A few times while growing up we fought over food. Not because there wasn’t enough food for everyone but well if you said it wasn’t enough you won’t be wrong – there was never enough of the favorite part of the food which we fought over.
This food crisis always surfaced anytime the offering was a porridge – Otor, yam, plantain, or jollof rice and if it produced ‘Otula Ite’.
Otula Ite was the burnt part of the food at the bottom of the pot. Cooking with open fire ensured that the food almost always burned. It was crunchy & the most delicious part of the grub.
We, the henchmen would pretend not to be hungry when it was time to dish the food so that the top would all be exhausted. When it reached the kill zone, the fight began. Many factors determined who got the coveted Otula Ite. They included who got it the last time, how big the pot used in cooking was, who endured the hunger the most & waited out the dishing, sometimes it was the strongest as we actually fought for the pot, at other times it was who was in charge of the dishing – Mama was fairer, elder Sister? – that one no get time, if she no appropriate am for herself, she go abandon us to fight am out.
The ultimate Otula Ite was when Nene, our big Cousin started making ‘Agidi Jollof’ – the corn starch delicacy for sale. She’d cook it with the biggest pot you can imagine. She never missed to give us a little of the delicacy which we savored in heavenly delight especially when we got a chunk of biscuit bone and soft bone. But the ultimate glory was when we could descend on the Otula Ite which she always, always availed us. May God bless her kind heart!
These days when I enter the kitchen & see Otula Ite abandoned or the pot soaked in water for disposal I just shake my head in disbelief at what a lack of knowledge is making this generation lose.
Yeah, I get into the kitchen once in a while to savor the joy of Otula Ite but I think the greatest joy of this delicacy will be in my memory – of the time we hustled, fought & savored it as kids on the floor of Mama’s kitchen; of the time when the declaration ‘m eri nu ite’ (I will eat from the pot) was not an expression of interest in the food, but a declaration of war!
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