Plans for the potluck began by late October, and truth be told, at the time, you did not think the girls could pull it off. Pessimism, yes.
Having been a member of Sisterpedia for half a year, you could see that this WhatsApp group, which had been advertised to you as a club of tourism enthusiasts, was gradually dwindling in momentum as the months rolled by.
When you first joined the group, you were told to expect monthly trips to beaches, resorts, restaurants, lounges, spas, parks, and festivals. The admin said Sisterpedia is a fun group for hangouts among ‘sisters’. You were never part of a sorority while in university, or a clique while in secondary school, yet you were new in town and needed friends, so you went for it, and with an open mind, having little to no expectations.
You found the girls to be lively and interesting in your first month. There was the Accountant who dropped Bible verses in the group every morning; the Photographer who dumped her nudes, unprovoked; the Tailor who recommended the latest films she had seen on Netflix; the Secretary who shared her playlists; the Event Planner who had everybody’s gist in town, and the Lawyer who always ranted about her day.
You noted that everyone had a niche, and you sought to carve one for yourself. Your life is catering, so you posted about the unique meals you made and the untested recipes that fascinated you when you tried them. The girls commended your efforts and applauded your triumphs. You traded laughs and gossiped with them. You followed and engaged their handles on Twitter and Instagram. Against a newcomer’s fears, you settled into the sisterhood with ease and comfort.
That first month, Sisterpedia hosted a brunch at a recently opened restaurant. The Event Planner waltzed into the group one Tuesday evening and began talking about this new place in town with amazing décor and an Italian chef who looked just like Jesus. You wanted to say that Jesus would look Middle Eastern, but you understood she meant TV Jesus – the one from Hollywood movies. The girls entertained her and agreed that it would be fun to try out this new place. After a series of deliberations and suggestions, you all agreed on the last Saturday of the month.
And what a fun brunch it turned out to be! Your new sisters dazzled in expensive gowns and kimonos. The meal was six courses, and the Event Planner insisted the Italian chef himself come out to greet you all, and the girls oohed and aahed. You giggled and agreed that he did look like TV Jesus: the blonde, blue-eyed Caucasian.
Through the brunch, the coterie talked about men, money, and orgasms. You took fire pictures, and, when you posted them on your stories much later, old flames hit you with semi-serious compliments, while new interests crowded your DMs professing their intentions.
The second outing, which followed two months later, was not as much fun as the brunch had been. While you had packed a basket of homemade avocado sandwiches and store-bought packs of sweetened yoghurt, three sisters had cancelled at the last minute.
You played card games and laughed out loud when the Photographer twerked to the Afropop music coming from a shack at a distance. You smiled when the Lawyer and the Event Planner praised your sandwiches, and you gave them the recipe. Yet, you knew the day could have been better if all of Sisterpedia were present. You took fewer pictures this time, and you did not post them to your stories until the next weekend.
The third outing, the Ladies’ Night, was set on a Wednesday, but the girls kept rescheduling. The Secretary complained about work not affording her the time. Her company had an ongoing project on another continent. The Accountant was having money issues. The Tailor ignored the group conversations. The Event Planner was out of town for work. The Lawyer—the group’s admin—kept posting reminders. Sadly, only you and the Photographer were eager about the outing.
In the end, the Ladies’ Night sank into that monumental abyss of Unfulfilled Appointments, and this was why, when the girls began to talk about a potluck to celebrate the end of the year, you ignored the conversation.
Conflicts seldom arose in Sisterpedia. When they did, however, the girls tried not to take sides. They instead preached forgiveness and reconciliation.
You never had a problem with anyone—you have always avoided confrontation since your teenage years—so when the Accountant dissed your food in the group chat one Saturday, your jaw fell open. What infuriated you even further was how everyone glossed over the issue like it had not been spiteful and malicious.
That Saturday, you had catered for a wedding and had been so busy that you had barely touched your phone all day. When the day was over and you were back home, you had showered, eaten, and scrolled through WhatsApp. Sisterpedia had 348 unread messages. The girls must have had a fun day, you’d thought.
Whenever you see messages like this, you like to read them from the very beginning, so you don’t miss anything.
The Accountant had started the day’s conversation by posting a glammed-up picture of herself.
“Ahn ahn! Hot kek!!” The Photographer had commented.
“Off us; we are your generator by 10 PM,” the Tailor had followed.
“This one you’re looking like spec, make the groom no go carry you, leave him wife o,” the Secretary had said.
The Accountant had replied with hahahas and LOLs.
