eko ilĂŠ The Preview Issue
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! ! ! !
The Food Issue
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S. Araoye ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !!!!!!!!!!
! We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are
! ! F!B*'//'!<%&04>!)*+,-+-.)-/+!
! ! ! E! !
A memoir of the foods I savoured
! ! !
! Cooking was my first act of rebellion; by learning to
I became a cooking novelty. My older
cook, I could free myself from the bondage of the
cousins would taste the food gingerly for the
caretakers who refused to feed me what I really
fear that I might have produced poison but as
wanted. The first meal I made myself, at age 8, was
the hits grew so did their trust. The offer of
amala. I had been craving amala the whole day and
freshly made pasta was readily accepted and
when dinnertime came, I was served some other
requests began to come in. I really loved
alternative (I can’t remember now). I remember clearly
cooking; I loved having other people enjoy
going down to the kitchen and putting a pot of hot
the food I made. I learned to tweak recipes,
water on the stovetop. I gingerly took down the pot of
like the steamed egg custard messed around
hot water on the floor and proceeded to dump in amala
with until I got the whole dish sweet instead
flour while stirring vigorously as I had observed others
of having a syrupy puddle at the bottom of
do. I can’t remember now how good that first meal was
but I can remember how I savoured my first reach to
As I hit my teens, I started baking too. For
my thirteenth birthday, I requested a canister
As I grew older, my love of food grew. I began to
of gas as a gift so that I could operate the
experiment with recipes I gleaned watching British
oven whenever I wanted. My baking was
food programmes. I remember clearly the exuberance
restricted to the pound cake and warming up
of watching Ainsley Harriot on Ready,Steady,Cook and
smoked guinea fowl. I also learned to make a
wondering what crazy meal he was going to create
proper Yorkshire pudding. I loved the way
from the ingredients. I learned a lot about the joy of
that Yorkshire pudding would swell in the
minimalism in cooking from watching Jamie Oliver in
oven and then collapse when it hit cold air.
the Naked Chef. As I watched more food TV, I started
The changes that happened in the oven
experimenting beyond my daily foods. I started with
seemed so much like alchemy to my
making pasta from scratch. To the household members, !
fascinated eyes. (cont’d)!
!! ! !!!!!!!!!!
! ! !
! ! I never took to baking because it was too restrictive
I suffered from countless fainting spells and learnt
for me; I enjoyed the freedom of not having to plan
to hold myself as I felt the burn of acid landing on
ahead with cooking. Baking seemed a bit too much
an empty stomach.
for me. One of my favourite moments in school
When I was sixteen, I moved to the US. It was not
was taking foods and nutrition. I loved the class
my first time in the country but it was the first time
practical. During my penultimate year in secondary
I knew I could create a new life for myself. One of
school, I took part in a cooking competition in
the first food obsessions was the BBQ chicken on a
school. I made my specialty at that point, obe oniru
bun from KFC. I could devour multiple sandwiches
(locust beans sauce) and rice. I had to pack all my
in one sitting and savour the way the sweetness of
cooking utensils as well as the ingredients from
the brown sugar in the BBQ gave way to the
home. I took a green kerosene stove to cook and
vinegar. Every once in a while, I would grow bored
two tall black buckets. One bucket to act as a
and eat the crispy chicken wrap instead. On
depository for used water and the other as a storage
Sundays, I would eat a two-piece extra crispy
for fresh water. I remember being nervous at the
chicken meal with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese and
pressure of being one of four contestants. I was so
coleslaw. Freedom really came in my second year
nervous I forgot to season the food with salt. Alas,
when I started driving because I could venture
that would be my downfall.
further and go to the sandwich shops. I loved going
Through my tween years, I had an idea that I
to Quiznos and Subway. My order at Subway was
wanted to cook for a living. Specifically, I had the
always the baked chicken on a loaf of honey oats
idea that I wanted to challenge the Mr. Bigg’s
with a drizzle of the sweet onion teriyaki sauce and
establishment with a restaurant called Miss
lashings of vegetables.
