The Spectacular Rise of the Nigerian Food Festivals

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Saturdays are known for owambes or hanging out with family and friends but last Saturday was different in Abuja with the maiden edition of “Nigerian Flavours”, Nigeria’s premier gastronomy and music festival. But it’s not for locals alone, traveling foodies know that one of the major highlights of visiting a new place is sampling a regional grub. Omolola Itayemi  writes

Now, if the words “festival food” conjure images of undercooked moi-moi and watery jollof-rice, then you are in for a surprise. Nigerian Flavours has upped the ante adding music, fashion and comedy to gastronomy.

The past three years have seen an explosion in popularity of dedicated food festivals, with events celebrating Nigerian local flavours, locally-made drinks, veganism and street food on the foodie calendar. You can learn a lot from eating like a local, and partaking in a famous food fest. So it came as no surprise when fun-loving Nigerians from every strata of the society within and outside the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja thronged the serene Harrow Park, Wuse II, to celebrate the festival on March 17.

One-day of culinary bliss of  swallows and extravagant native soups; delicious Nigerian jollof-rice served with fried meat; decadent small chops like asun, akara, puff-puff dinners; finger foods tastings and cold kunu, zobo and other local drinks savoured by guests. It was definitely a poster child of Nigerian culinary staples.

The event, aimed at showcasing the rich culinary diversity of Nigerian cuisine and delicacies, is an initiative of the Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in line with the objectives of the “Tour Nigeria”.

Tour Nigeria” is a brand of NTDC, which was conceived to drive domestic consumption of Nigeria’s tourism assets and products, create new channels of tourism markets, generate employment and increase spending in the economy. It also aims at promoting domestic and international tourism to Nigeria by ensuring that the nation takes advantage of her population, its density, its wealth and its unique culture.

The event, living up to the rationale behind its emergence, showcased varieties of Nigerian foods and beverages by the over 60 various vendors across the six geo-political zones including beverage vendors, musical performance by Nigerian Artists, merchandizing opportunities for arts, crafts and fashion, safe children’s games area, affordable farmers’ market, great comedy and others serving Abuja as a destination for fun, hospitality and relaxation opposed to its boring and stiff administrative ambience.

 In the evening, the dexterity of the likes of the foremost producer and Mavin Records boss Don Jazzy, Don Jazzy; D Banj; Korede Bello; Reekado Banks; Terry Apala; CDQ; Jimmie and DJ Kay, among others artistes, electrified the atmosphere later in the day.

Briefing the journalists at the historic event, Coker, said Nigeria’s tourism industry had continued to develop with new frontiers of tourism potentials being explore on a daily basis.

This, he attributed to the genuine interest of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in scooping every available revenue from tourism, to shore up the nation’s revenue and foreign earnings.

Meanwhile, food and drinks vendors expressed joy at the high patronage at the event as guests were seen munching and drinking away while they networked.

A mixologist at Sip Easy, (a cocktail and mocktail stand) Mr. Emeka Nwagwu, said that the turnout for the drinks had been very impressive and he expected to sell during the night show.

“We have a steady high patronage now and we know we will sell all we brought when the musicians and younger people come during the music concert,” he said.

Mr. Ayo Onigbogi, Head Chef at Ayo’s Grill and Asun, said his food was fast selling out especially the ‘Asun’, seeing that he was one of the few people that sold the snack.

“I am selling and I am happy I came here. People are buying from me because the ‘Asun’ has a lot of Nigerian flavour that they enjoy,” he said.