Mama liked to make garri. So it became lunch for me every day, after school. She would turn the garri, her legs resting by the side of the pot, her hands holding tightly the omorogun, beads of sweat decorating her dark forehead. Then she would serve it with vegeatables. Efo riro on some days. Ewedu on some others. She would feed me on some afternoons when I declined to finish the small bowl, shoving a ball of garri which she had pressed and rolled with her fingers and dipped into the soup of the day into my mouth. I would take an eternity to swallow but midway, she already had another ball rolling.
It was like punishment those days. Those days when I had to sacrifice watching the cartoons or playing outside with the neighbours to eat.
Now, when I think of garri and the subtle smell of well pressed school uniforms, I would remember those afternoons with a crooked smile. Mama’s face would come to memory, her shiny skin and full grey black hair, her graceful smiile and dainty gold earrings.
I tell people, I’m big because my mama force-fed me well with lots of garri.
In her last days, I prepared garri for Mama most evenings. With a decision to please, I would stir and turn garri in hot water, hoping it was just good enough. I would serve it in a plastic flowery tray, the garri wrapped in white nylon in a glossy white dish plate and the vegetables garnished with fish and meat the way she liked it and stand back waiting for her barrage of criticisms. On some days, the criticisms didn’t come. On some other days, they came, enough to make me cry.
The lumps; She would complain about them. Or she might say my garri resembled feselu
Sick as Mama was, she would go to the kitchen and show me the proper way to prepare it and I would nod my head furiously, glad that I knew better.
But Mama has peacefully left me but her garri art remains with me, right here in my heart.