As I grew closer to making a career
Then I read Food Nation and realised that I needed
choice, I had the idea I wanted to study a food
to be more conscious of what I was eating. It
related course. In my early teenage years, I fell out
became a challenge for me to eat more vegetables
of love with food. For a number of years, all I can
remember eating is pancakes with a squeeze of
distinctively the first time I tasted a crisp strip of
lemon and a dash of sugar. I also had an affinity for
red bell pepper. I loved the cold juiciness of water
rice. My main thing was eating food that I could
that dripped into my mouth. I felt back in love with
not feel sitting in my tummy.
food in that moment. For me, my second
As I rode the wave of my early teens into the late
infatuation with food has been characterized by my
teens with adulthood just around the bend, I still
need to explore; to see more, to feel more.
struggled with my dislike of food. I knew logically
The summer after my second year, I got a job at the
that I had to eat but the psychical act of eating
mall working for Ben and Jerry’s at an ice-cream
began to escape from me. For about 3 years of my
scoop shop. During my rare evening shift, I would
life, I lost the ability to tell if I was hungry or not.
order a pizza from the California Pizza Kitchen. !!!!!!!!!!
!"#$%&'! ! ! I would order a steak pizza served with a side of
! and olives at a formal dinner event. I also learned
green chilli salsa. At the end of my shift, I would
to love the Korean BBQ that was served at the
buy an ice-cream sandwich from the store. The
farmers’ market in school.
ice-cream sandwich was two large chocolate chip
One of routines in school was watching Good Eats
cookies with a scoop of vanilla heath bar crunch
on Food Network, featuring the chef Alton Brown.
ice-cream. Driving home on the I-15, I would
Watching Brown cooking really allowed me to
slowly unwrap the sandwich cellophane and take a
learn the basics of cooking I did not know I was
gingerly bite. The best thing about the sandwich
lacking. I learned the proper way to hold a knife
was discovering large chunks of heath bar and
firmly at the handle so that I don’t hurt myself. I
chewing on it to get the slightly toffee flavour.
learned what knives what best with different
Summers living in California were such a blessing
ingredients. I learned how to make an omelette by
because of the abundance of different types of
not over-whisking it and stirring gently in the pan
food. One of my fondest moments is visiting an
until the egg set. I watched him make ice-cream
apple farm in the agricultural belt. The syrupy taste
and learned why churning slowly produced a
of freshly squeezed apple juice is something that
smoother ice-cream by distributing the ice-
still tingles off on my tongue. The apple pies
molecules more evenly. Outside of Alton Brown, I
also watched the likes of Paula Deen who turned
architectural sculpture, but tasted so divine when
cooking into a theatrical experience.
cooked with apple so soft they tasted like jam on
In between my junior and senior year of college, I
bread. I remember going to the farmers’ market
decided to study in England for the summer. Over
and buying different assortment of vegetables to
the summer, I became friends with a couple of
try. Google became a cooking resource for me.
Jewish guys from New York studying abroad like
During my 3 year of my degree, I was living in
myself at the University of Sussex. I also became
an apartment with a full kitchen, and that really
friends with a vegetarian, as well as a Pakistani
gave me the freedom to dig in deep into food. I
girl. Together, we formed what I can only call an
became a real lover of food who disdained fast
eating group. Our social activities revolved around
food and really took joy in putting in time to cook.
tasting foods in the Brighton area. The strip of
curry shops did not escape our attention as we
environment, I had the chance to teach others
sampled all different variations of the delicacy. We
about my food heritage by teaching them how to
also indulged in proper British meals, visiting
make gbegiri - a beans stew that I love so much. I
quaint cottages that served proper scones and
also got to learn about other foods I had never had
clotted cream. We had night excursions to the local
the gall to try. I ordered my steak pink because I
fish and chips shop, and learned to dump loads of
learned that it preserved the juiciness of the meat
malt vinegar on the battered fish to get a delicious
more. I discovered Israeli couscous with raisins ! ! I! !
sour and salty taste. After afternoons (cont’d)!
