THE MAGIC RICE
Back in the days when we were growing up as kids with my parents, my brother Uzo was one of the youngest in our family. We are a family of four girls and three boys of which Uzo is the sixth child and almost everyone’s favorite, especially my dad’s because of his kind heart and simple nature. Uzo was an adorable little guy and hardly makes trouble with anyone but will always like to help out with little chores around the house. When he was two years old, he would always like to sit and watch my mum cook. No wonder my big cousin Boma nicknamed him ‘Doc-homes’.
I remember one day I asked Uncle Boma what ‘Doc-homes’ meant.
“It simply means ‘Doctor of Homes’” he replied.
“But why do you call Uzo that?” I asked him again.
He smiled and said, “The name is derived from the fact that Uzo is so fond of the kitchen. You know how he monitors meal time and sings along while it’s almost set.”
We all laughed because we remembered how hilarious it was each time Uzo took it upon himself to alert every one of us that the food was ready in a sing-song pattern. I still remember how the lines go: “Food is ready… come and eat.” He would continuously repeat that line and dance along until we were all seated at the dining table.
So one day, my baby brother Uzo decided that he wanted to cook for everyone and he went over to my mum and said to her: “Mummy, I want to prepare lunch today, but I want to do it all alone please.”
“Huh!” Mum responded. “What kind of meal are you planning on cooking for us?”
“Rice,” Uzo replied.
“Really?” Mummy retorted. “Okay, let’s have it. I’d love to eat my baby boy’s delicious meal.”
Poor Uzo did not notice the sarcasm in her voice. He felt so privileged to try his first meal with a cup of rice and ofcourse he couldn’t wait to brag about it among his friends.
We all watched him as he washed and poured it into the pot, placed it on the heat and added water to boil. After about thirty minutes, we all asked, “Is it ready?”
And he said, “No.”
Again, after about an hour, we all asked him again, “When is it
going to be ready?”
Feeling so elated that we were all waiting on him, he replied,
“Don’t worry; you will all enjoy my rice.”
He went back to the pot and added another bowl of water to it. Suddenly, we heard him screaming at the top of his voice,“Oh my God! This rice is magic rice- oh I love magic rice.”
The excitement in his voice was unimaginable and he was so proud of his new discovery.
Everyone laughed and asked him why he thought the rice was magic. To our amazement, he replied saying: “Each time I add more water to the rice, it rises and now it has filled the pot. Clearly it is magic for a little cup of rice to become a full pot.”
Everyone concealed their laughter from him. It was already obvious the meal was a disaster, but we all chose to patiently wait for when he would say it was all set.
Alas! He came out from the kitchen saying: “Mummy, the food is finally ready. The rice is so much that everyone can have a good portion.”
“Wow! Why not serve some for yourself first?” Mum complimented.
Obviously, she was making fun of him because, as he was about to serve it, he found out that it was just as watery as soup or soaked cereal. The rice had dissolved into a watery paste. It was really so amusing and we all kept laughing at how silly he was. How he took advantage of the rising power of the rice and cooked it for over two hours instead of just fifteen minutes.
How ironic that even our great cook could not eat what he cooked.
Poor magic rice! You were not good to eat after all.
The good part was how Uzo gently asked me why it got so bad. I taught him how it is done and promised him another chance to make it right. I showed him how rice got cooked in less than twenty minutes with little quantity of water added at intervals without being burnt. I also taught him how to reorganize well cooked rice. He never gave up and watched every step of every meal that was made: rice, pasta, beans, soup and even traditional dishes.
He vowed that if he was ever going to cook us another meal, it must be perfectly made. He promised us another ‘magic rice,’ but this time, it would not be because of the rising power, but it would be in the great taste that would make everyone go back for more. “That” he said, “is real magic rice.”
IJEOMA KOLAWOLE (2012)