For The Love of Peppered Snail

Picture from All Nigerian Recipes

(Somewhere in Lagos, a woman in her mid-forties and her young daughter in their sitting room. The young girl is clearing the dining table. They just had lunch. ‘Baby mi show colour re ka jo ma rocki…’ can be heard blasting at full volume from two big speakers in front of Iya Sikiru’s restaurant not too far from their house. Customers can be seen going in and out of the restaurant, some sitting & nodding along to the music as they eat.)

Mama Bilikis (fans herself with a plastic hand fan): Bili open that window for me, this heat is too much. We don’t know when those fools will give us light. All they know is how to collect money for services they do not render (Hiss).

Bilikis (opens the window but stays watching the on goings at the restaurant): Mama I want peppered snail.

(Ignores her, Mama B adjusts her head on armrest of the three-sitter fanning herself. Once in a while using the fan to wade off an annoying fly)

Bilikis (louder): Mama! I said I want peppered snail!

Mama Bilikis: Come and turn me into peppered snail. Glutton! (Hiss and closes her eyes)

Bilikis (grumbling and stamping her feet): Ohhh ohhh but Mama…

Mama B (eyes still closed): Will you shut your mouth there before I come there to give you a dirty slap! Didn’t you just have lunch ehn?!

Bilikis: It wasn’t enough (sits in a chair across the room, frowning and mumbling)

Mama B: Did I hear you say it wasn’t enough? (B still grumbling) All you know is food, nothing else. (Long hiss)

B: Mama that rice was small. I’m very sure it can’t even fill up an ant.

Mama B: Mrs Ant, so you are telling me that medium sized bowl I filled with rice for you wasn’t enough right?

B (heaves a sigh): I wish daddy was at home, he would have given me money to buy some from Iya Sikiru.

Mama B: When your father gets back from work, disturb him. You know he is not here to save you from my wrath so if you don’t love yourself and want to see hell this afternoon, disturb me.

B (To herself): She makes it so well. Its nice aroma seduces you into a short trance and the heavenly taste makes you forget your worries. The way the hot spice makes your nose run as your mouth and tongue dance in unison to the rhythm of hot pepper but you are too deep in love with every bite, that you don’t even notice the sweat starting to form on your forehead. Ah! Igbin alata*Working wonders to your senses since Oduduwa. All hail the power of rodo** married to fried snail. You can’t go wrong with a tall glass of chilled Malt or juice to accompany it on its journey to your stomach. I would trade anything for a plate of peppered snail right now. I can taste…

Mama B: Bili, if I tell you to shut your mouth one more time, people that don’t know you will feel sorry for you when I’m done with you. Don’t you have books to read? (Irritated as B keeps disrupting the quick nap she is trying to have)

B (in low tones): I can even trade my mum for a plate of snail.

Mama B (hiss): (Aside) what kind of child is this? I wont let you kill me. If you are not careful, you’ll receive a tall glass of beating (Slyly reaches for the cane behind her waiting for the right moment to surprise Bilikis)

B: At least if you won’t buy me some, I’m allowed to praise it or aren’t I?
(Looking towards the window, palm underneath her chin unaware of her already standing mother walking towards with a cane) Oh Lord I can tas… (Her mother’s cane lands on her lap unexpectedly, she screams from pain, jumps up)

Mama B (furious): Are you asking me questions? Deaf child! I’ll open those ears with my cane today. Omo to ba nipe kiya e ma sun ko ni foju kan orun*** (adjusts her wrapper while B rubs where the cane hit her)

B (frowning): What have I done wrong? All because of peppered snail that I didn’t get to eat.

Mama B (fuming): You are still running your mouth, let me finish tying my wrapper and you are still there. (Runs out screaming as Mama B raises her cane again) I’ll teach you a lesson and beat out the food curse placed on you this afternoon. (Trips as she runs after her, cane in hand) I’ll show you hell before you kill me.
*Peppered snail
**Scotch bonnets
***The child that will not let its mother sleep would not sleep too

                                                                                                   Muhsinat Kamardeen


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