Nigerian Jollof or Ghanian Jollof?
Before I begin, I just have to ask, Nigerian Jollof or Ghanian Jollof? What side are you on?. Tell me in the comment.
The relationship Nigerians have with jollof runs quite deep. In the Igbo culture, when a man goes with his family to see the family of the woman he wants to marry, the elders in his family call the bride “our wife”, even though she only belongs to the suitor. Jollof is like an unmarried woman which every married couple calls “our wife”. She doesn’t belong to anyone but she belongs to everyone. Nigeria has 371 ethnic groups. Its like a whole continent in a country because each group has their own culture, food, dressing and language. No one can claim jollof rice as their cultural food.
For the middle and low income class, a well prepared spicy jollof with vegetables and beef/chicken was only for special occasions like Christmas, Easter or new year. Jollof rice is in every good memory. As a kid, we always travelled home (to our village) during christmas. Our home was a wide one story building with numerous rooms.
It was a typical village with masquerade festivals, Knock-out (banger/fireworks) festivals, dusty roads, old people talking in our native language and adventure for little kids. On Christmas day, we would go to church for the Christmas solemn service. We sometimes wore the new clothes our grandmother or parents got us, it’s a tradition we call “Christmas clothes”. It was like the best clothes we had all year.
After church, my father would stay back for bazaar. It’s where you bid for food stuff at the church, for very elevated prices. You can buy a bunch of plantain for #50,000 when they are sold for about #3,000 everywhere else. It was a way to fund the church. I can vaguely remember a time my father bought a goat there, you don’t want to know the price!
After church, we started preparing the food. Our kitchen wasn’t functional so we cooked outside, under a shed. Some of our relations would come over to help with the food preparation. You never lacked help. They would prepare the Jollof rice in a multitude of words, catching up on the year, laughter and ordering us the children to get stuff they needed for the food.
You never prepare a small pot of Jollof. It’s an unspoken rule. You prepared a pot worthy to feed others and have some left overs for yourself. After eating, visitors would stop by to greet our family and we would offer them what we had. Jollof rice, drinks, cake and chin-chin.
It may be different for other cultures in Nigeria, but most of my exciting memories as a child and a grown up always had Jollof rice in them. Weddings, birthday parties, new year, Christmas and ceremonies in general. You would find Jollof wherever happiness was.