Monday Meal Review: Nigeria

I press the glass to my lips. Millions of tiny bubbles burst at once; fireworks in my mouth. Zesty fireworks. If the name is any indication, this Chapman is a serious drink. A drink for gentlemen and poker, with a splash of intrigue. A drink suitable for 007 himself. But one sip in and I know – this is a silly, sing-in-the-shower, dance-with-your-towel-on-your-head kind of drink. This is a sit-in-the-shade-and-sing-to-the-birds kind of drink.

What’s in a name, anyway?

The drink comes from Nigeria, and so – in a fit of boredom one sweltering afternoon – I look into Nigerian naming traditions. As the air-conditioner whines, I lose myself in a group called the Yoruba who live, in part, in Nigeria.

According to Yoruba culture, the naming of the child is a decision of the utmost importance.

They believe that the child’s name shapes the life of the child because the name is like a spirit, constantly on a quest to seek out fulfillment. This is how, for example, a Yoruba child can come to be named “kokumo,”or “this will not die.” This is not so much morbid, as a hopeful declaration of what will come to be.

Now here’s a little factoid you might not have known.

I was not born “Sasha.” No. My mother named me Musashi, after the most famous Japanese warrior in history.

Epic.

But seriously…

Miyamoto Musashi, self-portrait (circa 1640) and me.

What’s a girl to do with a legacy like this? What about the fact that all I’ve ever wanted for the world and our children is peace, health, and joy?

I often wonder – in order to live up to my name, must I own armor? What about a sword? 

In the spirit of using the wisdom of other cultures to inform my life: yes, it would seem so.  According to the Yoruba, being named after a warrior seems to be a declaration – a predetermination – that I am destined to battle (even if just on a emotional level). And to credit the Yoruba philosophers, my life certainly followed this path for a long while.

The question for me now is what exactly is my battle, and can I win?

When I was a little girl my mom legally changed my name to Sasha. Ironically, with this new name I didn’t lose the warrior spirit. Sasha means “defender of mankind.” 

If the Yoruba are right, I am on all counts being forcefully driven towards a warrior destiny.

And then I read this, which is directly from Musashi’s heritage:

The term spiritual warrior is used in Buddhism for one who combats the universal enemy: self-ignorance (avidya), the ultimate source of suffering according to Buddhist philosophy. Different from other paths, which focus on individual salvation, the spiritual warrior’s only complete and right practice is that which compassionately helps other beings with wisdom. (Wiki)

Perhaps my warrior destiny is for a different sort of battle, after all.

I’m curious – are you like the Yoruba? Does the meaning of your name inform who you are at all? What about the history behind it? 

How important is your name to you?

THE FOOD

Grilled Plantain spears with crushed peanuts | Boli Bopa [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

This was warm, comforting and rich in flavor. The red palm oil lightly flavors the plantain to give it a distinct West African flavor, while the nuts add salty crunch.

What I loved least about this dish:

I was the only one who gobbled this one up. We’ve now had plantains enough times that both Keith and Ava have firmly decided that they don’t like them. This is really too bad, because I’m loving them more every day!

West African Peanut Kebabs | Suya [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

Oh, boy, everything! This garlicky, gingery, peanut crust is guaranteed to be a regular staple in our house. We all adored it. I could not stop eating it. The richly spiced peanuts make the most addicting crust and I definitely ate 2 person’s worth. Both Ava and Keith did the same – we were one stuffed family by the end of the meal. Since making the beef version, I’ve also tried it with chicken which was great, too.

What I loved least about this dish:

While the mixture doesn’t photograph very well, it’s absolutely amazing in person. Be sure to press the peanut mixture firmly onto the meat to make it stick. It helps if the meat is a bit moist (as from when you’ve rinsed it off).

Nigerian Chapman Cocktail [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

Orange soda? Lime soda? Grenadine or currant syrup? Sliced fruit and bitters? Yes, we all loved every single thing about this bubbly summer refresher. I am looking forward to my next potluck or barbecue so I can bring a gallon of Chapman.

What I loved least about this dish:

Nothing. There’s no one proper way to make this fruity, bubbly drink so you can’t go wrong. Just play around with it.

AVA’s CORNER:

WEEKLY GIVEAWAY WINNER:

*Winner from this week’s Nigerian Menu Giveaway was selected by random.org. Congratulations to Camilla (she captioned Ava’s photo”Red, orange, yellow…it’s only half a rainbow of food!” … Please email me (sasha@ globaltableadventure.com) to claim your globe drink dispenser.

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Comments

  1. Excuse me…I also named you Alexandra…(Sasha is a nickname for Alexandra.) …and Mary and Ann and you chose Dymphna…

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yes, there were lots of names in my childhood… this is true. Mary and Ann are middle names. Dymphna came much later and refers to a different sort of battle altogether.

      • elisa waller says:

        haha….makes me smile all these names…each one is special in its own way just like you, us and them <3 ..<3

  2. It is funny when you have known someone as one name then you get a little shocked when
    their name originally was something else. Happens a bit in Sri Lankan, coz a few people I know use their middle names instead of their first-my hubby for one as you know. I keep bringing up Sri Lanka, but from what I understand a name means a lot and often only when a child is born do they consult experts and look at astrology etc, then after being given the first letter do they give the baby a name.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      How interesting – I think I would have had a easier time picking Ava’s name if I only had one letter of the alphabet to work with!

  3. Brian S. says:

    To accompany this wonderful food, here are some Hausa street musicians playing in the dusty streets of a north Nigeria town.

    http://www.myspace.com/0/music-player?songid=29898612

  4. That’s all really interesting about consulting astrology and others to name a child. I do feel that a name can sometimes predetermine the actions of people and how they choose to live their lives. Ive known people who named their children a famous/strong name, hoping their child will, in lack of better words, live up to it. With that said…makes me wonder what certain people were thinking when they name all their children after them, or in variations of their name. :)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      When you’re named after a parent I think you’re destined to go by a nickname… that’s the case with everyone I know who is a jr.,anyway… :)

  5. I also think that having the first letter picked out would cut down on the decision making. :) now I would just have to find someone stateside versus in Sri Lanka that would be able to help! xD

  6. Hmmm, don’t know, but there are lots of Sri Lankans state-side like NY, Cali & Philly. Well, it is interesting because many do not find out the gender till birth, so that also can keep you from coming up with a name before the birth. My father was born there and I grew up there, but don’t know that much about culture-religious culture, but even my father’s side which is South Indian has interesting traditions when it comes to names- his brothers and sister have different last names, and another Indian South Indian tradition is for the boy to take the father’s first name as their last name.
    Sasha, wonder how your mother came up with your original name?

  7. Wow, that’s all really interesting. :) thanks for the insight!

  8. As a Nigerian who blogs, I love what you did with the Nigerian week! The recipes and everything looked amazing! Good job! and I am very happy you liked the food!

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