Redefining Wonder Woman Series 9: Redefining Nigerian Cuisine

Months ago I stumbled on a Facebook account displaying Nigerian cooking in a way I’ve never known it. Most people don’t know much about African cuisine, talk less of Nigerian. Without chatting to her, it was clear from her blog and social media that she was a woman on a mission – to put Nigerian food on the map. It’s a huge ask to undertake but with 11k and 40.5k on Facebook and Instagram respectively, Dunni is well on the and as if to reinforce her vision, earlier this year, WayFair UK featured one of her recipes on their Father’s day blog. I would say that is quite revolutionary. Hope you like her story.

 Dun

RWW: Tell us a little bit about yourself
DK: My name is Dunni Obata, I am an IT Project Manager and I also have a Bachelors degree in Physiotherapy. I switched careers years ago and have been working in IT for four years now. 

RWW: What is Dooney’s Kitchen about?
DK: How many words would you like? Oh let me see…..Dooney’s Kitchen is first and foremost about documenting Nigerian cooking for posterity. It is a food blog focused on promoting Nigerian food and the possibilities that can stem from it. Dooney’s Kitchen is about breaking barriers and changing the perception of Nigerian cooking. My personal mantra is every Nigerian dish can be Dooney’s Kitchen Redefined.

RWW: What is your earliest memory of food and cooking?
DK: I really can’t pick an earliest memory because believe it or not, I hated food for probably the first 9 – 10 years of my life. Mealtimes were like torture, and my mother wasn’t the type to entertain comments like “I don’t like this food, or I don’t want that dish”. You ate what she cooked for the family, no questions asked. My passion for cooking probably stemmed from two things. Firstly, as the eldest child as well as being female, culturally I was expected to help my mum out in the kitchen. Secondly, and the most influential bit, was the strong need to cook my food MYself. Not that my mother wasn’t a great cook, she is a phenomenal one, but my taste buds were different and even at the age of three, I was aware of that. I knew exactly what I wanted my food to taste like. Cooking gave me the opportunity to make what I want, how I wanted it. 

RWW: Who or what inspires your cooking?
DK:  I was taught to cook by an entire ‘village’, from my mother to grandmothers, aunties and friends. I haven’t had any formal training yet but hope to register on some courses soon. The love of a challenge inspires me. I was the child you didn’t say ‘no’ to, because the next response would be ‘why’? I learnt quickly enough though to say, ‘yes Mummy’, LOL, but with food, I take no prisoners. Hearing “it can’t be done, or it shouldn’t be done that way”, gets the response, “why the heck not?” I also draw inspiration from the oddest places like a conversation with a friend, a TV programme, walking past a food shop. Even my beloved kitchen gadgets inspire me. 

Igbagba Ofofo or Gbagba Fofo. Otherwise known as Okro Peppersoup.

Igbagba Ofofo or Gbagba Fofo. Otherwise known as Okro Peppersoup.

RWW: When did you start blogging and why?
DK: I started blogging in 2013, and I am what you call an accidental blogger, because it wasn’t a decision I came to on my own. A friend of mine convinced me to start blogging. I used to put up display pictures on my BBM and she advised me to set up a blog as way of collating my recipes as well as putting an end to the multiple requests for recipes I was getting. ‘Just do it’, she said. At that time, I don’t think I had ever clicked on a food blog in my life. I didn’t know they existed. Of course I knew about food sites like Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver, but I wasn’t aware of food blogs as much.

RWW: Do you remember the moment you decided that you wanted to put Nigeria food on the world stage?
DK: When I started blogging, it was just an avenue to document my recipes, so I didn’t answer the same question fifty times. As I continued to blog, I realised the information available about Nigerian food was very sparse. Also, I could see that Nigerian food wasn’t perceived as a unique cuisine. It is termed African food, even by Nigerians. That phrase is one of the least favourite things I like to read or see. It symbolises everything that is wrong about how we are perceived as a people. Africa has 53 or is it 54 countries, and why of all the other continents are the individual countries labelled the same? Africa is a continent rich in history, culture and diversity. Why have we let that happen? As someone who loves a challenge, I have made it my personal mission to shine the spotlight on Nigerian food.

RWW: There is obviously the temptation to veer off into mainstream or more popular food. What keeps you focused on Nigerian cuisine?
DK: That is the only food I know, the only food I was brought up on, the only food I truly appreciate. As I said previously, I love the challenge of taking Nigerian food further than our community, so that challenge keeps me focused. 

