When it comes to the Lords of food, we’d call the French. Then after the French, the rest of Europe joined and their food was popularized and the world began to dig it. And then the Asians joined with Indian and Chinese dishes taking their respective spots. Then the Americans combined all the dishes of the world and formed their food identity. A few countries in Africa like Morroco and Ethiopia took their own share of the fame and made a stamp in the food industry. What do all these countries have in common with their dishes? AUTHENTICITY. Their dishes are unapologetically authentic and they aren’t making any changes or edits it to cater to the taste buds of foreigners, you either like it or you don’t.
Travel down to the most populous black country in the world with an arsenal of unique dishes, Nigeria. The country with very good and popular food culture, from our street and finger food to our popular heavy swallows, it’s safe to say that all our dishes are a hit back to back. But, with this new food culture that’s starting, a few people are taking it overboard and making our food lose our authenticity.
Let’s use Chef Eros and Dooneys Kitchen for example. Great chefs who can cook up a storm, the only issue they have is they always make their dishes look very French or European. From serving jollof rice in wine glasses and calling it Sauteed stewed rice to making moimoi look like a tart and calling it bean tartlet, these bougie chefs are making Nigerian dishes lose their identity. If you go to Italy, their pizza’s are uniform and have a uniform taste, but if you come to Nigeria and eat in Fancy restaurants you might actually eat something that tastes like Eba but looks like MoiMoi. Sadly, these pretentious chefs who make our dishes lose their identity are the curators who introduce our dishes to the rest of the world.
Let’s take Chef Elegbede for example, He recently cooked an array of Nigerian dishes for Americans and while all the dishes looked picture perfect, None of the dishes looked and tasted like Nigerian dishes. Let’s imagine these same Americans came to Nigeria and asked for Moimoi or Eba and they were served the Authentic dishes, which will taste nothing like what Elegbede made, how would their reaction be like.
Basically, as Nigerians, we need to stop trying to make our dishes look French or European. If we want our dishes to go global we need to leave it as authentic as possible, if anything needs to be changed we could change the way we plate it, but, making Eba and Gbegiri look like an American pudding is just wrong and Nigerian chefs and foodies need to do better.