The conversation had tilted to a side after this, and the girls had chattered about dresses, shoes, and jewellery prices before returning to talk about how fine the Accountant was. You had scrolled through, chuckling. Then, something caught your eye. A picture of a plate. On the plate—jollof rice, moi moi, and chicken. You recognized the plate and how the food was served. You realized that the Accountant was a guest at the wedding you had catered all day and you had not seen her; it was your staff who served the guests.
The comment under the picture of the food took you aback. Was she dragging your food? Calling it tasteless? Were the other girls in the group laughing, as well, asking her to be nice? You were stunned.
The conversation shifted to a handsome hulk she had sighted at the wedding. You knew who she was speaking of. A dark-skinned man who had pulled eyes to himself as he paced about the reception hall. Yet, the change of topic did not douse the anger that brewed in your chest or the bile that rose in your belly. Would the Tailor laugh kwakwakwa like she just did if someone had made fun of a dress she made? Would the Photographer dismiss the topic like she did if it were her photographs that were being mocked? You felt betrayed. You had wanted to join the conversation, but now you opted against that. You logged off WhatsApp and opened Instagram. You liked some pictures and logged off that, as well. You needed an outlet to vent your anger.
You hopped on Twitter to deliver a subtweet.
“Can’t believe what these girls said about my food.” You deleted this. It was too specific.
“Fake friends are everywhere.” You deleted again. This one sounded too pained.
“Peeps can be on your side of the ring and still not be in your corner,” you typed.
This one was perfect: cryptic and accusatory. You clicked send.
“I hope they catch their sub,” you murmured to yourself.
Your fake sisters (as you began to think of them) didn’t cancel the potluck; they doubled down. The Lawyer suggested themes and dress codes. The Accountant argued for a Christmas-themed event, and the Photographer reminded her that you weren’t all Christians. The Tailor offered to make dresses at a discount. The Secretary nominated her one-bedroom flat as the venue. The Event Planner asked that the potluck be pushed to the second weekend in December—the closer it got to Christmas, the more free time you all would have. Everybody agreed.
In all this, you said nothing, and they noticed your silence.
“Hey Sister,” the Lawyer greeted one late afternoon.
“Hey, hey,” you replied.
“Seems like you’ve been busy,” she began, “person no dey see your brake light for group these days.”
You liked the excuse she was offering. “Yeah, sorry about that, I’ve been really busy with work this period.”
She began to type. You waited.
“I’m sure you must have seen our plans for a potluck for our end of the year celebration . . . I was wondering if you could help me come up with a menu for the day. You know, so that people don’t bring the same things.”
You wanted to refuse, but you knew she came to you because you were the only caterer in the group. If you refused, she would know you were angry and would pry until you told her what was wrong. You didn’t want to go down that path. You wished to nurse your grievance and court the anger.
“No wahala. How soon do you need it?” you asked.
“As soon as you can.”
“Okay, I’ll send you a list by tonight,” you said.
By dinnertime, you had a list ready: ukodo, asaro, pasta, egusi and eba, banga and starch, beans and plantains, and of course, jollof rice. You created a chart on your Notes app with corresponding spaces for names against the meals on the list. Since you were the one creating the list, you had the first pick. You added your name beside jollof rice. The girls had all mocked your jollof rice—funny how the world works. You were going to make them eat their mockery.
The next morning, the girls picked meals off the list in the order that they came online. The Accountant came last and had to fill the slot for banga and starch.
“I can make banga soup, but my starch game is not strong o,” she said.
The Lawyer encouraged her, said it was not a competition.
You scoffed. Of course it was. So, the Accountant cannot make simple starch, but she can run her mouth? You sucked your teeth and held back from commenting in the group.
As the potluck drew closer, the excitement in the group became palpable. The Secretary asked for song suggestions, for a playlist for the day. The Event Planner shared details about her decorations. The Photographer volunteered to buy the drinks. The Lawyer settled on a theme. And the Tailor dropped updates on the dresses she was making for two of the sisters.
In all of it, you were indifferent, and you hid it well. Because you did not want the Lawyer reaching out to you again, you cheered and dropped emojis when these conversations flowed. You posted, “Go girl!” and “Well done!” when appropriate, and you sent Paw-paw stickers when necessary.
On the eve of the potluck, you woke up excited. The day was almost here for you to show them. You cleared your morning schedule and went to the market. Every ingredient for this jollof had to be fresh.
You began at the abattoir and got a sizeable broiler chicken. You got fresh tomatoes and bell peppers, a cup of shombo and lots of onion, and lobs of garlic and ginger. There was rice at home. Oil and spices, too. You did not have bay leaves at home, so you bought a pack of those.
