Life Abroad

Essays from Exile: The Oporoko Chronicles!

Well, this one day, I took my lunch to work in two Ovaltine tins. One tin held my pounded yam and the other housed my ogbono soup. Man, my ogbono soup was chock full of strips of goat meat, smoked fish, stock fish, ox tail, cow foot, tripe, and snails the size of an elephant’s ear. Everything was fine in the office until I tried to microwave the ogbono soup. Someone in the office must have had major issues with the fragrance ensuing from my ogbono soup because that evil someone called the 911 emergency line. The ensuing fracas was a great theatrical production. You would have thought that terrorists were attacking America again. Specialized crisis teams swooped down on me and my ogbono soup; we are talking Hazardous Materials (HazMat) teams, fire trucks, ambulances, and grief counselors (some idiot apparently thought someone had died inside our office kitchenette). I would say more about this humiliating experience but my lawyers have asked me to refer all questions to them until the conclusion of a pending lawsuit where I am asking for a few hundred million dollars as compensation for the assault on my dignity. And I want my Ovaltine tin of ogbono soup back from the HazMat lab. Those assholes took my ogbono soup that houses my snails! It took a lot of ingenuity to smuggle those snails past Homeland Security at the airport.

So, acting on the advice of my lawyers, I don’t take lunch to work anymore. I do miss chomping on cow foot, ox tail and stockfish at lunch time. I don’t know what it is about the fragrance of stockfish that drives ordinarily reasonable Americans insane. I used to have an American room-mate, George Wallace, a quiet kid from rural Alabama; a kid used to chomping on chitterlings, the African-American cousin to ngwon-gwon that delectable dish of the gods that materializes from the offal of cows! Well, George Wallace was my room-mate until that fateful day when he walked in on me boiling stockfish. He walked out of my life in disgust, sputtering the sage words: “Damn! That shit stinks!” I love stockfish, but I won’t lie, that shit stinks! I know a highly revered Nigerian professor here in the United States who has banned the cooking of stockfish in his home. Apparently, his neighbors confronted him about a certain smell coming from his kitchen on certain evenings and accused him of trying to bring down the property value of their homes. One day, he overheard one of his neighbors thinking out aloud about calling Immigration on his illegal ass. So he stopped cooking stockfish and switched to eating sandwiches instead. Who wan die?

I am at work. I am hungry. I don’t want a sandwich. I remember; my wife is at home today! Today is her day off! There is a god! Suddenly a force jerks me up, hands me my car keys and my Blackberry and shoves me out the door of my office. I am going home to eat! I wave my Blackberry at my colleagues, “I am going home for lunch! I’ll be right back! Call me on my Blackberry if you need me! The brunette peers at me from the top of her horn-rimmed glasses like an all-knowing owl and her eyes tell me what she is thinking:

“What is it with black men and sex? Can’t even wait to get home in the evening! Sheesh! Lawd have mercy! No wonder they never landed on the moon!”

I don’t care! I am going home to eat real food. Real food! Good sex! Who cares? Same difference!

My wife meets me at the door. She doesn’t seem too excited to see me!

Wetin you dey do for house? Why you nor call say you dey come house Abi dem don sack you again?

I dey hungry!

Dem nor get sandwich for una office?

I say I dey hungry!

Wetin u go chop!

Anything! Anything wen nor be sandwich!

I am hunched over heaping helpings of my wife’s cooking: fresh fish peppersoup, jollof rice, garnished with delectable strips of goat meat, tripe, ox tail, stockfish and snails the size of an elephant’s ears. Life is good. For one hour I am living an analog life in delightful defiance of the chaos of a digital world that was forced on us by thinkers like Chinua Achebe, people with over-sized brains. The delicacies of Africa soothe my stomach and dull my senses and I am now thinking rational albeit mundane thoughts. And I am thinking… What is all this about Chinua Achebe and the Internet? Did Philip Emeagwali really claim to be father of the Internet? Hmmmm! Did we pay our house rent this month? What about last month?My wife’s eyes hover over me, caring but anxious. She warns me about sauce dripping on to my white shirt. She worries, if I stain my shirt, I would have to change it and what would the brunette at work think – you went home to get “some” at lunch time! Who cares? My stomach just had sex! We are happy! Tell the brunette to go munch on a sandwich!

Epilogue – For Mamaput!

I wake up

deep in the bliss for the ignorant.

I pat my great stomach,

try to still the little lions

roaring away their message.

Lunch time!

Relax lions, I say

Your cage, my belle,

nor be sound proof!

Or do you insist on disgracing me

before these disinfected lords?

Well if you insist

meet mama put, nomad,

hotel on ten toes,

magician-owner of a zillion hat tricks

that thrill the stomach’s heart.

Help me down, will you? she asks.

I love the smell of rice trapped in scented leaves.

And the bovine and aquarian secrets

trapped in their own stews

are my delight!

Mama put

I hope all your particulars are correct,

I growl in mock cop style,

the style that warns molue driver

that particulars will never be correct

save that naira note

is completely lost

amidst the said particulars.

She replies in mock danfo driver fashion

resignation and hopelessness

all over her face.

I go try!

OK Mama put, put roun’about!

(that is the cow’s intestines for you)

put towel!

(tripe for you)

Put leather!

(that is the hide for you, very delicious!)

Mama put

your kidneys are too costly!

OK put one. One I say!

Abi na you go pay?

What of your livers?

I hope dem nor rotten today?

Put one!

Cow leg? Cow’s legs, ke! Not today!

Tomorrow maybe. These legs are becoming too costly!

And besides they could be carcinogenic.

You know these cows certainly go places with those legs!

Mama put, how’s The Head of State today?

(that is the fish’s head for you, really delicious I tell you!)

< p>Our Head of State dey, he’s fine, she replies coyly

OK just one!

Now, how much be my bill?

Three thousand Naira! Mamaput! You wan buy house

wit my money! Crook! Dreamer!Elemu!

Here’s your one thousand ojare!

If you don’t like my money give am to polis!


The sandwich is a food item typically consisting of two slices of bread between which are laid one or more layers of meat, vegetable, cheese, or other fillings, together with optional or traditionally provided condiments, sauces, and other accompaniments. The sandwich was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat, although it is unlikely to have been invented by him. It is said that Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue gambling while eating. The name of the earldom comes from that of the English village of Sandwich in Kent—from the Old English Sandwic, meaning “sand place”.

Source:, the free encyclopedia


  1. Hilarious! I am still laughing out loud with tears coming down my cheeks! ohhhhh I guess my face is now permanently conform to to a smile!

    Excellent writing . Keep it up brother, Nigerian.

  2. I have not laughed so hard in my life. Once I took gari and egusi to work for lunch. By the time I was done eating, all my oyibo and akata co-workers had disappeared from the lunch room. I highly recommend it if you want the lunch room all to yourself and the TV channel tuned to your favorite daytime soap.


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