There are things that grieve me – matters of such grave concern that they rob me of sleep when I should be resting at twilight and continue to plague my thoughts during the day. I obsess over these affairs incessantly. I have questions. Questions like:
“Is God pleased with my life?”
“Will the price of oil continue to slide and eventually wreak havoc on our economy?”
“What does it sound like when doves cry?”
“What DOES the fox say???”
“Is Annie okay?”
You see, there is SO much in the world to occupy our thoughts that one hardly knows how to place them in order of importance! But of all the queries in my head jostling for dominance, there is one that has taken center stage and commanded the spotlight. It has perplexed me for nearly two weeks now and I can no longer bear it. I am COMPELLED to ask: “Are white people coming for our waakye?”
You snicker, but it’s a serious question.
A little over a year ago, when the Jollof Wars were at their zenith, a British/Canadian/Other man whose name I have long since deleted from memory, had the absolute gall and impudence to suggest that jollof was actually not a dish of African origin at all. To quote his tweet loosely, he said “Jollof rice was most likely a French invention, as the jollof provided the French troops navigating their way through West Africa with a nutritious, one pot meal that could carry them on the go… Same way curry is a British invention.”
Saa? And yet jollof has not made its way onto the menus of France’s numerous cafes and eateries eh? You don’t grow coffee in France, and yet you have “French coffee”…but somehow jollof – “a nutritious French invention” – never managed to make its way onto the tables of either the French elite or working class? If I could have reached out and e-slapped him, I would have. The impudence! However looking back, I can’t blame him for wanting to Columbus something as life affirming as jollof rice. After all, whiting is as whiting does…but this time, he chose the wrong quarry to attempt to conquer. As Jamie Oliver and his lemon wedge discovered, we will fight any adversary who dares to usurp our jollof. In that one thing at least, Africans are united.
Look, my dear white people, many of whom I call friends; you have to understand that this is a very rational fear that we Black people hold. We always have to be on guard, watching and waiting for you to claim credit for our culinary/artistic/cultural intellectual property. You’ve been doing this to us for centuries! You did it with swing, you did it with the blues, you did it with rap, you did it with reggae, you’ve even done it with azonto! We have grumbled through the pain and for the most part accepted that this is the way our relationship is going to work. But when I saw what Whole Foods did to that pot of greens…putting peanuts in greens! … I knew then that waakye couldn’t be far behind; For indeed, waakye is the last frontier for whiteness to conquer and absorb. My heart races with the fury of 10,000 Native American braves just thinking about it!
We beg you with almighty GOD, don’t take waakye from us! Don’t sully it with your blandness. It’s waakye, for chrissake! It’s manna from the heavens!
What is waakye? If you are from the Carribean, the South or anywhere in West Africa, you’ve eaten waakye before. Your grandmother has cooked it. Your mother makes it when she’s feeling nostalgic for home. It most likely goes by a simpler name in your abode…something as mundane as “rice and peas”. But YOU know as well as I that rice and peas is not so ordinary a thing.
It is magic.
It is fantasy.
It is the foundation of every good working man/woman’s meal! And it is the simplicity of rice and peas that makes it so complex – that you could look at a bowl of brown rice and black-eyed peas and imagine limitless options to enhance its uncomplicated splendor.
You might boil an egg and lay it on the side.
You might smother it in stewed beef.
You might garnish it with gari/shredded lettuce/spaghetti (if you want to get really fancy with it!).
There are SO many things to marry waakye with! … Except whiteness. Waakye must never unequally yoke itself with the darkness of the European culinary mind. Because suddenly, without warning, waakye will be paired with kale, or peaches, or peanuts, or some other ungodly thing.
I am shivering just thinking about it.
Friends, we must protect waakye. For if we do not, we will never recover from its loss. They will strip waakye of all its Blackness – just like Napoleon did when he blasted the noses and lips off the Sphinx – and we’ll be left with nothing but a fast fading memory of the once great thing we held in our possession. We will lose control of the narrative. You see what they did in the movie Gods of Egypt?
Stand and fight! Don’t let them do that to waakye.