Rice, Beans & Plantain

Rice, Beans & Plantain

RWW: What has been your experience so far?
DK: The experience has been better than I thought it would be. Expensive and very exhausting, but I love what I do and seeing where I can go with my blog encourages me, even more, to stick with it.

RWW: What do you enjoy most about cooking?
DK: The process. Even the prepping which I am not fond of. However cooking is like music and dance. Components, come together to create magic and I enjoy it. 

DK's Catering Services

Dooney’s Kitchen offers a private chef service

RWW: You are obviously close to your mum. Has blogging about food brought you closer?
DK: Oh it definitely has. She likes to remind of the times we fought over cooking and food. She often says, “thank goodness I didn’t let you win the battle of wills otherwise you wouldn’t have seen what you disliked turn into a success”, Whenever I get stuck on a dish, I speed dial her. When she discovers a new way of cooking something and she calls me to tell me about it. It’s great.

RWW: Do you have any advice for anyone starting a food blog?
DK: Don’t! Just joking. Do it because it is something you want to do. If you want to do it for the fame, it will chew you and spit you out. It is a lot of work, harder than you can imagine. Food blogging is tough – I will tell you that for free. So, be prepared for hard work.

RWW: What is your reaction to people who say you are an inspiration?
DK: I am still not used to it and  I pray that I always maintain that sense of wonder. It never gets old when I hear it and I hope that never changes.

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Frozen Maize Pudding

RWW: What are the highlights so far?
DK: The people I have met through what I do – people  I ordinarily wouldn’t have had access to. The other day Funmi Iyanda (Nigerian broadcaster and journalist) tweeted about Dooney’s Kitchen. Don Jazzy (Nigerian record producer) left a comment on my Moin Moinlette and followed my page. I have been privileged to meet so many successful individuals and entrepreneurs, too many to mention. The networking opportunities the blog has given me, are the highlights for me and of course, I hope to meet Jamie Oliver through what I do. 🙂

Moin Moinlette

Moin Moinlette (Bean Pudding)

RWW: You must have the highest number of kitchen gadgets I’ve even known anyone to have – bordering on an addiction. 🙂
DK: I love kitchen gadgets, because I love shiny things. I am excited my technology. I was also raised with kitchen gadgets. My mother had a number of Kenwood products so as soon as I could afford them, and had a kitchen and store cupboard I could call my own, the purchases started. These kitchen gadgets weren’t designed with Nigerian food in mind and challenging myself to see how I can adapt them to Nigerian cooking, makes the purchase well worth it. I recently made pounded yam using a hand mixer. I bet the people at Kitchen Aid have probably never heard the words pounded yam before. 

RWW: What does the future hold for Dooney’s Kitchen?
DK: World domination. Just joking. : ) Dooney’s Kitchen will be the reference point for all things Nigerian food. Twenty years from now, Nigerian food will be on supermarket shelves and it will feature on the dinner table on millions of homes. I think the problem we have had so far is that our food has been too insular. Dooney’s Kitchen will change the dialogue.

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Thanks Dunni.

If you want Dunni to cook for you, you can contact her via her blog. When she’s got her T.V show and chain of restaurants, remember you read about her here. 😉 In the meantime, you can follow the progress of Dooney’s Kitchen or see more of her mouth watering pictures on www.dooneyskitchen.com, Twitter @DooneysKitchen, Facebook DooneysKitchen and Instagram dooneyskitchen

RWW

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Day 7 Action

The one thing I hate is people being down on themselves. There is kicking yourself for doing something you shouldn’t have done and there is negative, counter-productive, soul destroying behaviour which must be eliminated if the real you is ever going to emerge.

The action for today is to bless someone with your uniqueness. This morning, I was thinking about how I could go about instigating it. I got to work and to be honest, I had forgotten about the action. Then a colleague of mine emails me about being overwhelmed. It turns out that it wasn’t about workload but more to do with skill sets.  His job had evolved over the past few months and he was being asked to deliver work he lacked the skill sets for. He is excellent at what he does but the evolving role is challenging. What is weird is that this is making him question his competence and confidence as a whole.

It’s clearly not his fault and I did not need to think about what to say I simply told him three things:

  • ​You are great at what you do
  • It’s not hopeless, you have choices. Redefine your role with management which includes training needs or look for a new job that utilises your skill sets.
  • Incompetence isn’t the issue, it’s making a square peg fit in a round hole. Something will have to give as it’s not a right fit.
Then he said, thanks for making me feel better. I’ve got my boost for the rest of the day. 🙂
​I’d forgotten one crucial lesson, you don’t have to force or fake who you really are. Once a circumstance arises that warrants your uniqueness, you will instinctively act. That’s how you know the real you.
OK. lunch break over. How are you getting on with your action?

