Igwe and I are always having all kinds of conversation about everything. The other day, we were discussing Nigerian food. I love Nigerian food. I love cooking it, and I love eating it. But I don’t love taking it to work. Let me be more specific.
I don’t mind taking certain Nigerian foods to work, like almost any kind of rice (fried, jolof, white, etc), and I don’t mind taking foods like egg stew and/or spicy spinach mix. But I have never taken food like pounded yam and egusi soup or onugbu or okra, and this is coming from someone who loves her fufu-ish foods. My first and last meals when I went to Nigeria last year were pounded yam and egusi soup. Next time, I have to catch up on my akpu and every other fufu-ish food. Hook me up, Sweet Potatoes in Nigeria!
Anyway, I know that I’m not the only Nigerian who loves our food, so I don’t blame any Nigerian who takes our food to work. By the way, to be clear, I’m talking about people who live and work outside Nigeria, especially in the western countries like America. Like I was saying, I don’t take certain Nigerian foods to work because frankly, I think it’s polite not to. Wait, let me explain before you crucify me biko!
Our food – although very, very VERY tasty – can be pungent. When I cook at home, I enjoy the food, but I absolutely hate it when my house smells of any type of food. Full disclosure: I do have a thing with smells. I am very judgmental of people who come to work or church or wherever smelling like jolof rice. You know yourselves. I’ve carried babies – and handed them right back – because they smelled like stew. So yes, I know that I may not be approaching this Nigerian-food-at-work issue from an objective point.
If I had a Nigerian co-worker who brought all kinds of Naija food to work, I would not be offended, but that’s because I’m familiar with the food and the smell. What I would be sure to do is salivate over the food. But I just won’t and cannot do it (bring the food to work). I feel like it is unfair to subject people to the strong smell of our food when they are not used to it. I will not even take Chinese food to work. I just don’t like that kind of attention.
Look at it this way: I remember watching a show, maybe on the travel channel or on the National Geographic channel or something like that, and the host was in an Asian country – don’t remember which one – and he was eating all kinds of foods, including live animals like octopuses and some rat-looking things. I. Was. Disgusted. Because personally, I would rather have a meal that doesn’t crawl out of the plate. Now, if I were to walk into the work kitchen and find someone eating a live octopus, I would not be responsible for my actions.
I know what you’re thinking: but Vera, eating a live octopus at work is not the same thing as eating egusi soup. And you are right! It’s not the same thing. But when you’re new to the smell of our food, you don’t have time to decipher if it is the smaller evil or not. The point is that I love my Nigerian food, and I’d prefer that it is not disrespected at work.
If you live outside Nigeria, what kind of foods do you take to work?