This column was motivated by two readers — one is a gentleman called Stephen Chege, who told me that last week, I did not strike a chord with him.
In fact, he was puzzled that there are men in Kenya who find it difficult to shop in markets. He informed me that he cannot only comfortably go to the market, he is also a hard-bargainer who always gets the best deal. Not only this, he also knows how to make Chapatti, and would in fact make them for his wife many years ago when he was wooing her.
The second reader is called Duncan Kuria, who wondered why I had used this space to advance what he felt was a stereotype, that of men being incapable of doing simple everyday stuff such as shop. I of course assured him that this had not been my intention, that many times, I write to humour.
Just for the record, I do not, even for a second, believe that there are chores or jobs that specifically belong to a man and those that are strictly a woman’s. This train rumbled by a long time ago.
A man, just like a woman, should know how to cook Ugali, or boil Githeri. And no, this is not an attempt to try to redeem myself, so read on.
Sometime last year, my nine-year-old son came home with homework. That day, they had learnt about adjectives, and part of the homework required them to describe a number of people using two adjectives for each person. In that list was father and mother. Under father, he had written ‘Good’ and ‘Fun’. Under mother, he had written ‘Cooks’ and ‘Washes’. Only one word was an adjective, so I gave him a mini lesson with plenty of examples that would help him understand what adjectives are.
His answers also revealed that he had formed notions about gender roles, most probably from his observations at home — that women clean and cook, while men do other things.
The last thing I would want to do is raise a dependent child, one that is unable to do simple things such as cook or clean after himself. If I don’t teach him basic chores, I will be doing him a great disservice, bearing in mind that I was taught to do such things in my childhood.
And that is why, from that day onwards, I ensure that as much as possible, he does chores such as washing the dishes, sweeping, clearing the table and wiping it. I am also teaching him how to cook, even though I know from experience, he will mostly learn through trial and error.
I say this because the first time I cooked Ugali, I made a mound big enough to feed a village. The agreement had been that I would cook the stew, while my mother would cook Ugali when she came home from work because I didn’t know how to — the clock struck 8pm yet she still hadn’t arrived.
When my younger siblings began to complain of hunger, I decided to make my maiden Ugali. All I needed to do was boil water, add flour and mix the concoction, right? To cut a long story short, I ended up boiling too much water, prompting me to keep adding maize flour.
Luckily, we had milled maize that weekend, so there was a debe full of the flour. The result was a huge raw lumpy paste that spilt maize flour when you cut into it. My second attempt was better, my third much better than the first. By the fifth attempt, I was an expert. An expert that will teach my son how to be an expert too.
The writer is Editor, My Network magazine, in the Daily Nation [email protected]