One of the fondest memories I have of my mom is her in the kitchen cooking. She always wanted me to be a part of it and asked that I stay in the kitchen to watch while she cooked. I hated it!
I was going to grow up and become a lawyer, never marry, and just try and win cases, why did I need to learn about cooking?
She made good foods and one of her many specialties was Obe ilá Alasepo (Okra stew), it is native to her state of origin, Ondo in Nigeria.
When she made this stew, she would put all sorts in it and say “òkèlè kan, ọmọ ìgbín kan, aye n be l’Ondo egin” loosely translated “every dip of your morsel into the stew you pick a bit of baby snails” We loved eating the stew…ask anyone who knows, it is a delight…and even when things got rough and they did from ‘94-01 and especially between ‘99-01, she still made them although adding meats became expensive. She still cooked them with ponmo (cow skin) just because she knew we loved eating it. We had a funny name for the stew then and it made her laugh out loud. Still all I wanted to do was eat it and not make it…
Back pedal further to 2001 a few days after she passed away, I had to follow one of my aunts to the market to get food items, sigh… I hated it!
We got home and I went into the kitchen to drop off the items and for whatever reason, I cooked Yam and fried eggs with chunks of Titus fish…I made that meal almost every night for that period, and after the funeral and visits were all concluded, I found myself in the kitchen making turkey stew for one of my brothers to take back to university.
Turkey stew became my specialty, and every chance I got I would cook it…I also started making coleslaw and remember making it with my sister for a friend’s 21st birthday.
I moved to the US and found myself cooking ever so often. Dodo& gizzard was now my specialty and every chance I got I would bring a tray to parties for free, then it was fried rice, now it’s all sorts…I always looked for opportunities to bring food to parties…I found that I thoroughly enjoyed cooking.
These days, I wish I had stayed in the kitchen with her…I wish I had learned to cook from her…still I try to look back on our time together and picture a few things she did here and there…my dad and siblings give input as they are able.
Today I am cooking Obe ilá alasepo, as a tribute to her as I make up my mind to pursue this joyful passion fearlessly. I will put every kind of meat I have in the stew…and I have a lot, thank God. I will sit back and dip my morsel into it…smile in memory of mommy and wish if only for one second she was here to share this meal with me.
(To say I didn’t cry while writing this would be a lie, but that’s OK for I find my honest moments in words are when the tears flow free).