! ! ! !
!"#$%&'! ! ! strolling in and out of the shops on the Brighton
! As the summer came to an end, I remembered that
Pier, we made a habit of stopping at a pasty shop.
there was one more item of food I had to eat before
We ate our way through the menu board sampling
leaving England. I took a train from Sussex into
the vegetable patsy, the cheese patsy, and the beef
Brighton just for the opportunity to try a trifle. I
with potato patsy among many others.
was keen on trying the trifle because I had watched
On Fridays, we took to volunteering at a farm for
countless programs on BBC Food growing up on
the community. On the first day we arrived, we did
making trifle. Watching the TV chefs beat
not think we were going to last at the farm with the
whipping cream and layer cakes in vast dishes and
smell of the compost in the air and the flies buzzing
layer fruits had whetted my appetite. I remember
about. However, as we got to digging troughs in the
eating the trifle I bought from Marks and Spencer’s
ground and replacing netting in the greenhouse
at the Brighton rail station. I savoured the way the
area, we loved that we were helping grow food. It
cake in the trifle seemed to have soaked up the
did not hurt either that each time we visited, we
syrup from the berry compote. I licked the spoon of
were rewarded with raspberries picked straight off
every bit of cream. I knew I had to come back to
the vine, and cutting off herbs to cook with during
England, if only for the food I had experienced.
the week. On our final Friday visiting, we got
In my 4th year, I lived in a house as the only non-
treated to a feast. The highlight of the final meal
Asian girl. I lived with a Taiwanese, a Japanese and
was a giant courgette doused in oil and wrapped in
a Chinese. I fell in love with the Asian food and
tin foil then covered in burning coal to roast. The
learned to use chopsticks properly. I also
flesh of the courgette was so soft and melted in the
discovered new treats like mochi, a frozen ice-
mouth from all the heat. It was one of the best
cream treat encased in a doughy rice batter.
meals I had ever had.
Although I was used to eating rice, there is
At the hostel where we stayed, the eating group
something comforting about eating rice made in a
was rare in that we actually used the kitchen
rice cooker. The short grain rice made in the cooker
provided. The eating group had a tradition of
would be starchy, and popping clumps in my
bringing over food items, usually vegetables, to
mouth was strangely addictive. I would cook rice in
cook. As the designated cook, I found myself
the cooker and get a stir-fry made with peanut
making stir-fry for about 8 people. I learned the
sauce from the school café. In the privacy of my
best way to make vegetarian sausages without
room, I would clump up the rice in the palms of my
drying them out. We howled with laughter as one
hand and dip the balls in the peanut sauce. One of
of the Jewish guys presented us with a frozen
my flatmates and I used to go to one of the campus
spotted dick to cook one night. And we all took
café that served Vietnamese food. I became
turns pulling the kitchen napkins as we tried to
conversant in ordering pho in the winter and biamn
drain water from shredded potatoes in an attempt to
mi in the spring and early summer. I loved the
make latkas, Jewish potatoes. ! J! !
gentle heat of the chilli in the food.
! ! !
! ! My final year in university was the year I really
day; I love their frozen gnocchi in a tomato sauce.
took to the oven. It was the year the white
At the same time, I discovered a creperie in a store.
chocolate Toblerone cheesecake became my
I started eating a burrata (a cheese made by
specialty. It was the year I made loads of polenta
combining mozzarella) and cream and roasted
cheese crackers. It was also the year I perfected my
tomato crepe as a quick meal.
roast chicken breast, served with a side of
In late 2007, I started working at a firm in
homemade vegetable red curry. It was the year of
downtown San Diego and started training for a
learning to cook tofu and discovering my love for
summer 2008 marathon. It was a period where I
vegetarian corndogs. It was the year my fridge was
had to be aware of what I was putting in my mouth.
stocked with countless varieties of hummus
When the training started, I ate a lot of vegetables
because it was the one thing everyone in the
to help me lean out as I tried to increase my fitness.
