I often consider myself a good cook. I don’t know how to make fancy food but I can put together a burnt offering that tastes better than my friend Dj Soxxy. If you grew up as the only boy in your family you will agree with me that there are a few “traits” that you pick up either by force or willingly both of which are for your own piece of mind. Soxxy and I grew up as the only boys in our families. This meant that we had to learn a lot more than just kitchen stuff.
In our home the kitchen and dining were “holy places”. We learnt early enough to take our plates to the kitchen after eating. Actually, you were not supposed to leave the dining table until you had swallowed your food. Talking with food in your mouth would easily land you a slap heavy enough to make you choke. No matter how late you were or what you needed to do urgently, my mother always operated on the principle “No balloons” which meant bite only what you could chew.
Beyond the kitchen, proper toilet use proved to be a difficult lesson for me. My mother made me clean the toilet every time I “missed the mark.” If by mistake I did not “shake well after use” especially because I was in a hurry to go out and play, I had to wash my shorts – an activity that was often accompanied by tears. Like most boys the first stop when you got back to the house had to be the bathroom. Sometimes you had to remove everything and still tip toe to the bathroom. If you never went through these critical steps of growth you need a refund because you never maximized your childhood.
There were two things that I was ordered never to play with. You need to understand that back then when your mother told you not do something she was not testing your knowledge of your rights as a human being. “My mother said No” was the most valid reason you could give and not have a re-battle. It was ultimate. So my mother in reasons best known to her as a mother declared from the roof top, “Thou in thine right mind or otherwise shalt not play with fire or a knife, for if you do you shall surely die and it’s not because you will hurt yourself. Far be it from you oh ye foolish son that I bore to be tempted to play with fire and/or knives.”
So for a long time the kitchen was a place I was sent to wash dishes (I must have washed our knives with fear and trembling lest they tempt my curious mind). It goes without saying that the devil (who else) managed to tempt me to play with both and death has never seemed so real. The first aid I got was not medical. Eventually all these don’ts about the kitchen made me curious and so today there are few Kenyan meals I cannot cook. If that feels like a brag it very well could be. Top on my ‘to learn’ list was Chapati, until recently when the doctor banned wheat products from my diet.
I therefore don’t understand what got into Dj Soxxy to nominate me to compete with him on the popular K24 TV show Get in the Kitchen. I will not spoil the surprise for you. Watch the show on Tuesday at 8pm to find out who won. Let me also put it out there that Soxxy isn’t as fat friendly as I am. We can deduce a lot from just that. I highly advise against pitying him because of not being fat friendly. While at it, please remember the adage that says, ‘Never trust a skinny chef.’
That said, being on Get in the Kitchen was an awesome experience for all of us. It made me appreciate the effort that goes into that room every day. It is sad that we seldom appreciate the process (cooking) as much as we do the product (food). We have been told that kitchen is no place for men; I beg to differ. From the time we started to prepare what we would cook, it was obvious how many utensils we used to make a single meal. Luckily for us, we were having fun so we enjoyed ourselves as we cooked.
Get in the Kitchen made me realize why my mother would get so offended when I said I did not feel like eating after she had worked tirelessly in the kitchen to put something together for me. Being a single mum, she must have worked hard to make enough to buy the food. She then had to make sure she was home in time to prepare the food for me. Regardless of how bad her day was, it never reflected on her food. My sisters learnt to cook early in their lives but when they were in school my mother made sure I had a great home cooked meal every day.
Cooking isn’t just about preparing food, it’s about planning and cleaning after. It’s about knowing way ahead what you want to achieve even before you start. You also have to factor in how to balance your meal. . When preparing the food itself you have to think about timing and when to add the ingredients. You consider the heat, the amount of water, the time, the portions and how best to present the food.
There are many injuries that occur in the kitchen as Soxxy found out. There are times when the food does not turn out how you wanted it to. Sometimes you are not even in the mood to cook while other times all you want is a well prepared meal by someone else. I know our culture emphasizes that there is no space for the man in kitchen but until you get into the kitchen, you will always take food preparation for granted.
As men, there is a lot that we can do in the kitchen beyond tasting if the meat is ready. If we never do anything else, we can at least get into the kitchen to keep our mothers, sisters, wives and Daughters Company. We can beat our chest as much as we want, we can complain about eating bad food or the same food for years but until you get into the kitchen we may never really understand what it means to have a good meal.
So before you complain about that meal, take time to appreciate the effort the person who prepared it for you put in. Even the simplest of foods takes effort and time to prepare so once in a while, it would be nice if you and I actually got in the kitchen whether as tourists, first aiders, motivational speakers, casual workers, chefs, messengers, spies, investigative journalists, plumbers, friends or simply as fathers, husbands brothers or sons who want to give the ones we love a hand. Gentlemen, let’s Get In The Kitchen!
Edited by Wanjiku Kimaru