Monday, January 10, 2005

THE GROWING PASSION

He has an enormous appetite. But the simple act of eating or searching for that perfect dish has become a spiritual journey for Jeff Akanimo whose passion for food has undergone a significant change in recent years.

“I was a big eater, as a young man growing up in Nigeria”, said Jeff, as he reflects on his life and times. “I loved my food so much that I tended to over-eat all the time simply because mum was such a good cook”.

“I have eaten a lot of things in my life. I remember eating a large portion of pounded yam in Nigeria, a bowl of rice and chicken, washed down with a generous supply of fresh palm wine, and a plate full of green vegetables”.

“And I don’t feel guilty about my passion for food; because eating and drinking are a natural way of being; a great source of inspiration for me; although things are becoming a little too complicated at the moment”.

Jeff speaks candidly about the nature of the Nigerian cuisine, which he says is ingenious and varied; and tasty enough to arouse the enthusiasm of the epicure. And as a true believer in the culinary arts, he should know!

“In my early years as a teenage boy, mealtime in the family home was always my best part of the day; a pleasurable moment to cherish”, he said.

“But, wait for it, despite my large appetite for food, I didn’t put on much weight. In fact, I was as thin as a rake at one stage…and mum kept asking me where all the foods had gone to…Of course, she was just joking! I was a keen sportsman; a soccer player, and a bundle of energy!”.

“By the benefit of hindsight, I would have liked to put on a bit more weight, but it didn’t happen that way; no matter what I ate... My fast metabolism was partly to blame”.

Besides, Jeff told me he didn’t put on excessive weight while in Nigeria because of his “active lifestyle” and the fact that he ate only “the best foods available”; mostly fresh vegetables, low-fat, low-carb food of the “Omega 3” variety. But that was a few years ago!

In fact, Jeff’s first love was food (and eating and drinking were his forte); although he now admits his relationship with food has undergone a significant change since his arrival in Australia.

“I have lost my passion for food since leaving home, because of the changing cultural conditions”, he said. “I have been working too hard; trying to keep my head above water”

“I don’t have the time and the resources to indulge anymore…Or follow my passion. Besides, I’m such a lousy cook”.

“I never saw the inside of a kitchen until I arrived Australia…I never learn to cook. And living alone has had a significant impact on me”.

Meanwhile, “I can still recognize a perfect dish when I see one”, Jeff says. But “excessive eating and drinking are not high on the list of my priorities”. He probably has other, more important, things in life to worry about.



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