Nigerians generally are well travelled; I’ve heard it said that if you visit any part of the world and there’re no Nigerians there, leave ASAP!
What’s more, there is hardly a family in Nigeria today that doesn’t have a brother, sister, cousin, uncle or aunty who resides abroad.
Go to Idumota or Balogun market, visit Apongbon or Onitsha, try Kano or Jos, more than half of the traders, have passports the size of Gochelong geography text book (come, do kids these days still use Gochelong?) and they may not even speak a word of English!
That’s the beauty of it, Nigerians don’t think they need to speak any particular language to travel, money talks and the language of money is universally understood.
And perhaps because we are so well travelled, you’ll expect our palates to have acquired a measure of sophistication.
No. There’s jazz in our food.
As much as we love to travel, we never seem to like eating foreign food much. I’ve travelled with friends and family who the second day upon landing in a foreign country begin to hunt for restaurants that serve food close to home; they want rice, they want beans, they want fried meat or chicken, any food that looks like food from home.
O dear Nigerians, why travel if you won’t even give foreign food a chance?
‘I no wan run belle’
‘I don’t like this medemede’
‘E bi like say I never chop, sef …’(That’s after a full bowl of pasta)
I remember my first trip out of Nigeria. It was to Ghana; all I wanted was a taste of Ghana. I wanted kenke, I wanted their version of eba, I wanted all kinds of Ghanaian food but my friends took one look at the meals on offer and asked for jollof rice or beans. Even so, they complained about the meals.
It’s worse when we hear someone from home is going abroad for whatever reason; like me.
I have been mandated by Naija folks to bring food stuff, so I’ve packed stock fish, cray fish, egusi, ogbono, ogi-pap, even suya…yels, na and because I haven’t learned how to pack ofada rice’s stinky locust bean fried stew across borders, I would also have packed that in my luggage; and when I get to foreign immigration desks, I’ll have to explain the foul smelling gruel isn’t dangerous to anyone’s health.
Ehen o. Na so we be.
‘My sister plish, can you just bring me one cup of cray fish, just one, I beg!
‘Jooo, it’s suya, suya, just pack in a foil and dry…
‘Ore mi, I’ll die if I don’t get ogbono, please, just one de rica…
‘Bring stock fish for the girls na, I’ve been eating it in my dreams…’ (Hummn, Kontinu)
One even asked for fufu.
The high cost of these items plus the fact that many times the food items may have been processed and thus get stripped of their natural tastes is a no no…
I remember eating stock fish at a friend’s home in London, I didn’t realise it was stock fish, it didn’t even have the pungent odour of stock fish; like they say, if it is not stock fish, it can never be the same as stock fish! We always miss our own food once we find ourselves in the abroad, and our food ranges from mama’s soup pot and the food we buy from the regular buka.
When my friend travelled to Italy for about three months his diet consisted mainly of vegetables and fruits; healthy food choice for him, right?
Wrong. He just kept moaning about being underfed. He wanted meat; he wanted pepper, he became so ravenous for meat that the chef at his place of stay gave him something to chew -mushrooms!
I know someone who’s told me that as soon as she lands naija on her next visit, she would head straight from the airport to Shitta and finish a cauldron of amala and gbegiri soup. That’s how much she has missed it.
One even asked for ‘Bank Olemoh rice’.
Another wanted food from ‘Ghana high or suya from University of Suya at Mende’
Well, if you’ve eaten food from these joints, you’ll understand why Nigerians abroad crave them. Ordinary boiled corn is different. Try oyibo corn and then compare, it is not the same as the one mama Friday sells at the T junction.
I remember years back, in Jos. There was a woman who had an amala joint that virtually every student of Ujay must pay homage to. Of course she served a variety of swallow meals but her Amala and Tuwo were legendary.
So while we are talking about food that make us sigh with contentment, those who know Tejuosho of old will remember Rice Kemi. A young lady back then who I swear, would have built several houses from proceeds or rice and stew she sold at Tejusosho market back in the day.
Kemi would have bankers queuing for her rice. I once heard she used jazz to draw customers because, you see, she had a competitor right next to her and that woman would spend the whol day and have no one in front of her cauldron of rice, yet Kemi would be selling and insulting customers on top of their money, o.
Whatever it is sha, there are meals we will do jazz just to get.
Do you know of meals around Nigeria we can kill for? Let’s hear it.