“Mummy, can I cook today?”
“Not today love” said my Mum as she cut the vegetable for the soup she was cooking.
“Then when?” Temitope asked getting impatient.
“Very soon” she replied still chopping.
This had become a daily occurrence at my house. Temitope, my ten-year-old sister would want to cook and my Mum, being wary for our stomachs wouldn’t let her.
“But that’s what you always say” she protested, “Give me a date”.
Mum and I both paused; I had been washing the dishes while the conversation had been going on.
“Give whom a date?” my father asked as he entered the kitchen. It was Saturday so he was at home.
“Me” Temi said, looking like she would soon throw a tantrum. “No one ever lets me cook; they always say later…I want to cook now”
“Temi, stop that,” I chided.
“No, let have her say” my father said. Temitope was the last child ijn our family and therefore the most pampered of all; she was the apple of my father’s eye.
“If you want to cook I see no reason why you shouldn’t, it really isn’t too early for you to grow up” he said thoughtfully.
“Can I make dinner on Wednesday?” she asked.
“Why Wednesday?” he asked perplexed.
“Well… it’s because Wednesday is beans night and I’m sure it can’t be difficult to make”.
“Ok, Wednesday it is…that is if it’s okay with your Mum?” his voice sounded sheepish like it always did whenever he thought he had exceeded his bounds and had made decisions that weren’t his to make.
My mum and I looked at each other for a while; I was the first to look away.
“Okay… I guess Wednesday would be fine”.
At three in the afternoon Yinka, my fifteen-year-old sister rushed into my room
“Sister Dayo, Temi is in the kitchen oh”
“What?” I asked stretching; she had just woken me up from a very pleasant dream.
“Temi is putting water on fire”
“What?” My brain was still cloudy and I couldn’t comprehend what she was talking about.
“She said she was making dinner today” she said tapping an impatient foot on the floor.
It suddenly dawned on me what Yinka had been trying to tell me for the past five minutes. I got out of bed and hurried to the kitchen.
Temi was humming a tune as she put a pot on fire; I looked at my little sister in amazement. She was a little short for her age, four feet to be exact. Her large brown eyes, which were always ready to cry, fit smugly on her heart shaped face.
“What do you think you are doing?” I asked her.
“Cooking” she answered happily.
“Because it’s Wednesday” she answered me stressing each word like I was a child who found it difficult to understand simple matters.
“Oh… yes, Temi are you sure you want to start cooking today? Why not postpone it to some other…?”
Both Mummy and Daddy said I could”.
“I know but…”
“No… they said I could start growing up”.
“I knew she was getting ready to throw a tantrum, this shouldn’t have mattered much but for the fact that these tantrums usually led to severe asthma attacks, something my entire family and I had come to dread.
I gave up.
“Okay, you know where everything is”.
“Thank you sister” she said then she completely ignored me as she kept on at her chosen task, I seriously doubted if my parents knew what were in for.
At intervals, I would enter the kitchen to see what she was doing. It really was a touching sight; a ten year old labouring over a cookbook, her brows furrowed because of the heat.
“Do you need any help?” I asked hopefully.
“No thanks” was the prompt reply, “everything is under control’
“I sure hope so,” I muttered under my breath. An hour later I went back to the kitchen,
“Temi, you don’t have to wait in here for the beans to soften, you actually could come wait in the parlor…you know… in front of the T.V”.
“Thanks, but I’d rather wait here” she said stifling a yawn. I had to admit, she was resolute.
I looked round our L-shaped kitchen with its white drawers, all though she had strewn the flavouring wrap on the light brown marble floor and the gas cooker had dark brown stains on them, it couldn’t be described as a hygienic hazard.
Two hours later I went back into the kitchen, my sisters beaming face greeted my entrance.
“Hmmm… something sure smells good” I commented, I wasn’t trying to make her feel good; the food actually smelt like food.
She grinned at me, he eyes bright with joy.
“You really think so?” she asked in a voice that told me she fishing for compliments.
“Yes I do… it looks good too, well done”.
It was amazing, my baby sis could cook. I felt so ashamed of the jibes I had told at her expense.
“Would you like to taste?” she asked
I looked at her hopeful face and her t-shirt, which had been white at the beginning of this great expedition but now had various palm-oil stains. I looked into the pot again, it did not look poisonous yet I did feel a tad apprehensive.
It was her eyes that did me in.
“Sure” I asked with more courage than I really felt.
She jumped off the stool she had been sitting on, her bare feet making a thud as she landed on the floor, she hurriedly got a plate out of the cupboard and dished a healthy scoop, I had to admit, it didn’t look half bad.
She handed me both the plate and a spoon and wiped her hands on her blue jeans as she waited for my verdict. I took a healthy scoop and put it in my mouth.
I had to hold myself not to gag.
“Temi” I said after swallowing the offending mess I’d previously deposited in my mouth, “How much salt did you put in the beans?”
“One table spoon” she answered, “why?”
“No reason… let me see this spoon”
She walked to the sink and brought out the cooking spoon with a deep base, it was one my Mum only used for dishing soup. I couldn’t wait for my parents to get home.
* * *
“Welcome daddy” we all greeted as he came in.
“How was work dear?” my Mum asked taking his brief case from him.
“It was fine” he replied giving her a kiss on the cheek. Temi walked to him dejectedly.
“What is it my angel?” my father asked her.
“I cooked today but no one wants to eat it”.
“You didn’t eat it either” Yemi said from the front of the T.V.
My father ignored her and looked at Temi.
“I’ll eat it” he said simply.
We all stared at him as he sat in front of the food.
He took his first spoon full and smiled. I could imagine the thoughts racing through Temi’s mind as he chewed.
“What do they know, if daddy says it’s alright, then it is”.
I smiled inwardly.
“Temi sweetheart, this is a wonderful first attempt. I’m so proud of you…ehn, well… we had a big luncheon at work today and right now I couldn’t eat another bite even if I wanted to… but don’t worry, Mummy will warm it up for me later”.
A look of suspicious crossed her features, but it disappeared almost as quickly as it came.
“Don’t worry daddy, tomorrow I’ll cook something again”.
“No!” my Mum and I exclaimed in unison. I had cooked something else in a hurry after Temi’s disaster and we weren’t looking forward to a repeat performance.
“What they’re trying to say…” my father the peace maker said “is that you’ll always have other opportunities to cook but you need to read for your examinations that are fast approaching, we wouldn’t want my princess not to do well in school now do we?” his tone very patronizing.
“No daddy” she replied. The beginnings of a smile lighting up her face, she walked up to where he was seated and hugged him tightly. Smiling, she left the dining area.
“Dayo hurry up make some sandwiches then bring them to my room” my father said in a conspirational whisper.
As he got up from his seat another though occurred to him,
“One more thing, don’t let your sister see you”.
I smiled as I watched him leave the dinning room.