Am I spoiled because I can’t cook Naija-style?


I’m not spoiled. When you’re the oldest of four children, one thing you are not is spoiled. As the oldest you’re expected to be perfect, and those three words that will haunt you for the rest of your life: a good example. It’s bad enough that your parents expect you to be a good example to your siblings, but other parents expect it from you too. If you’re older than their child, they expect you to be a good example and mentor to them. If you dare to misbehave, you will hear about it from multiple parents, and not just your own.

My parents believe strongly in the value of hard work. The minute we were old enough to reach the knob on the washing machine, we started washing our own laundry. The same went for making our own lunches for school, washing dishes and doing chores around the house. If you’re old enough to dirty something, you best believe you’re old enough to clean it. And if you don’t clean it right, you’ll go back and do it over. Working a part time job was also encouraged because my parents made it clear that they had no problem providing us with shelter and food and clothing, but if we wanted $50 jeans, $100 shoes, or $30 wallets on a regularly basis, we were on our own.

One area where I have been completely indulged and…spoiled…is when it comes to cooking, in particular cooking Naija food. When it comes to oyinbo food, all you need is a recipe and you’re set. And awon oyinbo know how to write a good recipe, let me tell you. Every step is written down and explained so all you need is a pair of eyes and you’ll be fine.

(Have you ever tried following a recipe for Naija food? First of all, if you can even get someone to dictate a recipe to you you’re doing well. Of course the recipe won’t have anything described in cups or teaspoons or tablespoons. Instead you’ll be told to take five double handfuls of rice, or “this much” pepper, or “enough” salt, or use a tomato the size of your fist, or enough meat for this amount of rice. Chances are if you follow the recipe exactly, you will be disappointed. Naija cooking is definitely a trial and error thing.)

But I’ve digressed:

Like most Naija moms, my mother is a fantastic cook. Everything she puts her hands on turns to gourmet quality and her soup (efo, ogbono, egusi) can make grown men weep. She loves being in the kitchen: all she needs is her tape deck (yes o! My mother still listens to her cassettes from the 80s and 90s) blasting Naija tunes and she will happily be in the kitchen cooking away for hours. There is nothing she can’t make (except puff puff or buns, and that’s a story for another day).

She tried to get me to spend time in the kitchen with her, she really tried. She would call and call me until her voice was hoarse, but between the options of spending time in the kitchen or curling up and reading a book, or, in recent years, being online, it’s was always a no-brainer for me: I’d rather be anywhere but the kitchen.

(Unless the food is ready, sha. *ahem*)

(ButI can clean a kitchen like it’s nobody’s business so it’s a good trade.)

So, because of this, I never really learned to cook Naija food, though I have a general idea of what is needed for most Naija food because I have started hanging around the kitchen in the last few years. I have never prepared anything more complicated than jollof rice though and even then I don’t think I did the whole thing by myself. I can officially boil white rice but that’s it.

I know I should be ashamed of this because whenever someone (usually my parents’ friends or a Naija guy) hears this, they behave as if they’re about to have a coronary. Yup, I have never made a soup. I have never used a blender to make anything more complicated than a smoothie. I know how to make lots of things in theory but have never made them. This of course makes everyone shake their head and say “How will you ever find a husband?”

(Hmm, maybe they’re on to something…)

I’m not ashamed (yet) because I don’t think it’ll be hard to pick up the skills once I’m on my own and I have to cook food or die of starvation (I do not enjoy suffering so you best believe I’ll pick up the skills kia kia!). I think I’ll have to start a new blog chronicling my adventures in cooking Naija food when the time comes.


16 Responses to “Am I spoiled because I can’t cook Naija-style?”

  1. 1 Oya

    lol! @ “enough meat for this amount of rice”

    I once found a naija egusi recipe online that said “Add meat to clean pot, add a DROP of water and bring to boil”…maybe the meat was supposed to be scorched *shrug*

    I already told my mom that 2months b4 I get married I will come and live with her and learn to cook every and any naija dish out there…my husband must look foward to coming home every nite even if its just for food.

  2. You’re right, it won’t be that hard to pick up on the skills…ok, well atleast that’s what i think… and it may just be because i like cooking and i think it’s easy…for me it’s actually therapeutic…i can actually spend the whole day in the kitchen as well and i’ld feel better about whatever i had in mind…then again, we do have some kinda soups that may get easily complicated… u know, like the okra soup that drawing properly…anyway, u’ll be just fine!!!

  3. lol..

    I think cooking naija food is something you learn growing up not wake up one morning and decide to learn it..

    It takes too much time, stinks up the whole house…but tatstes delicioussssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  4. 4 Yosh

    Far from being spoilt. In the context of spoilt, I’d think you’d say you can’t cook AT ALL. THAT is spoilt, but it doesn’t apply to you. You can cook other stuff, but Naija stuff isn’t just it. There are some kids in the motherland who almost literally have been in their mother’s bosoms as they grew but yet they dunno their way around a “Naija recipe”! So no fear there…

    Speaking of which…when it comes to taste 0f meals, it’s only my momma who I know I can identify with the taste of her soups. If I eat, say, vege soup at my sisters’ and at my folks’, I can tell the huge difference. Mom almost has a constant on the sweet taste of her soups/meals. That can’t be said for my sisters, who, though a good number of the time their soups/meals taste well, it could taste differently the next time they cook. I could say it has to do with their temperament or circumstances surrounding their cooking.

