On the eve of her daughter’s wedding in Kwara State, Nigeria, 60-year-old Rinu Yusuf is up at 5:00 am arranging the gifts presented by each member of the family to the soon-to-be bride. I can hear the crackling sound of expensive silver-ware, aluminium pots and pans and all of today’s latest kitchen appliances. I can also perceive the tickling aroma of fresh, tropical garden spices and the sensational fragrance of North-African Bukhoor. But that’s not all; neatly put together were an ordered set of ancient cooking tools, making me wonder if they would ever be of need to the bride.
Upon a lengthy conversation with Rinu, I discovered that many older West-African women practically have two sets of kitchen tools; the modern ones which are basically for “show” and the rough, almost rarely modified “ancient” ones with which the real cooking is done.
“The ancient tools are the secret of our magical, mouth-watering cuisines”. Rinu says“You can’t compare traditionally made pounded-yam with the one ground with a machine”.
Upon entering Rinu’s kitchen, I was welcomed by the sight of modern gas cookers, electric microwave, casseroles, electric glass blenders and mixers, but according to her, these are mere “adornments for visitors’ sight-seeing.” Her real ‘time-honoured’ cooking tools lie in the pantry which opens into her backyard where she does all the rough work.
“I was taught to cook the ancient way,” says Rinu’s daughter, Jummai, the soon-to-be bride who will be moving with her husband to the United Kingdom, “And although I’ve learnt to cook with many modern tools, I still can’t dispense with the rudimentary old tools. They will always feel like home to me.”
I got a chance to experience this during the wedding and could practically testify to the difference in taste between foods prepared using ancient cooking tools and those prepared in a modern way. After tasting Rinu’s pounded yam served with hot, spicy, lamb spinach soup, you most certainly wouldn’t question her methods.
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