Ghanaian jollof

Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

A great saga sometimes is instigated by a small spark; an errand.

When faced with a big self-afflicted calamitous episode, the Naija man must in the spirit of self-examination ask himself the question, “na who send me message?’”

Nothing propels you forward in life like an errand. Goliath lost his head on the back of this errand. Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these 10 loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp.” And the world talks about David and Goliath situations till today.

And so I got a text message at work, “Please can you collect Joel’s gift and some food from Mary’s place on the way back from work?”

The answer is always “yes” to these requests. I recall a friend who was asked to help pick up something on his way home after work from his wife’s parents’ Kaduna home. The only problem was that he lived and worked in Abuja. When he protested that Kaduna was not on the way home he was told “go and see what your mates are doing for their wives”.  I digress.

Show me your errands and I will tell you who you are. The errands maketh the man after all. The lonely have no one to send them anywhere. Those with company do errands all day. I digress again.

Anyway, I appear at Mary’s house and I am sent on my way with my son’s birthday present and a container of Ghanaian jollof rice. I did not ask who the rice was for as I assumed the women had discussed ownership rights of the said jollof.

As I drove home the aroma from the rice filled the car and did strange things to my brain.  Alone with a rice that smelt like it came from heaven, I started to get adulterated flashbacks to history lessons of yore. Did Chief Priest Okomfo Anokye conjure from the skies a golden bowl of Ghanaian jollof rice for the first Asantehene of the Asante Kingdom, His Royal Highness Osei Tutu? Or was it just the golden stool he brought down from the skies?

The more I drove, the more I thought of parking the car in front of one of these shops along the way home that sold plastic containers so I could divide the rice into two and leave my own in the car to be retrieved later in the night when all have slept.

The next idea that formed was to elope with the rice to France for two days. By the time my worried family reports me missing to the police and go through the stress of searching for me, they would have forgotten the rice when I turn up with a tale of having been abducted by kidnappers and almost sacrificed in a money ritual (too much Nollywood abi?).

You see, food is a powerful thing in the presence of hunger. Diverse temptations and creative lying abound in the mind of the possessor of an empty stomach.

Some might wonder why a Nigerian is being tortured by a foreign jollof when we have our own version. Time and chance my people, time and chance.

Apart from errands, a man is also made by the gifts bestowed upon him. On the said day my wife was gifted with Ghanaian jollof and that was my experience. Perhaps, if I was gifted with Nigerian jollof this article would have turned out different. And yes, I have eaten Nigerian jollof before, complete with dodo, moin-moin, gizzard and beef. However, the past meals mean nothing when you are famished and you are faced with a hot meal within reach.

How could I write of Cameroun jollof embellished with coconut oil or the Liberian or Sierra Leone versions? Togo and Republic of Benin have their own jollof as does the Senegalese Wolof jollof popularly called ‘one pot’ and said to be the first jollof ever made. No nationals from these West African countries called me to collect a ‘take-away’ so Ghana it is that gave me Independence from hunger.

Oh yes!  I recall the Nigerian jollof of my youth however; the CV of past meals can never give comfort when a man is famished. If you doubt this ask Esau when you die and see him so he can tell you how he sold his birthright and destiny for a plate of food.

By the time I was parking my car, good conscience and commonsense had prevailed and I decided to present the items to my wife without any taxation.

I asked tentatively, “who did Mary do this rice for?” And she answered, “It is for us na. Why do you ask?”

A hidden sigh of relief later I muttered, “Oh, I thought you made a special request. I might eat a bit”.

On the table, I did pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the meal which had to be cut short as my mouth flooded with saliva. It felt like the Volta River had sprung forth in my mouth while my lips acted as the Akosombo Dam.

Those acquainted with the Pavlov’s experiments will catch my drift.

The meal took place at night and my two-year-old son hustled hard for a good share of the Ghanaian jollof.  Despite it being dark outside, in the words of Osibisa, it was a “sunshine day” on our dinner table. Pure Black Star tinz.