Eat Your Veggies (and Drink Your Milk)!

One of the first things many people ask us is what kind of food we eat in Nigeria.  I’ve actually been quite surprised by the variety of foods available here in Jos — honestly, before we came, I thought I would be eating yam everyday (which I’m not terribly fond of, I must admit.  However, the yam here is quite different than the yams we get in the States.  They’re white, not sweet and a lot starchier, really.).  (Speaking of yam, Nigeria has one of the highest rates of twin births, and many people believe it’s because of the yams.  Hmm.  Maybe I should’ve eaten more yams and tried that theory out!)

Grocery shopping is, of course, much different, something we’ve mentioned before.  There’s no such thing as one stop shopping here.  A trip to the market, in fact, can often take 1/2 day at least, and I sometimes find that when I return from shopping, I’m too exhausted to do anything with the food I’ve just bought.  The hot sun, bartering for prices on everything, the crowds and the smells are draining! 

We do have a small market just around the corner from our house, and Judah and I will often walk there to pick up “a few things.”  (It’s like the convenient stores at home but with 6 different stalls and vendors.)  It really is quite handy, as we’ve discovered that we need to go shopping quite frequently for things like fruits and vegetables, as they don’t keep very long here.  Quite frustrating, really, when we will dice tomoatoes in the morning to use for that evening and the next, and by the next day, they are sometimes spoiled.  It’s befuddling. 

Vegetables tend to be something that most anyone here can afford, but fruit seems to be in a different arena.  Aside from bananas and oranges, we’ve heard people say that fruit is food for the rich man.  It’s considered to be a luxury. 

Shopping!

This is a couple days’ worth of produce for us.

  • Lettuce – 30 naira  ($0.20)
  • Tomatoes – N100  ($0.67)
  • Apples – N400  ($2.67)
  • Bananas – N200 ($1.33)
  • Carrots – N100 ($0.67)
  • Cucumber N60 ($0.40)
  • Diced carrots – N20 each ($0.13) — We joke that this is our version of convenience food.  The women who sell the vegetables will just sit at their stands during the day and chop, chop, chop carrots and green beans between customers.  Most Nigerians buy them for jaloff rice, but we use them for just about anything that we would put chopped vegetables in: soups, moi moi, etc., and we often freeze them so we can chuck them in soup at the last minute.  Handy dandy! 

This is the Nigerian version of iceberg lettuce. Much greener and leafier than what we get in the States, isn't it? And just look at that cute little, uh, berg-y thing in the middle.

We really are grateful for the variety of food available here and even the increase of options in “imported” food.  For example, we can now buy PRETZELS here!  I’ve never been a huge pretzel fan, but when the other options are crackers that are sweet and, let’s face it, slightly stale, bring on the salted treats! 

I’m also quite excited because yesterday we found MILK to buy – like not powdered milk… Real live, straight from the cow milk!!!!  Oh, milk, how I have missed you so!  Chris was refined for the mission field from a young age, he was, because he grew up on powdered milk (Who knew that would be the most difficult transition to make??  ;)).  I, however, am a milk snob.  Milk is one of my loves.  I can do powdered milk with oatmeal, cereal… but cookies?  Plain?  Alas, I can’t bring myself to do it.  It’s a bit expensive here, though, so I buy it maybe once a month, if that – twice if I’m on a milk craving roll. 

For some reason, though, it has been unavailable for more than four months.  How is that possible?  Just poof!  Vanished from everywhere.  I was really craving it, too.  At the dairy store (Yes, there’s a dairy store.  Because milk is pretty expensive to most Nigerians, they literally sell it by the glass.  People go in and order a class of milk like they do a cup of coffee at home.), they would tell me that the cows weren’t producing milk.  I would ask, “So what, are they all dried up?!” and they would just laugh, as I looked around wondering how the non-milk producing cows were able to help move along the yogurt production, of which there was plenty.  At the bakery where I would go to buy milk as well, it got to the point where as soon as I walked in, the woman would say, “No milk.” 

Turns out that the pipe that transported the milk had busted or something, but don’t worry, it will be fixed by this weekend.

That information was given to me eight weekends ago.

And finally, yesterday, just when I had given up hope and was settling in to the fact that I would just enjoy a big glass of milk when we got back to the States, there it was.  Milk.  Glorious milk.  Beckoning me and waiting to be consumed with a gooey, chocolately brownie.

Sigh.  Life is good.

More on food later, as it seems that all this milk and brownie talk has made me forget what else I was going to say.

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6 thoughts on “Eat Your Veggies (and Drink Your Milk)!

  1. Great post … yup, that pretty well describes shopping in Ethiopia, too. My oldest daughter said “hmm, not sure I could get used to going from store to store to get all the food items … too exhausting.”

    By the time I get done shopping on Friday (also a 1/2 day) and get everything into the cupboards/fridge, it’s eggs and toast for dinner … something simple 🙂

  2. Sounds like I have some adjusting to do. I love milk we usually buy 2 gallons a week. Also the bartering. NOt something i look forward too. You will have to each me this and many other things I’m sure.

  3. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your blog! We are preparing to move to Jos in the spring and I was overjoyed to find all the practical information about life that you shared in many different posts. I laughed so much at different things you wrote and now I feel like I know you a little bit. Can’t wait to actually meet you! I would love to e-mail back and forth a bit if you have the time. Blessing to you!

  4. 1) I HATE powdered milk. Not a fan of milk to begin with, but man . . . I grew up on that nasty stuff

    2) It’s true about the yams (African yams, not Americanized “yams” which are really sweet potatoes)–I remember quite some time ago reading a study about it. They plowed down the yam crops in a village and the incidence of twins went down substantially. They studied it and found something in the yams that contributed to an increased rate of twin births.

    🙂

    Lorraine-who-should-be-working-on-your-paperwork-instead-of-reading-your-blog 🙂

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