Why We Should Celebrate Our West African Food Heritage
I used my book EAT WITH PLEASURE (2017) not just to highlight the benefits of nutrition but also to re-address Afro pessimism that got me really angry about Africans especially some Nigerians ignorance or whatever excuse 'I can't pronounce Ade, Bisi, Nnenna, Adebayo, Kwesi, Ekaette etcs because they're too anglicized to bother. It is socially flawed and unacceptable that I can't help wondering individual born & bred in Nigeria unwillingness to speak indigenous naija dialect?
I am proud of West Africa and my Nigerian heritage as a whole hence the reason why I pushed boundaries, insurmountably plead with our people to eat 'eba & soup' with their fingers in restaurants. Asians eat their food with fingers without inhibition while our people are still using cutlery instead of fingers. Are you not proud of your traditional eating habit orally passed down from several generations?
My book has gained popularity with the white audience because I have showcased Nigerian food & culture dynamic you rarely read in African literature. You don't often read about 'fufu', 'akpu', 'amala' do you? Well, I elaborated about food we enjoy eating rarely seen in books or shared with people outside our culture.
You sometimes hear 'I lived in England for years can't speak Nigerian language' from some odd balls, these same people cook and eat garri and soup nearly everyday, make regular trips to Nigerian food community/outlets in Brixton, Peckham and Dalston markets to buy nearly everything Nigerian, frequent Nigerian parties,yet they can't speak the language? Really? I have never eaten 'akpu' (fermented cassava dough) however, courtesy of my sister-in-law, I researched a bit and celebrated it in my book as indigenous Igbo food as you would Yoruba amala.
Don't we have grandmothers worth celebrating? The chapters 'Doing The Dishes' & 'My Grandmother's coconut oil' in my book are exemplary. Contemporary African writers don't say much about our food except Chinua Achebe who proudly introduced the world to his vivid description of mountainous pounded yam in Things Falls Apart. Pounded yam so high family and friends who didn't realise they were present in the New Yam Festival exchanged pleasantries only after the mountainous pounded yam had been consumed and reduced in size. Ofcourse white people love the narrative which I believe caught their imagination and contributed to unique selling point in my book. A celebration of food, the pleasure of food and the discourse of food and culture.
Indeed, my book has captured the imagination of people around the world.
Let's educate our younger generation about African food,though surprisingly has been marginalized. Do you often see our food on TV cookery channels at home and in diaspora? There's absolutely nothing about food in most African channels yet African restaurants are cloistered in the community where no one is remotely interested. My book embodies African food culture, thankfully the wider audience appreciated it as if they were eagerly waiting to see a different West Africa, Nigeria food culture as told only by few who have ventured though I chose to tell it differently.
The white audience are appreciative of our stories with the willingness to embrace it so let's celebrate our food culture with them and be proud of who we are.
Akon Margaret Kalu
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