She had a way of tricking him into cooking for her. If there is one thing that she had come to love him for, it was his outstanding cooking. She loved it. He, on the other hand, always fell for her tricks. She would come home and pretend to have had a long day at work, or she would tell him that she didn’t fell so good, or that her long beautiful legs hurt from standing the most part of the day.
Being the sweet guy that he was and with the soft spot he had for her, he never put up any sort of protest. He would gladly step into the kitchen and work his magic for his fair lady. He loved to cook. And he was very good at it. Very good.
I like to think he had learned for some time now about her mischief and her little pretentious games and only let her get away with them simply because she was the love of his life. Furthermore, her love for his prowess in the kitchen added to his motivation. Additionally, he enjoyed more than anything seeing her enjoy herself to his meals. That’s what gave him joy. It warmed his heart even more so.
One evening, as they sat at the table having dinner, talking about nothing important in particular, she looked at him with food still in her mouth, with a smile that indicated how much she was loving the food and asked.
“Babe, seriously. How did you get to be this good? When did you learn how to cook this good?”
He almost choked from her question. He cleared his throat, looking at her as if wanting to say something in response, but words could not leave his lips. He just froze. Her pretty smile slowly faded and confusion now replaced it. Unsure of what to make of his reaction and with concern she asked,
“Hey Sweetheart, did I say something wrong? Or have I offended you in any way?”
He looked at her still in silence, swallowing what was still left in his mouth and slowly placing his spoon on the table, he reached out and held her hand and said,
“Let me tell you a story.”
– I was seven years old when my mother left me and went to a faraway town where she had gotten a new job. She left me under the care of her friend Mrs. Jane. I was to stay with her until mother had set up our new home and had settled all right in the new town.
Mrs. Jane was married to Mr. George and they had two daughters. Carole was the eldest, she was nine and Emily the youngest, we were the same age.A month after my mother had left, I was discontinued from school and all the house chores were delegated to me.
I was also charged with the duty of readying both Carol and Emily for school every morning and I was to pick them up from where the school bus had dropped them off after school. I was to wash their school uniforms, iron them and also polish their school schools. In short, I was reduced to becoming their house help. House maid if you may. Mind you, this I was not asked nicely, nor was it a negotiation.
The change of events was enforced by caning and severe corporal punishment. And every time I didn’t get something done right I was beaten senseless. I was not to question or protest in any manner or fashion. I was terrified and confused and afraid and traumatized with this sudden change in my affairs.
We had no phones back in those days and the only way I could reach my mother was only if I wrote her a letter. Unfortunately for me, I did not have her address and I also did not know where she worked. There was no way of reaching her and letting her know of my situation. I did not know what to do. I was only a child, what was I to do?
I was only allowed one meal a day and that was dependent on whether there were any leftovers. Every night, when they set the table ready for supper, I was asked to step out until they had finished eating. If they happened to leave some food, then that’s what I would eat. Some days I was lucky but most are the ones I was unlucky.
They subjected me to cruelty and mistreatment. My caregiver had turned to become my slave master.This went on for close to five months and mother was nowhere to be seen. I began to entertain the thought that maybe she was never coming back and that this was the deal from the get-go. She had abandoned me, sold me – maybe – I realized I had to do something or I would die of starvation. I had to formulate a plan, I had to find a way to ensure my survival, I had to make sure at least I had food in my belly.
So, every time I came back from the market – since I was the one sent to buy groceries and stuff – I would hide some of the groceries and supplies somewhere behind the house. I was discreet and very careful lest I was discovered and only God knows what they would have done to me if they did. All hell would have broken loose to say the very least.
After the adults and kids left the house for the day, I would take out my little contraband and I would try and cook myself something. I had no idea what I was doing but I didn’t care at that time. I just wanted to eat. I burnt myself quite a considerable number of times, the food came out burnt almost every time, and the salt was always way over the top.
I did this every day – luckily, I was never discovered – and over the course of time, I began to get the hang of it. Little by little it became easy and my food tasted better each time. In the process, cooking started giving some sort of joy. In a way, I felt some sort of calmness, my sadness, and my sorrows seemed to leave me and I felt free when I cooked. It became my escape. It became my solace. It became my comfort.
So no, you didn’t offend me my Love and you didn’t say anything wrong. You just brought back some old memories – which is perfectly okay – and took me back to a place that was dark for me. A place that curved and engraved in me scars of pain and hurt early on in my childhood –
Trying to change the sad mood and atmosphere that now filled the room and in his attempt to fight back the tears, he said while letting out a weak chuckle,
“That’s when…that’s how I learned to cook. Glad you like it Babe.”