My people, what can I say? I know I have been away for a long time and I am sorry. I shall explain myself soon and allow you all to decide what do with me, but until then I think you really want to know what went down with this egusi soup.
So on this day, I was minding my business at work, willing time to move faster so I could get home and watch Empire, when a couple of people walked into the restaurant, a Nigerian and an American. I greeted them both and sat them at their respective tables. I handed the Nigerian a menu and as I was about to hand one to the American he smiled and said “no, I know what I want.” I was intrigued and I raised my pen prepared to write down an order of maybe curried chicken with some sautéed collard greens and all those things they like to eat, but to my utmost surprise, the man said he would like pounded yam, egusi soup and goat meat. I did not do a good job of hiding my expression of shock because he noticed and explained to me that he liked okra and ogbono as well, but he was in the mood for some spicy egusi. Now, it is important to note that this guy, even with his accent pronounced egusi and ogbono to the best of his ability. I turned his order in and proceeded to the Nigerian.
When I got to the Nigerian, she was on the phone so I took a couple of steps backwards to give her some privacy but I could hear her conversation. “nnaa forget that man, oche na mu na ya bu ogbo?” were some of the key phrases I could catch. Eventually she finished with her call and I walked back over. She kept flipping the menu and asking me what was good on the it. It became a struggle for me not to laugh because her accent was a like a big bowl of soup. It had some Igbo in there, smithereens of old Britain and an American accent as well. She got to the list of soups and almost bit her tongue trying to not to pronounce the soups properly. Her: ogbo, ogb…, me: oh!, you mean ogbono soup? Yes we have it. I helped her stumble through the soups until she finally decided on jollof rice. It was with sheer self control that I made it to the kitchen before bursting out in to laughter. Why do Nigerians in the diaspora like to form? Anyway the egusi was ready and it was with joy that I watched this Oyinbo man wash his hands, and consume his food without leaving a scrap behind.
He commended the chef on the lovely meal, tipped generously and told me that he would be back. My Nigerian sister on the other hand, eventually gave up the struggle to use her fork and knife to eat her rice, and switched back to the spoon with which she was raised. She barely finished her meal, didn’t tip and sauntered away in her six inches.
What struck me and keeps striking me since I have been here is this. some of the Nigerians I meet,work so hard to leave their culture behind, to shed anything that associates them with home and act as though they have been Americans all their lives. I have even met a couple of them that have sworn never to return to the mother land again, even in death. Meanwhile some of these Americans are sincerely intrigued by our culture and want to know about us. When they come to eat, it’s almost lecture time because they want to know what tribe certain foods originated from, how we plant etc.
Nigeria will always be my home, its the root from where I sprouted, I don’t know why some of us are so eager to forget. Then again to each man his own.
“You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A village means that you are not alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the earth, there is something that belongs to you, waiting for you when you are not there.” –Casare Pavese