Grandma's Moi Moi (Bean Pudding)
Nwike loved weekends more than anything. He loved Saturdays because he could watch cartoons in the mornings (when he was done with his chores), eat grandma's moi moi and have long naps in the afternoons. On Sundays, he went to church, ate grandma's chicken tomato stew with rice and then watched TV or read a book the whole afternoon.
That Saturday morning, Nwike woke up very early so he could do his share of the household chores. He grabbed an old broom to sweep the rug in the sitting room, the corridors leading to the kitchen and the balcony/stairs outside. He also had to make sure the wooden benches on the balcony were all clean and dust-free. Grandpa's favourite cane chair also had to be dusted and cleaned with an old rag. He always sat on it when he received guests and it was too hot to sit inside. Sometimes, he also sat on it in the evenings when he told stories to Nwike and his siblings.
Household clean-ups in Nigeria were always done on Saturdays. Families cleaned their houses together and local business ventures didn't open up until they had taken part in the weekly 'Environmental Sanitation.' Environmental sanitation was a series of clean-up activities that involved residents/local business owners cleaning the gutters in front of their houses/shops, emptying their dustbins and sweeping and mopping their houses/shops to make sure it met the local government's hygiene standards. People woke up very early in the morning to sweep their houses, wash the dirty dishes from the previous night and do the laundry they had accumulated over a period of two or more weeks. Some even went as far as rearranging their houses by moving couch sets around just to make sure every nook and cranny was clean. After the sweeping and rearranging, the wiping of dusty furniture and electronics began, with old rags.
Nwike always did his Saturday cleaning with a little bit of music in the background. While he did certainly loved Saturdays and grandma's moi moi, one thing he despised about Saturdays was having to fight with Nneka and Elizabeth about what kind of music they had to play during clean-ups. He loved rap music a lot and enjoyed doing his chores with any of Tupac's songs booming on the loudspeaker. His sisters on the other hand, didn't share his love for American rap music, but enjoyed listening to Nigerian hip-hop music - which he despised. Another thing he disliked was how grandma always took Nneka's side when they argued and went to her for a solution. She would always ask him to take the high road and be the better person (by letting her choose whatever music she wanted). Sometimes, he got tired of being the better person and then they'd fight.
Nwike was done with sweeping the rug in the sitting room when Nneka walked past in search of detergent she could use for mopping the bedroom floor. Grandma Lucia was never careless with her boxes of detergent and always kept them in a place where the children couldn't find them. She was scared they'd be wasteful if she let everyone have easy access to it. She also did the same when it came to tins of milk and powdered cocoa, bags of rice and beans, boxes of sugar cubes, gallons of red oil and groundnut oil and even butter. That was the reason why Nwike, Nneka and Elizabeth always asked her for detergent whenever they wanted to clean the house or wash their school uniforms. She'd give them the amount she felt was adequate enough for whatever they wanted to do and then asked them to 'manage' if they complained that it was barely sufficient.
Grandma was in the kitchen checking the softness of the soaked beans she needed to make moi moi later that afternoon. Moi moi (beans pudding) is a very popular Nigerian food, made of beans and some other ingredients. She had soaked the beans in water for 3 hours and was about to start peeling off the outer coat when Nwike walked in. Grandma asked him how his chores were going and just as he was about to tell her that he was almost done, he decided not to. He knew she'd give him more chores to do if she found out he was almost done. There was always something to do when grandma was about to cook and Nwike didn't want to spend all morning doing chores. He still had to dust the sitting room, do his (and grandpa's) laundry and also iron grandpa's clothes for the next day's church service. He hoped to finish all his chores before 10:30 am so he could watch his favourite cartoon, Tom and Jerry.
Grandma rinsed the beans after she had peeled off the outer layers and immediately poured them into an old custard bucket. She wanted to blend the beans and since she didn't have a blender, she decided to take them to the grinder's. Most homes in Nigeria didn't have kitchen blenders and even if they did, there wasn't reliable electricity to power them. So people relied on local grinding and blending services in the neighbourhood to help grind their beans, tomatoes, maize and other cooking ingredients that needed blending. The local grinder, Mama Ben, lived across the street and was a friend from church. She usually never asked grandma for a fee (even though grandma always insisted on paying) and liked to sit with grandma and chat whenever she came to grind beans or tomatoes. While Nwike knew grandma would probably take longer than usual because she'd want to sit and chat with Mama Ben, he and Nneka also couldn't help being happy that grandma didn't ask them to blend the beans manually with the grinding stone at home. That was just too much work and very exhausting.
Grandpa sat on the couch in the sitting room, watching his favourite Saturday morning TV show as Nwike used an old rag to wipe the TV and other electronics on the TV stand. He muttered something under his breath about Nwike blocking his view and turned to inspect the weather outside. Nwike knew he was contemplating going out to sit on his cane chair or patiently wait for him to finish cleaning so he could continue watching his TV show. It was still sunny outside and while the heat of the sun could be unbearable, it was perfect for a Saturday morning, because it meant your laundry could dry up in no time.
Grandpa's favourite show was called, The Masquerade. It was a Nigerian sitcom that aired on the Nigerian Television Network on Friday nights from 8:00pm - 8:30pm during the 1980s until the mid-1990s. It starred Chika Okpala as Zebbrudaya, also known as 4:30, who used a mixture of Queens English, Igbo language and Pidgin English as a means of communication. He always made grandpa laugh and while the show was aired live every Friday evening around 9 pm, Grandpa never watched it because at 9 pm, he watched the National News. As a result, he made it a 'thing' to watch the missed episode every Saturday morning.
By the time Nwike and Nneka were done with their chores, grandma was done with cooking and the moi moi was already about to be served. She always served her moi moi with pap and sometimes, as a side dish when she prepared Jollof rice. Nwike couldn't contain his excitement as he rushed to the tap to fetch a bucket of water. He was covered in sweat from the morning's work and couldn't wait to take a bath and have his favourite Saturday meal.
It was almost 10 am when they all sat down to eat and Nwike could be seen enjoying his moi moi and smiling like someone who had just won the lottery. He was happy because this was one of his favourite moments of the day. He loved grandma's bean pudding and not even his dislike for Saturday chores would make him wish for anything else. Saturdays were the best because of grandma's moi moi. He picked up the remote control and just as he was about to tune to the TV channel that showed Tom and Jerry cartoons, the electric supply was cut off. He cursed under his breath and frowned. "Maybe this Saturday wasn't all that fun", he thought.
To be continued next week ...