You know how people just say, “I really don’t care whether the food is fine on the plate, I just want to eat, ” or “what’s with naming a food? Is it not just ordinary rice and éjà (fish)? “. Sometimes I laugh, other times I swell in fury. Fury at the myopic view that hovers when people think of food, especially in Nigeria.

Food-making is more than chopping and stewing up some vegetables in a pot, and sitting down to a heavy bowl of “Eba and Egusi”. Food making is an art, an art only a few people are gifted with, and it goes beyond gender stereotypes. Some of the great chefs I have met in my life are mostly males.

The ability for a chef’s mind to be able to see beyond the vegetables splayed in front of the table, to the beautifully mechanical chopping with finesse, to the timely addition of spices and the divine creation of a wonderful plate piece that first feeds the eye before the belly, is a truly remarkable gift.

Over here in this part of the world, we have accustomed ourselves to a limited variety of food : rice, yam, beans, cassava, meat, chicken, fish; thus limiting our scope of meals to simple and common meals with the sole intent of filling the belly, no more! This, has over time made eating boring and stressful, with little or no palatal excitement. The average Nigerian is stuck with : white rice and stew, jollof rice, Eba, pounded yam, somedays pasta!

The truth is pretty simple, food-making has been debased to just satisfying the belly. One of the many reasons is because people do not see the beauty behind food-making. All that is seen is a “stressful chore that needs to be completed”, hence subjecting us to the common meals, so common that specific foods are now only eaten on specific days in a specific way: Rice and stew on Sundays, jollof rice and chicken on holidays.

As a huge fan of Food Network, watching people from all over the world create dishes with the same foods we have here, makes cooking more exciting and further re-inforces the fact that it is so much more than the eating!

Take a huge step today, and break out of the status quo. Spice up your meals and don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t just dump everything in the plate, like its one blob of meal. Take an extra time to plate the dishes like a delicate embroidery. Don’t forget the mint and rosemary on the top! Plating is not for the rich or the elite, anybody and everybody can plate the dish, be it at a family thanksgiving dinner or a normal breakfast before work.

Start training your taste buds today! You’ll be glad you did!

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