Traditional Jollof Vs Jamie Oliver’s Jollof

Jamie Oliver cooked Jollof  Rice and the West African internet community reacted in a way that shocked the world. For those who do not know; Jollof is a religion, it’s a dish so sacred it should have a national holiday.

I am a proud devotee of Jollofnation, so much so that I take offense when people try to tell me I eat too much Jollof. It is not surprising that everyone expected me to have a similar reaction to that of  the thousands of people talking about this issue,  I am sorry to disappoint everyone but I am of a different viewpoint and here is why:

As a food blogger, I am very familiar with the attack that comes with recipes and even presentations that are deemed non traditional,  I have been personally attacked so many times it is now comical. I was told recently that a particular soup I prepared wasn’t right because it wasn’t “Green enough” even though all the  expected ingredients were used.

Let us assess the biggest complaint of Jamie’s Jollof :

 Jamie’s Jollof is not authentic because he made use of “Weird Ingredients”

He never claimed that his recipe was authentic or traditional , he clearly stated that the recipe is his interpretation . His post stated ” Jamie has taken all these variations to heart and come up with his own kind of rice. It’s got lots of European twists in it to make it his own”

what constitutes an authentic Jollof recipe anyway?

There are lots of variations even within West Africa. I know some Nigerians that will not be caught dead with Ginger in their Jollof and most Ghanians that I know will never cook Jollof without it. There are even debates on the type of rice to use, some think it should be scented long grain rice while others think parboiled rice work best.

To put things in perspective, here are some  unique variations from popular West African Food Blogs:

1QFoodPlatter: Uses thyme but not curry and frys the rice before adding stock / water

Afrolems: uses Bay leaves and Garlic in her recipe

Dooney’s Kicthen : Uses Olive oil in her version

Lohi’s Creations : Uses allspice in her version

Betumi Blog: Uses fresh grated ginger and black/white pepper in her recipe

9jafoodie:  uses Basmati rice and tomato paste (puree)

I ask again, who is to decide what constitute an authentic Jollof rice recipe?

The common thread in all these recipes is Maggi , I will bet a million dollars that the Wolof people that created the recipe thousands of years ago did not have Maggi, this means that recipes evolve over time and things are added and removed as it passes from generation to generation.

The so called weird ingredients in Jamie’s Jollof:

Cherry tomatoes: I know a lot of great Nigerian cooks who add fresh tomatoes and onions to Jollof after it’s cooked. I think the cherry tomatoes serve the same purpose

Coriander and flat leaf parsley : These are flavor enhancers which I think will work great  in Jollof especially when Thyme isn’t used

Vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped : This is a traditional ingredient found in all the jollof recipe from the websites listed, the fact that this was chopped not pureed makes absolutely no difference to the dish

– 1 lemon, cut into wedges : The key  here is ” to Serve”, which means optional to use. The man did not add lemon into the rice biko

Some have argued that Jamie’s interpretation of Jollof is a great example of cultural appropriation, that his dish might come to be the international expectation for what Jollof is supposed to entail. This notion might come from a good place and I am all for preserving our heritage, but, the thought that one chef’s interpretation of a dish as grand as Jollof will wipe out the history and pride behind it is ludicrous.

What do you think about this issue? Is this even an issue?

In Jollof solidarity forever!!


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