Naija Girl Abroad (Part 4): The things we take for granted

Wednesday, August 29, 2018



(This is the fourth part in the 'Naija Girl' series. The preceding part is here)

I am not sure exactly who began this Ghana-Nigerian Jollof war. But there is absolutely no basis for comparison.

I mean… I have eaten the Ghana ombre-coloured rice, which (by the way) should not have jollof in the same sentence. (No shade).

Nigerian jollof is a banger on so many levels and should have its own Nobel Prize, or something, without any room for competition of any kind.

My oyinbo housemate confirmed this, the day she walked in on me cooking jollof and screamed in nosegasms.

“What is that? I must have some!”

So she had a plateful… with a bowl of water by her side, and pepper-induced tears flowing her eyes with every spoon of rice.

(Jollof without pepper is like coffee without coffee)

That was her initiation rite into Nigerian food.

But when I made goat-meat stew, it was a different level of excitement for her. She asked me immediately for the recipe, how many cups and spoons of ingredients used and the precise measurements of the condiments in pounds and ounces.

Lol.

I casually explained that in Africa, we do not measure condiments. We just keep pouring, until the spirits of our dead ancestors hug our shoulders, and whisper “that’s enough, my child”.

Apparently, that Twitter joke was lost along the way, as I saw the look of horror on her face.

(She seemed horrified that I was actually practicing the voodoo she had heard was rampant in Africa, and had watched in some of the Nigerian movies she was always so intrigued about).

I quickly backtracked and explained that we just ‘know’ how much is enough, and taste the food from time to time. She nodded in understanding, and consequently, always excitedly hung around in the kitchen anytime I made a new dish.

In my mind, she was still oohing and ahhing over my food, because it was the lite stuff. I thought to myself: “Wait, until I bring out my frozen ogiri okpei and okporoko to put in my soup”.

But the day I made my ogbono, she also fell in love with the smell and asked me again for recipe. There was no shaking off her love for my food.

I doubt anything warmed her heart, like watching me eat my eba and soup with my bare hands. She beamed with glee, and explained that her closest semblance to eating this way was with gloves, at an oriental restaurant.

I explained that this was how we ate ‘swallow’ in Nigeria. I taught her, that you took a fistful of the swallow, threw the swallow in the air, caught it mid-air, pressed your finger in the middle to create an impression, dipped it in the bowl of soup and filled it with soup; then swallowed it without blinking.

And she was happy to be tutored.

But her fondness for all things Nigerian was not solely regarding the food. She joined in the global frenzy over the Nigerian 2018 World-Cup jersey, and screamed the most when Ahmed Musa scored both goals.

By the end of Nigeria's outing, she was asking if I had Leon Balogun's phone number. (I'm not sure what exactly she intended to do with it)

There was that day I packed my hair into a bun on the top of my head, with the aid of a hairpiece. I had learnt this hair-style for free at a local salon around the corner, somewhere in Amuwo-Odofin.

With nappy hair like a cute tooth brush, rubber bands and pins were often used to arrange the hair and set the bun in place.

My housemate was impressed with my hairdo, and wanted same. That was the day I realised that Rapunzel-like hair is not always a blessing.

It was a “miss”; her hair could not hold as firm as mine did, and when I did braids for her, it loosened within hours.

For the first time since I can remember, I genuinely thanked God for the tautness of my Nigerian hair.

And when the shaku-shaku crase spread globally, she would often catch me dancing it everywhere. Particularly in the kitchen while I cooked.

I tried to teach her the moves, along with alanta, shoki and even galala.  And I failed woefully.

Sigh.

(Let’s just say that some things are best left in Wakanda).

What seemed to amaze her most was just before Easter, when my sister-in-law (quite frankly, she’s my sister) called, asking when I was coming home for the holidays, even as we made plans over the phone for our Easter cooking.

I saw the question in her eyes as I finished my phone call, and explained that by our culture, we are built to have a strong sense of community. I had no business being alone by myself during the holidays, when I had family a mere two-hour drive away.

Thus, I seized every opportunity I had to travel ‘home’ for us all to be together, home in this case, being my brother’s house (which was a meeting point for a lot of us relatives in the region)

She smiled warmly, and commended this part of our culture as very unique. “It must be fun to be Nigerian”, she said, rhetorically.

In that moment, it hit me that there were a lot of really heartwarming things about my Nigerian heritage.

I mean, I know that over time, the mention of ‘Nigeria’ prejudicially connotes the fraudulent African Prince of the internet kingdom.

In the country, there is F-SARS, and Boko-Haram, and the HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE craters for roads, and epileptic power-supply to deal with. And decades of poor governance by selfish leaders have depleted the country’s resources, making a significant number of its nationals seek the hope of a better life outside its shores, while nearly eroding the beauty of that land.

But the most of the people in themselves are industrious, highly intelligent, resilient and amazing. And there are really cool parts of our Nigerian heritage which we often take for granted.

Our food. Our culture. Our communal living. Our dances.

Our sheer swag.

It is my hope that we will consciously treasure these parts of our heritage for the beauty they are, and continue to pass these on, to our descendants all over the world.

Paz,




Meg.

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23 comments

  1. "I casually explained that in Africa, we do not measure condiments. We just keep pouring, until the spirits of our dead ancestors hug our shoulders, and whisper 'that’s enough, my child'." This part almost got me rolling on the floor.😂😂

    You have a way with words that keeps blowing me away.🙌

    And thanks for reminding us that there are still good things to be proud of in Nigeria.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 😂😂😂😂😂 There are still things to be proud of o.

      Delete
  2. "I casually explained that in Africa, we do not measure condiments. We just keep pouring, until the spirits of our dead ancestors hug our shoulders, and whisper 'that’s enough, my child'." This part almost got me rolling on the floor.😂😂

    You have a way with words that keeps blowing me away.🙌

    And thanks for reminding us that there are still good things to be proud of in Nigeria.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I casually explained that in Africa, we do not measure condiments. We just keep pouring, until the spirits of our dead ancestors hug our shoulders, and whisper “that’s enough, my child”.


    OK this is making me wonder how crazy ur sense of humour is

    Am still reading o and have to pause and lauff alittle

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lovely dear. Really opened my eyes to the mere things we take for granted.I'm proud to be a Nigerian and keep hoping/praying for the best!!!! Way to go girl!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well written (as usual). Despite all the ills in Nigeria, there are still a thousand and one reasons to be proud of Nigeria. Proudly Nigerian!

    ReplyDelete
  6. A Truly inspiring piece... for a few minutes i was completely lost in the happiness of having experienced the Nigerian culture fist-hand. Our collective reality however (sigh), i do hope it will get better. At the very least, we have a few things to be genuinely proud of as Nigerians.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I taught her, that you took a fistful of the swallow, threw the swallow in the air, caught it mid-air, pressed your finger in the middle to create an impression, dipped it in the bowl of soup and filled it with soup; then swallowed it without blinking......this made my happiness quote for the week. And the part of the ancestors, nice Meg. keep doing great.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is really nice.. "Our ancestors whisper to our ears, my child thats enough"...

    ReplyDelete
  9. I just wanted to continue reading and reading. You are just too good.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Replies
    1. Yaaay!! Thank you! Don't forget to follow the blog.

      Delete
  11. I enjoYed every line of this piece.. Kudos Nelo..

    ReplyDelete