Nigerian Egusi Soup(Egusi Igbo)(Ofe Egusi)

Of soups, stews and sauces. When it comes to Nigerian dishes, are we really sure what it means to eat a stew, soup or a sauce? And the fact that every Yoruba person I have met calls what “we” Nigerians call soup a stew even confuses me more than anything else when it comes to this subject. Or may be it’s because most of the Yoruba dishes have either a tomato or a pepper base. Okay let me explain what I know a soup, stew and sauce to be. To most Nigerians, a stew is made up of tomatoes or peppers with assorted meats or fish; while a soup is anything like Egusi, Ogbono, Afang etc. A sauce is mostly curry like; with a meat or vegetable base. I nor know oh, na the one I sabi I talk oh. No ask me abeg 🙂

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Tales From The Kitchen

I remember going to the village for Christmas and my aunt; my dad’s sister would always make some mushroom soup for us. One time she made it and it was filled with sand and I don’t think any of us cared. It was a mixture of wild mush rooms, achi and azu okpo(dried fish). I used to like Achi, but these days I rather go with Ofor. Achi and Ofor are simply thickeners used by the Igbos for local soups.

During the holidays in the village, we hardly ate jollof rice. In fact the jollof rice was a light skinned concoction that was so sticky with no maggi. Omase o. Anyway, we always ate rice and stew and on very special occasions my mother would make a whole bag of fried rice because our cousins and pretty much the entire clan were always in our house. I remember my Dad’s Aunty Da’da Priscilla also known as Da’da Prisci. She sold Akara at Ukwu Ukwa(at the root of the bread fruit tree). She always brought some for me. Maybe I was her favorite Grand niece hehehehe(jk). I remember going to her house and watching her cook and my favorite times with her was whenever she gave me a bowl of Oha soup and a plate of Akpu (fermented cassava swallow). The Akpu was always so soft and it would slide down my throat with such ease. I miss her ukpaka and Ji’akwu(African salad)

My favorite times growing up was eating from a tray with my cousins. I also loved Wednesdays because it was jollof rice day. One time I made Nigerian jollof “supergetti”(spaghetti) and I added some syrup type of thing. I thought it was some kind of oyinbo seasoning o. I found out later that it was pancake syrup *coversface….I used pancake syrup to make pasta. New recipe for y’all *laughs

I also loved eating with my father. I used to sit by his feet and at the end of his meal, he would share his meat with me; as baby concerned na hehehe :). At some point, I was in charge of making my dad’s meals. He ate a lot of “oiless” okra and dry fish. I miss that part with everything in me. May God rest his soul.

I have so many kitchen stories. Oh my dislike(for lack of a better word) for Ogi i.e pap (fermented corn meal) and my love for cerelac as a child. We couldn’t even eat our meat until after we finished our meals. My parents owned three farms and I didn’t like the cassava and yam farm because of the mosquitoes. But daddy used to only have me pack up the cleared grass and eat the roasted yam and spicy oil we took with us. I loved the corn farm because playing in it was like running through a maze. We made our own garri and Akpu for years. We also fermented our own corn for ogi. See, I’m not all the way an ajebutter :). We lived in the NNPC estate and our smallest farm was behind our house. We grew, pepper, we had small yam ridges, oha trees, okra, pumpkins, almond fruit trees, pineapples etc.  I didn’t like that we had to eat beans that took hours that felt like days to cook. I didn’t like cooking Palm oil cream soup i.e. Banga; because it meant that I had to wash oily dishes(sigh! I hated doing dishes). Or was it Sunday rice and stew that took forever to cook? Olorun!

I spoke to some friends and acquaintances to share their kitchen stories and some of them had this to say;

“Now that you made me think, not sure this is part of what you want, but I remember we (siblings) never liked eating together but will jump for joy if asked to eat with our mum. Now that I think about it, I don’t know why…LOL we eat from separate plates” ….Elsie

“I remember my mom cooking bitter leaf from 4pm-9pm and at the end of it… feels like you’re drinking alomo bitter(lol).I love you mum!”….Phina

 “I remember first learning to bake pound cakes. Cooking came quite later. But cooking Czech food takes about as long as cooking Naija food so it was just too boring. I learnt to cook quick stir fries and other modern meals my mom would not cook. Then I discovered seafood and it was love at first sight for me and my dad. But one dish I remember since I was a kid… My mom made borsch and I refused to eat it”….Blanka

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Beauty of Africa.

I pondered a lot in my heart on perception of the beauty of Africa by the world at large, why is Africa, Africa? What makes it unique? What distinguishes it from other continents? Till it came to fore, that the diverse cultures, delicacies, resources and the people are what stands out this great continent from the European, and Asian continents.

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