Prince Macdonald Enwere
Food is an indispensable part of human culture and identify. It is one of the fundamental and basic needs of human creature. There are culinary traditions associated with every culture which are transferred from one generation to another. The modern society is inseparable from its cultural heritage and the history of any society is recorded and embedded in it’s culture. In Igbo ethnography, food has remained an ancient trademark of historical significance. It’s symbolism has remained a trans-generational and archaeological subtext in Igbo cosmology.
The advent of culture revolution has brought reinvention in our local cuisines. Also, culture contact and cross-cultural interaction have equally brought alteration to Igbo food culture, but this never affected the famous and age-long OFE OWERRE delicacy.
However, variety is a product of adventure. In human conception, food is an indispensable contrivance for survival.
In Igbo food culture, there is a famous soup called ‘OFE OWERRE’. It is the most popular delicacy in Igbo land and other parts of the country. It is a royal Soup mostly associated with the people of Owerre in Imo state of the Eastern part of Nigeria.
The people of Owerre are globally known for merriment and enjoyment, they like good food and always give priority attention to their stomach more than any other thing. A typical Owerre man believes tenaciously in the popular maxim that “Ataala ugba nuo mmii, onye uyo wuruma” This belief justifies their liberal and easy-going nature.
‘Ofe Owerre’ is a royal delicacy known for its savoury and aromatic quality. It is not only the trademark of Igbo ethnology but a culinary symbol of affluence, honour and prestige. ‘Ofe Owerre’ the king of Soup, won the best Soup in the National Cooking competition held at Lagos in 1977.
In Igbo parlance, beautiful women are described as “Ofe Owerre’. This is because it is a sumptuous delicacy with savoury and high admiration. The taste of a pudding they say is in the eating. The soup is extremely delicious and palatable to any palette. It has an intoxicating and sweet taste that mesmerizes the taste bud and touches the brain. It is very expensive if not the most expensive Soup in the whole of South East. It is a delicacy that leaves a conspicuous and deep hole in the pocket whenever it is prepared and must finish the same day no matter how much spent in cooking it. No wonder the highlife maestro, Dr. Sir Warrior in one of his famous albums said ” onye arii ego oji ejila erila Ofe Owerre’. (He who has no money does not eat Ofe Owerre)
It is prepared with assorted ingredients and cocoyam as a basic thickner. One of the important ingredients that contributes to the richness of the soup is “Ogiri” (locust beans) when added blends with other ingredients to give the soup a savoury taste which is incredibly amazing to the pallete. The Soup has stirred up controversies among Nigerian folks especially on the leaf combination. Some believe that it is only cooked with Ugu(pumpkin) and Okazi, others say it is Ugu, Okazi and Uziza, some says Uha. Other ingredients are; stockfish, dry fish,cray fish, palm oil, granded pepper. Some times periwinkle and snail may be added( they are optional). Ofe Owerre’ has a light running consistency.
Following the revolutionary trend in Igbo culture and with the threat posed by Western culture, we must strive to uphold, promote and propagate our rich cultural heritage, especially food culture, by maintaining cultural continuity and promoting collective consciousness and unity. We must revive the famous ‘Ofe Owerre’ delicacy by making it a symbol of National delicacy and ensuring that it is enlisted in the directory of the National Arts and Museum as a National delicacy.