Book Review: How To Cook Your Husband The African Way by Calixthe Beyala

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“I’m asking you to control his desires, to be the zapper of his zipper, the oil in his motor, the cable of his printer, the laces of his shoes.”

A STORY OF LOVE, FOOD AND ITS EXTREMITIES

From Porcupine with the nuts of wild mangoes to Boa in banana leaves, a devoted Aissatou is hell bent on cooking her way to the heart of the man—Bolobolo— she loves. Mr Bolobolo is a man from Mali who lives with his mother whom ‘is losing her marbles’ and her beloved pet chicken. She starts cooking and sending the meals to Bolobolo. At first, he hesitates, but later finds himself deep in the plate of whatever meal Aissatou has cooked. Bolobolo succumbs to the powerful force of good food and enters relationship with her. However, in this case, the age-long saying that the way to a man’s heart is his stomach loses credibility. Although it does a part of the job and wonderful things to a man’s palate and stomach, the heroine comes to the realization that food isn’t enough to keep a man.

This is an ultra-modern rom-com (a fusion of romance and comedy) story set in Paris. Beyala’s writing style in showing us the different dimensions of the human mind is noteworthy. She makes use of the first person point of view, thereby making the story very relatable and personal. You feel the heat Aissatou is feeling, preparing her meals and how eager she is in getting Mr Bolobolo. In addition, using satire the author dabs into other issues such as racism, identity and sexism amongst others.

This book will make you hungry. Beyala accompanies every chapter with mouth-watering recipes. The use of vivid graphic imagery by the author is excellent and this way the reader does not feel alienated.

“Food is the stuff of life, the same as life. Today it makes for more unity than justice. It’s maybe the only thing that will bring peace and reconciliation to humankind.”

So, can one really cook one’s husband the African way or any other way? Is it feasible? The answer to those questions is what Beyala has tried to trash out in her book.

The book is significant in many ways. First, it brings out the magical power of food. The author has successfully lectured us on how food can soften a man’s heart. From start to finish, we witness Aissatou winning all her battles with different kinds of meals.

“Because to be white you’ve got to be thin… A beautiful woman is flat as a pancake, thin as a rake or a slice of Melba toast. Melba toast snaps easily. Circle crackle. I measure my life by my waist” Continue reading

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Laughing Gas

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People had different names for what was wrong with her husband and how he behaved.
In high spirits. No
But high on bottles of spirits.
He was battling with something, his own demons maybe.
Talking was no use
He spoke with his fists and eyes.
I didn’t help her situation that evening.
If only she had told me beforehand,
I wouldn’t have tried to lock her door to stop him from coming in.
I glanced back at her, hoping she would join me.
She didn’t.
She just stood by her bed.
The cloak of fear wrapped around her did nothing to stop the shivering.
I tried to lock the door but for some reason, the key wouldn’t turn
He was shouting
I couldn’t hear what
He went silent
I was still trying my luck with the key
My body pushing from behind
He was stronger, pushed his way through.
It was unexpected,
just like the slap that landed. Continue reading

Out by Victor Olusanya

 

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Image from Google

 

You meet up with him somewhere close to your hostel. He is the guy you have always wished for: dark, tall, round face with finely cut beards forming brackets on both his cheeks. He takes you to a fancy restaurant, and talks about how he wishes to show you to his parents, and friends. When you tell him you wish to show him off on Instagram and Snapchat, he refuses. He says he does not want publicity. You agree. After all, in relationships, show off is not that important.

You have heard some other things people say are not important; something like kissing in public. But you cannot explain how both of you lock lips; tongues entangle with passion. After all, sometimes, in relationships, there are no stable rules; just do what makes you happy. He then takes you for a short walk. He keeps brushing the sand with the tip of his shoe. You look so small beside him, but you do not mind. You do not mind so many things. First, he is tall and touches your weave as if he is the one who bought it. Secondly, he is Yoruba and you are Igbo.

He takes you to the park where you both sit on a concrete platform. There is a tree forming a canopy over both of you. In front of you is the lagoon, and the Third Mainland Bridge darting across it. You look up to him. He realizes and then smiles back at you. His smile is that of a new born baby, refreshing and lovely. He then tells you that you complete him. You smile and nod your head in approval. You put your head on his shoulder and then he puts his arm across your shoulder so that if forms a C.

