That Time Jamie Oliver Made “Jollof Rice” #JollofGate

 

Yes, guys, it finally happened – they finally got their hands on Jollof rice!

Some context for those who don’t know what Jollof rice is: Jollof rice is one of the 7 wonders of Africa. The list goes: Nelson Mandela, Cape Town, Jollof Rice, Senegalese Twists, Lupita Nyong’o, Shea Butter, and P Square. People might disagree with this list (feel free to add your own list in the comments section. Don’t curtly state your disagreement and move on, ok? Don’t be rude), but the point is that Jollof rice is a BIG deal.(Horrible) songs have been written about Jollof rice. Case in point: this god-awful song by Fuse ODG:

 

Jollof rice has even caused  a diplomatic tension/Cold War of sorts between Nigeria and Ghana over who actually owns this dish (it actually originated in Senegal, but I’m sleep).

 

In Nigeria, Jollof rice is sacred. It is not just the holy grail, it is also the way the truth and the life. Jollof rice is who we are, it is woven into our social tapestry; if a Nigerian invites you to a social gathering and doesn’t serve Jollof rice, he/she hates you and might have sociopathic tendencies (Listen, I don’t make the rules).  You might find this canonization of RICE to be weird. You might sit there and smugly say “is it not JUST rice?” Well, no, it isn’t. It isn’t just rice, you blasphemer; it is JOLLOF rice!

Now that I’ve given you some context, you can then understand why my Twitter timeline went into an apocalyptic uproar this past week, when Jamie Oliver (yes, THE Jamie Oliver) posted his Jollof rice recipe.

You see, Jollof rice is meant to look like this:

Source: Lohi's Creations
Not exactly sure why this heap of Jollof rice is capped with a  plantain hashtag. People hashtag everything. EVEN rice. Smh.

Jollof rice is supposed to be reassuring in its plainness. You should see a plate of Jollof rice, sitting in its sunset-orange glory, and immediately know what you’re looking at. This is the essence of Jollof rice – its predictability and lack of complication.

However, this is Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice:

I don’t even know where to begin. This, whatever this is, is a sensory overload

Nigerians/Ghanaians were furious!

It all started in the comments section:

Like, this person brought in their ancestors. He/She went THERE. You can see that this is not a joke
Like, this person brought up their ancestors. He/She went THERE. You can see that this is not a joke
This is an actual threat. I told you jollof rice is a diety.
This is an actual threat. I told you Jollof rice is a deity
Priorities
Priorities
Even Namibia weighed in. It was a continental emergency.
Even Namibia weighed in. It was a continental emergency

 

Someone even claimed that Jamie had Iggy Azalea-ed Jollof rice. Yes, it got that tense. Gloves came off.

It was deep, guys. We almost called in Iyanla Vanzant to bully-yell everybody into tranquility. There was basically a Twitter village square meeting, and the Nigerians and Ghanaians were not having it. And for good reason. How can you gentrify Jollof rice to the extent that it starts looking like paella? Sacrilege! We can share our children (Hi Brangelina, Madonna, or whichever latest Hollywood star just ordered their very own collectible in the form of an African child), our animals (for your life-changing, perspective-moulding Safaris), and our head-ties that you re-fashion into “urban head wraps”, but we will not share our Jollof rice *bangs gavel*

On a more serious note, I really don’t know how I feel about this issue. Some people claim that this is a clear case of appropriation, but I don’t know that I would make such an extreme claim. I mean, the guy didn’t claim to make Jollof rice, he openly admitted to adding his own twist on the recipe.

My main issue with this entire situation is that Jamie Oliver (or whoever wrote this) described Jollof rice as a “concept”—of ALL the bland nouns in the English vocabulary, you came up with “concept”? I mean, really???—, as though it is an abstraction that we believe in but can’t see. Excuse you, Jollof rice is as real as it gets! How would you feel if I described Thanksgiving turkey as a “concept”? Perplexed? Slightly insulted? Exactly, thought so.