household could eat, spread on a piece of baked
I used to do a packed lunch of oven-roasted
tortilla. It was the year of eating several varieties of
asparagus with couscous salad. I also loved a lunch
cheese we loved with polenta crackers, while
of green beans wrapped in a spicy tomato sauce and
sitting around the living room.
grilled chicken breast. I took to cooking wild rice
One of my comfort spots was the Whole Foods
because I loved the nuttiness. For the first time in
store near my campus. I used to walk down to the
my life, I learned to enjoy breakfast and found
store on Sundays at noon. At the store, I would get
myself eating oatmeal. My favourite breakfast ever
a thin-crust pizza that would be warmed up in the
is a bowl of oatmeal with raw walnuts and a dash
stone oven. I loved the way the bottom of the pizza
of brown sugar topped with a scoop of yogurt.
crust would be crunchy but the top would be so
As the marathon grew closer and the spring came, I
sweet with tomato sauce and just a touch of
had to eat more calorie dense food to fuel my
mozzarella and heaps of dried chilli flakes as well
training. At a café close to the office, I found
as Parmesan shavings. During the spring and
myself regularly ordering a chicken chilli with a
summer seasons, Whole Foods served fruit pizza.
side of Parmesan baked tortilla chips. Late spring, I
This would be a slightly sweeter crust topped with
injured my foot and that put an end to all training.
mascarpone cheese sweetened with a bit of sugar
Wrapped up in a funk of disappointment, I turned
layered with fruits like apple or berries.
to eating tubs of Starbucks cookies and coffee ice-
After I completed my degree, I moved to an
cream. On the day of the marathon, I got a visit
apartment in San Diego. For a while, I worked as a
from my father who took me out to lunch. Looking
shop assistant at a mall. I slowly started ordering a
at the menu, my father first requested ceviche, a
chilli cheeseburger from Red Robin’s, a chain
raw fish salad dressed in lime juice and oil, but I
burger joint. At home, I started eating a lot of food
was not up to eating that. Instead, I remember
from Trader Joe’s. Their food is perhaps the only
eating loads of fried calamari with a crunchy batter
brand of frozen food I can eat comfortably till this !
shell for the first time. !!!!!!!!!!
!"#$%&'! ! ! As the summer approached, I was transplanted
! I was excited to eat at Nandoâ€™s because I had only
once more to England, specifically Manchester. I
been able to eat there when I was in Lagos visiting.
arrived in Manchester a week before my birthday.
! ! ! !
For my first week, I ate nothing but Tesco
As I settled into Manchester, I discovered a store
sandwiches. I alternated between the roast beef
by my apartment that carried Nigerian food. I
sandwich and the tuna with sweet corn sandwich.
found that I really loved eating Indomie noodles. I
As the week progressed, I got lethargic from
also indulged in countless bottles of Maltina. I
constant sandwiches. Then my birthday weekend
remember stocking up on Ribena and Milo like it
arrived, along with my sister who took me
was going out of production. In a lot of ways, I felt
shopping for kitchen utensils. I was so excited to
I was rediscovering a part of me I had given up
finally be able to cook. But first there was the
because I was eating foods from my childhood on a
matter of the birthday dinner. !
regular basis again.
! ! ! KL! !
! ! ! !
! KE! !
! ! ! ! ! ! M.)!'(?70)0'4!%(*!5.++'(34>!8/'%4'!'+%0/!4%2'=.0/'N6+%0/25.+2! ! O=.!#/P!%55'834!+%(745)0834!%(*!8$.3.6)%8$4!1.)!87"/05%30.(!.(!3$'!"/.6!%(*!0(!3$'!+%6%90('2!#1!,.7!%)'! 0(3')'43'*!0(!5.(3)0"730(6!3.!3$'!+%6%90('>!8/'%4'!'+%0/!3$'!'*03.)!%3!4%2'=.0/'N6+%0/25.+2! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! KH! !