Museum, indigenous culinary: Towards health enhancement

It is an obvious fact that in the recent time, most people’s dietary habits have been patterned to suit the current urbanised and industrialised lifestyle. Where-by people rely heavily on such food as; convenience, fast and junk.


It is an obvious fact that in the recent time, most people’s dietary habits have been patterned to suit the current urbanised and industrialised lifestyle. Where-by people rely heavily on such food as; convenience, fast and junk. These types of food are alien and do not suit our environment, they are quick and easy to prepare, yet do not contain all that the body requires and are thought not to be so good for the health. Their inadequacy and poor dietary contents contribute to the eruption and frequent manifestation of some diseases in our society today. Such as diabetes, cancer, high cholesterol and blood pressure etc.
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Food is one of the most essential necessities of life. It is a prerequisite for growth and life sustenance. Food supposedly is what we take in orally to enhance good health and longevity. Man’s daily food does not only sustain him but also contains some properties that affect him. Because we are what we eat, people should eat aright, make a shift back to nature, go for food that is as natural as possible especially African food that are indigenous to us and are devoid of artificialities such are often considered as good food. This is the essence of this write-up.

Good food contains all the essential food components in the right proportions, such as vitamins, protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and others like fibre. They are considered most beneficial to our health because they are nutritionally balanced and most preferably in their natural state. They do not undergo much processing and refinement. They give adequate support to the immune system and help bring down the occurrences of certain ill health.

Meanwhile, the constant lack of any of these essential food nutrients could result to ill health, requiring drugs for medication. There is a popular saying, that food is food while drug is drug. The best drug is food; good food at healthy state is better than the best drug at the onset of sickness.

No wonder Pamplona-Roger, in his book, New lifestyle: Healthy Foods, quoted the precursor of modern medicine, Hypocrites, saying, “May your food beyond medicine and may your medicine be your food.”

In recognition of the current poor global trend in human dietary deficiencies and the urgent need for solutions, the United Nation (UN) in its food systems summit in 2021 launched a campaign on good food. Acknowledging that good food keeps us healthy, and helps us reach our potential. It also strengthens our communities and powers our economy. The UN Secretary General Anthonio Guterres, who was represented by his envoy Agnes Katibata calls for a world where government and businesses work together to make good food affordable and accessible in every country, so that the world will be put on a better path.

Museum and Intangible Heritage” was the theme for the International Council of Museum (ICOM) conference in 2004. It aimed at creating strategies and innovations of preserving peoples’ Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), which includes our African culinary.

Meanwhile in 2003 the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) convention recommended that cultural institutions like Museums and scholars should develop inventories of ICH in their localities, as well as work with groups who maintain them to ensure their continued existence.
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Therefore, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) in conforming to its statutory responsibility of preserving and promoting Nigerians cultural heritage is not left out in this global effort and campaign. The commission has made a concerted effort in documenting the nation’s cultural heritage. These heritages (intangible heritage) are highly valuable, priceless and most endangered by the effect of agents of social changes hence must be protected because their benefits bring about social cohesion and stability to our society.

In 2019, the International Museum day celebration was titled, “The Museum as cultural hub: future of tradition” by ICOM. The Museum was urged not to relent on its efforts because the future of peoples’ customs and tradition are dependent on it.

It is within this context that the present writer under the auspices of the Museum of National Unity Enugu on May 18, 2019 brought to the fore one of the African culinary delights, ‘Ayaraya Oka’.

A local delicacy indigenous to Nsukka areas of Enugu State, ‘Ayaraya Oka’ was prepared before the delightful watch of both the staff and guests (Adult and students from invited schools). It was later served as a refreshment to entertain the audience. It was sumptuous, delicious and was highly appreciated more than the usual snacks and soft drinks. It was a way of upholding our traditional food, which has more nutritional values especially to the younger generation, as children from various schools were also present at the occasion.

‘Ayaraya Oka’ Nsukka
Nsukka cultural zone is in northern part of Enugu State, comprising of seven local councils: Igbo-Eze North, Igbo-Eze South, Igbo-Etiti, Udenu, Isi-Uzo, Nsukka and Uzo-Uwani. They all have cultural affinity.

Traditionally, “Ayara” is a common cuisine among the Nsukka people of Enugu state. It comes in varieties of food substances like; yam, corn and dried parboiled cocoa yam. Literally Ayara means dry mashed food substance prepared without mixing it with water in order to avoid the food from being pulpy otherwise it becomes unpleasant and not delicious.
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Of all the others, ‘Ayaraoka’ is more popular amongst the people because it is most affordable to all irrespective of one’s financial status, especially during the food scarcity period. Most often the people refer to it as “Nriuya” i.e the solace food in the lean period of the farming year, when foodstuff like yam, rice, cocoa yam, and others, are very expensive and unaffordable for the medium and low-income earners. It is a tasty and nutritious meal prepared from corn and other food substances listed and classified under their nutritional value and botanical names:

Recipe For ‘Ayaraya Oka’
FOREMOST, the corn (fresh or dried) preferably the local species should be parboiled for a minute from the boiling point the previous day. It should be left soaked in the water overnight. It is then removed from the water and taken to the mill. In time past, in the typical Nsukka way, the corn will be broken into pieces with the aid of a mortar and pestle, later milled with the Grinding Stone. Now, people take the corn to the commercial milling machine to be milled. Care must be taken to ensure the miller does not add water, it should be milled to the required texture, not pulpy and not coarse, but in-between for it to retain some of the fibrous texture from the corn husk.

After that the ‘Agbugbu’ is washed into a pot with water and put on fire, immediately after that, two baskets are placed in the pot. First basket, turned upside down, while the second is right side up on the first. Then the milled corn is poured inside the second basket. This is to avoid the corn being immersed in water. The corn is usually cooked by steam from the boiling ‘Agbugbu’. The baskets made from the palm tree is preferred to the plastic ones because it is of organic origin and does not emit any harmful substance that could be injurious to the body into the food.
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