Monday, July 19, 2010

O dabo.

Goodbye, Nigeria!  Goodbye, early mornings and roosters crowing, bucket baths and banana-peanut butter breakfasts.  Goodbye to the sound of the generator, a constant dull roar that is the soundtrack to my Nigerian memories.  Goodbye, danfos and okadas and 'slippers' that I left behind.  Goodbye, cold Cokes, Shapes, Cheese Balls and Gin-gins.  Goodbye, efo, eja and eba!  Goodbye to my Nigerian friends, who never had qualms about telling me that I looked more tired or fatter than before . . . and who were wonderful just the same.  Goodbye, sweat rolling down my elbows and from the back of my knees.  Goodbye, loud music on the street corners and time spent in 'greeting.'  Goodbye to runs by the pond, honking cars, dusty documents, meals eaten on my favorite yellow plate, mornings in the market and evenings filled with baking and bootlegged dvds.  Goodbye, goats.

I hope to see you all again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

California birthdays and beer cake...

I'm back in L.A. now, but I don't want to forget to post something about the great birthday celebration for my friend up in Davis now almost two weeks ago.  I can't believe that my time up there has already come and gone.  I don't get to see my friends very often given the fact that an ocean and almost an entire continent lie between us.  When we get together, there really should be at least one celebration of some sort to mark the occasion.  Luckily it was my friend's birthday, and we could all celebrate the fact that she is older than I am and always will be.  I love that a universal component to celebrations is good food.  We made a collaborative effort to create a fitting dinner for the day.  That meant my friend was on drinks duty, her husband manned the grill, and I volunteered (perhaps, begged would be a better word) to make a cake.

Here is a picture of my friend making a raspberry-rose gin rickey.  I had no idea what would go into that drink, because I don't think I had ever heard of it before.  It sounds like something my grandparents would know how to make.  The cocktail coupled with the apron she's wearing had us making jokes about 1950s housewives.  In fact, while she was making it, she told me that's her style of cooking: putting herself in charge of the cocktail hour while her husband preps the grill.  I wondered if we could have placed ourselves any more strongly into strictly defined gender roles.  Maybe we're all taking this Mad Men craze a bit too seriously these days.  Honestly, it was all in good fun, and who can resist wearing a cute apron?  I know I couldn't.

I had to wear something to protect my skirt while I dealt with the intersection between beer and baked good.
Honestly, how many shots of butter can this blog take?  I promise, though, this one was completely necessary.  It's the first time I have melted butter for a recipe in beer!  My friend loves chocolate and beer equally, and when I found a cake recipe that incorporated both, there was no way I was not going to try it.  I would show you a picture of the finished product, but we were too busy having a good time, and I completely forgot.  I think that was an indicator of a great party.  You can see how much I and two of my best friends enjoyed the cocktails and also how much my friend's nephew relished the taste of stout and chocolate.

It was a wonderful summer bar-b-que, and there couldn't have been anything more enjoyable (and perhaps also nothing more American) than a summer evening out on the patio with the grill going, side dishes packed with produce from the garden, and a picnic table full of friends and family.  I've kind of missed the easy camaraderie that only seems to happen with close friends.  It felt nice to back in California with my friends for a while, but strangely enough, I'm now starting to miss the Netherlands just a bit.  If only I could find a way to transplant my friends along with a big backyard and a massive grill to Amsterdam.  Then I would be all set.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I'm back already!  To discuss something very important: the deliciousness of coconuts.

Actually, Diana's post on eating locally made me think about the availability of food here in Nigeria.  Many of the ingredients we buy in the market are local because, well, they have to be.  The system for distributing goods in Nigeria is shaky at best, so farmers sell their produce (vegetables, fruits, chicken, beef, etc.) close to home.  Locally-grown food is incredibly cheap: a huge bunch of greens for vegetable stew only costs 20 naira (about 13 cents).  A large bag of okra costs 50 naira (30 cents).  However, there is also a surprising amount of food imported into Ibadan.  Most of the vegetables come from the Middle Belt or northern Nigeria.  Much of the fish is frozen and flown in from abroad.  Whole stalls are dedicated to selling only canned and pre-packaged foreign goods.  Even ingredients grown in Nigeria are often processed somewhere outside of the the region.

There is little variety in the options of imported foods, but every week brings new and interesting local produce to the market.  Right now, for example, mature coconuts are in season and being hawked on every street corner.  (See how I brought this discussion back to coconuts?!  Phew.)  I love fresh coconut meat, pried out of the shell and sold in large pieces to eat as a snack with roasted corn.  In fact, if I don't reign it in a bit, I might turn into an ear of roasted corn myself.  With a side of coconut.


Sarah, my housemate, and I decided to try opening a coconut ourselves.  It provided ten solid minutes of entertainment, between throwing the shell as hard as we could at the floor and then trying to pry out the pieces with butter knives.  I am happy to report that the only lasting injury was a small cut to my ankle.

{Yes, my legs and arms are completely different colors. Kind of awesome, huh?}

Carried away by our coconut fever, Sarah and I have even started baking a mean coconut cake.  Of course, we use canned coconut milk from the supermarket and have thus far been too lazy to grate fresh coconut for the glaze.  But it is a Nigerian coconut cake in spirit.  I promise.

(recipe adapted from 'Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes' in the April 2009 Bon Appetit)

2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

In a saucepan, heat leftover coconut milk (from 13-14 ounce can) with a spoonful of sugar, allowing liquid to reduce slightly.  Mix in 1 cup flaked/shredded coconut and pour glaze over warm cake.

{James checking out our coconut cake via Skype.  Mmmmmm.}

I have just one more week to eat locally in Nigeria - wish me luck!