This happened many years back. Almost 10 years now and although it still makes me smile, not in jest anymore as I understand the value of cultural literacy in all its glory.
My cousin was getting married. yaay! We all were traveling to my hometown, Offa in Kwara State, Nigeria for the ceremony. It was going to be a large affair with over 500 guests. The couple are kids of quite popular families – a former business mogul and a high ranking chief.
As part of the groom’s family, we would be traveling from the northern part of Nigeria, Zaria in Kaduna state to be precise. We had been residing in a small community of native Hausa speakers who are mostly farmers and uneducated. The norm was to play truancy up till primary 5 or 6 and quit school or not even attend at all.
Throwing out an open invitation to interested neighbors, my Uncle however, still plays the diplomat with this arrangement by giving seat on the bus to people he decides would foster goodwill for him in the community. Did I fail to mention? Yes, there was a bus to convey people to Offa which explains how Muri got a seat on the bus.
The journey itself was uneventful however, during on the morning of the wedding, as is the custom to feed all your guests, my Uncle outdid himself in the food department. There was tea, bread, yam, scrambled eggs, and pap. Young boys love to eat more than girls and young boys visiting a new culture apparently love to try every dish or a combination if they could get away with it. The Nigerian food culture encourages eating large quantities at once because you can not determine where the next meal would come – eat while you can.
Muri requested Yam with scrambled eggs and received a plate heaped high. He also got a huge jug of tea to go with it. He proceeded to dig in. By the time he was halfway through the plate, his eggs were still a mile high but he kept on. Soon, he was done with the yams but some of his eggs were still sitting on the plate. His tea was almost finished too. He looked at the eggs and at the tea. He decided he could only swallow a single portion before his stomach would rebel and attempt to regurgitate. He looks some more and decides to combine both portions eggs to reduce the quantity he needs to consume.
Which is exactly what he did. Scrambled eggs found themselves inside the cup of remaining tea, he stirs the mixture with his fork, lifts the cup to his mouth, take a sip and am wondering what he must have been thinking swallowing such vileness! Everyone was openly staring at him at this point wondering where we had dug up such a barbarian. He ignored them, drank it all, held it down, got up, dusted his trousers and walked away whistling. He did not feel anything untoward in his behaviour.
My uncle’s compound was humming with the news in 5 seconds.
“Did you see what happened?”
“One aboki poured his eggs into his tea and drank it”
“Did you hear? One of the mallams that came with them from Zaria, threw his eggs away, poured fried eggs in his tea and drank it” and this was how the tale got to me
“That can’t be true”
“It is. I hear that is how they drink tea in the North”
“No now. How can you think that way. Is there anywhere in Nigeria that is done!”
“If that’s not how they do it, why did he do it then?” the talebearer queries
“Because he is an illiterate and does not know any better. Because he lacks the appropriate food culture that would tell him what to do if your eggs is left over after eating your yams”
He doesn’t know better. He is culturally illiterate. He does not have such meals in his house back in Zaria. Look at him. Does he look like he realizes he committed a social error? No. Well, that’s because he doesn’t know.