Soup, sex and SA life

2017-02-14 06:05

The fearless and witty Nigerian essayist, writer and food memoirist Yemisi Aribisala (who quietly lives in South Africa at present, by the way) has scooped one of the world’s most prestigious cookbook awards.

Late last month her book Longthroat Memoirs: Soup, Sex and Nigerian Tastebuds scooped the John Avery Award at the André Simon Food and Drink Book Awards.

She’s the first African to win an award previously bestowed on such foodie legends as Jamie Oliver.

Her collection of essays, according to African literature blog, explores “food within the context of sex, society, parenting and gender relations. So it matters that Longthroat Memoirs is [getting attention] on the global literary landscape.”

Aribisala says writing about food in the way that she does involves noting the influence of food on life and life on food, and attempting to weave an accurate cultural landscape.

“I got into writing this book because I had to be vigilant about what I was feeding my children. That all translates into living, and living well.

“That graduated into exploring Nigerian culture and looking at what we eat, why we eat it and how our bodies recognise this food,” she says from her Somerset West home.

“Cooking itself is a holistic exercise that can never exclude the spiritual. What you eat enters your whole being, finds its way into your soul and touches your dreams.

“What you cook is informed by everything about you; your mood, spirit, environment, temperament.”

The essayist who says she’s a better writer than a cook is amazed that people take food that’s authentic to a particular country and squeeze it into this sweeping title of “African food”.

“I guess that the rest of the world is seeking a kind of exotic simplification that’s a summary, an effective way of getting the feeling across that Africa will fit in your handbag as a commodity.

“It’s difficult to define who I am as an African, but I know who I am as a Nigerian. The British and the French would feel their food was being belittled if you tried to lump them all under the term European food.”

Aribisala, who is in the country because her children are currently at school here, says she looks forward to exploring South African food, particularly preparing dishes using Amasi milk.

Longthroat Memoirs: Soup, Sex and Nigerian Tastebuds is available at select bookstores. You can get it on for R286

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