Events & Festivals

San Francisco Bay Area Festivals El Cerrito

El Cerrito - Nigerian Yam Festival


Events & Festivals San Francisco Bay Area Festivals El Cerrito

El Cerrito - Nigerian Yam Festival

rworange | | Oct 17, 2005 04:56 AM

Sorry about not posting an advance about this, but I was unclear about if this was a charity event … it wasn’t … and the food was free. The only charge was for the Nigerian drinks – Palm Wine ($5) and a non alcoholic malt beverage, Malta Hatuey ($3).

This celebration is the Nigerian version of Thanksgiving or harvest festival.

The menu was: Asaro, moi-moi, dodo, stewed goat meat, jollof rice, coconut rice, black-eyed peas, fried yam chips, fried chicken, and fruit salad. The ladies of the parish did the cooking and the food was served buffet style.

Everyone agreed the moi-moi, a mildly spiced bean sponge cake from Southern Nigeria. was excellent. Ingredients can include beans, smoked fish, red pepper, tomatoes, vegetable oil, spices and salt.

The Asaro (yam porridge), was yam pieces cooked in a red sauce. This was a close second to the moi moi. The density and firmness of the yam was very pleasant and the sauce was complex and smoky. One web recipe listed as its ingredients: spinach, plantain, palm oil, smoked and fresh fish, ground shrimp, onions, fresh hot peppers, black pepper, ginger, uzuza leaves, salt and curry powder. The lady who made this recipe knew what she was doing and I am guessing many of those ingredients were used.

The dodo, sliced fried plantains, were pleasantly sweet and a little oily.

Jollof rice was like a mild Spanish rice cooked with ground tomatoes, peppers and spices.

St. John’s Church on San Pablo Road holds this every year. It started with a Mass with Nigerian dancers. More than half the people were dressed in colorful dashikis including the priests. As one priest said “On St. Patrick’s day, everyone wears green and is Irish. Today you are all African. Do the best you can.”

There were lovely songs in six Nigerian languages, Igbo, Esan, Hausa, Edo, Uehobo, and Yoruba. There was more dancing and music afterward in the school auditorium where the food was served.

The Ezinwanne Dance Group and drummers performed. More later about the cultural diversity of this parish, but one of the udu drum players was a Korean woman who sang in a Nigerian language. She was good. Think the type of chanting at the very beginning of Disney’s Lion King. This woman could wail.

While the children’s dance troupe performed, people would walk up to them and touch them with money and let it drop to the floor. I asked the table about this and they said it was just financial support for the troupe. However, reading the link below there is a mention that many villages have a special Rainmaker, usually a very powerful "magical" person (who needs to be placated with lots of money!). I’m wondering if there was a connection, Catholic or not. If you ever go to Mexico for the Lady of Guadalupe day celebration, a lot of what goes on there has very little to do with the church but rather with ancient beliefs that precede Christianity in Mexico. Old traditions don’t fade easily.

I did ask around my table if there were any Nigerian restaurants in the area and the answer was no, but one of the markets in Emeryville sold some African products. I really don’t know much about African food, but looking at some of the restaurants in the area, it doesn’t seem that Nigerian food is on the menu.

New York, Chicago, and Houston seem to have the largest Nigerian populations with the most restaurants. I was reading on Chowhound that Chicago even has a Nigerian food truck.

It seems this is a very international and food oriented parish. Next Sunday the Italians are throwing a polenta dinner. After that there will be a Zydeco Dance where gumbo, red beans & rice, sweet potato pie, pecan pie, hot links and more are on the menu. I missed the September International festival which had Filipino, Brazilian, Chinese, American, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Nigerian and plain old American food.

Today the priest mentioned that there were over sixty nationalities represented in the people of the parish. At another mass I went to there was Gospel, Spanish and traditional hymns all in the same Mass. It was really cute to see the little old Italian and Asian ladies clapping enthusiastically and singing Gospel. All groups seem not only tolerate each other, but get along seamlessly. This is what America should look like. Happy Nigerian Yam Festival Day.

Here’s a link about the beverages served today.

This has a link with more about Nigerian Food.



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