Round-up: The Nigerian Seasonal Produce Column, 2017
Welcome to 2018 – Happy New Year!
Over the years, I’ve whittled down my lofty, lengthy list of goals and new years resolutions to a few things.
In 2017, I have to say I did what I wanted, when I wanted. Mostly. Self-care was present..mostly… and that’s saying a lot.
One of the things I’m most grateful for is that I kept up – thanks to family and friends who contributed – with the monthly Nigerian Seasonal Produce Column. I’m so proud of myself 🙂 for the organization and also the consistency in execution. I want to continue with this, perhaps with a slightly different spin in 2018 because I’m passionate about seasonal produce and stories but there’s also other work to be done that I can’t put off any longer.
What I learned:
- Its no surprise that our memories shape us – they open the door to being courageous or afraid
- Heritage is important, and the legacy we leave. Again memory shows up here.
See all posts here: Round up, 2017 Writing – Nigerian Seasonal Produce
And some detail about who wrote and when and a few of my favourite words
It’s one of the many interesting (i.e. perfectly useless) facts I use to fill the potholes that open up in conversation with strangers. When we’ve exhausted all the small-talk topics e.g. harmattan, Boko Haram, recession, the exchange rate, the unemployment rate, the killings in Southern Kaduna, Donald Trump, the state of Nigerian roads, MMM etc., then I chip it in.
‘O di ka Udara, e ga eche na o ga otogbo onwe ya’, you will open it and the thing will slap you’.
‘Udara da n’uzo, ntutu aguwala ya’. ‘Udara that falls by the roadside wants to be picked up’.
‘He who wants to swallow an Udara seed must first consider the size of his anus’.
He would have been literally stoned, the mango being naturally heavier than the apple. Or calculus would have been conceptualized as love vows:
“Do you dy take dx this day as your lawfully wedded partner, in differentiations and integrations, to love and to cherish, in fluid mechanics and so much more…?”
Grandma taught me by this meal that it is easy to dismiss a thing without giving it the chance to reveal itself to you in a different form. About the importance of exploration, of probing a thing and asking, ‘How else can I use you? How else can you manifest yourself?’
Perhaps I am searching, reaching, for a lesson here. I would still lean the other way if confronted with raw garden eggs. But chop some onions, peppers, tomatoes in and watch my transformation. And this is what food is about, isn’t it? Transformation – how it is transformed, how we transform, and how we are transformed by it.
In May, Ramon explores cooking with Pepper Fruit. He says ‘it tastes like what I thought flowers would taste like’ as a child.
At first glance, it reminded me of a peanut in its shell. The flavor of flesh reminded me of fireball whiskey and the seeds of perfume. It is kind of funny how memory works. Biting into it, I was reminded of a time when I thought biting into a flower would taste how these seeds taste to me now.
But I like popcorn. It is a sin to watch a movie without crunching on the warm white sugary kernels of heat-popped corn. By the time the trailers are done and the movie is about to begin, I am more than a quarter of the way into my box of popcorn. I need to slosh liquid in my mouth and floss as the closing credits roll and my hands finger the unpopped and burnt kernels scattered at the base of the box. Still, next movie, new box of popcorn.
And gave me my favourite quote of all time – because it explains in a way my love for Nigerian food and a desire to celebrate it
“What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?” ― Lin Yutang
I also share my stories of Ose Nsukka/ Yellow chilies
Young, just-married and learning, I discovered yellow peppers, ose Nsukka at my late sister-in-law’s. We were visiting Lagos from Port Harcourt and she’d cooked Okro soup in the manner of the Igbo in our honour. Fourteen years ago, I could have done without Okro in that style – grated, cooked in palm oil, seasoned with crayfish and dry pepper and blah di blah. I was not impressed – there wasn’t much to recommend it to me. Give me okro and stew and we would be done but Sister Kate’s Okro soup changed my life. The aroma and flavours were sweet and spicy. Needless to say, I found renewed respect for le okro.
But Golden Melons have no time for niceties or public campaigns. They appear when they are ready, as if out of nowhere, and when they are done, they are done. Captain Jack Sparrow [in the fictional Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl] once said of his ship, The Black Pearl, ‘that the only people who can find it are the people who already know where it is.’
This is an opportunity to make a quick point about recipes – they rarely accommodate for terroir – a term more commonly used with wine and grapes – but it’s simple enough to agree that passion fruit grown in Nigeria versus passion fruit sourced from Southern Brazil (where it is native) will produce very different results in the same dish or drink.
In September, I explored my personal history with sugar and sugar cane, from toddler to adult and what I’ve learnt and loved:
The plantation economies of the Americas were built almost exclusively on slave labour. Crops such as tobacco in Virginia, rice and indigo in the Carolinas, cotton in the southern states and sugar and mahogany in the Caribbean and Brazil helped build economies that enabled the plantation owners to become very rich; Revealing Histories
But, guavas, yes!
“Don’t swallow the seeds! Your appendix will rupture and you’ll die.”
“I’ll give you some of mine if you can climb up to that high branch.”
“How do you have more guavas than me? I won’t tell Big Mummy you climbed the tree if you give me some of yours.”
My brother, knee-deep in mischief, would somehow find a way to cheat me out of my share. Still, we would hang out together on the lower branches of the guava tree, away from adult conversations, trying to count the number of guavas on the tree and making a game of guessing correctly which ones were ripe.
Soursop like Lagos, looks tough, rough, and hard to handle. The green exterior covered in thorns, reminds me of the houses around town with their high walls and barbed wire fences. Once you go under their surface, you quickly realize how magical they are.
In December, I kind of slipped and didn’t do a thing. This round-up should have been the finale. But, better late than not.
Thank you for your support – for reading, writing, sharing. I appreciate it.
Much success for 2018.