Photo Courtesy|| Annie Odeka||
Bottomline: Chapatis provide the ultimate litmus test in gauging one’s culinary skills they can come out as actual tasty chapatis circular with layers, hard shapeless sacraments or tasteless unleavened bread the Israelites ate on their way to Canaan depending on who prepares them.

Every African girl child has that aunt who always scolds her because of her cooking or that mother who ardently complains every time she is in the kitchen yet her daughter is not taking notes. Well, at least that is how I know it. They keep on insisting that a girl who grows up into a woman yet cannot find her way through the kitchen is not appropriately raised and is doomed to shatter her own household.

Woe unto thee if you have a favorite food but cannot prepare it accordingly. The rules stand, they even insinuate that your husband’s stomach should be your number one priority. I took that from the overused and overrated quote: a way to a man’s heart is through the stomach. What about my children and my own stomach, I would ask? 

It took me a long while to master the preparation of my favorite food, by that I mean four years of struggle topped up with unquantified patience. Two years for the basics, the other two to perfect the art, oh yeah, cooking is an art. My mother, being the best cook I have ever known, one time decided that my siblings and I were old enough so whenever we were present in her house, she would never step into the kitchen to cook for us. She chucked all her kitchen  duties giving the best excuse history has ever had. She implied that she was old and tired. Sometimes parents like forcing old age upon themselves.

 

My first time making chapatis was a disastrous affair. Oh, I am talking about the Kenyan chapatis, not the Indian flat unleavened bread. Chapatis provide the ultimate litmus test in gauging one’s culinary skills they can come out as actual tasty chapatis circular with layers, hard shapeless sacraments or tasteless unleavened bread the Israelites ate on their way to Canaan depending on who prepares them.

No one can resist the heavenly taste of well-prepared chapatis. I had a number of those unnerving affairs but one of them conquers all. The one that left my mother muttering under her breath losing her appetite instantly. I was in high school when my mother started withdrawing herself from kitchen duties. It was only the two of us at home, my mother and I. I had missed chapatis because that was a luxury I could not afford back at school so when schools closed, the privilege was all mine.

Bored with the unending three consecutive months of studies, a zealous appetite, I made my way to kitchen the very day I left school. Mum was not home, a space for a wonderful surprise for when she gets back home, I thought. I was elated with the thought of making chapatis dancing my way to the kitchen after a quick refreshing shower.

Mum would be home soon so I had to put my hands to work. Luckily enough, all the ingredients needed were available. I grabbed the wheat flour from the shelves, darted across the kitchen for the salt and vegetable cooking oil then thoughtfully even involved carrots. I wanted to make them exactly how mum does, I was ready and settled, they had to come out right no matter what I knew just how to do them. I sized up the kitchen, fleeting my eyes in every corner just to ensure that I was not leaving anything important behind.

Water was heated, carrots grated and mixed with flour, a dough was made with a mixture of the flour, salt, cooking oil and the warm water. I was doing everything right until the time I begun to roll the dough into sizeable circular flat shapes. I was not aware of how much flour I needed for the dusting the rolling pin was just not being fair to me. The dough was thick and sticky the addition of more flour worsened it even more.

I seemed to have forgotten that layers were a vital part in chapatis, the ultimate success, the important aspect aside from the softness and the regular circular shapes. Mine were the inverted version. They were shapeless monsters, overheated on both sides, uncooked on the inside, thick, heavy and hard. They went against all the morals of chapati cookery slapping my face with ‘you thought you could handle us? Don’t you ever underestimate the preparation of chapatis.’

By the time mum got home, eighteen strange-looking chapatis and a beef stew I had earlier gotten out of the fridge and warmed were already set at the table, ready for consumption. It was 7pm. Mum was exhausted and famished. She was glad I had prepared dinner, only to be met with a horrible, vicious look of specially-made chapatis. She could not even fathom the whiff emanating from the burnt and undercooked things she was staring at. To cut the story short, we ended up taking tea and biscuits for supper.

My journey of chapati making has since borne fruits over the years proving to be a grand success. I can now gladly acclaim that I am an expert at chapati making, my love for it has immensely grown. If you knew me during those times when I could only make monstrous chapatis enduring their poor taste then it is time for you to claim your share of my current amazing chapatis.

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Annie Odeka
The beauty of my youth is what drives my desire to grow older because I'm always convinced that when it fades, there will be a whole new chapter of beauty waiting; the beauty of old age. Sounds ironical, right? But that's what I'm made of. I'm a puzzle that's difficult to solve. The out-going introvert and the fire that cannot be quenched with water. It's hard to be me at times but my enthusiasm for life always keeps me tracking and reminding me that I gotta be just me and nobody else. That's the reason why I like to show to the world what I'm made of and the adventures this world has taken me through.