Easter Joke

I’ve been teaching my kids basic kitchen skills like chopping safely with a knife, whisking, how to use the blender, etc.

I had a couple of cakes to bake this weekend so we were perfecting egg cracking. I worked out how to explain it to my daughter and by the end of the day she was cracking eggs perfectly. No more shells in the batter or egg in the table.

As I’m mixing the batter she walks up to me and says “mummy, guess what?” I say, “what?” She responds, “I am now an eggs-pert at cracking eggs”. And with a twinkle in her eyes she leans forward and says, “geddit?”

My sisters will no doubt say she has inherited my rubbish sense of humour.
😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

The Limitations of Having a Vision

Last weekend I spent some time with a friend who talked about a dream of hers and how she was at the place where she was ready to go for it. It’s a very expensive dream to have so I can understand why it’s taken her a while to wrap her head around giving it a go. It’s also a dream that goes against the norm – not always easy to put your head above the parapet.

Having a vision means that you are boxed in. And as you get older, the more you junk stuff you are not interested in and so that vision continues to glare at you more and more.  And if like me you have a vision board on your wall, it stares at you before you go to bed and first thing when you wake up.

You can’t run away from who you are any more than you can can run away from the dreams gestating within you. You can put them on hold or dance around them, but they will always be alive within you waiting for an opportunity to flourish.

When we use the word dream, the tendency is for the mind to always go to some major adventure, project or accomplishment.  The tendency is to let other people’s accomplishments determine what we think a dream is.

A dream is whatsoever your heart desires. A better relationship with your spouse or a loved one, a peaceful home, a healthy diet, time for yourself in a busy world- a dream is whatever you imagine that is not yet a reality.

At some point you’ve got to admit to yourself that you are either not brave enough; hardworking enough; tough enough; committed enough; caring enough; whatever ……….. enough.  At some point you have to admit that just maybe, all along, you are the only one in the way of achieving your dream.

Guilty Working Mum

My daughter is usually in a hurry to get to school and eager to be first in line before they go into their classroom. However, for the last couple of weeks she has insisted that instead of saying goodbye in the courtyards, I walk her to her class and give her a hug and kiss. And then she says that she’d like me to stay with her and that she’ll miss me. Very odd behaviour, particularly if you know my daughter.

I’m working on tenderness in my parenting (eye rolling but essential) so I sit with her; ask her why she wants me to stay and then tears ensue. So I have to stay a little longer and hug and kiss and wipe tears away whilst she sits on my lap. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking I need to get to work. I eventually calm her down and then tell her we’ll so something special when we get home.

The head teacher had observed it all and stops me to ask if everything was OK and promised to monitor her as she also found it to be odd behaviour for my daughter. That got me teary because I was grateful she was in a caring school and I can’t take that for granted. But I was also a mixed bag of emotions for a myriad of reasons.

I think every working mum feels guilty. I was wondering if I wasn’t spending enough time with her. Had I wrapped myself up so much in work that I was neglecting her? You know – those sort of fleeting thoughts.

Silly thoughts really because even if I wasn’t working, I wouldn’t be able to stay with her at school right? Go figure! Anyway, I made a decision to do something with her on her own this weekend. Just to bond.

As I drove to pick her up from school after work, I had visions of her running up to me and giving me one of her infamous bear hugs. I must admit that I was excited about receiving her hug especially after seeing her so distressed this morning. So imagine my surprise, no scratch that – horror,  as I walked towards the courtyard and she starts to back away – wailing that she didn’t want to go home, she wanted to stay at school.

Note to self- you are doing a BRILLIANT job as a mother and your children are fickle so don’t trust them! Simples!

Thought of the Day

Life isn’t about looking over someone else’s fence and wishing their garden was like yours. Appreciate your garden, assess and determine what would be required to make it flourish.

-RWW

Redefining Wonder Woman Series 6: Friends With My Rapist (part 2)

WARNING: Please note that this post is an account of an individual’s rape and might cause some distress.

Following yesterday’s post, I posed some questions to my friend just to try and understand how she overcame being raped and was able to move on. Here’s her response.

RWW: I think a few people might be shocked that you continued to date this guy. Didn’t you think it would send the wrong message?
Friend: Absolutely! Everyday I was in that relationship I told him non-verbally that all was good and he had done nothing wrong. Any possibility of him confronting the truth was being eroded day by day. A conversation with a close friend of mine ended with her saying “paint it how you like, he raped you!” I didn’t feel I had revealed anything but she had her suspicions from that night she awoke to find me asleep on the doorstep where he had dropped me. I was too ashamed to ring the bell and wake her up when I returned at 4.00am. She had seen it in me, she said, my whole countenance was different.

