Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Food, Drink, and Letting Go

Contours of Life

This morning Rev. Dr. John Morehouse talked about “The Path of Least Resistance,” the final sermon on his month’s theme of resistance. He has asked us to demonstrate resistance when we confront injustice.

Mawangdui LaoTsu from Wikipedia; 2nd century BC

Ink on silk manuscript of the Tao Te Ching. Mawangdui LaoTsu from Wikipedia; 2nd century BC

But today he said there are times when it is best to, “Yield to the contours of life,” and “act without acting.”

He referred to Daoism and its wisdom on enlightenment and letting go.

Our director of music, Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson, had written two pieces based on the Tao Te Ching, the classic Chinese text of Daoism or Taoism, sometimes translated ‘The Way,” for the service.

I’m reading a novel by the Indian writer Karan Bajaj, called The Yoga of Max’s Discontent. I agreed to review the book before it comes out in March.

It’s the story of a Wall Street banker who seeks enlightenment in India. I’m about half way through. The hero is now at an ashram in southern India. So this morning’s service made me feel I was with him.

And for a further connection, I talk about palm wine in the next section of this post. One of the characters in the novel says, “I was in Goa [south-western India]. The sun is warm . . . their feni, the coconut-sap alcohol, is to die for.”

I was curious about feni.

Checking Wikipedia, I find that coconut feni is produced only in Goa, and is made from the sap of the palm tree but by a more elaborate process than Nigerian palm wine.

Read on for more about palm wine.

Palm Trees and Palm Wine

Palm wine pics; bottles filling, tappers with equipment.

Sap is filling the bottles placed by the palm wine tapper. Bottles are more common than calabash containers today.  But the tapper still needs his robe to climb.

In my last blog post I described customs associated with marriage and palm wine. First is the wine-carrying. Then at the wedding the bride is given a cup of palm wine, takes one sip, and gives the remainder to her husband to finish.

I also wrote about these in last week’s memoir and essay writing class. I was surprised when one of my classmates said, “Is palm wine just another kind of wine? What is it?”

Why did I assume that everyone knows palm wine is the sap of the palm tree? So this week I’m explaining. Then I talk about its role in Igbo culture and how I feel about it.

I’ve never seen a tapper drinking while on the job, as in the picture, but why not?

Other foods and drinks have significance in African culture.

Which can I make interesting for readers by having something personal to say?

Food in Fiction and Real Life

Egusi soup and pounded yamEgusi soup is mentioned frequently in my memoir Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad.

It’s made with ground egusi, or pumpkin seeds, as the thickener, and palm oil, onions, crayfish, and meat or chicken as the base. Spinach or another leafy green is usually added.

The first time I talk about egusi soup was when we arrived in Clem’s village Nanka for our son Chinaku’s naming ceremony. I wrote, “I was exhausted when we arrived that night. It was already dark. Mama had Tilley lamps, the best type of kerosene lamp available, lit for us and dinner of pounded yam and egusi soup, my favorite, ready.”

When my sister Beth visited us a few months later, I persuaded her to try egusi soup which she eventually decided was not bad. But this is all non-fiction and not central to the theme.Jan 31 pigfoot

Ainehi Edoro provides an enticing, I might even say, appetizing selection of African fiction that has food as a theme.

One I want to read is From Pasta to Pigfoot by Frances Mensah Williams (2015).

Do you recall books you’ve read with food as a theme? Fiction or non-fiction?

Cecil Rhodes

Cecil Rhodes headed the diamond empire De Beers. When he died he left part of his estate to Oxford University’s Oriel College where he had studied.

Do you remember hearing about him in history classes? He’s perhaps most famous in the U.S. for endowing the Rhodes Scholarship.

Cecil Rhodes from Wikipedia

Cecil Rhodes from Wikipedia

He was extremely active in colonial Africa, and wanted British rule to extend from Cairo to Capetown. He was instrumental in establishing apartheid in South Africa. The white-ruled African country Rhodesia, now Zambia and Zimbabwe, was named for him.

Like their American counterparts, students in the UK have been protesting the presence of a racist figure at Oxford University. They wanted his statue removed from its prominent position at the entrance.

The BBC report said the statue is not leaving. “The college said after ‘careful consideration’ it had decided the statue should remain but it would add ‘a clear historical context to explain why it is there.’

“The statement continued: ‘The college believes the recent debate has underlined that the continuing presence of these historical artefacts is an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism still felt today.'”

Boko Haram Again

Eighty six people died in the latest attack by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, The New York Times reported on Sunday morning. says it’s even more. Whatever the number, it is horrific. What will it take?

Are You Near London?

This morning I saw an announcement on the AfricaInWords blog about an event taking place next week. The topic, Art, Literature and Environmental Justice, subtitled “The role of arts in the fight for environmental justice in West Africa and beyond” is intriguing to me,  but it’s a little far to travel for an hour and a half presentation!

Meanwhile I continue to mull over how to include racial justice in my writing about African customs and my interaction with them. Any advice appreciated!


Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

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