Last Thursday, I received another lesson in my cultural education, courtesy of Go Eat Give at its August Destination Dinner. The country of focus was Nigeria, a populous African nation that has been plagued by a lot of social issues recently, resulting in an image that isn’t very flattering or inviting. Leading up to this event, I did a lot of research and learned that Nigeria has a lot to boast about. To find out more, check out my first blog post here. Although the atmosphere of this event was more serious than the previously held Destination Dinners, I think it was one of the most informative and culturally educational one I experienced.
The event started with mingling among the 40 or so guests. Guests had the chance to try a few different kinds of African juices, and samplings from an independent wine company called Spodee. The wine was more of a cocktail mix as it was made with moonshine and served on ice, but was still very enjoyable. Waiters walked around serving a traditional Nigerian appetizer, chicken gizzards. I’m not going to lie, while I am normally open to trying new things, there was no way I was going to try chicken gizzards. However, I have been told by the brave souls who did try the unfamiliar snack that it was actually pretty good. Even though some people didn’t try the dish, it still serves as a great example of the cultural education that took place that evening.
Once we took our seats, a variety of dishes were served both family and buffet style. Some of these included Nigerian meat pies, Kpof Kpof (African style donuts), Moin Moin (bean cakes), Dodo (fried plantains), Edikang Ikong (vegetable type soup), fried fish, oven baked chicken, beef and goat stew, Jollof rice, rice and peas, and a few more. For dessert, Nations Café served a variety of dry tea cakes, all of which looked delicious. I didn’t get the chance to try much of the food, but my favorite by far was the Kpof Kpof and the Jollof rice. Although the food was presented differently than what one would normally see in America, it wasn’t that unfamiliar to me. This definitely shattered some of the pre-conceived notions I had about Nigerian culture, and was a lesson in my cultural education for the evening. Nigeria, although seems so completely foreign, and in many ways it is, it wasn’t nearly as un-relatable as I thought it might be.
In addition to copious amounts of good food, there was plenty of entertainment. The keynote speaker was Nigerian Ambassador Geoffrey I. Teneilabe. He spoke primarily about the economy of Nigeria and emphasized how important education is to Nigerians. According to the ambassador, there are Nigerians in almost every sector of the professional world, and Nigerians are the eighth-most educated minority group in the United States. He also encouraged the audience to visit Nigeria and to bring business to the country, as it is trying to open up its global economy.
After his speech, guests were surprised by a performance of an authentic Nigerian music and dance called Ekpe, which Nigerians actually consider a masquerade. According to Nigerian folklore, Ekpe is a mysterious spirit who lives in the jungle and presides at various cultural ceremonies. I don’t think any description I could give of this performance would do it justice, so make sure to check out the video below and see it for yourself. It was, by far, one of the most interesting parts of the evening.
For me, the most prominent takeaway from the evening wasn’t necessarily what I learned, but the pride that was evident in its people despite the bad reputation Nigeria has gotten in the news recently. Many native Nigerians attended the event, and they all had something to say about how amazing their country is. It was very interesting to hear what someone who actually knows the country and culture has to say, and enlightened me in a lot of surprising ways. In my opinion, Destination Nigeria gets a ten on the cultural education scale.
~ By Allie Williams, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia. Allie explores her passion for food, travel, and learning about different cultures though her internship with Go Eat Give.