RWW: Can you recall your rationale for staying in a relationship with him?
Friend: Yes. Remember back then I didn’t value myself much. I didn’t feel that I could tell anyone because I blamed myself and my dream of being a virgin on my wedding day was crushed so my thinking was ‘hey, maybe I can make this work….’
Was I thinking of marriage? No. But I was certainly thinking of making the most of a bad situation so to speak.

RWW: What was your turning point?
Friend: After the conversation with my friend, I did a lot of soul searching and broke it off. I knew regardless of what had happened God didn’t want this for me……and I figured I owed it to myself to get out. What I hadn’t anticipated was the level to which my already low self esteem had plummeted. I had no real sense of my value….and with nothing to hold onto I found myself in other sexual relationships. I cannot really say when I ‘woke up’ but I did, with a jolt. I realised that despite it all God had something better for me.

RWW: I get that your faith played a huge part in your recovery but practically, how did you move on?
Friend: Growing up I had spent hours having conversations with my mirror. It was my way of getting rid of any upset. I wouldn’t challenge the person who had upset me, instead I’d have it out with them in the mirror… as I grew older this took the form of journalling. However in this situation because I didn’t want ‘proof’ I found myself not being able to journal about this so I returned to my mirror and had it out with him via the mirror. And I was ready to move on….but it was a long gradual process that involved me reminding myself that yes, I did some stupid things that night but no, it was not my fault.

RWW: You say it was a long and gradual process. How long did it take you to overcome it?
Friend: Gosh from beginning to end  – probably four years.

RWW: And why do you think it was so important for you not to have ‘proof’?
Friend: Interesting question. …I guess I was trying to protect both of us in a funny sort of way. I felt if anyone knew they would look at me differently and even though I knew he had done something wrong, I didn’t really want him judged for it. I didn’t even tell my mother because I felt she would blame herself and I didn’t want that. I still haven’t told her twenty years later!

RWW: Goodness me! So you had to cope all by yourself?
Friend: Yes. But my mirror conversations were invaluable as they gave me the ability to express myself, to let go, to reason, to work through, to understand better……and eventually they gave me the confidence to confront him. One day I called him up (we were very vaguely in touch) and we went for dinner. I told him how I felt, how it had affected me and what he had done. I was amazed that he had no clue….he honestly saw it so differently. Yes, I had resisted but all girls do…yes, I had screamed for him to stop but he knew I wasn’t serious…yes I was distraught but it was expected after all I was a virgin. As it dawned on him he crumbled, apologising and asking for forgiveness. By remaining in the relationship I had quashed any suspicions he might have had about his behaviour that night, I had made it seem alright. …and he was right, I had. We parted ways and I knew right then I was free, healed if you like. He had heard me, he had taken responsibility and he had asked for forgiveness. I could get on with my real life now.

RWW: So how do you go from that to being friends?
Friend: We stayed vaguely in touch and many years later he called me and said “I’d like to go to church, it’s time I meet God, will you take me?” So five or so times over the next three months he accompanied me to church. I wasn’t there when he made a commitment to be a Christian but he did. As we remained in touch occasionally I introduced him to my husband who knew about my ordeal but did not know the man in question. They got on well. I did eventually reveal it to him. He was livid…but I had forgiven him and I guess it was clear to my husband that this wasn’t his battle to fight, his role was to support me. So he did. Over the years we maintained our relationship and got closer…and I can say hand on heart without any regret at all that he is one of my closest friends and I love him dearly.

There you have it. I told you she was a nutter! 🙂 Not a lot of us would agree with her way of handling this but her story is what it is. It is one person’s story in the thousands of stories about violence against women. According to Rape Crisis, 90% of rape are committed by known men. The statistics are appalling and can be found on the Rape Crisis site. My friend gained her recovery through her faith; others do it through counselling or therapy; joining recovery groups and sadly some never fully recover from it. I hope this story will remind someone that they are absolutely worthy of real love and deserve to be treated with dignity.

If you have been affected by any of content in the post and would like to talk to someone about it, please contact 0808 802 9999 www.rapecrisis.org to find centres in the UK.

Contact Stand To End Rape (STER) +2348095967000 www.standtoendrape.org for help in Nigeria.

Happy to include other centres if you let me know by making a comment. Thank you.