Stick me in the bedroom and I know exactly how to perform but put me in a kitchen and I’m a little lost. It’s billed as the room a woman’s place is meant to be and it is the one place I’d rather not be left in. I was born to eat and be taken out not to cook, I tell men I meet. Inevitably the conversation with a potential mate always moves into whether I can cook or not and I like to put an end to that conversation quickly.
The trouble with being a black woman is the number of assumptions men make about me. A huge assumption relates to me and my performance in the kitchen. The belief is that I am black so therefore I am an amazing cook. The disappointing look in their eyes that follows usually signals the end of the conversation. These men expect me to whip up all kinds of Jamaican delights like Ackee and Saltfish, even though my heritage is not Jamaican, and serve it to them with a Guinness punch and fried plantain. Then there are those men who believe that I can magically produce a batch of pounded yam for them. I look at them dumbfounded and ask them whether they think my name is Mama Africa.
I blame the tomboy childhood and the eighties power woman. They taught me that I was slave to nothing least of all a kitchen. I detest cooking. Having children forced me into a position where I had to cook nutritious meals at least 70% of the time and the other 30% was filled with fish and chip suppers or pizza. When the kids are away at their dads for the weekend I happily eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I never spend any time in the kitchen unless it is absolutely necessary and cooking for a man does not come under the necessity banner. In fact if I spend six hours in a kitchen cooking then I must adore the man immensely.
I never cooked with my mum when I was younger. She worked nights so my dad cooked. As I got older I wanted to learn to cook some of my favourite childhood foods like Pumpkin soup, curried mutton and fried dumplings (okay I used the Jamaican word for it but hardly anyone calls them “bakes”). My mum’s idea of measuring during cooking was to ‘just pour until it feels right,’ and she would proudly tell you that she never uses measuring spoons or cooking scales. She has no idea how many ounces are needed and yet her food was always cooked to perfection. My food, cooked using the just pour until it feels right method, left a lot to be desired.
Now I must tell you that my aversion to cooking is not a case of can’t cook but more a case of won’t cook and don’t want to bloody waste my time cooking. Yet as a woman society seems to have made it our task. The way to man’s heart (apparently) is through his stomach. Well girls I am here to tell you that society lied. The truth is if you can dazzle him in the bedroom you will find your way to his heart, head, loins and wallet. That old wives tale about his stomach being the way forward was probably concocted by some cheap skate who wanted to avoid taking a woman out to eat at a decent restaurant. He whispered it into the ear of a woman or two and the lie spread from one woman to another (you know how we like to share) making its way around the world and forever cursing us into a life of cooking and washing up so we can make our man happy. Make him pay then drag his arse into the bedroom and show him why it was worth the money; works every time.
Mama Africa is flash fiction story that appears in my book The Last Hut