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Jollof: War or love?

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Is it safe to say that in our rich and very diverse culture as Nigerians that Jollof rice is our national dish? I mean it is the one dish you would have anywhere in Nigeria and everyone has their variation of it. However, it tends to be a Yoruba thing were “they cook it the best” We don’t bicker over it as such but you can be rest assured that anywhere you go you would be able to find that orange tinged rice that may or may not have anything to do with Jollof rice but the idea of having that staple would be there and fulfilled.

But why would a dish so uniting here in Nigeria start this social media and now near physical tension between Ghanaians and Nigerians. Ghanaian Jollof is seen as mediocre and devoid of anything flavoursome to Jollof as depicted by internet memes and funny videos that Instagram comedians put up. I won’t even lie I thought it was fun and games when I put up a meme and I thought it was healthy comedy not knowing that it’s becoming a serious thing or a joke taken way too far.

So I ask…

Jollof: War or Love?

If it were possible Nigerians would place a photo Jollof rice as our national flag or emblem we don’t care for those horses and green grass as much as we care for our Jollof. As a food lover first I would like to think I am a Jollof extremist. I am the type who actually has high as well as no standards for Jollof once it has that orange tinge and a semblance of Jollof rice taste its world peace for me at that point. Like a new blog called Party Jollof aptly put it “A party without Jollof rice is just a meeting”

I think I also speak for so many Jollofarians…or what are we?

Yes, we Jollofarians that are have our hearts doing backflips when we site the tomatoes and peppers being ground, the sizzling sound of the boiled goat meat making its way to the blistering oil for its browning baptism. The fried stew for the Jollof that is fried in that fat. The simmer period of allowing the rice become one with the red. If we are lucky all this is happening over wood – firewood. The discomfort of the fumes in your eyes and lasting fumes on your clothes or the part where you watch and wait as the hired alas works her magic and waiting for the final stage of the fire being put out and allowing the rice to steam and finally become Jollof. Like a new blog called Party Jollof aptly put it “A party without Jollof rice is a just a meeting”

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But that’s not the point. When did our love for Jollof rice now become this playful bordering on hostile relationship with Ghanaians? The memes on Instagram don’t help either always a comparison of something really good as Nigerian Jollof and something really bad as Ghanaian Jollof. What differences do we have till date that it is trickling into our food.

The reality is, Jollof rice is from a West African dish that derived its named from the Wolof people of Senegal and Gambia. It is referred to as theibou dienn or benachin. However, the history doesn’t seem to matter as the debate lingers on as Nigerians have taken full stance on the matter forgetting that during the slave times food knowledge was exchanged along with cultural practices. Jollof eventually got to Nigeria and the recipes developed as they were passed on from mother to daughter and generations improving or using what they had to cook with it.

Jollof rice wears Christian Louboutin heels the day you use Basmati rice for your event which is a trend these days at weddings. So why do we own something that’s not truly ours and bring bashing joke into another country version. Ghanaians use a fragrant rice to cook their Jollof.

The only war we should be making is setting fire to wood. Knifes cutting through fleshy beef, succulent farm raised chicken, tender goat meat all bathed in hot oil then vessels of tomatoes and pepper to be poured into iron ore pots and high flame set to them. The capital punishment of allowing the ingredients war against yeah other in bubbling sequence dying to become delicious spoils of war to be enjoyed by the battalion of hungry soldiers who have cooked and possibly just waited for the war over coals to be over.

African, let our food unite us. Food brings people together. Already Nigeria gets a bad rep even among African countries. Are we trying to be more arrogant and cause unnecessary tension amongst us? Let’s go back to the times where food ideas were exchanged and cultures embraced. I mean Puff Puff and Borfrot same thing pretty much why can’t we just be one big happy West Africa? I understand we all want to be proud of our version of Jollof and accept that in diversity there-in lies the beauty of our continent. I wish I could speak to the original Wollof Clan and see how they made it back in the day and know if they may frown upon our version?

Dear Ghanaians, My name is Gbubemi Fregene Jollof is my whole life but I come to make Love and not War but Wakaye really gets me perhaps a tad more excited than my Jollof.

Food Art credit: Haneefah Adam


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