I REMEMBER THE TIME
I grew up in Ìbàdàn, sometimes people look at me and go “No, you grew up in Lagos”. I moved to Lagos when I was 9/10, it don’t mean I grew up there, especially if we factor in time spent in boarding school, in which case perhaps we could say I grew up in South Africa (Thank you KTV!)
I love Ìbàdàn, it was very peaceful, everyone knew everyone and all the kids went to Sunbeam preparatory for after school lessons, for elementary education it was either staff school, Maryhill, All Saints or Sacred heart (no one counts those schools at ojo where they carry theirs desks to school in the mornings) and then to nearby villages for their secondary education (Òdoogbolú, offa, Iyana-offa, Iwo etc) The ones that stayed back went to ISI, and you must have heard the saying, “you don’t date an ISI boy!” they were seen as the worst of the worst, I mean sure they had a certain “swagger” to them but if your parents sent you to ISI, be sure your mother will drop you off in the morning, watch you walk into the compound, come over during recess to make sure you are not “mixing” and then come back right before school is over to pick you up, so that you don’t get the chance to be spoilt.
All the Ìbàdàn folks I knew, had an out-of-town parent and when you see a new àshà (habit) the exclamation was “àwon ará èkó tùn ti dé” (the lagosians have arrived), and this statement was used mostly on the weekends. Yemi Chemist, Foodco, Leventis (near coca cola) and FAVOS, were the regular “supermarkets” in the Bodija area (this includes Aare, bashorun…) If you lived in Ìbàdàn and didn’t know cocoa house (I loved their meat pie) or ever passed through it, people would think you are crazy. You have to know old Ife Road to give directions, if you wanted to direct people in Bodija, you needed to know how to do it from SS Peter and Paul. You needed to know the ins and outs of Trans Amusement Park, the major food market was in Old Bodija, one of the best suya sellers was across the street from the market which was on the same road to the Bodija Community Bank, and the best place for suya was in Sabo. The officers’ mess (close by Ikolaba Grammar School, Maryhill Convent School) was where the best fresh fish sellers would be found on Fridays, TinTin was the only place that sold shawarma, d’Rovans Hotel was one of the best/only hotels, Dugbe housed the cloth sellers, Salvation Army was where my grandparents lived (rest their souls), all the major track meets and “match pasts” happened at Adamasingba. (Whatever happened to that Indian Theatre), people got their hair done at Mokola – Mary Love line. That was the Ìbàdàn that I knew.
What made me think of Ìbàdàn this morning? Well, I have some contraption in my teeth as I type and it is soooo uncomfortable, I think my orthodontist is trying to punish me for all my late appointments, I find it difficult to chew and as I sat there on the train, I just had this sudden urge for good food and I swear I smelt Iya Ope’s ofada rice stew. IYA OPE when I knew her was a little mama put place in Mokola, and the way my meal was ordered was N10 rice, N5 beans, N2 Dodo and assorted meat. They packaged this in banana leaves and boy the flavour was just off the chains, and to this day my only motivation to go to Ìbàdàn is the promise of Iya Ope’s rice. Now she has blown up, they have a branch near St Annes (the school with the green skirt and cream sleeveless shirt?) in Sabo. And I think I saw another one in Bodija. I hope their food still tastes as good.
After I smelt Iya Ope and I remembered my childhood, the word INASTRATE came to mind! Forgive my spelling but I don’t know how INASTRATE is supposed to be spelt. But when D’Banj says “ogbono feli feli” he properly was linking himself to INSTRATES brand of Àmàlà (Yam Flour). Àmàlà is different from Àmàlà, some Àmàlà are so kokofied and black you put them in your mouth and you find yourself yelling out loud “what in gay hell?” before you proceed to stone the cook with the concrete waste of yam flour.
Then there is that Àmàlà that is done so soft you touch it and it is almost liquidy and you look at the cook with disdain. And some people make Àmàlà ok, it’s not soft it’s not hard it’s not hot its not cold it’s just basic àmàlà, and they serve it èfò rírò (mixed vegetables), not the good kind (as in elémí méje like the osogbo people do it) they make the crappy efo with barely enough iru, no dried fish, crayfish, cuts of ìgbín (snail) or shrimps and then serve okueko fish stew…yuck!
Àmàlà done INASTRATE style is different, I swear they wash body parts into that shege because boy it is addictive; you want to keep going back for more. I remember the first time I had food from there, the amala was different you know, they brought it home. The àmàlà was in one container, then the èwédú and assorted meat stew was in another container, you could tell just by looking at it that someone’s grandma took her time with the broom in the making of the green stew and the assorted meat soup was divine. The way you know good àmàlà is when you “first of all” take it in your hand and it feels hot to the touch, so much that you have to quickly withdraw your fingers, lick them and try again and then the second time around with determination you hold on to the bite size bit, feel the burn on your finger tips because you are determined to have that piece of àmàlà in your hand inside your mouth, and then you gently use the àmàlà to mix the stew and then you put it in your mouth and without thinking about it, you swallow without wahala (trouble). That is good àmàlà, and if you have a friend that chews àmàlà, SLAP THEM! If you have a friend that makes àmàlà for chewing, ask them if they think their àmàlà is worthy of “Ogbono feli feli bi amala to jina….” It’s like eating bad kulikuli, it makes you hate the good one.
That was INASTRATE, the second time around; we got iláfún and my goodness! They spread it out on the plate so it’s kind of flatish but the inside allows for soup, they pour in gbègìrì and èwédú and then assorted meat stew, that was the way my mum taught me to eat àmàlà (she says the stew must be cool, to balance out the hot láfún) and she makes the best àmàlà ever but even she agrees that àmàlà and láfún a la INASTRATE is the greatest. Ok maybe I exaggerate a little because my grandma when she was alive and in full swing first introduced me to láfún she was ègbá and in case you didn’t know they invented láfún and boy did they do it well.
I had a wonderful childhood and if I don’t talk about the best àsun (roasted goat meat) they might not allow me back in the house. There was this man that my Aunt Wunmi knew, close to the hotel near trans amusement park, now this guy’s àsun was HOT!, the thing about àsun at least in my day was the near rawness of the roast goat, and if I remember correctly the meat is not seasoned, but served with a side of fresh pepper and you could choose how “hot” the pepper should be. I remember my uncle’s wedding with Sir Shina Peters (was this pre-ace?), but we rocked that night and I especially remember eating so much àsun that I slept off till it was time to go home, you know back in those days, the fashion was flashy satin, the ladies wore thick shiny square goggles (isn’t that back?) and the dancing was HOT!!! And parties went on till daybreak not because people were afraid of touts attacking them on the way home but because the performer is not ready to stop. Those were the days…..
Ìbàdàn! Does anyone still live there and if they do, do they know if the restaurant that makes “dodo special” is still around. My dad took us there when we were kids, and I cannot explain it to you but its like dodo omelettes, and you have to try it yourself to know what makes this dodo special, the only thing I can say is that it is good and you can’t just have a bite, No, you have to eat the whole plate and even attempt to lick the plate after, it’s ok we have all done it before, licked our plates after eating with our hands, and found that the plate was still not the cleanest and then lifted it to our faces and allowed our tongues to take control.
Ìbàdàn mesiogo, n'ile Oluyole.
Ìbàdàn omo agesin k'ólé.
Ìbàdàn omo a j'oro sun.
Ibi olè n'gbé n'jàre olóhun.
Omo afikaraun igbin fo'ori mu.
Ìbàdàn màjá màjá n'ijó kìní,
ojò gbogbo ìlú l'ogun
(On loan from http://wazobiacrazy.blogspot.com)