Growing up in a Nigerian home in Nigeria, stew was just a fact of life. You couldn’t trust that your parents would be there after they told you to “go and put on your shoes” but you could trust stew. Rice and stew, yam and stew , eba and stew (with a little ewedu flung in there).
As soon as I moved into my dead student accommodation, I switched to microwave meals, then cereal , then fast food and then finally, I started to cook. Pasta, lots and lots of pasta, then potatoes and when I was feeling very Nigerian and experimental, yam. Eventually, I added rice- fried and the occasional jollof, I even ventured into egusi. I made duck, roasted whole and pan fried. I made complicated Japanese meals that took days just to find all the speciality ingredients- I baked, I boiled, I sometimes fried, but I never made stew.
Marriage, changed that. Marriage didn’t change that because I was suddenly supposed to make stew, it changed that because now I was faced with a Nigerian kitchen and no help, if stew was to be magically in my freezer, I had to make it or convince my husband to make it. In our three year dating life, I gorged myself on bowls of his beautiful stew and declared it my favorite meal on earth. Now that we were married, I was no longer a visitor, it was my house too and therefore, it was time for me to contribute some stew.
I can’t remember my first stew, even though I made it literally months ago- I’ve made so much stew since then. I’ve experimented with all sorts of methods and oils and meats. The one thing though that always baffles me is...how does stew finish so fast?? One time, I decided to try and make enough stew for a week. I started with a chicken stock filled with what felt like a thousand pieces of chicken. I blended the pepper and tomatoes and onion and the whole thing came together in a glorious accomplishment of great stew that filled our largest pot. I was relived, I had achieved my great mission- to make a long lasting stew! Unfortunately, I pursued my mission on a day where my friend was visiting, she had seconds, my husband had thirds, I nursed my own plate, wondering how I ended up back here, with an almost empty pot of stew. It finished the next day.
Now, I realise something. Some mysteries are not meant to be solved, stew is meant to finish. No matter how much stew you start with, you will still need to make another stew in one or two working days (all days are working days for the making of stew).