This is one of those days that my taste buds are on a full scale rebellion against my current state of affairs with regards to the nature of my meals. Somehow I had seamlessly graduated from the typical Lagos Island staple meals to a more gourmet kind of New Yorkish cuisines without any guilt of abandonment to those delicacies that strengthened my bones and made me more hopeful of a better life. Funny how we despise the things that we so cherish when we find something that outclasses them? Those days when I flip magazines that display foreign dishes, my tongue begs for an escape beyond the boundaries of the lips, just for a sneak peak at what the eyes are communicating to the sensory organs, creating a flood of saliva rushing over my wash-red flab.
I had thought to myself that I wasn’t the kind that could be affectionately attached to anything that would create a longing feeling in its absence. I could easily let go, especially in the light of something new and thrilling. I longed to dine in the Olive Gardens and the Chart Houses, while snacking on the revered New York Pizza, and relishing a hot cup of Starbucks Frappuccino; after the weird routine of inhaling the pleasant odor, perhaps to catch a feeling of the contents in their original state. Have I been disappointed thus far? I wouldn’t say so. I have my days when my bowels literally run ahead of me looking for something in the classic food network recommendations, and confessing the Burger Kings and allures of the Big Macs do place a spell which I so effectively dispel. But in all, there remains this inner feeling that I just ate something that just ain’t right.
Flashback… flashback! I keep smelling things when I walk through the busy streets of the Big Apple. From the open backdoors of the classy diners, where the bourgeois plot their rip offs, and from the moving stands of the Egyptian or Moroccan rice and beef vendors, where the simple converge for a quick fix, comes a combustion of sensual smells that gets you frozen at the T-Junction confused on where to head for lunch. The Indian and Arabian shacks make matters worse as their spices top off a day of dribbling papillary desire and map the food journey homewards. Altogether, I sadly strongly perceive the odour of Ewa Agoyin Agege Bread. From that point, nothing I eat satisfies me until my rebellious internals get satisfied with their abandoned delight.
Oh the days of early Saturday mornings in Lagos Island, when after a duel of Monkey-Post street soccer, usually disrupted by oncoming vehicles, we quickly settle down to a hot bowl of muddy beans blessed with a dangerously blood-coloured burnt stew, and accompanied with a loaf of bread weighing almost three pounds (Only an Angel knows if the dough actually rises before baking). The Ewa Agoyin is usually hawked by brightly dressed plump women from Benin Republic, while they recruit a partner who effortlessly balances a tray of Agege bread to complete the perfect picture of a Saturday’s delight. One fresh loaf and five tablespoon slaps of Ewa on a flat plastic plate goes for 70 naira, and you are on your way to restoring the bubbling essence of your youth (whatever that means).
What’s more exciting is that before the eating, there is the frantic mixing of the oily stew into the muddy Ewa for an eye-pleasant brownish creamy paste. This makes the mouth bleed with tears with every passing second. The feeling is indescribable when the lumps of Agege bread creamed with Ewa Agoyin flush down the throat. It’s like a sudden jolt of current rushing through your veins, flowing from a union of taste, smell, and touch. The sheer relish is simply reinvigorating. It is like Burger on steroids. While there is the classic style of tearing the bread and curving it into an arch so as to graciously scoop the Ewa, while tilting the plate sideways, there is the spooky style of slicing open the bread and pouring on the Ewa as though one is applying butter. The eating style that really ticks me off is boring a hole from the top side of the bread and pouring in the Ewa…eww!!! However, no matter the approach, there is no reproach to the immense satisfaction you get from downing this almighty dish. And of course you never forget to wash it down with a chilled 50cl bottle of Fanta.
Life was truly beautiful. Although you lack proper motion after consumption, which is probably because all secreted bodily juices are assigned to the mouth and stomach, you suddenly become friendlier and see the sweetness in everything around you. It’s a state of highness that provokes one unto good works. Interestingly there have been several Ewa Agoyin theories that have risen over the years to explain why this delicacy is so seductive and addictive, especially to young men. Honestly, I am least interested; even if I am being jazzed. As an Efik man, I thought nothing can draw me away from the love of Edikang Ikong soup and Ekpang Nkukwo, or the perfection in Fufu and Afang soup. But, without the lessening of the role these Efik dishes play in my culinary repertoire, I have found me a place for this rugged meal without any recourse to my proclivity for classy dishes. I totally fell for the temptation of street eating when I came in contact with this rarely inviting meal.
This is my ode to a dish that has kept a stranglehold on me despite my effective distance from it. I can barely imagine that I could afford to compose a totally unnecessary piece in honour of Ewa Agoyin and Agege bread. You can call me jobless or crass, and I risk sounding like a misguided grubbing aficionado, but spare me some slack here. I am merely penning down the thoughts of the average Lagos boy who has so desperately wanted to thank this combination for giving worth and colour to that part of our lives in Eko. The food culture in Lagos cannot be complete without the worthy mention of Ewa Agoyin and Agege bread. They should be instituted into the hall of fame of Nigerian dishes that have gained wide acceptance. While I relish the thought of having a go at this meal again despite my location, I am also short of frustration for not being able to reproduce the same quality it in my kitchen. Oh blimey! Can someone please tell me if there is a frozen and exported package of Ewa Agoyin and Agege bread in the international market? It might be good business you never know (a good place for a LOL to a silly suggestion).
…Excerpt from the book “My Tale of Two Cities”