“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.”Guy Fieri –America businessman
Cookbooks are not my favourite literature. I must confess that I have never selected and tried out a recipe from a cookbook. I rather believe that ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’, hahaha!
However when I leafed through Ebere Akadiri’s ‘Vibrant West African Cuisine’ cookbook, I kept thinking ‘that looks delicious, how would that taste?’
I was brought up on traditional Dutch cooking, with its three elements: potatoes, vegetables and meat. Menus kept according to the seasons, limiting availability of fresh vegetables in winter, hence heavier ‘stamppot’ dishes.
An occasional desert was rice cooked in milk and sprinkled with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. That was Dutch cooking fifty years ago, nothing like the present situation when a world kitchen is in reach for everyone, due to handy instant precooked foods and ready importation of ingredients, vegetables and fruits from across the globe.
Notwithstanding my humble culinary upbringing, nearly forty years living and working in Africa has given me an avid taste and love of African food of more than half a dozen countries.
At the Marriott Hotel a spacey room and adjoining reception area had been made available for the launching of the cookbook.
Saturday 3rd March at the Marriott Hotel in The Hague saw the launching of an attractive wonderful richly illustrated cookbook by a very experienced Nigerian female cook, Ebere Akadiri. The fact that she was owning and running two restaurants and a bakery in Lagos, Nigeria should be more than proof of her experience. That included cooking for parties with up to a thousand people almost every weekend.
When she and her family relocated to The Netherlands she found out that very few Dutch had any idea what West African cuisine was about. After giving cooking workshops and posting cooking video’s online, she started thinking about writing a cookbook.
The cookbook grew a.o. out of Ebere’s desire to let people of The Netherlands experience how West African cooking is done, looks and tastes like.
Encouraged by friends and clients who had been following the workshops, she started gathering material for a cookbook. Assisted by contributors, editors and photographers as mentioned in the credits of the cookbook, the result is fabulous.
The richly full colour illustrated cookbook of just below A4 size 157 pages plus introduction, lies easily in hand and has clear large print describing ingredients and the preparing and cooking process. See www.edereakadiri.com
A Cookbook with a Cause
Ebere learned of the 26 Nigerian women who drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, she felt compelled to act. Three months later she published her cookbook, using recipes and stories to dispel negative stereotypes while focusing on giving back. All proceeds from Vibrant West African Cuisine will be donated to #keepdignityalive until the financial goal is met. Funds will be used to create awareness on the lures and dangers of trafficking and to educate Nigerian young women on leadership and entrepreneurship so they can learn to lead dignified financially independent lives. She created an organization and called it BIEL – Beauty In Every Lifehttp://beautyineverylife.org/
Beauty in Every Life (BIEL) foundation was founded to help African women and children to realise their potential and achieve their dreams. BIEL endeavours to improve the social and economic well-being of West African women and children everywhere so that they can live in dignity. BIEL was initiated out of the need to protect West African women from all forms of abuse, and prevent them from falling victim to depression, trafficking, child abuse, and slavery. BIEL focus recently shifted to preventing trafficking intended for forced prostitution.
We provide counselling and re-integrate victims of trafficking by providing personal and entrepreneurship education. We also run programs for young women in Nigeria to help them become financially independent and to prevent them from becoming victims of human trafficking.
BIEL – Beauty In Every Life
Believe that Every Woman is Beautiful inside and out.
We know that every child can live a life they attempt to dream of.
We believe that we all have talents and gifts that can become valuable to others and help us gain financial independence.
We believe that women can leverage their gifts and talents and become even more productive if they are shown how.
Objectives Of BIEL
• Improve social & economic well-being of women and children.
• Create awareness on the dangers of trafficking of women and children.
• Empower women & children to realise their potential and achieve their dreams & visions.
• Through education, support the raising of confident children who will become good citizens of the world.
Strategy/Methods of implementation
Awareness and advocacy programs to get the support of the public against trafficking of women and children in West Africa
Provide counselling, re-integration programs and personal development skills to young women who have been rescued from trafficking
Provide educational training on life skills and entrepreneurship to young women who are at risk of being trafficked
Entrepreneurship/Personal development training for West African women living below the poverty line in the Netherlands
Education sponsorship for vulnerable children, especially orphans in Nigeria
Prevent Human Trafficking Now! Advocacy and awareness program developed to sensitise the general public on safe immigration guidelines
Keep Dignity Alive: Economic empowerment of West African women through social entrepreneurship programs and personal leadership development.
Education funding for vulnerable children and orphans in Nigeria.
Touching on an important cultural difference, Ebere Akadiri told the audience at the launching how surprised she was seeing the small pots used in European kitchens. Africans and Nigerians for that matter always cook in big pots and never just enough for the family or those in the house. African cooking always counts on unexpected guests or visitors in the quantity they cook.
Traditionally African cooking across the continent takes place on a wood fire on which the pot is supported by three stones. That may still be surprisingly common, though cooking on charcoal or in cities on gas stoves is increasingly taking over. This not only increases the efficiency of fuel use, but also frees women and children from the inhibiting and damaging smoke.
There is a myriad of projects and programmes to produce improved charcoal stoves throughout Africa and other parts of the developing world. Many of these work, but some are not durable or improperly fabricated.
As a whole the dependency on carbon fuel, especially charcoal depletes forests and often causes increasing deforestation and advancing the desert.
The solar cook box is in my opinion far from practical as are other forms of solar cooking. Solar to lighting is ideal, but solar to heat or power is a non-starter.
‘Vibrant West African Cuisine’ is not the first, but certainly not the last African Cookbook to be published. It is however one of the few cookbooks written for Europeans, while there is a wealth of African-American cookbooks from as early as 1827. That’s another story all together.
“How often do you eat food from home?” was the title of my column in the January 2011 issue of The African Bulletin. Then it was more about the availability of African staples, ingredients and spices, which nowadays is less of a problem, though costs are still higher than cooking European food.
Now what are my favourites, difficult to say, but maize or yam fufu with palaver sauce, pat rouge, pilau, jollof rice, dodo and beans, would certainly among them.
Now the real African food connoisseurs experience mouth-watering, hahaha!
*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org