Oyindamola Olofinlua

The Gospel of ‘Say NO to Food Wastage’

I wrote this fictionalized letter – most of it is true, anyway – sometime ago to support the campaign against food wastage. Read. Enjoy. Feel free to share (with credits). Above all, become an “evangelist.”

Dearest Mom,

I write to thank you for bringing me up never to waste food. I’d like to start with a story that’s been ringing in my head for days.

One hot Wednesday afternoon in September 2006, as I returned from school, hungry and tired, my first stop was the kitchen, where I met my eldest sister washing dishes. “Sister Tayo, I am hungry,” I said, without curtsying.

“Take the wrap of eba in the warmer,” she said. She knows hunger changes me.

I went for the food warmer, took out a wrap, molded it and placed it on a plate.

“When did you prepare this eba?” I asked when I noticed that it was cold.

“Yesterday. It is the eba you didn’t finish eating.”

“Why do I have to eat two days old food?” I blurted as I headed for the pot that always had dad’s food.

“Mommy instructed that the first food you must eat in this house today is that eba, or else…” She stopped when you entered the kitchen. I saw your stern face; I couldn’t dare to disobey you. I ate the eba with hot okro stew that day. Hunger made it sweeter than usual! Just then, I remembered your mantra, “Children should eat whatever their parents have to give them.”

That is just one of the stories of how, from childhood, you raised my sisters and me never to waste food.

At meal time, everyone who was home or could be reached was asked to describe or take (as the case may be) the serving they could finish. But my famished self, many times, took what I thought I could finish but seldom did. The punishment was that I’d have to keep the remaining food, usually by warming or refrigerating them. There were also other options, but the dustbin was forbidden.

I had many bad habits with food. One of them was that there was nothing anyone could do to make me eat certain dishes; amala was one–especially when served with ewedu. I remember how you would invite me to the dining table, and as soon as I saw that it was one of my ‘banned meals,’ I would try to leave. But when I remembered that a cane reserved for someone like me was in a corner behind the kitchen door, I sat and finished the meal. Today, amala and ewedu is my favourite meal!

I remember that you often encouraged us not to waste food and to always be grateful for what we had, because there were many people who would be glad if they had the crumb that fell from our table but didn’t. Sometimes, you would sing to us, “Some have food but cannot eat / Some can eat but have no food / We have food and we can eat / Glory be to thee, oh Lord /Ameeeen.” My immediate elder sister was your first convert; she spread the “gospel of ‘Say NO to Food Wastage’” everywhere she went. Those days, I became angry whenever she placed a price tag on the meals you cooked for us. She would add, “It is hip not to waste food.”

Today, I’m an adult. I make my money and I know the sea of sweat that goes into making it. I now consider you my hero for not stamping it into my senses that you and daddy worked hard to provide the food I always wanted to waste. I think that if I were in your position, I would stick it into my children how much I bought every grain of rice, every grain of beans, of garri, everything!

Everyday, I see homeless people and I am sometimes moved to tears. However, I don’t just shed tears. These days, it is my habit to take my leftovers to some of those I know. But whenever I can’t take food to them, I preserve it in the various ways you taught me. Among others, refrigeration often comes to my rescue.

Now, like my sisters, I am an evangelist of the “gospel of ‘Say NO to Food Wastage’”, making converts of friends, acquaintances and family. All thanks to you. These days, before my friends and I eat, we think, bearing in mind the need to save especially because food wastage has adverse impact on our environment, on our lives.

I can’t thank you enough, mom. I love you!

Your thinking, eating, giving and saving son,

Oyin.

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