I was catching up on some previous episodes of The Spot on YouTube recently and saw an episode where they had garri on the show. Ebuka told their guest, OC Ukeje, that he met a 23 year old lady who had never had garri in her life until very recently. Instantly a light bulb went on in my head; how does that happen? How sheltered was her life? How can you grow up in Nigeria and never drink, chew or taste garri? It boggled my mind. He said he pitied her and that was my sentiment exactly, I felt she had been robbed of a vital Nigerian experience. A Nigerian that has never drank garri? The Almighty Casa flakes?
I mean, through out my time at boarding school and even in University, garri was the real deal. Garri holds a special place in my food memories. Did anyone here ever soak and travel? Soaking and Traveling was when you were really broke and your provisions were gone and you have this small handful of garri which you “soaked” in a lot of water, then you “traveled”, meaning you went to do other stuff for a couple of hours. When you get back, the garri would have multiplied in size and would be more filling. Some people might say this was suffering/hard knocks, I say it taught us delayed gratification.
Do you remember making garri cake? The concoction we came up with in Secondary School to celebrate birthdays, Garri cake was made with garri, sugar, Milo, milk, margarine and decorated with Milo frosting and gogo sweet.
I still make garri cake occasionally, the adult version; with garri, milk, condensed milk, sugar, almond and cashew nuts, melted butter, cocoa powder, choco-chips, coconut flakes and rum. I let this sit in the refrigerator for a few hours and use a milk chocolate ganache or chocolate syrup for a topping. It is divine and my brother believes I can sell it.
Till date, there is something about cold garri, peanuts, milk, sugar on a hot day that does amazing things for the soul. Or drinking garri and suya or barbecue chicken on a cool evening. Garri is the perfect Nigerian snack/meal. Most people have their variations in style of drinking it; some people are garri “purists” – they drink garri alone. Some people add all sorts to it, crayfish, groundnuts, hot chocolate, milk, biscuits, chin-chin,M&ms e.t.c Trust me, I have seen all sorts.
Talking to my baby brothers and their friends gives me culture shock every time; from their music, entertainment, food, relationships, philosophies, fashion (I can’t stand my brother’s “sokoto janpepe”). Kids born in the mid 90s downwards have food and life experiences completely different total the 80s to the early 90s kids. My baby brothers didn’t know what garri cake was until I showed them and they don’t know what soak and travel is: their reaction was “What is that?” I kid you not.Change is the ever constant thing but it hurts when it seems we are losing our identity or a common unifying factor.
I remember when I was younger and I used to follow my Dad to the village. I remember drinking freshly tapped palm wine and eating my Grandmother’s food with fresh bush meat. Experiences like this are very dear to my heart and so many modern kids don’t have them, going abroad for summer is their reality.
I asked people about this and what a lot of them said made me understand that it’s becoming the new normal. A lot of children in modern Nigeria have not tasted a lot of the meals we had growing up. They don’t know it, they have not been exposed to it and therefore don’t like it or care for it. The sad part of this we turn this new generation of kids into Food Snobs, snobbish of our own meals.
Does this not make you sad a little? When kids think Shawarma is a Nigerian meal? Or that pizzas, gelatos and burgers are the proper meals to eat? That “Indomie” is the staple of the Nigerian cuisine? That, eating out must be at only Malls and Restaurants?
These humans don’t know so many meals and snacks. They don’t know “Kokoro”, “kulikuli”, “wara”, “akara osu”, “dodo ikire”, “adun” etc, the snacks you ate on the highways when you were traveling out of Lagos or the vast offerings of street food available, some kids have never had one type of Street food before.
We are part of the problem or the sole cause. I have an aunt who only shops for her kids snacks from America, so whenever she takes a trip, she loads up on their stock. I don’t want to open the can of worms on how modern parents are raising their kids, but it is responsible for this gap that is growing daily. You see a secondary school student who can afford meals that was my whole pocket money in a term in secondary school, times have changed, people are balling.
How do we bridge this divide and hold on to our own identity? One solution is that we have to romanticize our meals the way its done in Western climes. I love the fact that Jollof Rice is Bae – old and young all love it. The recent world jollof rice day really helped the PR of the dish. I believe this should be done for our other meals.
Another vital thing is to introduce children at a very early age to our meals. I know someone advised that my baby brothers be weaned off baby food and semi solids with Eba, amala, beans, fish etc and now they still like Nigerian meals even if they like western ones too. What is obtainable now is a lot of processed food, that is not even helpful. A healthier solution is our natural unprocessed foods cooked creatively.
Finally, because this is an idolizing generation, a tool to drive awareness for our meals is to use celebrities. If a well loved celebrity says he can’t get enough of “Ewa agoyin” or “Dudun” or “mosa” mentioning where he gets it from, trust me that place and meal will have a lot more customers.
What are your thoughts? Have a great week. Love and Casa flakes.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Paul Brighton