Cooking without ingredients

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

Food wey sweet na moni kill am. In other words, gourmet meals cost money. A good meal is the union of quality ingredients orchestrated by a chef who knows that unlike in board meetings one does not allow every participant into the pot at the same time. The sequential introduction of key players into the heated conference arena is key to success. Like a musical conductor in his element, armed with a long spoon, instruments are coordinated intricately to produce a miracle which usually cannot be attained by a virtuoso acting alone.

One stationed at the banquet table could be thrown into fits of ecstasy when he asks the Nigerian question to the pounded yam and he gets the reply, “egusi, ogbono and bush meat are on the way”. That most famous of all questions, the Nigerian question is “na only you waka come?” (Did you come alone?) It is a question that might have saved Julius Caesar had he uttered those words as he walked over to open the palace door when Brutus knocked.  Unfortunately he got stuck with the Roman question “Et tu, Brute?”  I digress.

Delicacies at the table tell you money has changed hands and that difficult to acquire skills have been brought to bear. When a pauper serves up a 14-course feast everyone is thrown into two minds. To sit, eat and be merry or to ring the police. That same meal in the mansion of the wealthy would sit better in our minds for we all have expectations of what our fellow men are capable of producing based on their reputations.

This human trait of expecting things of people can be very good for you if everyone expects great things and they give you a big reputation to rise to. You simply put in more effort as your thermostat is set at the ‘greatness’ level. Low expectations however is lethal. Is it any wonder Charles Dickens opted for Great Expectations as the title for his 1861 Novel? Would you want to read a book or watch a film entitled Low Expectations?

Looking down on an individual is a process of doubting his ability to perform meaningful tasks. We judge them impotent to excel when we cannot see the factors we have taught ourselves should be present before great performance can occur. For some you need to live in a certain part of town to have a brain. For others it is skin colour or accent. For others it is beauty. We secretly set examinations in our minds and dare Joe Public to pass them. I for one still cannot fathom how the late Ray Charles stayed motivated. He played the piano better than many sighted people.  That is cooking without ingredients. The same applies to Barack Obama getting into the White House.

Not having all you need to thrive can instil a sense of shame especially to someone lacking in confidence and wrongly thinking the whole world is laughing at them. I remember my time in university when all our meals had to have fish, beef or chicken (I don’t recall knowing or seeing any vegetarians). When times were hard for some students they went into the restaurants and ordered cheaper meals devoid of meat such as plain rice and stew. We stood in queues so it was easy to hear the order of those ahead of you and I suppose it was a hard thing to say out loud that one lacked the means to pay for a full plate of food. The phrase ‘without’ was coined. A playful and alternative way of saying I am too broke for meat was “madam, give me rice and stew without”. ‘Without’ was less painful than saying ‘without meat’.  The embarrassment of not having all that is required cripples people for a life time. The confident however start businesses with little capital and are not ashamed. They approach angel investors with their ideas and they tend to succeed despite their deep lack. Microsoft and Facebook did not start with much money.  Both companies had young university drop outs full of ideas and devoid of cash doing the rounds, cap in hand to raise money for their ventures.

Now imagine yourself being introduced to Mark Zuckerberg in his early years and he starts his presentation about a website where young people can hang out and share information. Would he have ticked all your boxes? Would you have felt sorry for his parents seeing that their son had dropped out of Harvard to ‘play on his computer’? Imagine him talking up a big feast while all he had was an empty pot of boiling water and no salt. Would you have invested in buying his ingredients for a percentage of his proposed worldwide feast?

The truth is that those who don’t bet on themselves can never bet on others. When we look down on others we are really looking down on ourselves. Those who predict future greatness for themselves are unlikely to see mediocrity in every other person’s future. They don’t suspect all dreamers of being frauds rather they get inspired for they are reminded of themselves in the dreams of others. The world would be a better place if from time to time we all manage to salivate when the chef without ingredients starts to wash his cooking pots.