February 18. 2015
Aunty Vida shouts at the top of her voice, issuing instructions and commands at the house boys and girls. She is confident in her authority; you see, whatever she says goes. And she does not need to ask for anything twice as her voice thunders across the yard, often with some sense of urgency and haste, as well as some form of dramatic animated body language, as though her words alone can not be understood.
She commands with precision and expects results, whether it is of her children, Aadua and Nana, or her “adopted” children who she inherited from relatives who lacked enough to take care of them. I am one of these children.
“Alaba! Don’t forget to add the dawadawa to the stew!” “Finiba! Hold the mortar steadily and move fast before Moda pounds your hands instead of the plantain! You know how much chief likes his plantain fufu plain, without added fists please!” “Nana! Come on! What are all those muscles good for if you cannot chop firewood quickly?”
“But my back Ma!” cried Nana.
“Your back? Yeeeeee! Don’t disgrace me one day in your marriage bed. You know very well that pleasing a woman is much more work than chopping firewood! And Aadua! Aaduaaa!!! Where are you?”
Aadua. Lady Aadua. She is the only one of Auntie Vida’s children who went abroad for her higher education; to become a “Londonite”. She completed her Masters in Gender studies and has come back with a know-it-all attitude and talks and talks, or reads whilst the rest of us have work to do.
I honestly did not get her. What could white Western institutions teach this Ghanaian princess about being an empowered African woman?
As far as I was concerned, the only thing she learned was about nuanced quotidian hegemonic pedagogies and other fancy words inter alia. But I resented her. My blood began to boil from within me. I was mad at her because someway, somehow her years of coffee lattes and academic talk brought back a foolish girl who thought she was now emancipated from her traditional roles and hard work.
She thought by living under the guise of “book law” that she was more enlightened or empowered. But that delicate girl would not survive a week in this place without us. But all that aside, I was most furious with her for not recognising how powerful Auntie Vida was as a trader whose husband had no control over her money.
How could she forget what her very culture has promoted for centuries? How, as educated, hard working women, we were all in charge of our own destinies? And I found myself hating her at times for forgetting exactly who she was and for ultimately abandoning our sisterhood. She thought her “book law” suddenly made her better than us, different, a little elevated and above us.
But I have never had the time or patience for anyone, especially a woman, who would not lift a finger and chip in to share the work we all have to participate in. And in not so many words, neither does Auntie Vida.
“Go way you Aadua! Do you think Yaa Asantewaa could have carried guns if not for her muscles from pounding fufu? There is nothing empowering about being a lazy woman! Come on! Fififififi fio (clear off) with your feminisms.
You have neither faught a war, nor chopped fire wood like the men. So unless you wish to render yourself completely useless to your own community you will wake up and realise it is not time for book law, it is time to cook jollof!” And so, being the only one at home who could cook jollof just the way the chief likes it, Aadua put her books down and began.
60 mls cooking oil
1 inch ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes (or 4 large ripe tomatoes)
1 scotch bonnet pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of mixed herbs
2 cups of long grain rice (basmati or jasmine)
2 cups of boiling hot water
- Wash the rice then soak it in some boiled water until ready to use.
- In a large, heavy based pot, heat up the olive oil. Finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger. Add them to the oil and fry until golden brown. This will take 6 to 8 minutes.
- When the onions are golden brown, add the tomato puree followed by the canned tomatoes and allow to cook down into a sauce. Chop the scotch bonnet pepper and add it to the gravy.
- Crumble the vegetable stock cube into the gravy and stir. Add the bay leaves and herbs. Allow the sauce to simmer and cook on a medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent burning.
- Once you notice oil droplets rise to the top of the sauce, strain the soaked rice and add it to the pot. Top up with 2 cups of boiling water, you may need to use less water or top up if the rice is still hard. Bring to the boil, stir, then allow to steam on a low heat.
- After about 7 to 9 minutes, when most of the moisture has been soaked up by the rice but it is still mildly soggy, cover it with parchment paper right above the rice followed by a lid and close tightly. This allows the steam to circulate, and the rice cooks under gentle pressure.
- After 5 minutes, you need to stir with a 2 prong fork to prevent the rice from mashing up. Cover the jollof and after a further 10 minutes, stir a couple of times just to make sure the heat is distributed evenly.
- Check if the rice has cooked. Serve with some oven roasted fish or chicken and a side of salad or coleslaw.