 

 

 

Image Sources: Lohi’s Creations, Jamie Oliver, The Guardian

Racializing Fried Chicken

For colored girls who can’t enjoy a damn piece of fried chicken without worrying about the racial ramifications of their culinary choices

Source: BusinessWeek

As a non-American, I don’t get a lot of things about America- why chips are called fries; why pickles are an actual thing; why some slices of pizza are almost bigger than a 15″ MacBook Pro; what the ACTUAL rule is for tipping rates (no, seriously, what is it?); why American college kids are so fascinated by alcohol (seriously, those kids don’t drink for drinking sake; they drink to pass out, potentially die, and most definitely lose functionality in their faculties); why some restaurants are open 24 hours (the simultaneously terrifying and impressive fact that you can walk into a store at 3 AM and get yourself a to-go order of a heart attack with a side of atherosclerosis, all under 5 minutes)… the list is endless.

You might be wondering why all my sources of confusion are centered around food. Well, it’s not my fault that America’s social fabric is spun around eating copious amounts of food with potentially lethal portion sizes. For the most part, I’ve been able to attune myself to this culture, even though I don’t get it. I’ve learnt not to be shocked when my friends do Cookout runs at 3 am; I’ve learnt that 1000+ calorie pizza slices are a thing; I’ve come to understand that gluten allergy is an actual medical condition, not one of those made-up diseases that Pfizer commercials try to convince me that I have. By and large, I have gotten with the program.

However, there remains one thing that I consistently fail to wrap my head around: the question of fried chicken and why it seems to be a black people thing. As a non-American black person, I’ve had to learn a lot of things about what it means to be black in America. Coming from a country with 99% (I’m making this figure up, but you get the point) black people, I never really grew up having to be conscious of my race. I mean, I knew I was black, but it’s not something that Nigerians walk around thinking about. When a Nigerian tells you that “you’re black,” they are more than likely referring to your skin pigmentation, not your race. Thus, coming to America, where race seems to be the central theme in any and all social interactions, I’ve had to learn and re-learn what being black in America really means.

One of such lessons is that fried chicken is a racial thing, a black thing, maybe a ghetto thing (smh, America will racialize anything, EVEN chicken). This, guys, has been a hard pill to swallow. Why? Because I LOVE fried chicken. I don’t care about your broiled, grilled, sun-dried, or cold-pressed chicken; the only way chicken should be eaten is fried.

So you can imagine my horror when I learnt that fried chicken was a racialized thing. At first, I was conscious- I didn’t want to be labelled or judged. I didn’t want to be that kind of black (whatever that means), so I’d grudgingly munch on shrimp or turkey while I was out to lunch with my friends. Now, I eat my fried chicken with pride. I don’t really care about the societal markings of my choice of bird. I will eat that crispy bird like it’s ’99, and you will deal. Too many people have toiled and fought for my civil liberties for me to be constrained by the racialization of fried chicken. You can make me drop the Kool Aid and watermelon (actually, no you can’t. I just don’t care for them), but you can’t take away my fried chicken. I have rights!

Anyway, the story is not all gloomy; at least once a year, I get to hop on a plane to Nigeria, where I can enjoy all the fried chicken I want without wondering if people think I’m less “young, black, and gifted” than the next non-fried chicken-eating black person. I leave the country in about two weeks, and the thought of all the non-judgement-inducing fried chicken that will be at my disposal keeps me warm at night.

I have no idea why I’m ranting about fried chicken at 3 in the morning. This is what being on a clean-eating diet does to you- you find yourself up at 3 AM, editorializing about fried bird. In a perfect world, I’d be writing an ode to quinoa and extolling its virtues, the same way I am currently doing for fried chicken. However, this is not a perfect world (if it were, I’d be birthing Idris Elba’s kids. Yet, here we are), and quinoa tastes like pan-seared saw dust.

Off to try and get some sleep, and (attempt to) fantasize about my healthy breakfast the same way I’m fantasizing about chicken.