For less than 2 dollars I was treated to a plate of amala, with the orishirishi that makes it sumptuous. Good things don’t come that cheap; so I suspect that Yoruba woman who ran the bukka.
I really am not a bukka person, but the sight, and aroma emanating from her cooking pot was so overpowering that I had this fatalistic thought that I would never again have a restful sleep for the rest of my life if I didn’t indulge in a serving of her amala with ewedu, okra, or gbegiri, and the delectable assortment of meat- brokotor, iishan, kponmon, and shaki.
See, I was only seeking shelter from the pouring rains, and waiting for the ankle-deep puddles of water that had already soaked through my canvas shoes to abate. The warmth and relative dryness of the makeshift restaurant may have been the enticement to enter the place, but whatever the lure was, it was a seduction I couldn’t resist.
There are unseen and unknown forces, beside attraction and necessity, that could constrict a grown man and swallow him up whole. One of such forces was at work and it is simply known as “Longa throat”. The force of longa throat gets you once you sniff the aroma of an irresistible delicacy. I am not a glutton, so, I didn’t give in to the lure of longa throat, it just got to me when my guards were down. That’s all.
I felt like I was going to shrivel up and expire if I didn’t have a taste of that dish, so I did the needful to save my life. I stepped closer, grabbed a bowl from the fly-studded stack of used dishes, hurriedly wash it up and got into line like everyone else was doing. There was no service line actually. The place was crowded and rowdy. Those who were not hunched over bowls of amala, eba or fufu, were either struggling to pay their bills for meals eaten, or scrambling to get served before anybody else.
When I squirmed through the throng to the front line, I handed in my bowl to be served. I told the voluptuous lady tending to the steaming iron pot, to put “amala meji”. Amala meji transcribed is “amala two”; that, translated into English, would be “two amala”. That is two scoops of the scalding hot sticky brown meal. I was only imitating the dude who got served before me – one corporate-dressed-down gentleman with obvious Ibadan tribal scars marking-up his cheeks. He had the Ibadan accent too. I envied the treatment the gentleman was getting- the looks he got from the amala woman, the view he got of her cleavage, and the generous scoops. I thought I might be similarly spoilt but she hitched the sagging neckline of her blouse, and I lost the view.
The lady deftly cut out an impressive size of amala from the pot steaming between her knees. She further scraped bits off the big mound she’d so deftly made, making the thing smaller. The movement was undulating her bulbous breasts that the sweat from her brow and face were streaking into. I couldn’t view the deep cleavage that I knew separated the two watermelon-like mounds on her bossom, when I managed to take my eyes off the pot that sat between her thighs. Why was the amala-woman being stingy when it got to my turn?
After she had scraped and carved away the greater portion, what I got was still sizable enough. She pressed down on the amala inside my bowl with her spatula, making a depression that transformed my scoop of amala into a bowl-like shape. I discovered that the amala could hold the soup when it was poured over it. Otherwise, I like my soup at the side of a plate, if I have to put soup and amala together in one plate.
She handed my bowl of amala to another lady who asked me, “obe wo ni e fe?”
I wished to try out the soup with the seductive aroma that incited the longa throat in me, but since she asked what soup I preferred, I wanted the viscous ewedu soup to go with the sticky amala for better lubrication of the passage of my craving throat. She seemed to discern my thought as she scooped a ladle of the greenish ewedu soup onto the hollow in the brown amala. She added another scoop of yellowish gbegiri from another pot. She was going to add okra to the concoction but I said “e don do”. I wanted her to cease smearing-up the amala with the untidy-looking okra soup, not because I didn’t like okra soup, I do in fact, but besides looking messy, the soup-mix in the bowl was already getting too plentiful and drowning out the mound of amala.
“Abi e ‘o fe abula ni”.
I no want abula, but no worry just hand me my sh…t”. I really can’t stand the sight of abula. That mixture of ewedu, okra, gbegiri and egusi stirred into a helping of danger-red peppery tomato stew is just not so very pretty..
“Eran wo ni e fe?” She asked. I wondered how she could be asking me what meat I wanted whereas she was already dishing an assortment of meat- beef-side (naama) brokotor (cow hoof), kponmo (cow hide), cattle intestines (abodi) and shaki (cow stomach) into my bowl.
I hesitate. She pause, waiting for my response. I hesitate. She hiss and start to remove the meat one after the other starting with my favourite- kponmo as I linger on the choice of meat to order.
“Okay. Bring am like that” I said to stop the further removal of meat from my dish. I agreed with the choices she’d made for me about meat- that decision turned out a wise one- it was the same choice the corporate-looking gentleman had made.
The meal of amala with an assortment of beef and entrails so gorged me up that I felt dazed- like you feel after a good meal. I am not a heavy meal person, especially not in the morning. And, ooh-la-la, Yoruba women can cook. Why don’t I even ditch my calabar girlfriend and hitch up with a Yoruba woman? I can stand anything a non-native can’t stand, like having to wash my soup-stained hands in oily used water, and wipe my hand on discoloured soggy napkins, like the corporate dude.
Paying for the meal was another wahala. I had to get in line again. A still small voice was urging me to walk out and make away with my unpaid bill, into the still pouring rain. But I counseled myself to “do the right thing in The Spirit of Lagos, and good citizenship” to pay up. The iya amala could be using juju, you know; one can’t put that past these people. What if as I step out of the bukka I get hit by the axe of shango the Yoruba god of thunder and of vengeance.
Not really out of fear, but out of certainty that the woman was using juju I resolved to wait my turn and pay up my bills even if the madam and her helper were paying me no mind at all.
Now, I am convinced that the olfacto-sensual seduction was not ordinary because, normally I would never eat in such fly-ridden and overcrowded place; situated over a stagnant gutter to boot, not even if it is The Lord’s Super.