1934 – 2016: On My Cookshelf/ A Short History of Nigerian Cookbooks
There is a certain depth of documentation that comes with Independence, allows records be collected and preserved for posterity. This Independence week, I’m showing ‘liberty’ and freedom in food :).
I’ve always found cookbooks fascinating. I’m the sort of person whose bedtime reading is ingredient lists and recipe directions – a veritable feast as I lay my head down to sleep. Every year I resolve in January, on journeys and trips, in bookstores…not to buy another cookbook. And every single time, every damn time, I say ‘Sod it, you only live once – buy this book.’ It’s why I have a book on pasta and one on Turkish cuisine in which I discovered Loukma, syrup-soaked fried dough, similar in shape and pleasure index as Nigerian puff puff and every book in between from Austrian delights to Polish pastries, books on the Swahili kitchen and a host of others.
Of all the cookbooks I collect, I must confess Nigerian cookbooks – of which I have a few – are my absolute favourite. I like the courses I can chart through their pages – measurement systems, dating ‘Jollof Rice’, different snacks and dishes which aren’t popular enough to be well known.
One thing is clear – there are a couple of books that were built on solid research principles, books that are excellent manuals and references, books I wish could be republished and reprinted for libraries and students and home cooks for this is our history, this is our heritage.
I actively search for Nigerian cook books and buy them when I do find. I’m currently expecting an original copy of the Ibo Cookery Book, published in 1937, purchased online – from .
Here’s a bit about my collection, starting with the ‘earliest’ published cookbook.
1934/ The Kudeti Book of Yoruba Cookery by J.A. Mars and E. M. Tooleyo
One of the earliest Nigerian cookbooks – The Kudeti book of Yoruba Cookery predates ‘Nigerian Independence’ as we know it. Published in 1934, and revised twice, it is a relic of times past and times present, where measurement by volume is still in force. There is a recipe for Jollof Rice though I’m not sure if its the revisions which have brought it in or if it was there from the very beginning.
Can be found at: CSS Bookstore/ Bookshop House, Lagos Bookshop House 50/52, Broad Street, Lagos Nigeria Mail to:firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: +234 462 2593 GSM: 08159490163
1937/ Ibo Cookery Book by G Plummer
I just found a copy – hopefully, I’ll update this post once it arrives. Fingers crossed!
1957/ Miss Williams’ Cookery Book by Miss Williams
This book published by Longman’s and written by Lagos-born Omosunlola Williams, it appears to be the first comprehensive body of work on Nigerian cuisine. With over 200 hundred recipes, it is an important work of art and culture. Interestingly, it has a recipe for Jollof Rice with three methods – proof that Nigeria’s romance with Jollof is pre-Independence/ 1960, whether that is of any significance. I love it for the wonderful well-written and fascinating recipes from every region in Nigeria. One of my faves.
Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Miss-Williams-Cookery-Book-Rhoda/dp/0582608325
1964/ The Students Cookery Book by Enid O’Reilly-Wright
This book taught me many a dish – pancakes and trifles too. The popular Home Economics text in Nigerian, and possibly West African secondary schools, it served a good purpose to introduce me to the Western palate beyond Television back in the 80s.
1982/ Nigerian Cookbook by Miriam Isoun and H. O. Anthonio
First published by Macmillan, it is a comprehensive guide to not just Nigerian recipes but ingredients as well. One of my absolute favourites for the depth to which it goes to catalogue and share produce and dishes, including all the known names and methods. A real treasure.
Purchased at Quintessence: Park View Estate Entrance, Off Gerrard Road, Ikoyi and 69 Admiralty Way, Jack House, Lekki, Victoria Island Tel: +234 (0) 8033275401 Email: email@example.com But old editions available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/
1998/ My Cooking West African Cookbook by Dokpe Lillian Ogunsanya
This is one of the first cookbooks I bought while living in The Netherlands, when I was homesick in a weird way and used food, and cuisine to discover who I was and what was important to me. Written by a Nigerian in diaspora, it offers a different perspective of Nigerian cuisine with American units of measurements. A really great book – I can imagine all the work it did as an ambassador of Nigerian cuisine.
Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/My-Cooking-West-African-Cookbook/dp/0966273001
1999/ South of the Sahara by Elizabeth Jackson
This is one of my all time favourite cookbooks by Elizabeth Jackson who spent her early years in Nigeria. It combines recipes with history and proverbs – I love! This was also the book in which I learnt a lot about ‘Imoyo‘ dishes, the import to Nigeria by the freed slaves.
Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/South-Sahara-Traditional-Cooking-Africa/dp/096552096X
2007/ Rhapsody by Mabel Segun
Another one of my favourites books because there is both history and culture, heritage and etymology, proverbs and some banging recipes.
Purchased at Quintessence, Park View Estate, Ikoyi Lagos Park View Estate Entrance, Off Gerrard Road, Ikoyi and 69 Admiralty Way, Jack House, Lekki, Victoria Island Tel: +234 (0) 8033275401 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org But might be available here, http://www.mabelsegun.com/Books_Adults.html
2006/ 2008, African Pot (2 books) by Shmite Katung
A great collection of popular and lesser known recipes, some of which I haven’t come across in any books or sites. I have so many pages mentally dog-eared 🙂
Purchased at The Hub (now closed down) store at The Palms, Lekki - Lagos
2008/ Granny’s Special Cookery Book by Virginia Akerele
This book shares both Nigerian and Brazilian recipes which is delightful. Virginia – in her 90s when this book was published – fulfilled her dream to share her culinary heritage with the world. And what a pleasure it is.
Possibly available at Laterna: https://www.laternabooks.com/index3.php?v=13457&c=99
Books on my wishlist
What Nigerian cookbooks do you have?