A nation or a country can be built on well laid foundations that start from the family. I have argued for parental leave for both mothers and fathers in Nigeria.
Unfortunately there has not been any progress in that area. The typical Nigerian life is driven by harsh economic realities and unpredictable socio-political circumstances.
In one of the most complicated situations in the world, the influence of culture and religion in Nigeria provide for a lot of arguments and discussions on the roles of men in different functional and complicated family situations.
All the men in my nuclear family are great cooks. How is that possible?
The credit goes to our mother who complemented our education effectively on the home front. In Western Nigerian secondary schools (during my time) boys are encouraged to choose Agricultural Science and the girls Home Economics.
As I recall now it seemed that the society also played a biased role in determining the roles of men and women. Therefore it appeared that unless the boys took great interest in cooking or their parents especially mothers taught them at home, they always ended up unable to cook.
Many are quick to emphasize that it is the role or even the “job” of women to cook. In traditional African settings that is largely true. The last statement can be expanded even as a topic for an academic dissertation based on the settings of the traditional African societies and the division of labor amongst the men, women and children.
It has always been imperative that women are able to cook, I may state.
My arguments in this essay are towards the men. I think that the men should be able to cook as much as the women. There are many examples of men who are better cook than their wives or the women in their lives.
These arguments are based on the realities of a changing world that cannot be locked up in the past.
Why should men cook? I will draw mostly from personal experiences.
Cooking as I have found out can be a form of relaxation. A wrong notion might be that a man needs a cold bottle of beer after a stressful day at work.
If your kitchen is tidy it is one of the best places to retire to after a hard day’s work. It is a place where you can either throw away your disappointments or show your happiness for the day.
Under any of these circumstances above there should be no hindrance to showing love and care to your children or to your visitors or friends depending on the company you keep after work.
Cooking is art. By systematically creating a piece of meal or a nice, tasty diet from essential raw materials, you might forget or relish about how the day has been and cherish the moment when your children, friends or family enjoy the products your serve to them.
A man should cook to ease the strain on the family.
The children should not suffer or eat junk food simply because their mother is working late one day a week. They should not bear the brunt of their mother visiting a friend during the week or attending a ceremony on Saturday.
If the man is at home, he should be able to stand up to the responsibility of keeping the family going and cooking should be the least of his worries.
There will always be situations when the man is alone with the children at home. That time should not be the time to put up the “I don’t care attitude”. It should not be the time to insult the mother of the children simply because she is held up with another activity.
Some men will never accept that they neglected the obligation of learning how to cook when they were growing up.
Men don’t cook in my family is an outdated expression. When I went to the university I always ate from mama-put is the outburst of a lazy mind. Wake up and look around you. Face the reality of your time and brace up for the era you live in!
Many students can cook despite the fact that they ate at Mama-put and other decent restaurant-which one is your own?
Cooking helps the women to appreciate and boast positively about their men. They feel a sense of gender equality without struggling to achieve it. In a functional family this can promote sexual attraction and help the family to stay psychologically healthy.
I do not mean that cooking prevent separation or divorce. It is just one of the ingredients that help as long as the relationship exists.
When both men and women take turns in the kitchen especially when the turns are not based on a schedule, it helps the children to understand that they are required to also take responsibilities for many things in their lives.
The act of pushing blames or looking for excuses start from the family and children learn too quickly from their immediate environment.
Cooking helps children to learn in diverse ways. Science, art, creativity and mathematics are all embodied into cooking.
In Nigeria I can recall that we learned how to cook using a lot of estimations in our judgments of what is required or needed.
Now when I cook sometimes with instructions and using units like “deciliter” or other measurements-I appreciate the level of my mother’s mathematics. It is almost unbelievable what our mothers did!
I know some men take to cooking as a hobby. This means that, by looking or by some sort of interest they just got going at cooking and found it easy and lovable.
I am sure this category of men have found cooking as a useful hobby at those times they are alone as bachelors or married men whose wives are away for certain reasons. They are able to step-up and take charge of the kitchen.
Turning this hobby into a responsibility will be useful on the long run.
From the foregoing, the ability to cook can also help men (and women) to live independently if they choose to be single.
In my family the time between the secondary school leaving year and the university admission year was reserved for intensive course in cooking with my mother. Invariably that was the time you take over the responsibility of cooking for the others in the family who are at home or getting back from work.
Long before that time, it was recommended to be an observer as mama dished out orisirisi from different pots on our stove that was powered by the kerosene.
Growing up in my family back in Nigeria, I know that both boys and girls have equal abilities in the kitchen. I mean a balance of culinary skills. What may vary is the creativity that we add as we went our separate ways.
The documentation of my days at Jaja and Mariere Halls of the University of Lagos cannot be complete without the flavor and aroma the boys in the halls added to the hostels every day.
Later on I met a friend (names withheld) who told me that he could hardly make a cup of tea. He was actually not joking that he cannot even fry an egg. He frequents my room at the College of Medicine in Idiaraba and I always try to show him how I cook. His case was hopeless. He is still my friend today.
When I have had visitors at our home in Stockholm, some people were unable to hide their shock as to the long time I spent in the kitchen. I cook and I tidy up after cooking. Then I tell them why men should cook and tidy up. I hope some women are not fighting their men based on my kitchen behavior.
I do not believe it is the role of women to always do the cooking or tidy up. My mother would chase me out of the kitchen if I start to cook when the kitchen is dirty. In some extreme cases that I remember, she will put out the fire from the stove and I have to take it from the beginning.
There is a time to add the salt and there is a time to slice the onions. No stones in the beans or you’ll eat all the beans yourself. The rice cannot stick together and the tomato sauce must be well fried. Oh Mamma!
Today I appreciate those teachings more than ever before. You will never see me in a dirty kitchen. I can get ill in a dirty kitchen and that is not an exaggeration. It is not a function of wealth but common sense and lessons about hygiene well taken from my mother.
In Nigeria, many families will probably be unable to synchronize their meal times but with proper planning breakfast and dinner at home should be a possibility. Depending on the weekend schedules, families should strive to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together.
People should stop giving excuses on why they cannot cook or eat with their family.
Like many other issues affecting the upbringing of children, many men will continue to blame it on “lack of time”.
There will never be enough time for what a man wants to do in his lifetime. The same is true for women. People should be taught how to manage their time using the family (spouse and children) as the starting point.
Parents should help their children to acquire cooking skills at home. Bring the children into a safe and tidy kitchen and show them how to cook.
It will be a long walk for the Nigerian society but it is achievable across all the regions if sensible and capable people take over control of the politics and the economy across all the various regions.
Nothing is impossible when there is a sincere roadmap that is not left in the hands of idiots and complete nonentities who are driven by selfish interests and absolute greed.
In Nigeria, it is imperative that the different regions are allowed to re-emerge.
There is a lot in the identities of each ethnic group that are submerged and lost in the name of unitary government that shows lack of respect to individuals and folk-group.
People should be allowed to tap into their cultural and traditional family values. They should be taught how to plan their homes appropriately with respect to family size and responsibilities.
It is time to lift the positive values within the family through regional adaptive education and merge them with the demands of a global village.
Properly educated children will build strong families and dependable communities. They will form the backbones of viable regions across Nigeria. The future can be bright and better.
My late mother’s teachings at home and an adaptive, undiluted education in Western Nigeria fit perfectly into a functional life at home and across the world.