Yes, that’s right, I’m putting the Afro into AfroMartha! Come along with me on a journey into preparing some traditional Yoruba food!
I dare you to try it. I dare you not to love it.
In the next few days I will be showing you how to prepare from scratch: (Iyan) Pounded Yam, Obe Ata (Pepper Stew with Meats), and Okra Stew.
Traditional Yoruba food is morsel food. What is morsel food, you ask? It is food you eat with your bare hands, dipped into some type of stew, as pictured above. Some people who are familiar with morsel food universally call the morsel portion Fufu. Fufu is actually just one variation of it. There are many other types, such as Pounded Yam, which is what we will be making in this series.
Like any other type of food, the Yoruba have a variety of food, some eaten by hands, and some eaten with utensils. In this series I am focusing in on the type eaten by hand, because it is the most esoteric and purest of Yoruba tradition. Due to its esoteric nature, I feel that it has not gained as much popularity as other foods.
As some of you may know, I am a Naija woman, born and bred. My ancestry is from the Yoruba tribe of the southwestern region of Nigeria. I spent the first thirteen years of my life immersed in my Yoruba culture. Once something is that ingrained in you, you can never shake it.
This makes it all the more ridiculous that in the almost 4 years of this site I have never not once introduced a Yoruba recipe. I have asked myself why, in all the years of presenting different recipes have I never introduced African food? To be honest, I just didn’t ever give it much thought. When I honestly sat down and thought about it, I realized that it had more to do with me, and less to do with you, the audience.
The bulk of my (subconscious) reason was due to the reservations I have about stigma usually attached to anything African as being primitive and unrefined. I realize now that in not celebrating and incorporating this aspect of my culture, I help to perpetuate the stereotypes and the stigma. It also does not give you enough credit for being open minded, and does not allow you to make up your own mind.
Since traditional Yoruba food is ‘morsel’ food eaten with your (well washed) bare hands it may take getting used to. It is not at all like eating sandwiches, wraps, tacos, etc. It can be messy for a novice, but you will quickly get the hang of it.
Yoruba cooking can be very much improvisational. There are no hard and fast recipes. It is a splash of this, a dash of that, and a whole lot of instinct. American cooking is based on fairly precise recipes, so I have come up with a solid recipe that can be replicated. I have also broken down these posts into very short and easily do-able portions, so as not to overwhelm you with the complexity of all the moving parts. In the final post I will sum up how to make everything simultaneously. The more you do it, the more it will run like a well-oiled machine!
Yoruba cooking is somewhat time and labor intensive. Preparing a pot of stew will take a good 2 hours. Making the Pounded yam portion requires some serious upper body strength. On the plus side, once the stews are done, the rest is easy. Your stew will last for several meals.
Like most foods, you either love it hate it. It could be an acquired taste for some, and instant love for others. I started preparing it for my children when they were very young, and they absolutely love it. We don’t go too many weeks without them asking me to make it for them. I have many American friends who love it. The Mister on the hand is not at all interested. Tried it and didn’t like it. On nights when we eat it, he eats something else. It’s just not for him.
I want to say that Yoruba food and cooking is going to be totally different from anything you may have experienced, but is that really true? Maybe I’m not the best judge of that. I may not be giving you enough credit. We will find out together through this journey.
Please visit tomorrow for the first installment where I will show you how to prep the meats for the Obe Ata.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Ingredients/Shopping List
Part 3: Prepping the meats
Part 4: Making the Stew/Obe Ata
Part 5: Okra Stew!
Part 6: The Pounded Yam (Iyan)
Part 7: Putting it all together/Conclusion