One more item remained, now. You bowed your head, reaching into your past.
When you were a young girl in a small town, you had a friend at school whose mom ran a big restaurant. Her jollof rice was to die for, and customers flocked to her place so much that on busy days they would wash their own plates. You and your friend had been very close, so close that you shared kisses at the back of the classroom after school hours. So close that you told her about your father’s second family, so close that she told you the secret ingredient to her mother’s jollof.
More than a decade after, you were going to use this secret ingredient. The girls at Sisterpedia will surely marvel at your meal when they have it. In your heart, you were thankful for this knowledge.
You lifted your head and began to search the market.
Arriving at the Secretary’s place early, you settled down in the comfy living room. The Secretary did not have many sofas, so a duvet had been spread on the floor.
The potluck was slated for noon, but it did not begin until 1 PM because some sisters were late.
The centre table held food flasks and coolers of assorted colours and sizes, and you, early birds, chatted about the challenges and the triumphs of the year as you waited for the latecomers.
The Photographer was the last to show up, and everyone forgave her because she arrived with a carton filled with bottles of white and red wine.
With a glass in hand, the Lawyer stood up to address the room.
“Hey, hey sisters,” she began. “You know, when I came into this town, I didn’t know anybody, except you,” she pointed at the Secretary, “and some people at church. This town was boring. And that was why we started Sisterpedia. To socialize. To party together. To have sisters. Friends to have fun with and share the everyday madness of adulting with, too.”
The room laughed.
“No, really. You guys are amazing. And I’m happy to be ending the year with you all.”
The Photographer took a picture.
When it was time for the food, you went straight for the coolers the Accountant had brought. The banga looked and smelled nice. You held back your compliment. You opened the second cooler and felt victory swell in your chest: wraps of semo stared back at you.
“Ah, you did not make starch?” You asked, your voice high enough to be heard by everyone.
“My sister, I did o,” the Accountant began, “but I’m not sure of what I made; you people cannot eat it. Abeg, make una manage the semo.” She laughed and everyone laughed with her.
This was not the victory you sought. You moved to another cooler.
Suddenly, a rich aroma blessed the room. You recognized the scent and suppressed a smile.
“Jesus! Which person food dey scent like this?” The Lawyer asked.
The Tailor did not answer. She was already dishing healthy portions into her plate. She pointed at you, and the Lawyer started clapping. Before you could say anything, everybody was hovering around your cooler, scooping more helpings of the jollof rice. Even the Accountant was telling the person before her that they had taken enough and shouldn’t finish it all.
You sat back and smiled.
Later, you staggered half-drunkenly into the shower, and only after the water came on full blast did you remember to take off your clothes. None of the meals the girls had brought had impressed you, so you had proceeded to fill your belly with white wine. You love white wine – the tingling sensation it brings, how it makes the wind feel fresh on your face.
As the water poured over your body, your phone chimed again and again. Messages from Sisterpedia, you were certain.
You had envisaged success, but not this much. The girls had been in awe of your jollof rice. They had complimented your food so much that you had become shy. They had licked their plates with their tongues.
You stepped out of the shower and towelled your body. Sleep drifted close, but you fought it off. There were messages to respond to. Fully stretched out on your mattress, you went through the messages: 542 messages in total. Some were pictures and videos of the day. Others were, as you anticipated, praises for your cooking.
“I still dey think about that jollof rice,” the Lawyer posted.
“Omo! That jollof has to represent this country at the next Jollof Olympics!” The Tailor declared.
“LOL,” you posted.
“See the culprit here!” The Secretary said.
“We have to do another potluck in January, and you need to make us this jollof again,” the Event Planner replied to your LOL.
“No need for potluck; just cook rice for us,” the Accountant said, tagging you to her post.
You smiled and closed your eyes, remembering what your childhood friend had said about her mother’s secret ingredient:
“My mommy buys a new bowl anytime she visits the market. Then, at night she bends down and washes her toto into it. That’s the water she cooks with.”
Your phone chimed and you opened your eyes.
“You agree? How’s next weekend?” the Lawyer was asking, tagging you to the accountant’s plea.
You yawned. “Sure. Anytime.”
About the author:
Nnamdi Anyadu’s work explores human interactions within the texture of futurist possibilities and doctrinal re-imaginations. His writing has appeared in Iskanchi, Omenana, Down River Road, and The Ake Review. He anchors book chats on his Instagram: @the_africanist and lives in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria.