I grew up on porridge. It was thick, brown, whole meal with hints of sugar, sitting in a plastic cup with holders on both sides like an angry woman standing arms akimbo.
Cool-kid additives like margarine or processed milk were non-existent. Then again how on earth would a whole Luhya mother pour cow milk in porridge when she could use the same for her evening tea, essentially to help generate breastmilk for you to suckle?
LAW ON MARGARINE
I will not even talk about margarine; the law was very clear. So you would swallow that paste under duress, a pair of slippers nearby to urge you on and scary eyes staring right into yours for reinforcement.
Each spoonful was offered alongside harsh instructions, “fungua mdomo . . . haya meza! Fungua hii mdomo vizuri nitakutandika! Meza haraka!” One of the slippers would be raised in the air to remind you there was a brutal way to make you obey and swallow as fast as possible.
By the time the mug was empty you were full to the throat and burping indecent things, then the task to slide pieces of soap in your rear to ease constipation would commence.
That porridge was more of punishment than nourishment.
Turns out I subconsciously inherited that skill and carried it into parenthood, only that I was keen enough to make it smoother, lighter, laced with additives and enough sugar.
Even with all the love I put into it, the young man I call son hated that porridge with his all, always spitting out the first sip followed by a major tantrum whenever I tried feeding him.
For a man with breasts the size of a green gram and the mother 3,300 kilometers away, that was a huge setback to my weaning program. My good mother got wind of my struggles and threw in her massive experience, reckoning she was as sure as death her grandson wanted whole meal porridge and not the stupid things I was making.
So she went round the fertile farms of Vihiga handpicking the best millet, sorghum and groundnuts for the young man named after her husband.
They were mixed, sun dried and ground into grade one flour at the same posho mill that floured my porridge when I was still a baby.
I picked the package from one of the courier companies in town, nicely packed in a white 5kg sack.
The instructions were that I let him stay hungry enough to build appetite, stir the porridge vigorously to ensure all the flour dissolved then serve it lukewarm.
The cheering squad of slippers and harsh eyes were somehow left out in that briefing. So I did all that, replaying the recorded call to ensure the instructions were followed to the latter, then sat my offspring in his stroller, a bib round his neck, ready to launch a new chapter in weaning.
I tasted it to ascertain viscosity and temperature, a sip that took me down memory lane to when feeding time felt like kidnap.
It was now my time to play my part in creating the next generation of men raised on food that makes sense and not noodles.
My boy took one sip and let out this long sharp wail that almost cracked the walls of the house, wueh! You would have thought I hit his head with a hockey stick.
He tossed out all the contents, tears angrily flowing down his cheeks, and cried himself to sleep. Day one had started off on a bad note, but I concluded he was probably just moody so there was time to try again until we got into it.
I had a whopping FIVE kilograms of that flour, that had to work. I called the people in Vihiga and gave feedback, to which I was blamed for not being persistent and firm (another way of sneaking in the slippers idea).
The long story cut short is that we never got to reach a point of convergence, it is me who ended up eating all the porridge in the months that followed.
I even gained weight, making people wonder how I had the nerve to grow big while I was a man raising a baby alone.
You will not believe that a few months later I took him to play with a friend in the neighbourhood and the two gulped a whole flask of porridge.
According to the report, he was apparently the one asking for refills faster than his host! Although by then he was already weaned, I rushed to the supermarket and bought a packet just in case I was denying him something he loved . . . he refused.
I am yet to understand whether I’m the bad cook, but he takes porridge when with peers and I’m not seeing, it is like contraband in this household.