Food has become one of the greatest saviors against weapons of mass destruction. Fortunately, many African countries have cassava and corn in abundance. During the last reign of Obasanjo in Nigeria, garri became more expensive than rice at a point. Many people started “throwing” curses at OBJ for turning poor man’s food into rich man’s food and rich man’s food into poor man’s food.
Ghana, Ijebu or Okrika garri competed well in and out of Africa as long as the price was right. One fact became obvious, poor men were struggling to buy garri even when at that point it was more expensive than rice. As Africans moved out to Europe and Americas, they bought garri at exorbitant prices by the bag no matter the price or where they have to drive to get it. Before then, they had to settle for wheat as garri or fufu.
Nigeria has made it a necessity to promote cassava as part of bread instead of pure refined wheat imported into the Country. You would expect that since we now have abundance of cassava as one of the major producers, Nigerians would gladly embrace President Ebele for promoting it. Ignorance has crept into the acceptance of cassava in bread. Well, it could also be the fear of unknown.
Unfortunately, the refined wheat in white bread that most people love is just as bad as the fear of diabetes people pointed to in cassava. In the wheat producing countries, effort and public health education is on to switch to whole grain flour or multi-grain flour. It is very difficult to change habits in any country. But since people want to live longer, we are becoming receptive to food changes in our lifestyle.
Nutritionists tell us that refined food such as white bread is unhealthy and the more natural the food as garri, the better because of the content of the fiber. Suddenly some people now realize that cassava is starch and most of our food in Africa is starch. The same is true though in Asia countries where rice, a starch is part of main diet. The only difference in Europe and America is the amount of animal protein consumed with fries.
The days diaspora Africans clamored for European and American foods are coming to an end. Africans now buy garri in bulk where ever they are and if they cannot afford bulk purchase, buy with someone else and share. In those days, only rich people could afford to send food in abundance to relatives overseas. No more. The more educated Africans are, the more they realize that our foods are better as whole grain and unrefined.
If oyibo people want to buy their food whole grain and natural like ours, they have to go to specialties markets and stores. So we may be lucky at home where cassava can be turned into varieties retaining most of its fiber which is good for digestive system and helps the colon free and clean because of its rich fiber. Many of us eat these varieties of cassava, cocoyam and yam morning, noon and night. That may be overkill.
There was a governor that proudly proclaimed he only ate pounded yam three times a day. It all depends on what you eat the pounded yam with three times a day. There are orishirishi in terms of varieties of meat, fish and mixed vegetables that can compensate for the monotony of pounded yam. Yet most people do not complain about eating rice, French fries or white bread daily. Food is more an habit than a balanced diet.
Our schools of nutrition, chefs and mama-put-e must step up and be creative; so that we can appreciate what is grown and turned into finished product for consumption at home. Nigerians are kicking against inclusion of cassava in bread because we are used to refined flour. The producers of wheat are running away from refined flour for the same reason Nigerians are complaining about diabetes or high level of triglyceride from sugar.
Mama-put-e must learn variety from villages and schools. Africans also consume protein even if they can’t afford as much animal protein as the rich folks in their country. Beans are good source of protein and the variety of rich vegetables in African diet make up for the vitamins we need as part of a balanced diet. Beans are also prepared in variety of ways by turning it into flour mixed with ingredients to fry, bake and cook whole.
Just as important is the economic reason for finding variety of uses for our cassava. Nutritionists have advised us against too much protein since Atkins diet got some rich people that could afford it into trouble for eating meat all the way without side dish or “shocking” it with vegetables. Some claimed heart disease from too much animal fat killed Dr. Atkins. The lesson is, desist from old habit of egg, bacon and sausage daily.
Mediterranean diet made up of fruits, vegetables, fish and oils are highly recommended but it also points to the need for balanced diet. Europeans consume smaller portions but more frequently than Americans. They eat more pastries (white flour) rich in butter (fat) than Americans but are healthier? Indeed, nutritionists educate us it is unsaturated oil and fat we consume that matter as combination of fish rich in omega-3-6 fatty acids.
While preaching fruit and vegetables, friends cautioned on how dangerous fruits can be for those suffering from diabetes. Fruit is good because it has fiber to the sweet taste instead of empty calories of all-purpose corn syrup fructose in most food. But those suffering from diabetes must be careful of sweet diets anyway. This is why it is better to consult nutritionists instead of physicians without added training in nutrition.
If it all seems complicated, it boils down to moderation, smaller portion of food, colors in varieties. There is food in every country and there should be more in Africa where there are more arable lands than Europe and America. Since we refuse to appreciate our own, investors are coming from Asia, Europe and Americas to lease our land for 100 years so that they can grow food all year round and export them back to their contries.
United State is a Corn Republic. You can hardly taste anything in USA without corn. It is High Fructose Corn Syrup HFCS that rules the Country. Apart from corn oil, corn bread, corn meal, popcorn, it is fed to most animal products served on the table. Fructose HFCS has replaced sugar (sucrose) on food tables. Corn is also turned into methane added to petrol for cars. Needless to point out, it is highly subsidized by the US Government.