The food had just started boiling when I heard a knock on the door. My pocket was hurting that day; I only had 4 shillings to my name. Not one to despair, I was contented working with what I had – rice, potatoes and an onion. Without the tomatoes to at least add some color, I was prepared to have some very bland lunch. But it was ok, as mom always told us, tummies are not transparent. Once you are full, no one will know what it is that you ate. But still, unless we’re talking wedding gowns, there’s nothing pretty about white on white; especially when it comes to food.
I considered turning off the cooker and pretending that I had not been cooking. I then remembered that I was not expecting any guests. Whoever was at the door would probably leave after 5 seconds. And with that I rose and opened the door.
Two of my friends came into the room. We were from the same place, same church but different zones. The two men were a year before me and since joining KU, they had made it their mission to ensure that this soul did not get lost. For months they had tried to make me join their worship group. I respected them very much and would have given in were it not for the fact that they met on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the same day as the movie nights in the University’s theater. Something had to give. Unfortunately, the worship suffered.
To say that the visit was uncomfortable would be an understatement. How do you tell that the food is cooked without opening the lid? I simply estimated the time and switched off the cooker at the socket when I suspected it was well done. It is African to offer food to your visitors but there’s no way I was serving my guests rice Njeri without tomatoes. I therefore ignored the pot hoping that it would go away. Or they would go away. As fate would have it, the stars were not aligned that day. My visitors stayed and stayed and the stupid sufuria sat there at the corner belching white, onion flavored steam the whole time.
From this and similar experiences, it is safe to say that I was not always a good cook. All this changed when I met hubby (I’ll never get used to calling him that. It makes me feel old. Kindly allow me to call him boyfriend). He’s praised every single plate I’ve placed on his table the last four and a half years. To become an expert at something, you need to spend 10,000 hours practicing and just being awesome like I was. Rough calculations told me that the hours translated to about 2 years. I however made a very big assumption in my calculation, I forgot that I do not spend all day every day cooking. The compliments and the wrong calculations fed my ego and I did what any normal person would do; I updated my blog saying what a good cook I was and I also added it to my CV.
About 2 months ago, I was just in the house with Melina when I decided to bake a cake. Some whipped cream in the fridge was just begging to be utilized. I went online and I googled black forest recipes. I had most of the ingredients. What I did not have I would do without. Strawberries/cherries were out of the question, I don’t even know what vanilla extract is, and who needs cocoa when you have chocolate? With that I got to work.
I’ve done this a hundred times. Boyfriend will come and tell me something he ate somewhere. He’ll tell me how confident he is that I would cook it even better. ‘How do I cook something I’ve never seen or tasted?’ I’ll ask. ‘Just check online. I’ll help you cook. You know how good you are when it comes to these things, Cess.’ And with that am bought! I will toil aiming to impress. I’ll substitute where I can not knowing whether am cooking food or poison.
And who needs measurements? A quartz of this and a pound of that. Measurements are for dummies. It’s just not African. My mum never measured anything. She used common sense and her instincts, threw everything together and out came a plate of food.
His reaction when am done cooking is almost rehearsed. He’ll take the first bite and say, ‘Wow! You’ve outdone yourself this time round. This is the best meal I’ve ever tasted!’ And he’ll sit there like a satisfied puppy looking at me like am superhuman. I love the feeling I get when this happens. It keeps me going back to the kitchen even when I do not want to.
When the cake was done, the entire bottom was completely burnt. That was a small issue that could be fixed rather quickly. I carefully removed the hard burnt crust and ate its outer less burnt edges. I then placed the rest of the cake aside praying that I would be patient enough to let it cool completely before applying the frosting.
The end result was beautiful. I took images and sent 4 of them to boyfriend. I wanted him to see what he was missing. He said how he wished he was there and I promised we’d be taking cake for dinner three days a week when he came back (how he’d like that!). The cake turned out to be too big for us. ¾ of it remained that night.
The following day I was at my neighbors place and she was hosting 3 kids. I sneaked out at some point and came back with the cake. For some reason I found the need to hide it from the parents. One of them, the landlady, saw me and asked, ‘What is that? Can I see it?’ ‘I don’t want you to,’ I replied. No parent wants to hear that you are feeding their kid something you don’t want them to see. With my head held low, I approached them with my plate.
‘What is that?’ She repeated, this time with a very confused look on her face.
Look, I might not be an expert, but I’m smart enough to know that when someone asks what that is and you are holding a cake on a plate, then it’s probably not a cake. While boyfriend would have eaten the whole damn thing and told me how delicious it was, the two women poked at it with their fingers like they would a dead animal.
I was finally allowed to feed the kids after explaining why it was that color and why it looked more like ugali than cake. I hate being criticized more than anything else but I had to endure a lesson on baking tips while pretending like I was not annoyed or embarrassed.
Knowing what I know now, I plan to get back at boyfriend for lying to me all these years. I’m definitely cooking this weekend; a half burnt and half cooked meal. And I’ll sit there across from him enjoying myself as he oohs and aahs over the food telling me what a great cook I am.
I’m now off to update my CV.
Until we see each other again,