A DANCE IN CELEBRATION OF MAMA’S CULINARY DEXTERITY: A REVIEW OF IRUSOTA’S A FOOD DANCE FOR YOU, MAMA BY EBUBECHUKWU BRUNO NWAGBO
A FOOD DANCE FOR YOU, MAMA
When tomorrow asks us for a dance
That will quench the thirst of hungry men,
We shall dance to the sound of pounded yam pots sitting on firewood
And to the sweet aroma of asaro and Ikokore that sing around our nostrils,
We shall dance to the lullaby of mortar and pestle like village drunkards
With bottles of gegemu and to the enticing aroma of burnt Ogbono
We shall dance like ponmo, cat fish and cray fish buried in mama’s soup
We shall dance to the lyrics of egusi as it waters our throats
We shall dance like naked masquerades to the beats
Of pumpkin leaves sliced in melon soup prepared
At the village square
And to the scent of ewedu that wakes us early in the morning
We shall dance like little children to the melodious tunes
Of amala and gbegiri and to the drumbeats of eba, ogi and ogbore
We shall dance a food dance for you mama, till dawn turns to dusk
Iyan – pounded yam | Ponmo – processed cow skin | Gbegiri – bean soup Ewedu – African spinach | Gegemu – strong native alcohol | Amala – processed yam flour | Asaro – yam pottage | Ikokore – yam porridge | Ogi – pap | Ogbore – processed locust beans | Eba – processed garri
Reading Samuel Junior Irusota’s “A Food Dance for You, Mama” reminds one of Benjamin Elemide’s praise of his mother in “Roasted Corn” published in Issue 6 of PIN Quarterly Journal. While Elemide turns to his mother as captured in the following; “when life turns me into many shades of desires”, Irusota dances to his mother when by tomorrow he is asked to save a starving man. “A Food Dance for You Mama” is a celebration of the culinary dexterity of the poet’s mum – Mama. It eulogizes how her fingers play the musical tones of satisfaction. It’s a praise song from a son to the mother, for making his stomach dance to the pleasure of fish, ponmo (cow skin) and ewedu in his tummy.
When the poet’s mum handles the pestle to smash cooked lobes of yam into smooth pastes – generally called pounded yam, he is overwhelmed by dance and excitement – his willful surrender to the aroma of asaro, ikokore and gbegiri that his friend in Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State once served him when he paid her a visit. The poet compares the mentioned musical notes to that of a drunkard who staggers to wherever bottles of “gegemu” drink nudges him to move to.
It is indeed a song that produces musical effects: you will hear the music in sounds of the bottle played by the drunkard, in sounds of the pounding of yam coupled with sounds of a boiling pot of soup. Reading the poem, the sound /ikokore/ may remind you of something peculiar. For me, it reminds me of the sound of the gong in my community.
Aside being a food poem, Junior Irusota’s poem tends towards a lullaby. A saying has it that when the eyes eat what it has been longing to eat, it goes to sleep. This is because, food has its own musical notes; its own lullaby. In this case, it is in form of a music that lulls the troublesome worms in our stomachs to sleep.
I urge you to please, follow the imageries of ogbono, pomo and gegemu in this poem and invite your organs to join in the dance that is about to go down! Below is the full poem for your reading pleasure and excitement.