You can’t be more Catholic than the Pope. The same holds with Amala, where Ibadan’s black pearl sits on the throne as the king of all.
I have had so much amala in my short life —from Ijora Badia, to Ita Faji, to Illorin, back to Shitta, and at White House. And that’s minus those places whose names we might never know. Amala is amala wherever you find it, but Ibadan remains its Madison Square Garden where the finest come out to dance.
Four days have passed and over a hundred kilometres tease the space between me and that hot Saturday afternoon, in Iya Adija’s tiny, poorly lit buka off Ring Road in Ibadan.
I arrive with my friends, and the routine is the same as everywhere we’ve had amala —pick up a plate, join a queue to the wide pots of amala and soups.
In no time, my Amala is in my plate, and the server there makes a valley at the center of the bowl with the amala to the sides.
People say amala with soup in the same plate is gross and that they should be served in separates plates. Here’s the thing; bathing by scooping from a bucket or directly under a shower might be doing the same thing, but the experience is completely different.
The amala and the soup must become one for your belly to rejoice.
My plate is passed to the soup women. The bright yellow gbegiri goes in generously, followed by ewedu so green you can be sure the leaves were still fresh when they went under the Ijabe broom. The goat meat follows. Standard.
I find a spot but before I start, I try to find a spoon.
Don’t stone me, I suck with holding hot food, but the little buka doesn’t care either. There are no spoons. I thank them now, because when I finally dive in, I don’t stop.
There are three types of pillows. There’s the type that goes flat immediately you lay, there’s the type that’s so hard you’d rather lay on wood. Then there’s the type that takes the shape of your head —nothing more, nothing less.
This amala is the last option —not too soft, not too hard, just perfect.
And when I take my first trip to my mouth, I don’t stop. I don’t stop for water, I don’t stop to catch my breath, I just keep going. The gbegiri is whispering between my jaws saying, “someone put great effort and mastery into making me”.
As home training requires, the goat meat comes last, and I sure made my ancestors proud. I imagine it went under the knife only a few hours ago, but that makes it even better. Destiny made sure it was slaughtered, spiced, cooked, and served, for me. I ruled my destiny with that piece of meat.
Amala is black, ugly, tasteless.
But people, when Amala forms the great alliance with fine soup, it becomes King. Of everything.
I’m a pounded yam person, but that loyalty is currently on holiday, at least until I can no longer remember how the amala felt against my fingers, how the soup dissolved in my mouth, and how I’m still thinking about going back to Ibadan not because of my friends, but because of amala. Because amala will be there for you when nobody else will.