15/07/2021
Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu: 
I just realized that I journal quite a bit but I hardly ever journal about what I'm eating. Today while I was eating my lunch, I was having a sad moment and this is what I wrote;
                        "Today I brought tears to the table. My meal is high in protein. I had a boiled egg, Titus                           fish tail, bean porridge, and coconut rice. I don't think I've ever made this combination of                         elements before. It's so tasty. I somehow wished it would work wonders on my mood. But I                             cried mid-meal, beans and mouth. I'm quietly happy, loudly sad. The quiet happiness is coming                         from this combo. It's as healthy as affordable food goes here."
That's the entry. But just as we were speaking about health and longevity, I thought that journaling would make me feel better. But I was so sad in between, then I started thinking of who I am emotionally when I go to eat and how the food feels at that moment.


Banji Chona: 
It's really beautiful. I love the first line. Because I guess a few weeks ago, Beulah, you asked,
                                                            "Who do you bring to the table?"
And usually  we think of it physically and not really emotionally -- or a byproduct of emotion, like tears. I was thinking of that concept of comfort food, you know,
                                            “will this meal make me feel better”
                                             vs “I know, it will make me feel better.”
I think that was quite an interesting contrast. I really want to read it again.

Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu: 
So I literally just took a picture of my notes, but I will type it out because my handwriting is a bit crappy.

Banji Chona: 
From my perspective, regarding connections between my food consumption and I guess, longevity..... I kind of go through phases. I think this time last year, I was a bit of a health nut. You know, beginning of lockdown, I started intermittent fasting. And there's this intermittent fasting app, which allows you to log all your food, so I guess it was a food journal. And that was quite interesting, to just track the meals that I was eating. It also had a sort of body clock, which showed you the different processes of digestion that your body goes through when you are fasting. And in that period of time, it was really helpful to create a habit out of it, but it became extremely obsessive.
I'm quite an extreme person. You know, I'm starting to learn like when I do something, I fully go at it. And then I'm an obsessive person, but I'm also a Gemini, so I'm like,
                                        "Okay, now I'm bored".
So now I don't log, or religiously intermittently fast, but because I did it so often it's almost become a natural part of my food habit. So it's quite interesting that there is that element of questioning what I'm eating from a health perspective, but not so much anymore. And I guess that's the different phases in life that we go through.

Beulah Ezeugo: 
I have a Gemini moon so I can definitely relate. I find that sometimes something will be so important to me. And then suddenly it's just not!

Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
                            [Laughs]
Beulah Ezeugo:
But yeah, I like what you said Yadi. Sometimes it's not what you’re consuming that’s good for you, but what you're expunging...emotionally. I also had an intermittent fasting phase. I had the Zero app.
It would count how many hours you had fasted and it would also show you how many other people in the world were fasting with you. So there was kind of a sense of being in community. Communal starving, I guess.

Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu: 
Intermittent fasting just sounds daunting. I would constantly be going to check the clock. I try to go with how I feel instead and just try not to overdo it..

Beulah Ezeugo: 
                                            I missed some of what you said there.


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu: 
I was just saying that intermittent fasting as a concept sometimes just eludes me because I think of the amount of work that goes into checking the time and trying to set a plan and routine around it. I'd rather leave it to my feelings.

Beulah Ezeugo: 
Yeah! I guess there is also a lot to be said about discipline and assigning discipline to self-worth and stuff. Is there anything that either of you would be cautious of eating around other people?


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu: 
I am very, very particular about what I pick to eat-- not particular in the sense that I'm nit-picky, but I like to enjoy what I'm eating. I know that I picked up a preference for eating something called swallow, like garri, which is dried cassava or ground cassava served with a kind of soup.
                                                    My father - that's all he eats!
Growing up, we would come back home to eat and then my mom would send us out to him with the food and a bowl of water, then one of us would be carrying the cup of water.
                            And he would wash his hands in the bowl and then sit down and eat. As a child, I thought                             it looked so Kinglike - of course, Nigerian men like to be treated like that.
Now, that's my preferred meal. I don't know, it just makes the most sense to me as a whole meal. My preference at any time of the day is probably going to be swallow and that's just interesting because I'm like,
                                                    "Oh, I picked that up from this guy!"
But yeah, I really like to enjoy what I'm eating. Swallow is also my preferred meal because it's local. And generally, we always tend to pick things that are external, or more Western, like pasta. Some people are embarrassed to say that their favourite food is something local. It's almost like a shock to some people. Like,
                                    “Why would your favourite meal be local?! Aren't you exposed?”
That comes up in conversation and in the way people deal with each other a lot, I've noticed. But for me..  you just have to take it, I just really like this meal and that's what I’m sticking with. I'm proud about it, as opposed to hiding it.


Beulah Ezeugo: 
Pretty interesting that it's a classed thing now. Often my grandma will call and she'll say,
                                            “Oh, I’m eating this or that Western food now”
And it’ll usually be wheat-based. My mom will get so annoyed and respond with,
                    “Cassava is better for you, yam is better for you. Why are you eating these imported foods?”
For my mom who left Nigeria years ago, it's definitely an unfortunate shift. And understandably, she gets upset at the thought that her family are moving away from eating all the local, whole foods she loves and misses.

Banji Chona: 
Yes. In Zambia, the Bemba people up north - where my mom is from - eat something called ifinkubala. And it's basically mopane worms. So like, basically moth larva and they harvest them during -
                                                                    Yadi, your face!

Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu: 
                                                [Laughs]

Banji Chona: 
                                                                    [Laughs]
They're very high in protein. And I guess, up north, they don't really have much livestock, they're mainly fishermen. But oftentimes, in dry seasons, they wouldn't be able to access as much fish. So they ended up finding what was in abundance. And it happened to be ifinkubala. And because I grew up with my grandparents on my dad's side, who are from down south, it's such an alien food for them to eat. But I grew up with this in my mom's house and with my mom's family.So if I'm eating it, at home with my grandparents, it's something that I will have to buy on my own, cook on my own, put in a little bowl by myself, you know, because it's not part of that culinary culture -
                    I remember being told a story by my grandmother, about my dad, who also liked ifinkubala. My                         granny was actually so appalled by the concept of this, that she actually threw away the pot that                     he used to cook these things!  
I find it quite interesting. Also, the topic of eating bugs and insects in general, because that's something that's not very common on this side of the world and even in Zambia it's very provincial, but there is so much there to explore. I think it's a sustainable way to get protein because you're not having to farm these sources of meat. They're kind of just there, you know.


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu: 
If only they didn't crawl so much.

Banji Chona: 
                                I know!


Beulah Ezeugo: 
You're right. Such a plentiful and proteinaceous food source, but yeah, I can't imagine.. enjoying them.

Banji Chona: 
I think they need to be demystified a bit. It's not something that is a mainstream food, we don't really consider it that way. So there's still these preconceived notions around it, I think maybe changing the way that it looks - because it's bugs, you know! Nobody wants to eat something with six legs.

Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu: 
I drew this bug, sometime during the week. It was just a very random drawing, there was no reason for it. So as we were talking, I opened this page up!
                        [Laughs]


Banji Chona: 
                                Ahhh wow!


Beulah Ezeugo: 
                    [Laughs]





Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu, Bug from Sketchbook, 2021. 
<< Back to Archive