    What am I doing typing up all these? I’ve forgotten o! But the point is, don’t give up! If you can’t make a “Naija-style” meal well, with trial-and-error you could get it right once, or twice….or perhaps more. Not everyone gets it right everytime they do. So yeah, I guess that’s what I’ve been trynna say since.

    RYC: I don’t think anyone got hurt. I dunno about the driver. I’m not sure about vehicles that must have had some sorta impact at the time the tanker fell. I just haven’t heard anything as ‘anyone hurt’ vis-á-vis that incident.

    Hope you enjoy the rest of the week. Sorry I’ve typed so much. Just haven’t had time to be on here that much lately, is why! :)


  5. My mom tried to teach me how to cook when we first moved to the US, she let me know as the eldest we didnt have a housegirl anymore so i had to learn. She showed me the basics and then she never cooked again! Now when you ask her if she cooked she will tell you “going into that kitchen gives me a headache.”
    Naija recipes are useless sha, everything is eyeballed and me i dont do eyeballing well at all.

  6. 6 minexclusively

    Don’t worry yourself. This is what I tell my Nigerian suitors, “don’t worry, we will not starve”. I can cook fish stew. So that counts.

    Nothing do you o jare.

  7. 7 moi

    LOL. GNG u r too much! Look the western world has it’s perksi! Marc and Cheese, Pasta, Lasanga, Chicken are just a microwave away! SO u straight!

  8. learn how to cook african mean gal, u are after all an african !!!

    how are doing ?

  9. 9 sherri

    since cuisine is a big part of every culture, it’s just beautiful to be able to throw down in the kitchen. not bcos of any man o.
    with a little motivation, naija food is really easy, (na experiment lo gba)

    i can actually cook better than my mum! i learned from my grandma.

    which kain spoiled?

  10. GNG, b not ashamed of yourself.
    I guess u r not in2 cooking.
    But you can give it a try 1ce in a while.
    10ks 4 stopping by.

  11. 11 GoodNaijaGirl

    @Oya – lol a drop of water…proof perhaps that Naijas and recipes don’t mix. Could have been an innocent mistake though. I actually told my mom that when I move out she’s going to sleep over for a while and teach me how to cook in my own kitchen.

    @S Chic – my mom and another friend say the same thing about cooking being therapeutic. We’ll see sha if I find it that way, or if I just see it as an end to the means.

    @Afrobabe – are you dooming me to never learning how to prepare correct Naija food? *hisss*

    @Yosh – you make such a good point about how mom’s cooking is so consistent! My mother can reproduce any stew she prepares…but with the help of a recipe hopefully I’ll be able to do the same too?

    I won’t give up! Perhaps in the near future your mouth will be watering over pictures of the food I’ve prepared.

    @orika girl – your mom sounds like the kind of woman I want to be! I pray I will have daughters sha.

    (I can’t eyeball well to save my life!)

    @minexclusively – ok, I need one signature dish then, unless you think he will be happy with my ability to boil white rice? :)

    @moi – don’t curse me o! I don’t do mac and cheese—ever! Ok, maybe I’ve been a bit spoiled…

    @ms emotions –
    I agree o! I must learn how to cook these dishes and I will, all in good time. I dey sha.

    @Sherri – ok, o! It seems you’re saying that it’s possible so I look forward to giving it a try, an honest to goodness try. I’ll start small sha, maybe with Jollof Rice again.

    Wow, to cook better than your mom is an accomplishment. Does she admit it’s true?

    @Oluwadee – me and cooking are not close…yet. Me and eating though..that’s another matter! I will try…I feel encouraged!

  12. I knew I’d like you after I read your comment on Chacha’s blog, and you are on wordpress too!!!
    Don’t feel bad, I haven’t a clue how to cook Nigerian food too. That’s why I go running to my momma’s house every weekend with “take away” bowls in tow…yes, I bring food home to last me a week!! My mom cooks the best egusi soup!!

    I can cook my arse off when it comes to italian, chinese, jamaican, and american dishes.

    Nice blog!


  14. Lol!
    I love cooking Naija meals so i guess we aint in the same shoes but not to worry, there is always noodles, you and ur ‘olowo ori mi” can manage that abi?lol!
    Dont tell me you cant cook that too GNG!

  15. 15 stbloke

    Naija cooking is definitely a trial and error thing!? haba, u definitely ve to take that back. Cooking a naija delicacy is an art, d recipes ve been passed down for decades- quantity of ingredients and seasoning comes from a ‘a knowing’ a skill horned by practice; sweetheart start now- if u wait until d starving period, u’ll most likely be cooking ‘belle strong, hungry comot’ (call in for the breakdown of that one).

    nuff said

  16. distress not, naija food isnt that hard to cook. After enough practice, u get used to it.

%d bloggers like this: