Anthony Bourdain Goes to Lagos
“I’ve never been in a country where everybody is working so hard at something”
Anthony Bourdain on Lagos
I had heard of but never watched an episode of Antony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Anyone who knows me very well, knows that I am not very adventurous when it comes to food and although I have not lived in Nigeria in eons, all of my comfort food points in the direction of Nigerian cuisine. Jollof Rice continues to be one of my magical stress busters and I have been known to say that things always look a lot better after a bowl of jollof rice, meat is optional. Anyway, I digress. So, the reason I have never watched the show is because, I understood that it was about an intrepid traveler exploring the culinary delicacies of far-flung lands and what pulled me to last night’s episode was that he took his viewers to Lagos – the city that shaped and formed me.
I already knew going in that there was no way he could cover Nigerian cuisine in an hour so I was curious to see what he would be able to touch on. I was surprised and a little bit disappointed that he did not feature moin-moin: an all-time Nigerian staple and a personal favorite, I can imagine there may have been a lot more footage that did not make it to the final cut. Mr. Bourdain more than made up for this deficit by introducing me (and possibly others) to aspects of Nigeria cuisine that I was completely ignorant of. For instance, having only just discovered the benefits of moringa, I had not realized that it was part of our diverse Nigerian cuisine.
As this was my first time watching the show, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was not just about food and that he covered social issues as well. Or maybe Lagos/Nigeria is so complex that he could not do this episode without talking about our vicissitudinal existence. In any case, I was super-impressed that he was able to show the different angles and capture the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit of Lagosians: from the folks at the Computer Village, hunkering down and making a living against the incredible odds stacked against them, to the mercenary vision of the tech geeks at Andela.
Too often, many people regard countries like mine as vulnerable and helpless, constantly waiting for a messianic hand-out, but the truth remains that, in the midst of the paucity of resources, there is a strong resilience to make life happen in any shape or form and an understanding that the cost of waiting for someone to make life happen for you is done at your own peril.