'I’ll Still Cook When I’m Married, But Only When It’s Expedient
Mr. Mudia Igbi is a musicologist by profession and the Director of the famous Warri Choral Society. The doctoral student at the Delta State University, Abraka, Delta state shares his world of culinary experiences with BLESSING EKUM.
What piqued your interest in cooking?
THREE major factors triggered my love for cooking. Firstly, my mum is a professional caterer. She studied Home Economics and worked with some of the best hotels in Warri as a chef. Secondly, I grew up as an only child of both parents. I was already twenty years old when I had a sister and later two brothers. So, as an only child, I did the washing of the plates, sweeping, grinding of pepper, tomatoes, melon, beans for akara or moin moin (on a local grinding stone, and not using a blender), washing of bitter leaves until they became adequate, and every other task a girl-child would have done, I did. All these culminated in making me to love cooking, and I also learnt by observation in the process. Thirdly, her food was always delicious such that I wished I could cook like her someday.
How often do you cook?
Well, cooking has become a hobby for me. It is part of me, and it's like I'm addicted to it. I cannot stay a day without turning my gas cooker on. It has become a daily routine for me. If I don't cook in a day, I feel incomplete. The only time I don't cook is when there is already cooked food, or when I am outside my home.
What was the first soup you prepared?
The first soup I prepared was egusi (melon) soup. That was at the age of twelve, in Benue State, although, I could already boil rice, yam, and beans from around ten years. The first major meal I learnt to cook was fried beans. But the first soup as I've already said was egusi soup. I remember using beef, stock fish (okporoko), and prawns to prepare it.
How did it turn out?
It was okay. It wasn't bad for a starter. After the meal, my dad gave me fifty naira as a reward. But subsequent ones I prepared were better, and there was significant improvement overtime. My mum gave me more opportunities to cook, and also the freedom to explore new ideas. She never scolded me even when the meal was not up to her expectations. Rather, she encouraged me, by telling me I could do better. This served as a spring-board for me to grow and that spurred me to develop and learn more cooking techniques. She told me to be free in trying out new patterns and approaches to preparing a particular meal. This was the basis on which I improved.
Do you prepare meals for your family members or friends? And how do they react?
Yes I do. Many of my friends come to my house to eat. There are times I invite friends to my house for lunch or dinner. After such meals, they look forward to the next invitation. For my immediate family, my mum does not enter the kitchen when I pay her a visit. She says “the chief cook has come, so, the kitchen is all yours". And I go in and prepare whatever she asks me to prepare. Many of my cousins too that come around wonder a lot on the precocious talent of cooking God bestowed on me. Many have nicknamed me "blessed hands" because of my ability to play the organ and cook. Among my friends are girls who crack jokes with me that they would not accept supposing I propose marriage to them; reason being that, (according to them) they will not be able to satisfy or meet my very high standards of cooking. With all sense of humility and decorum, it's usually a nice feeling when I see friends and family enjoy my meal, and pouring accolades on me; I feel a high level of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Can you share your most embarrassing cooking experience?
There have been a few embarrassing moments for me as a cook. I think the worst of them happened in Osun State, during my National Youth Service. Then, I lived in a compound where we were fourteen corps members, of which I was the only Deltan. I always told them how delicious Urhobo banga soup (a native soup prepared with the liquid extraction from palm nuts) can be.
One day, after 'rubbishing' their technique of cooking the soup and exalting that of the Urhobo as the best, I set out to prepare the soup with the intention of portraying the Urhobo as the true owners of the soup, and the best cooks of same. When the soup was ready, it was the opposite of what I intended; reason being that, the palm nuts had stayed for too long and had lost its natural taste. The taste had become sour. But I didn't know how bad it was until the food was cooked. Meanwhile, 13 of my colleagues were waiting like hungry lions to voraciously descend on the meal. How do I explain to them after all I had said? They ate the soup amid complaints and wrinkled faces. After that, I had a plan to make up for the embarrassment by cooking another one. But before I passed out of Service, I never had the opportunity. I could not find palm nuts in Ilesa, where I lived, and I could not go to Delta to get them during the period. The experience was terrible. In fact, I hate remembering it.
Is there any advantage to cooking for yourself as a bachelor?
Yeah. There are a number of advantages. Cooking for oneself is far cheaper than buying food from a restaurant. As a bachelor, it is good to be a cook because, in marriage, there will be times when one's wife may not be able to cook. She may take ill, travel, or get pregnant. Moreover, there are guys who have taken cooking as a profession or a means of livelihood, and are excelling.
The white collar jobs every young graduate is seeking are just not there. You never can tell what happens tomorrow. The gains of a bachelor being a cook are immeasurable. No knowledge is lost.
Would you still cook when you get married?
Yes! I will. It'll certainly not be every time. But when it becomes expedient, or upon my wife's request, I'll do it with zest.
What are some of the dishes you can prepare?
Well, I can prepare virtually all popular and commonly eaten meals in my area. They include: egusi soup, stew, ogbono soup, okra soup, bitter leaf soup, vegetable (edikang ikong) soup, banga soup, ewedu, beans soup, pepper soup, pottage, fried rice, fried beans, jollof rice, coconut rice and banga rice
What dish do you prepare for yourself as a treat?
Incidentally, my favorite local dish is not a traditional meal of Delta. It is a local meal of Cross River and Akwa - Ibom States. It is a vegetable soup called edikang ikong. I learnt how to prepare this soup during my service year in Osun State, from my next door neighbours who are from Calabar. I learnt it by observation, and after two attempts, I could prepare it better than they did.
Can you share the recipe?
The ingredients include: meat, smoked or dried fish, stock fish (okporoko), periwinkle, cow skin (kpomo), ground cray fish, pumpkin (ugwu) leaves, water leaves, palm oil, ground pepper, maggi, salt and water. First, boil meat, fish, cow skin, and periwinkle, adding salt, maggi and pepper seasonings to taste. Then add already sliced water leaves into the boiling pot of meat.
Add ground cray fish to taste, and allow to boil for some time. Pour in a considerable amount of palm oil, allow to boil for about five minutes, and then add the ugwu leaves, allow to boil for two minutes, and the food is cooked. After boiling the meat, the watery sauce should not be too much. Also, one may decide to pour palm oil after adding the ugwu leaves. It depends on the cook. The leaves are sliced as tiny as possible. Finally, the soup is better when served hot, and loses its taste after two days, except it is well preserved. It is served with eba or amala.Share