This captures the thoughts that pass through my mind as I cook. It is still an imperfect camera though, but like the stress nature of the English language it is sufficient. I think the way I think is art. I think the way anyone thinks is art, else why would God want to tune in to one’s mind to hear every passing fancy. Do you think God was bored when he was alone? Don’t answer. The thing will be paradoxical anyway.
There are two types of beans I have; the white ones and the red ones. I have cooked the two and the serve completely different purposes for the cooking. See the white ones are tougher and they hold their shape when you cook them, they are good for white rice eaten with beans because they are definite. The smaller they are, the more they do not burst open like their redder counter parts. Ahh…those ones will open and let their starch and sugars out and they are my favourite for porridges because they do not stay in the mouth as discrete units. You like the paste that is porridge don’t you? Red beans makes for pasty porridge (pottage) as it softens well. Red beans ho! If you ever try to use red beans to supplement rice and stew, be prepared for how it would look when they lose their character. Large white beans soften up and break apart like red beans but what I have is white small beans. I do not think this porridge would be something I like.
Shammah’s house is a house for everyone. The reason I cannot have a girlfriend is usually the heady testosterone she would inhale. A cocktail sort of, it will get her confused. But I will live alone by March. I even look forward to it.
Beans boil and I chop pepper. Beware of my left hand. You want it nowhere near you. There is garlic but I am too hungry to care, about fish even. The truth is I have no money for that and any extra ingredient is a long way away even. It is seven in the evening and the boys are a long way from caring. The finished all the lunch you know and did not leave any for me. We are way past that now. Boys will be boys.
There are some tomatoes. I will try what Janice said I should try. She doesn’t like to fry tomatoes. The concept is completely scandalous to her ears. She adds them at the end of the food just before the leaves and enjoy the raw taste. Let it steam little. I hear Janice like a rose.
“Theyll beat you in Nigeria.”
“No-body will beat me.”
“Youll be lynched.”
“No I won’t. By the time they taste the delish of it. They won’t.”
Nigerians have an excellent palate for detecting rawness. I have chopped some tomatoes. I do not have a vegetable grater and Janice thinks I should grate them.
The beans have softened.
It was Bukola who taught me how to cook beans. I remember her now—the way her hands had moved the thing inside the pot around. Bukola had strong hands and she tickled me too much with her fingers. Before her I had made terrible porridges. The beans refused to meld together the way they would it awesome porridges I had eaten elsewhere. I always had to mask their terrible texture with sweetened garri but Bukky was a gem. Bukky changed my beans peppersoup to porridge.
I drain the water used to boil the beans, allow the gray mass to cool. Beans are beautiful. I put a pot on fire and tip the beans into the empty pot. It sizzles as it touches hot surface and then I add oil, palm oil directly. Stir oil into beans.
Bukky slices the onion directly into the thing and then adds the pepper I had worked on in a mortar. Bukky powders a cube of Knorr into the pot and then tells me to add salt. Bukky shakes her head and adds more salt. Bukky ignores my garlic and adds the ground dry fish and crayfish. Bukky starts to stir.
I do the same here—I do not have garlic, Knorr or any kind of fish. I have tomato though. Boys never remember that things in the kitchen should be restocked.
“This is genius. You know whenever you add anything to beans, beans stops cooking, it starts to absorb like a sponge. Beans can store flavour. So this method is awesome. Like I can see how the thing would be thick and the taste will be concentrated.”
“I do not know what you are talking about,” she had replied when she added a little water.
I do not add any water. I lower the heat after adding everything. In time, water will break out of the beans and onions and be the thing that will cook the porridge. It will become thick. Starch gelatinizes better when there is less water. I am proud of myself. Bukky has actually admitted that my porridge was good but what did she do that day that we added plantains? There is something she isn’t telling me about.
And of course, I add chopped tomatoes to steam after my porridge gets excellent texture. I have to give Janice some feedback. This meal should taste good without meats. Beans usually has this thick flavour that can make one forget umami because beans is great at filling empty spaces in one’s palate.
Ruby, a boy this time has said to me one time, “Beans doesn’t need all that wahala. You are just suffering yourself.” He has this Warri flavour to his talk. Beans taste sweet if you allow it cool and if you have a great soft palate.
It has this yellow in some parts and the beans are struggling to look yellow. Some streaks of red.
So, bread or garri or acha pudding?