Case study of African / Nigerian culinary dishes. By Ngozi Franca Okoye (PhD),
Volunteer Professor | Academic Personnel.
Institut de diplomatie publique
Diaspora is a number of people that have migrated to other nations or places to live a life. Food is what keeps us alive, what we eat makes us who we are. Diaspora and food are the different communities that have moved to different places and the food they have taken with them in order to live in these places. So what comes to mind when diaspora and food are spoken of, it is good to think of the generations of people and the kind of food that have been passed down to them and how they have utilised this knowledge to serve the communities in which they found themselves. When culinary and gastro diplomacy are discussed, it is very imperative to recognise what the Thai government did in 2002 by establishing the 'Global Thai Program'. This program was launched by the Thai government with the objective to establish Thai restaurants around the world so that other people will eat and enjoy Thai cuisines and recipes. The Thai government provided grants for investors and brought in enabling environment for the program to succeed. The resultant effect is that today, most people are happy to include Thai food and recipes into their culinary habits. Other governments especially African governments have to emulate what the Thai government did and provide enabling environments for African / Nigerian diaspora community to invest, and establish restaurants that would serve African dishes. At the moment when African restaurants are mentioned, most people would not know what to expect because they have never been to African restaurants, as such they do not know much about the different culinary dishes that Africa has to offer. Some other cultures have broken this barrier because when one talks about Chinese , Indian, Japanese, Italian restaurants, one immediately knows the cuisines and recipes to expect from these restaurants. These dishes from these cultures are now mainstream such as ‘sushi’, the Japanese dish.
African dishes need to be mainstream too. It is worthy to note that an African dish that has become mainstream is the Nigerian jollof rice. This is a simple dish made with rice, tomatoes, pepper, onions, oil, garlic and some other spices. This dish have become generally accepted so much so that an entrepreneur established vending machines for people to get their jollof rice. However, a lot of work need to be done, African governments need to use food diplomacy and other forms of public diplomacy (cultural diplomacy, diaspora diplomacy) to get the world to enjoy other Nigerian / African dishes. Nigerian dishes include but not limited to jollof rice, rice and stew, ofe akwu, yam pottage, yam and vegetable stew, plantain pottage, breadfruit dish, soups such as assorted meat with scent leaf, vegetable, egusi ogbono, coco yam, nsala, afang, ewedu, served with garri, oat, wheat or fufu. These soups are garnished with different Nigerian vegetables such as pumpkin leaves, bitter leaves, water leaves, oha, okazi, uziza. More Nigerian dishes are goat head mix, nkwobi with utazi, ugba, moi moi, akara, African salad, fried plantain and eggs, savoury snacks like puff puff, chin chin etc'. There is also the palm wine from palm tree, which is produced in abundance in Nigeria. A lot of people from other cultures testify that they enjoy these Nigerian dishes and would eat them again. These African dishes are delicious, nutritious and have proven scientifically and medically to have a lot of health benefits. The diaspora community try their best and some have opened restaurants but the fact of the matter is that majority of these African restaurants would only be visited by people of African descent. Effort need to be made so that people from other cultures would patronise these African restaurants too. Bearing this in mind, African government with the help of other
governments of the world should use food diplomacy and organise food festivals, food workshops, and cookery classes where these African / Nigerian cuisines will be showcased so that lots of people from other cultures would be aware of their existence. and enjoy these cuisines too. Furthermore, food and culinary diplomacy, combined with public diplomacy should be used to stop food wastage around the world so that there would be equitable distribution of food. This would go along way to end food crisis and world hunger. This would also solve the sustainable development goal of no poverty and zero hunger in the world. At the moment, World Food Program estimates that there are 345 million people facing malnutrition in 2023. On the other hand 2.5 billion tons of food are lost or wasted each year. Boston Consulting Group estimates that about $230 billion dollars of food are wasted and most of them lost at production stage. Governments of different countries should come together and utilise food diplomacy together with other forms of public diplomacy to solve this food crisis by spreading the production of food to different countries to achieve the sustainable development goals outlined above.
No one should go hungry while there is so much food waste happening and the diaspora community could help by showcasing in their blended communities how some of these dishes are prepared and consumed.