This is not a cookbook. This is not even the typical book that is about food. No, this book is an immersive and stimulating love letter to Nigeria, its cultures, and its cuisines.
If you’re a Nigerian, this book will have you re-evaluate and re-appreciate your traditional food. If you’re not a Nigerian, this book will take you on an exciting exploration of this diverse country’s culture through food. Either way, it will make you hungry and salubriously lusting for delicious soups, rice dishes, and more. It is an initiation into the often secretly guarded processes of making traditional soup dishes, it is an excursion into deep, green forests where some of the leafs, like Afang leaves, grow, are harvested, or even smuggled from.
This book will at once make you want to sit with your grandmother in the firewood kitchen, observing her and soaking in the ways in which she prepares the food that her grandmother might already have inherited to her, but it will also show you that there is nothing wrong with putting your own twist into the meals you prepare, after all, that is how uniqueness is created and how culture should be treated.
I especially liked the chapter on the role, the importance, and the significance of ‘the kitchen’ and women’s supposed role in it. Aribisala does not shy away from including the current President’s (Muhammadu Buhari) derogatory remarks on his wife’s supposed place within the four walls of the house he supposedly owns himself, and where his wife just has permission to live and serve. She critically explores the traditional image we may have of ‘the kitchen’ and the derogatory stereotypes attached to it, and why we have been mistaken in the ways in which we see women and the power they wield.
Personally, I had to take several breaks while reading, not because I was tired or otherwise preoccupied, but because I was so inspired by the book that I found myself in the kitchen, making some of the favourites in my house, or trying new recipes altogether – full disclosure: there was also a lot of YouTube food-video-watching involved.
I would definitely recommend this book to both ‘foodies’ and novices to cooking and exploring different foods.
Without wanting to spoil the book, but rather as an incentive to read it, one of my favourite parts of the book is the story of the grown Yoruba man being afraid of a mere bowl of Efik soup. If you’re appetite (pun intended) for this book has not been aroused yet, then something must be wrong… Either way, I wholeheartedly recommend this read, and I’m sure you won’t regret it.