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Monday, 15 April 2013
Ewa Agoyin and Agege Bread: The fading delicacy of Lagosians
Ewa Agoyin and Agege Bread: The fading delicacy of Lagosians
There is no way I can write my autobiography without including a delicacy that has saved my life many a times from the claws of hunger,the delicacy that has saved the lives of many children in the poverty stricken streets of bariga and many other rural areas of Lagos state, the delicacy that hits your intestines and gives you the energy to trek miles,gives brick layers strength to work all day and eradicate all thoughts of hunger for hours, please allow me to re introduce the award winning Ewa Agoyin!!! I came across and article online about this delicacy and decided to share ..please continue below
Saying that Ewa Agoyin, a meal of mashed beans, topped with specially prepared palm-oil stew, was one popular meal in which captured virtually every Lagosian’s heart, would not be an exaggeration.
Coined from Ewa, a Yoruba word meaning beans and Agoyin, a name that was used by Nigerians to describe people from Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic, Ewa Agoyin is simply a word used to describe how people from these regions make their beans meal. It is, however, more peculiar to the Togolese and Cotonou people.
Ewa Agoyin was introduced into the Nigerians’ diet by the migrating Agoyin people, who came to Nigeria as early as far back as the sixties. It became more popular in the 80s’, until its fame and craving for it began to dissipate in the mid-nineties.
One of the special things about Ewa Agoin was the way it cut across all the social strata or economic classes in the Lagos metropolis. It is a meal, arguably loved by all, the poor, the middle class and the rich, cheap, but definitely unique; a perfect escape for the boring Nigerian method of preparing beans. According to its lovers, even people, who did not ordinarily like beans professed love for Ewa Agoyin. Some people preferred to combine with yam, others preferred garri sprinkled on it, some others chose dodo (fried plantain), ranging on personal preference.
The most popular combination was, however, with the equally famous Agege bread especially when freshly baked, soft and slightly stretchy (Ewa Agoyin was probably the reason behind the Agege bread’s fame too).
Recounting her love for Ewa Agoyin, United States of America (USA) based Adebisi Shodare said, “the first time I ate Ewa Agoyin was at a cousin’s place at Bariga. I was about six years old then and it always made me want to go to their place every holiday I had. And then, when I was old enough, I would drive all the way down from Ikoyi to Bariga just to buy Ewa Agoyin. Having relocated from Nigeria for a while now, I miss it so much.”
Preferring her Ewa Agoyin with fried plantain, Adebisi added that, “whenever I visit Nigeria, I search everywhere for it and make sure I eat a lot of it before leaving the country again.”
However, the food had, over the years, surprisingly suffered a huge decline not only in popularity but in the savouring taste it offered back then. Mrs Janet Samuel, a Nigeria-based Togolese, who sells Ewa Agoyin at Ebute-Metta, said it was more popular back then because it was usually hawked and the hawkers could easily access the nooks and crannies.
“At some point,” she added, “we began to get arrested for hawking and we had to stop. We still hawk it very early in the mornings or late in the evenings, to avoid getting arrested. It is our major source of survival here in Nigeria, so we take the risk,” she said.
Asked on the recipe for the meal, particularly the sauce, which is the basic uniqueness of Ewa Agoyin, Janet, after a little reluctance shared, “we make the stew with seedlings from red pepper only, it is usually grinded together with ginger. This is then poured into hot boiling palm oil, salt is added, you allow it to fry for a while, when its almost done, already sliced onions are poured into it to for flavour and aroma, stir the stew till well fried and that’s it,” she said.
For the preparation of the beans which is much easier, brown beans is cooked till it gets really soft and then mashed with a pestle, according to Janet. Speaking with Dede, who is from Cotonu, she said that she does not mash the whole beans together in the pot but mashes a portion that is about to be served/sold.
The sauce preparation recipe was, however, same.
Asked if it was peculiar to any part of Togo, she said it was a general meal in her country, just the way rice is eaten here.
Asiata, another Togolese who is based in Nigeria and sells Ewa Agoyin, said that the change or decline in the taste of the food was not because the original makers of the meal were no longer up to the task but that there were a lot of Nigerians who now also make it for sale and were incapable of preparing it as well as the Agoyins will, try as they might.
“A lot of people, especially Yorubas in Nigeria, have also delved into the Ewa Agoyin business and they are not getting it right. We were born into it, they are only trying to imitate but really cannot get it as perfectly as a Togolese would prepare it,” Asiata proudly said.
According to Mrs Titilola Osho, the decline in the popularity of Ewa Agoyin was because of the arrival of more varieties of food over the years, “back then, meals like rice was sort of like a special meal, taken on Sundays or during parties or special occasions,” but now, she added it had become the everyday meal of the average Nigerian on a daily basis.
She added that the popularity it used to enjoy was because it was one of the fastest meals you could get around but that the arrival of the two-minute noodles and several other fast meals also contended with Ewa Agoyin in that regards, generally weakening its hold on the diet of Lagosians.
Seun, a medical doctor’s opinion on the decline of Ewa Agoyin and Agege bread’s popularity could also be attached to the awareness given Nigerians on the dangerous chemical, bromate, put in the bread by bakers to make it puffed, which, according to research could cause blindness.
“Whenever I bought Agege bread back then, the next thing that came to my mind was getting Ewa Agoyin to back it up, but since the bromate awareness in Agege Bread, I stopped buying it, so Ewa Agoyin gradually faded from my mind. But I have to admit that I still miss that combination very much”, he said.
In a lot of ways, this is quite true and there are certainly many people out there who, having diverted from taking the Agege bread, had Ewa Agoyin gradually faded from their minds.
In Babatunde’s opinion, just like almost every other thing being produced in Nigeria which is fast losing value, so has the Ewa Agoyin delicacy, as it is no longer as popular as it used to be back then.
It is worthy of note that the deteriorating Nigerian economy may also be responsible for the gradual fading of the Ewa Agoyin and Agege bread, because, as mentioned earlier, it was a meal for the poor. The Agege bread is now bought at the rate of N40 against what used to sold back then for 20 naira. Those times you could still buy N5 Ewa Agoyin but that is no more, because the least you can get is N20 which is about the same quantity as what used to be sold for N5 or even less.
Ewa Agoyin may no longer be ubiquitous as it used to be and getting it may be more difficult now, but it is one meal that will always remain in the hearts of Lagosians. If you never had the opputunity (or luck) to eat EwaAgoyin and Agege bread, hopefully, Lagosians claim that it won’t go into full extinction and you may be lucky enough to taste it someday.