A few days ago Ms Right and I paid a visit to a couple who had lost their new born baby. The woman of the house was still recuperating and therefore not in a position to cook. The man of the house had been doing all house chores for the best part of three weeks. It went without saying that sitting pretty and expecting to be served was not an option. We had to get busy.
You know how much someone has been waiting for your relief from the way they jump at your offer to do anything to help. No sooner did Ms Right suggest that we could cook chapati than she was quickly ushered into the large kitchen and given all the tools to make it happen. I have been around the block for a while but cooking chapati is one of those things that passed me by because I grew up around active sisters. I wasn’t going to let this one pass too.
A woman’s prowess in the kitchen is often used as a parameter to filter the wife material girls from the girlfriend material ones. Even more so when it comes to cooking soft, round chapatis among Adventist circles. However, my tribulations in the kitchen that hot Sunday afternoon was probably the kick up my backside I needed to lower the bar or better yet demolish the Great Wall of China of what constitutes a wife material.
Right off the bat I’ll admit that I quickly proved to be an embarrassing liability in that kitchen. For heaven’s sake, I can’t even grate carrots correctly! There’s that mabati box-like tool used to grate carrots. Apparently, there’s a side for grating large pieces and one for grating fine pieces. Not even that, most of my difficulty was as a result of rubbing the carrot the wrong way against the grater! The right way is to rub the carrot in the opposite direction of the pricks. In the event, I was like the boy in that famous video receiving the baton from a teammate at a race and running away from the finish line instead of towards it!
For all the years I’ve spent under the sun, that was the day I learnt how to use a carrot grater correctly. We needed those fine pieces to mix into the dough for chapati. Yet by the time Ms Right was inspecting my work I was done with three carrots grated in large pieces. She politely asked me to eat them and start afresh.
Mixing the dough for chapati is like boxing a punching bag. Now you know why most hotels have men for chefs and women for waitresses. Preparing the dough for chapati is a gym class in its own right. Suffice it to say that’s the only bit where I looked moderately useful. It wasn’t long before I became useless again. You would think rolling the dough into round shapes was easy. Wapi! My best round shape was in the form of something remotely resembling underwear!
I was quickly fired from that job and assigned lighter duties. I’ve been cutting onions, tomatoes and potatoes for as long as I have lived alone but that Sunday afternoon in a foreign kitchen Ms Right burst my bubble saying my cutting technique didn’t pass muster. In her world, tomatoes must be shaved off the top part, the one that contains the scar where the fruit was once attached to the vine. What a waste! Based on her specifications, I wondered why she doesn’t use the carrot grater on onions. On account of not meeting standards for cutting tomatoes and onions, I was demoted further and asked to wash utensils!
The effort required to make good chapatis is quite tremendous. It gets worse considering all your labors end up diminishing your appetite. You basically suffer in the kitchen for hours only for others to enjoy. I got out of that kitchen not only with a great understanding of why women ask for fare but also wondering why they don’t ask for more. If it were up to me, chapatis would sell for Sh.300 a piece, not the current Sh.30 bob. My poor performance in the kitchen has taught me to reduce the demands I have on who’s a wife material. If I can’t cook, if I can hardly roll dough into round shapes, if I can’t grate carrots and if I cut tomatoes the substandard way, if I’m generally useless in the kitchen, I should be satisfied with a woman who can boil rice and make tea. Anything more is a bonus.
Ladies, if you’re going to use your cooking skills to impress a man, demand that he also impress you by sending fare at a minimum. Some men out here want to invite you to their cribs as the cook who’ll also be the main meal. The least they should offer is fare. Asking for fare is not the mark of a gold digger. Fare is facilitation fee, appearance fee, business development fee etc etc. Fare is the grease that keeps the wheels of premium wifely services rolling. Don’t settle for less. Happy International Women’s Day!