One thing people often ask me about Nigeria and our time there is the food. What did we have to eat, and how did I like it?
The staple food of the Fulbe (from my limited experience) is a dish called fu-fu (honestly – I have no clue how to spell it, but if you read it phonetically you will get it). It is made from rice or corn. These are ground up and made into a kind of paste, which is then cooked. The result is a white paste which looks rather like large perogies, but with a consistency sort of like mashed potatoes. I usually eat it with a spoon, but traditionally it is eaten with the fingers. You break off a piece, roll it between your fingers, dip it into a sauce, and pop it into your mouth. It is not my favorite meal in the world, but it is very filling.
The best meal I ever had in the villages there came about one evening when I was travelling from our home in Gembu to where my friends lived. I had never stayed overnight in their village before, so this was a bit of an event for all of us. I did not eat anything before I left, and when I arrived at supper time they proceeded to feed me a marvelous (and huge) plate of jollof rice. I can’t tell you what was in it, except to say that it was so good that ever after, when I travelled from Gembu to there to stay, my mouth would start to water along the way!
At home we ate mostly North American fare, with rice being our main staple. Potatoes could be had in some areas, but I don’t know that they grew them very close to where we lived. We always liked to make sure to stop and buy some of the way home when we travelled.
You could also get beef and chicken there pretty readily, but the ‘cuts’ of beef were not always what we were used to. Mostly the meat was cooked cubed and put in some kind of sauce or soup. I remember at Christmas the church up on the hill slaughtered several cows in order to give the meat away to families within the church. All the meat was in hunks and chunks for the families to come and pick up.
I used to tell my kids that “everything is the same here, it’s just different.” Meaning, just about anything we have in NA we could also find in Nigeria . . . but it was always different in some way or other. If you had the inclination you could go to European stores and buy breakfast cereal, for instance – but it would be a disappointing and expensive knock-off of some American brand. Or you buy white bread being sold on the road out of the trunks of cars – but it would be unsliced and pre-sweetened (!?).
One thing I have discovered in Nigeria and Cameroon is that, when it comes to the food, what is far more important is the people you are eating and fellowshipping with. Especially for a fussy eater like me 😉