NADIA: I never imagined I would have such a great interest in the kitchen. You know I had always seen cooking as a burden. Women are really trying. Men need to appreciate them; it's not easy to cook at all.
The mysterious old lady who had still refused to tell me her name taught me something else;
"The difference between a cook and a housewife is the state of their mind. A housewife prepares her meal the same way, everyday; a cook on the other hand thinks of new ways of preparing the same meal. An extra ordinary cook, invents his own dishes."
She gave me an example; she prepared a bowl of fruit salad.
"What's this?" she asked.
Haha... Come on, even if I don't remember any other dish, I can never forget the fruit salad I tried to boil with water.
"It's fruit salad nah."
She laughed. And then she added a tin of peak milk to it.
I couldn't believe my eyes; peak milk mixed with fruit salad?
"Have a taste!"
And viola! It tasted so good.
"That’s how you become a cook. Think of something crazy. And don't just think for the sake of it, try it out."
The competition had arrived. If you don't know the meaning of fear, then I am here to explain:
“Fear is when you begin to sweat from your posterior end the moment you see the size of the competition to be bigger than what you had anticipated.”
To my greatest surprise, the president of the academy was seated too. Oh my God! My legs began to shake.
DANIEL: Nadia would not stop threatening my life with the photos she took. Akin wouldn't stop laughing either. At some point I actually laughed too; it was indeed funny. I even had to cat-walk back to me room so it would look very convincing.
What Joyce said was still a thought I couldn't shake off. I decided to investigate this on my own. But first, I need to watch Nadia disgrace our sorry ass; or so, I thought, until she wowed us all.
The competition started exactly 3pm when the president took his seat. Nadia and her crew were to tasked to prepare the Egyptian Hawawshi. God, although I didn't really like her guts, I still prayed a little that she wouldn't set the hall on fire. But then, I saw a different Nadia, one I began to pick genuine interest in.
NADIA: “OK! Put yourselves together. You can do this.”
Brenda sat in one of the seats provided for the supervisors. Our seniors were seated too, according to their grades. The uniform on grade 6 was simply spectacular. I just wondered though; the way they carried their eyes to heaven with pride... it seemed like they can cook for Africa.
"Participants, pick your ticket and prepare the dish you see on it. You have 30 minutes. Make your group proud. Good luck."
The announcement came and we went to work.
"Jenny, the chopping board..."
I turned to Sharon, "Chop the carrots, green pepper. Just chop all the vegetables."
"Joyce, prepare the meat. I'll mix the dough."
We were all secluded from the crowd; each in a kitchen, with cameras filming to show the audience a live coverage of what we were preparing on a large teleprompter.
I began to hum my song, tapping my fingers on the table with a spoon, and laughing too.
"Is not like you are going crazy, right?" Sharon fired, forgetting there was a sensitive microphone in the room transmitting our conversations. The laughter we heard from the crowd gave us the hint.
"Sharon. They can hear us. I beg, sew up your mouth," I warned.
"You can't blame me nah. It's not like we are allowed to dance or something," Sharon continued; another round of laughter followed.
"Sharon oh… Abeg hide our identity biko," Jenny suggested.
It didn’t help matters; more laughter.
I thought of something new: I pulled out the earphone so that they could all hear the song I was playing.
Joyce was the first to respond to the music; as she mixed the meat and vegetables, she caught herself dancing and quickly fell back to form.
"Wait o. Are we allowed to dance?"
Sharon was already dancing while putting on the oven.
"My dear, dance small eee... na only one life we get," I said and listened as the crowd's laughter roared and lingered for a long time.
"Enjoy what you do girls. Enjoy cooking. Enjoy this."
By the time we were done, the judges were more than eager to taste our dish. We served with warm coffee. The judges laughed with the audience as they tasted the dish we had prepared.
When the dust finally settled, we got an ‘A’!
Later that evening, Daniel stole out to meet me.
"Remember I still have those photos...?" I said, thinking he wanted to try something trickery.
But then, he decide the shock my liver;
"Joyce is not who she says she is,” he said, “She is the president's daughter.”
Continued on next page...
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