I have not had the pleasure of travelling to Asia or being on Fear Factor, so my cockroach eating experience happened right here in Nigeria.
I spent most of my formative years in Warri and was raised on Mama Put and fries. My mum realized early that my brother and I loved to eat junk, my brother especially; and what my brother wanted, he got. Also, we often wanted to eat different things; so once or twice a day she’d give us N50 to buy whatever.
Growing up, I had a dread of washing plates. We had this big pot that was rarely used, so I’d stash dirty plates and my mum would only know I hadn’t been washing plates when she couldn’t find anything to dish food into.
For this reason, instead of taking a plate with cover or a food flask to go and buy food, I’d go there and ask them to put the food (rice most times) in a nylon. It was not a strange request as most food sellers had a stack of ‘white’ nylon they used to sell food.
That day I went to buy rice and stew from the woman selling beside the abattoir. My regular customer, Mama Emeka usually closed early so once it was past six, this other woman got my patronage. I remember that day I had filched an extra N20 from my mum’s bag so I had N70 to spend. Of course it’d be on extra meat. I ordered N30 rice and two pieces of meat. I insisted the nylon be doubled as I had recently had an experience if stew leaking. The rice was hot.
That’s how I made my way home, got a cup of water and proceeded to enjoy my feast. First step was mixing up the rice and stew. I don’t know how to explain the process but I was a pro at it. Second was opening a hole at the tip of the rice cone. Third was pressing the cone gently so the rice came out of the hole. Fourth was eating the rice that came out in step three.
I like to eat. I am not one of those inspector people that will look at every spoonful of food under the microscope. Which is why when I felt something small enter my mouth, I was grateful for an extra piece of meat and chewed away. I don’t remember why but as I chewed something said, ‘Mary, look at what you are eating.’ So I looked and behold, there was the tail half of a cockroach at the open hole of my rice cone. My brain instantly made the connection that the ‘meat’ I was chewing was most likely the head half. It seems during step one; I had split the already softened-from-cooking cockroach into two.
I kept my cool and spat out everything in my mouth. I didn’t look. There was no need. Then I gently liberated my pieces of meat-the real ones-from the tainted rice and threw the rest of the food away.
And that is how I chewed, but didn’t swallow a cockroach.