Much ado about nothing. The day we met. The first time we spoke on the phone. The anniversary of the anniversary that we held hands for the first time. I roll my eyes and mutter not very polite things under my breath every time I see anniversary celebrations.
It is therefore the ultimate joke that Lady Life is playing on me with this relationship that I am in.
I was not looking to get involved with anyone. However, he waltzed into my life and is almost perfect. Except for this important thing – he loves to celebrate anniversaries of anything. I tell him he must have been deprived of something as a child. He enter dates in his calendar so there are loud reminders. He makes calls, he buys gifts, he puts on a big show. I play along because you know – after years of kissing a lot of frogs, a man with no mommy issues, no baby mama drama, no 50 Shades of Grey predilections, no skeletons leaping out of closets (yet) – I can bear all the fuss. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a bad person. I just don’t do anniversaries. Part of this whole being in a relationship thing is making the effort to make the other person happy. Which is why I find myself in this cooking class on a Saturday evening when I can be doing other things. The lover has been reminding me for the past month that our first anniversary is on February 14. We have had heated conversations about this for a few reasons: I do not think there is a specific date when ‘we’ began. I dislike Valentine’s Day in Lagos with all the traffic and all-round public displays and declarations of ‘love’. After weeks of trying to make a date happen, he offered to bring takeout to my office, and we had dinner in the conference room on February 14. He has chosen that date as our anniversary. I counter with the fact that it was just a convenient day to meet and eat.
I figure cooking something together is as good a gift as any – a shared experience rather than buying something he probably doesn’t need. A quick ask around and I managed to secure a 3-hour class with Afrolems. I tell her, nice and simple yet wow. I am no domestic goddess. She decides to teach me to make these food packets. Or rather she corrects me – en papillote. Sure sure, call it that but it is essentially prawns, sausages, potatoes, sweet corn, herbs, seasoning and white wine; in the packet and in the oven. Easy enough and looks impressive. Cooking class is done and I leave with a list of things to buy to recreate this dish on the day. February 14 rolls around. I rush to the store to get the shopping done. Not a good idea. The stores are like madhouses, and someone calls me a name when I grab the last pack of strawberries in the fridge.
Rush back home and I realize – I forgot to buy the parchment paper for the packet. No worries. I can use foil. The doorbell rings and it is the lover. Grinning and bearing gifts. I announce dinner will be ready in a jiffy. Considering I have done absolutely no prep, this is a bold faced lie. I go back into the kitchen and search high and low for the recipe card Afrolems gave me. I cannot find it. No worries. I remember everything she said. I carefully assemble the foil packets. All that is left is the white wine. I realize I forgot that too. No worries. It is alcohol required. All I have is some brandy. That should work. I put the packets in the oven and try to light it. The oven is not coming on. Hmmm. Afrolems said these cook fast. So I think – No worries. I watch Food Network sometimes. I see them cook things on open flames. I shall do the same. I light 2 spots on the stove top. I am excited. I should cook more often. The lover walks in. ‘I smell brandy’. Yes indeed.
Then he pauses. He looks at the lit burners. And the foil packets. ‘Is the brandy in the foil packets? To go over the burners?’ ‘Yes. The oven is being funny. No worries though’ I say as I put both packets on the flames.
He screams- ‘Get back’
I turn around in alarm. ‘What?’
He grabs me and pulls me towards the door.
BOOM!!!! Fire from the packets, licking the walls…I stare in horror. The lover grabs a fire extinguisher and like the hero in a corny rom-com, he puts the fire out.
I am in shock. What just happened? He turns to me and says brandy, foil, over open flames is a recipe for disaster. Oh. I smile shakily at him and say ‘Happy Anniversary.’
Uzo’s Food Packets – Corn, Shrimp, Potatoes, Sausages in Foil Packets
To make 6 packets, you will need:
3 corn cobs cut into 2 pieces each
6 large potatoes cut into 4 pieces each (Irish, Russet, Sweet varieties)
6 smoked sausages – cut into 4 pieces each
24 large shrimp. Peeled, deveined. Tails on if you prefer
Half a bottle white wine (use wine good enough to drink)
1 table spoon paprika (smoked if you have it)
3 garlic cloves – minced
1 teaspoon salt (more once you taste the sauce if you prefer)
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon Cameroon pepper
½ teaspoon honey
Salted butter – 6 teaspoons
Basil leaves (any variety you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees or gas mark 4
Cut out 6 large pieces of aluminium foil and set aside
In a bowl, whisk the wine, paprika, garlic, salt, peppers and honey well and set aside
On a baking tray, lay a piece of foil on it
Put a piece of corn, 4 pieces of potatoes, 4 pieces of sausage, 4 shrimp on the piece of foil
Pour a few spoons of the wine mix over the foil pieces
Add a teaspoon of butter, a sprig of thyme and a basil leaf
Fold the foil packets securely and repeat the process until all 6 packets are done
Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the potatoes are done
Serve the foil packets on plates – juices and all