This picture was taken in the late afternoon in Mary’s kitchen as I waited for afang soup to finish cooking. Mary is like my mother/sister and always makes sure I have something to eat and helps me out in any way she can. Mary is a few years younger than me but has four children, her oldest child passed away last February. Her children are all very sweet, respectful and kind though it’s often difficult to really think about their lives and the lack of opportunities. I’ve learned a lot from them and I always enjoy spending time in their kitchen.
Kitchens are traditionally located next to someone’s living quarters. It’s common for each “head” of the household to have their own kitchen. So for example, I have a house with my five grown sons still living with me. Each son will have their own kitchen regardless if they have one wife or three. It’s not very proper to eat in the kitchen, typically the women and children will eat in the kitchen and they will serve the men food in the parlor. I enjoy the kitchen although it tends to get a bit smoky.
Kitchens are built of bamboo, mud and thatched roofs. You can see some holes in Mary’s kitchen’s roof and the paneling needs to be replaced every other year. These panels are made by laying pieces of bamboo and folding palm leaves over them. You then stitch the palm leaves together with small pieces of wood. Every kitchen has a fire pit and space above for storing and drying fire wood. You can see in the picture that people also use the kitchen to dry out maize and save the seeds for planting next year’s crops. In the picture you can also see the kerosene lantern that we will use at night. Kitchens also tend to have two elevated seating areas sculpted from mud. You can see a portion of one in the right side of the picture. They are typically covered by a thatched mat made from rattan. In the picture you can also see Mary’s large plate used for sorting salad and vegetables, and a cooler used as a rat proof container for garri.
You can see that Mary has got the fire going. There is a small can that isn’t a gas can, rather it’s a container for palm oil. Mary’s wearing a nice clashing outfit with a “native” wear shirt and the “wrapper”(clothe wrapped like a towel) . Her youngest daughter, Divine (1 ½ years), is sitting with us in her native clothes.