The Kudeti Book of Yoruba Cookery
J.A. Mars & E.M. Tooleyo
CSS Limited, Lagos
Great documentation of historical recipes and cooking techniques - very inspiring
Variety of recipes covering all major food groups and some peculiar methods for making Nigerian snacks like puff-puff and mosa
Inconsistent measurement systems
Translations for some Yoruba names aren't given
(To be fair, in keeping with the 'times' of the book, those may not have been necessary. The next edition might correct these observations)
Sometimes the very thing you’re looking for is right in front of you.
Wetin you dey find for Sokoto, e dey inside sòkòtò.
Sokoto is a state in the north of Nigeria, far from the West where this proverb originates
sòkòtò – a pair of trousers
Four years ago, I came across a reference to one of the earliest Nigerian cookbooks ‘The Kudeti Book of Yoruba Cookery’.
The first place I searched for it was on Amazon UK. Then Amazon US. Then Canada and Japan and every Amazon store from here to Timbuktu. Except I’m not sure they have an Amazon store there.
Then on to Good Reads and…and all nothing.
With ever search conducted over 2 days, my desperation increased till it reached fever pitch.
And now I don’t remember what and how but something led me to the publishers.
And you can tell that this has a happy ending, right? Could you tell that from the start? Probably.
On I go with my story. And so I found out who the publishers were – CSS. Formerly CMS. Located off Broad Street, Lagos Nigeria.
I found their website. And a phone number and I can’t describe the excitement I felt when someone picked up the phone at the other end. A lady. Who informed me that ‘Yes, they had the book. And it was a hundred and fifty naira’.
Do you know what that is, ladies and gentlemen? That’s just over half a US dollar.
I ordered 10. And had them sent to me in Port Harcourt. After I paid by bank transfer and the transaction was confirmed and concluded.
First compiled in 1934, This cookbook is ‘…a simplified handbook a most basic guide to whole Yoruba foods preparation.’
It has undergone 2 revisions – in 1965 and in 1979. When I was a toddler still. The third revision addressed measurements in a bid to modernise it with metric measurements and Yoruba orthography.
An orthography is the methodology of writing a language. It includes rules of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation; Source – Wikipedia
It is a small book, just under 60 pages with 11 sections that begin with ingredients – Beans and Yam and ends with Breads and Flours.
The text is a mixture of recipes complete with measurements, serving sizes and methods; and techniques.
Some recipes are familiar – Akara and Olele. But then the variations are interesting. Akara eggs – made with whole boiled eggs. Àlápá blended with egusi and steamed in leaves.
There are notes on cooking yams preparing fresh chickens and some ‘Western recipes’ – for lime cream and gravy.
There’s an awesome recipe for puff-puff using palm wine as the liquid and raising agent instead of yeast that I so want to try.
I’m not sure how the Yoruba pastry will turn out but I’d love to give it a go.
In spite of being metric, you’ll find some funny references in the ingredients list, like 4 basins of elubo and N100 worth of Eyin Ogi…but still it is a great book. As a historical document, as a gateway to some Yoruba recipes and as a lesson, sometimes that thing you seek is near you. Right under your nose.
To buy it, don’t Google nothing or attempt to Amazon. Just head to CSS if you’re in Lagos or ring them. Deets below
Bookshop House, 50/52 Nnamdi Azikiwe Street
Telephone: 234 – 1 462 2593