Monday Letter

I am one of those that believe in the unique meaning of the transistor radio. Unlike the tedium of replaying a compact disk recording of one’s favourite renditions, you get to stumble on a song that leaves you with a dose of nostalgia and linger of melody in your heart, all day long. That is however provided they do not keep playing every song they know and not those you know.

Nevertheless, I stay glued to the radio in my car Hifi system, in anticipation of fond long-ago memories and a rhythm for my soul. What is however disturbing is the quality of conversation in contemporary radio. As ideally an honest broker and neutral arbiter of national conscience, the press is supposed to lead public opinion and mirror a people’s cultural values. But a discerning listener would agree with me that fuller consideration is usually the casualty of over the air chit chats that would appear to have become the vogue. This I think broadcasting authorities should be made to look into, for even more disturbing is that the issues usually range from the trivial to those with state security implications. It was about Nigerian delicacies the other day, on my favourite station.

Someone with a drolly voice was trying to soft-sell with gleeful approbation, to the one with a sonorous voice, the culinary excellence of Ekpang Nkwukwor, a staple meal of the Efik and Ibibio. That bit of chatter got a disappointing close-out, with the conversant calling on anyone that can prepare the dish for them to sample in the studio. Now, if that was it, I felt that the topic was unfairly treated. To begin with, like every other meal, if 10 persons for instance, should make Ekpang Nkwukwor, with the same ingredients, you would likely end up with 10 different tastes of it. Quality assurance must then be the defining leit motif of world class recipes, such as the Italian Pizza or Chinese food. Such iconic dishes of distinct nativity would have been prepared in one way too many in Sicily or Venice in Italy or in Shangai or Beijing in China. But what has sold them out globally, is a certain minimum standard of ambience and flavour to expect whenever one walks into a Pizza hut or a Chinese restaurant.

This should be in much the same way as two headache patients would take Paracetamol with equal and impartial degree of expectation from the palliative. The discussants should as well have had regard of international culinary expertise as quasi commercial acts of nation states. It would not appear that many a faithful of Chinese restaurant would be that dedicated if they would consider a supposed spitting proclivity of Chinks, such that a sputum-sand-pail is provided for a guest, as one of their norms of good manners and courtesy. In this sense, therefore, savoury Chinese meals must be a good ambassador of their country.

I believe that what countries like Italy and China has basically done is to come up with a formula of modal relish and standard measures of ration, which has been trade-marked in much the same way as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hamburger or Coca Cola and sold as patent rights around the world, in synergy with their foods and drugs administration agencies. This, I believe should be the starting point in selling to the world, our Ekpang, Moi Moi, Isiewu, Chin Chin, Jollof, and our other re-owned national cusines.  

Willie Eleje Abili, Lagos