Diana, is there one particular ingredient that defines Dutch cooking? Because Nigerian dishes certainly have one: the Maggi brand bouillon cube. The ubiquitous red and yellow wrapper is found in every kitchen and the smell of Maggi wafts from every pot. Maggi advertisements shout from billboards and jingle on tv - the smiling mom serenely stirs her Maggi-seasoned pot while her husband and son look on adoringly. And most people seem to agree that you can’t cook Nigerian food (at least southern Nigerian food) without Maggi.
I recently learned that you also can’t cook in Nigeria without Maggi. A few days before Thanksgiving, I decided I’d use the holiday to make an “American” meal (whatever that is, although I’m positive that it doesn’t call for a Maggi cube). So I bought a chicken to roast and found a delicious recipe, courtesy of Google and Jamie Oliver. I boiled potatoes with lemon and garlic while the chicken began roasting, then added the potatoes to the roasting pan, pierced the lemons and stuffed them in the chicken and put everything back in the oven to finish cooking. Abigail, not trusting me to not poison myself and my guests, decided to come over and check the chicken when it was done.
Aside from the fact that the chicken looks disturbingly like it is break-dancing, isn't it lovely? I pulled it out of the oven, snapped a picture (I was fairly proud of myself at this point) and sliced off a piece of meat to sample. It was delicious, if I do say so myself – moist, with just a hint of lemon and garlic. Abigail, however, promptly announced it tasteless and underdone. And then – well, my American chicken’s visa was fast-tracked to regularization and became a Nigerian chicken before I could open my mouth. Abigail proceeded to crumble a couple of Maggi-s and rub them firmly into the skin of my beautiful lemony bird. Another hour in the oven and my Thanksgiving meal was Maggi-ized. Lesson? When in Nigeria, cook Nigerian food. Also, never ever ever try to forego the Maggi cube.
But the potatoes were beautiful. (I hid them while Abigail was adding some Maggi to the green beans.)
Oh, Maggi, you flavorful lady of the Nigerian kitchen. You may be small, but you always make your presence known. I tip my hat to you, Maggi – may you continue to make my fish and vegetables delicious. But next time, stay away from the lemon-roasted chicken!