i kwu akwu?” Are you standing?

Spoken without looking at you, nooo, she was too busy preparing three different pots of soup; uzo ofe ito but she would say it with enough subtle threat in her voice to make you find something doing or explain why you were idling away at that moment.

I remember her standard instructions while going out, it changed over the years.

While we were much younger she would say:

“Zachakosisia, fichakosisia, kpochakosisia ebe nine”

That’s telling us to clean the entire house and make it tidy.

She said this with her eyes wide open for emphasis, her head turning round and her right hand holding her white hanky; just taken down from the cloth hanger, gesticulating to indicate the entire flat we shared with her then. Four large bedrooms, a huge dining room and a sitting room, let’s not include the corridors that qualify as rooms in modern day Lagos buildings. Thankfully, my Dad’s adjoining flat was cleaned by his umu boyi; the boys learning trade with him.

Later on, when we were much older, it would be her announcement as she locked her room door;

“I am going o!”

Said in English and then she would take measured steps which you could count by the sound of her fancy slippers; carefully selected to match her outfit, as they hit the floor. She would then stop by the room door of whoever was home at that time and ask;

“O nwee ife di mkpa?”

Is there anything needed at home that I should buy or sort out…

Fashion Mazi o!

As I walked away from telling my older son to put some cream on his body this morning, it dawned on me how often these flashbacks have been occurring since she passed on. I’m certain my siblings experience them too.

Memories of her reactions, her mannerisms, her gesticulations, triggered by even the slightest, seemingly unrelated things.

#InEverLovingMemory

#LadyBenedetteLivesOn

The Storytela