Greetings Potatoes and Yams readers! My sister Regan has asked to write a guest post about my time in Nigeria (“Don’t be too negative”), and since there’s no power and I can’t read any more books about tough, thirtysomething women private eyes who take down big corporations and small towns with secrets to hide through their persistent inquisitiveness and sheet grit, I’ve decided to comply. Please bear with me as my blogging skills are very out-of-practice.
After spending nearly six months in the Netherlands, I boarded a flight to Nigeria to visit Regan for a couple of weeks before heading back to the US. I was excited but also a little apprehensive, given that Nigeria is currently making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Fortunately, Regan assuaged my fears by meeting me at the airport with my absolute favorite thing to eat in West Africa: oranges.
Oranges in Nigeria are vastly superior to their counterparts in the industrialized world for several reasons. First, they are hideously ugly, which probably means they haven’t been bathed in pesticides. Second, they are incredibly tasty and juicy because they haven’t been bred to be seedless. But most importantly, they are eaten in the funnest way known to man. The outer rind is cut away, leaving the fruit ensconced in the soft, white part I am sure there’s a scientific name for. The Very top of the orb is cut away, revealing the fruit below. You then place your mouth over this opening and squuuueeeeeze all of the juices in. Repeat as many times as necessary to drink all of the deliciousness. As an added bonus, you can turn the orange inside out and eat whatever is left.
This magical method of eating oranges is representative of the larger trend in Nigeria (and from what I gather, across West Africa) of drink and foodstuffs that can be consumed through the squeeze method. There’s agbolumo, a fruit that tastes not entirely unlike sour glue, that you suction out the seeds and then spit back out. Filtered water comes in sachets (or “water breasts”) – rip a corner off with your teeth and drink up. And most importantly, there’s the entire line of FanMilk products. Whenever life in Africa has gotten you down, simply look for someone in a blue vest pushing around a big white cooler, hiss to get his attention, and purchase a semi-frozen sachet of ice cream, yogurt, or my personal favorite, chocolate milk. God bless FanChoco.
However, there is a dark side to this obsession of eating without chewing. Much of Nigerian cuisine seems to consist of a stew accompanied by a large side of some sort of starch, pounded and mixed with water until the taste and consistency of silly putty is attained. Break off a piece of putty, dip it in the stew, pop it into your mouth, and swallow whole. While this stuff is somewhat edible and definitely filling, I hardly consider anything you can eat without chewing to be “food.” But props to the Nigerians for figuring out a way to get nutrition without tiring their jaw muscles. They must have to keep those rested for another favorite activity – yelling.
[And by 'yelling,' Ashlyn means to say 'enthusiastically approaching life.' Or maybe not. Thanks for the guest blog, Ash! Now we've hit the big-time here at Potatoes and Yams.]