As the sun dissolves into the clouds darkening the skies, he tells you that he wants to start going; that he wants to travel home and will spend a week. You don’t want him to leave. He smiles, and tells you that he will come back for you; that he will always be there for you. You accompany him to where he will board a bus. He hugs you tight, and then you watch him leave. The brake lights of the bus bids you goodbye.

You return back to your hostel. Some Passersby keep glaring at you. You want to confront them, but you keep quiet. Silence, sometimes, settles many fights, you think. Then one of them asks if you are alright. I am okay, nothing is wrong, you reply her. You enter your room. Continue reading

Book Review: Segu by Maryse Condé

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“One day you’ll come to Segu. You’ve never seen a town like it. The towns here were created by the white men—they were born out of the trade in human flesh… But Segu—Segu is like a woman you can only possess by force.” Segu p.417

Segu is a brilliant piece written by Condé, which is rich in historical facts. Originally written in French and was translated by Barbara Ray—Kudos to the translator! Without her, I might not have had the opportunity to read this beautiful work of art. It was recommended to me last year when I put up a post about some of my favourite books; so glad I bought and read it.

The book has 490 pages and is divided into five parts. It begins in Segu (situated in present-day Mali), the capital of the 18th century Bambara Empire and in between, you get to visit distant lands. Through the desert you find your way to Timbuktu (also situated in present-day Mali), have brief encounters with the Ashanti Empire (present-day Ghana), a bit of flirtation with 19th century London, you even get to spend some time in Freetown and trace the edges of Lagos! (Situated in present-day Nigeria). How beautiful is that?

Continue reading

The Cycle

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Image: Google

I had often heard Mama and certain others say, life is full of uncertainties and nothing is new under the sun, following a long sigh after hearing shocking news.

When Sister began to swell, I knew something was wrong. This unexpected development was new to me. Mama wore a worried look like beautiful makeup and each day she tried to conceal her sadness but I could see through the facade. Mama’s worry did not stop Sister’s swelling stomach and as days passed into months I was scared she would explode. It was unusual.

They talked in low tones and there were times Mama raised her voice then lowered it quickly. Sister comes out of the room crying but wipes her face and pats my head when she sees my questioning eyes. She would say be a good girl, don’t make the same mistake then her eyes would wander far into unknown lands. When she falls asleep on the chair in the sitting room, I touch her round stomach.

Sister finally exploded but did not survive the explosion and neither did the bomb in her stomach. At least, that was what I thought it was at the time. What did I know? I was just eight years old. Mama wasn’t herself for months. That morning when my groaning sixteen years old sister was rushed to the woman who helps fully blown up women, replayed in my head.

Now at age seventeen, I stare back and forth, from my swollen stomach to my tired mother worn from tears and thinking. She neither says much nor raises her voice at me like she did my sister years ago. All she keeps muttering like a line from a well-known song is where did I go wrong?

Her eyes say more than her mouth. They gaze deep into my soul and ask why I have decided to take this path too and continue the cycle of fatherlessness.

 

 

Muhsinat Kamardeen

05/09/2015

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“Some are rule followers & some are rule breakers”

As I read that line over and overmy mind wandered to Faith who decided to follow her fate. I was annoyed when she decided to leave and start afresh somewhere else. Don’t get me wrong I’m not against fresh starts but I wasn’t happy with the way she went about it. Faith was more of a rule breaker than follower. She was that square peg in every round peg family. So when Faith’s family took it upon themselves to lose their voice, telling her to stay because she knows nothing about the world, I knew it was a waste of time. They had the inkling too but still, they tried. Her mind was made up. She had to leave. Listen to your parents wasn’t one of her best mantras. Her decision may yield the best fruits—I hope, but I still feel she should have listened and stayed.

Some of us are rule followers. Some are rule breakers. I hope the latter really favors her because I’ll be mad if it doesn’t. It might seem like the wrong way to me but we were made for different paths. Who am I to say the path she walks towards her destiny is the wrong one? All I can do is silently pray and watch, hoping her end justifies her means. She calls sometimes to say she’s all right, and I really hope she is.

 

 

Muhsinat Kamardeen