I am an Ajebutter. Not by birth, or by formings, or by swag – I am simply an unapologetic Ajebutter by default. I didn’t choose to be born one. God, without seeking my opinion (because He’s God, I guess), gave me the genes of an Ajebutter and a funny Bri-Merican accent . By luck or some twisted work of fate, fortune, Karma (I might have killed ten defenseless puppies in my past life) or destiny, I have found myself in Lagos, crazy Lasgidi, and this is my story…
I have suffered in this town. Every time hunger finds its way into my path, and my body screams for food, the first response I give to my growling stomach is ‘shut your damn rumbling’.
I don’t hate my stomach, neither do I hate myself. It’s just a function of the fear that grips me each time I decide to eat. In Lagos, eating for me is like a trip to the dentist. You never know what you might get. Nobody can be trusted, and no one is perfect.
I dream of the perfect food for my perfect stomach all the time. I deserve it. Being an Ajebutter is exhausting business, and it deserves to be rewarded with the best of meals. I once spent a week eating at the Brazzerie Restaurant in Four Points By Sheraton.
The food was great, but my pocket wasn’t smiling. I was slowly going broke by the minute. Not the best of ways to survive in this harsh Lagos.
I gave myself brain, and decided to walk the streets of Ajah in search of culinary gold. My aim was simple. Since I have long experimented with Yoruba cooking and found out that I am not genetically wired to digest foods from Bunmi’s, Bukola’s, or Busayo’s kitchen. Each time I make the effort to eat there, I become friends with my toilet.
I even have nightmares.
So I went in search of a kitchen where the women bear names like, Ekaette, Enobong, Inemesit, and have masculine helpers called Ubong and Akpan. I desperately needed find a restaurant made up of Akwa Ibom people.
So I traversed the length of Ajah, visiting restaurants. My mission was simple. Find an Akwa Ibom restaurant. I walked into a lot of places, sat down, and when a sales girl makes the customary ‘what do you want’, I listen carefully for accents.
Once I hear the H-factor, I run for my life. No man should be made to eat poison. Sometimes, I even don’t need to walk in. Fuji music coming from the restaurant or the smell of boiling Kpomo (cow skin) does the magic. I walk on by without forethought or a greeting.
Finally I found love, and it was right in front of me. I was on my way home one evening after a sapping day at work. I got to my neighbourhood late, and only one restaurant was open. I didn’t think twice.
“Hullo good evening”.
“Hallo, kurevening”. I heard the tiny lady reply.
I couldn’t believe it. She had the accent of an Ibibio woman who had spent her entire life in the hinterland of Akwa Ibom.
To make sure, I plugged in the Language.
“Aba di e”. (How are you?) I slowly extended.
I received a slight smile, a shy laugh, and a response that sounded like music to my ears.
“Idioko”. (I am fine).
I quickly ordered for a plate of Afang soup, and Semo. I attacked it like a demon, conquered it, and sat for a while stroking my stomach with immense satisfaction of heary. Here was home at last, and it was right in front of my estate.
That night, I slept like a baby. And woke to bright new day. I have since made them my official dinner partners, and life has new meaning. Akwa Ibom food is the best in Lagos.
Peace and good hustle. See you next week.