When you grow up in the city, you tend to have a false sense of being ‘adaptable’. I grew up in Nairobi but I thought of myself as a very down to earth, very flexible. I mean I can eat at a kibanda, I go to the market and I can cook maize and beans from scratch on a jiko. Does it get more compliant than that?
The first time I went to meet the in-laws in the village, my down to earth-self felt very confident. I was determined to show them what a ‘gem’ their son was getting. I trimmed my nails, had my hair braided and bought three ‘mumu’ dresses. You know the type that you wear and no one can tell if you have a waist or legs.
We got to the village in the afternoon after a hellish bus ride. I was expecting a shower, some fresh juice and some much needed rest. That’s what down to earth girls like me do. Well I only got the shower, in an outhouse! The mud type ones, with holes and it was not a shower, more like a bucket of water. Luckily, I had carried my medicated soap. Compliant girls have to be weary of village water.
Anyway, after the ‘shower’, we had to get on with making supper. I volunteered to help. I really did not have a choice, I got crazy looks from the old women when I sat down while the women folk were in the kitchen. I was handed a jiko and told to light it. ‘Easy-peasy!’ I said to myself. I went out with the charcoal and some newspaper. I had lit many a jiko in my time. What I did not know was that this particular jiko had it in for me. I stuffed the newspaper in the jiko, set the paper on fire and started fanning animatedly.
From the corner of my eye I could see the women look at me from the kitchen. As if accessing my jiko lighting skills. I leaned forward to check on the progress, suddenly the smoke changed direction and blew straight into my face. Because I had worked myself up fanning the jiko animatedly, I was breathing hard and inhaled some, well, a lot of smoke! I do not have to tell you the coughing and tearing that ensued. I was now so upset I was ready to kick that traitor jiko. Then just like that, a red spark from the charcoal. The stupid thing finally started lighting.
I had not realized that I had used almost all the supply of the old newspapers in lighting the jiko. Honestly at this point I did not care. Besides, I was almost dehydrated from the tearing I had done. I took the jiko in and went to sit with the men folk. My flexible days were over!
Dinner was served and because I was the ‘guest’, I was given the honour of serving first. I took my plate and walked over to the pot. I opened the pot and I was not hungry anymore despite announcing earlier how famished I was. These people had cooked the whole chicken! Everything! Including the head and the feet. They had not even bothered to trim the chicken’s nails! (I know chicken have claws.) The chicken head was the most frightening, the comb had even turned white from pink. I suspect from all the boiling. The mouth was open and you could see the tongue sticking out.
I looked up and announced that I do not eat chicken. Someone was kind enough to fry some eggs for me. Though I was ready to just eat ugali with water. I quickly learned that there was nothing down to earth about me. I also accepted it and moved on. The mother in law also informed her son that ‘huyo bibi yako ako na maringo!’
I was happy to come back to the city, at least here my jikokoa did not have an attitude problem and the guy who sells me chicken is kind enough not to pack the head and feet. I mean it is enough that I am eating the chicken, I do not want to see the face of the chicken I am eating!
Editor’s Tip: If you have been caught up in a similar situation you can gift your loved ones at the village a Jikokoa and you can definitely earn some brownie points next time you offer to help with the cooking. Thank me later!
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