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I love swallow…as in swallow food! In my home Fufu, Amala, Eba etc. all fall under the umbrella of swallow.

I could easily have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner; it does not matter to me. I don’t discriminate so please don’t assume that there must be an exception to this heart felt choice as to what type of swallow I like or the frequency of eating it. I love them all. My love for Utara, that’s swallow in my native tongue is also tied to the soup used in accompanying it.

Seriously, it has to be just right; the right soup harmonizes well with the right Utara.

My love affair with swallow started rather early in my life. I remember years ago when I was seven…

It was 8:30 in the morning and I was bawling my poor eyes out. My mom could not understand why I was more interested in the cold onugbu soup from the night before rather than the bread and egg breakfast my siblings were wolfing down.

“Are you going to the farm to harvest yams that you need such heavy food so early in the morning?” mom bellowed!

Of course I ignored her and continued to wail…my desired effect was soon achieved as dad shouted angrily from their bedroom…”Oriakum biko give the child what she wants “.

This was one of my many repertoires for making sure I got my fill of swallow for the day. Swallow and I have a serious love affair! There is a serious science to the art of eating swallow; I will share with you the how and why. There is a method to this blissful madness.

Now… swallow on its own is practically useless, but the combination of swallow with the right sort of soup is heaven and works wonders to the benefactor’s palate, if and when properly executed. Many ardent follows like me can attest to this.

Take the humble Eba for instance…a very versatile candidate in the constituency of swallow. Eba works well with almost every kind of soup. Egusi, Edikaikong, Ofe Owerri, etc. Despite its versatility, it has perfect soul mates in the slippery trio: Ogbono, Okro and Ewedu.

The slippery trio facilitates TGS: Tete-a-tete, Gliding and Sliding.

Anyone can attest to the Tete a tete; the song and dance between the tongue and taste buds in the brief moment that the eba and soup play in the mouth, and the ease with which it Glides effortlessly down the upper regions of the throat before Sliding down to the lower regions. The ecstasy is comparable to none! And many have unintentionally damn near over dozed on the account of the smooth ride down town.

My mother being from a different part of Igbo land to my dad, uncannily gave me the best of both worlds; people… you have not lived until you eat Onugbu or Ora soup prepared the Orumba way. The method an Orumba woman cooks these soups defies explanation.

Take the ogili for instance; the mighty spice of my culture. It has a stench so vile it will leave you gasping for breath. Onugbu or Ora soup without the ogili flavour is seriously and stupendously lacking and incomplete…Imagine mother India without her curry…..are we getting the picture here?

This is the king of Igbo spices, folks. Absent…! And your taste buds will lack the pleasure of tasting this native soup to its full potential. In absence of ogili, many use okpie/dawadawa. I suppose those will do.

The onugbu, Ora and ofe ede, all work mighty well with our ever so accommodating candidate, eba. In fact, I call them “the agreement society” they agree with most anything in the swallow department, be it akpu, pounded yam, semovita etc.

As versatile as eba is, there is a category of native soups which I consider a no go area with eba; these soups in my humble opinion just don’t gel well with it. These are the white soups; banga or Ofe nsala for my Oguta brethren or Ofe akwu for others.

Imagine chewing dry hard bread… instead of the pleasant TGS effect, what you now get is a tug-o-war. Sheer unpleasantness! As your palate struggles with the bland taste of the dry bread, your mouth and its interiors equally toggles with the coarseness of it. The only remedy to such is a cool soft drink to wash it down…such it eba’s fate when coupled with the ‘whites’ on its descent to the chambers of the stomach.

Some years back, I suffered a fate almost death like in nature. My PCP ordered me off swallow or “these culprits” as she labeled them.

“No more utara for you Dotta, your cholesterol and blood pressure has gone through the roof!” As I heard those words, my world seemed to crash right down in front of me. I can honestly tell you that I don’t know which was more devastating to me; the news about my health, or the threat of giving up one of the main reasons why life was so sweet for me, my beloved swallow.

What was going to become of me? How indeed was I going to survive this? I sat there in shock and she may very well have been speaking Latin because I no longer understood her, I was stuck at “No more utara” This began my actual deterioration friends; I was forced into a diet of steamed everything. My diet had to be made up of vegetables, wheat, bran and oats.

My situation became a case of dieting with a broken heart. My symptoms did improve and the doctor was quite happy with that, but my general wellbeing continued to deteriorate.

Everyone was baffled! What was making me ill? The helplessness soon gave way to total despair and I became depressed and withdrawn. But as usual, life usually has a surprise up its sleeves and mine soon came for me.

An aunt of mine came to visit one afternoon, and after a long session of catching up and gossip, my husband offered her lunch. Just like me, the woman loves akpu. She readily agreed to lunch, but requested for Quaker oats. Oats? Hubby and I looked at each other and wondered…what’s with oats and soup?

Folks, it turned out that she had a way of making oats into swallow and had been doing so for years.

“IT’S A LIE! ” eziokwu aunty?” I asked in disbelief.

Well the rest as they say was history. She proceeded to show me how to make oats as swallow. I hugged and kissed her endlessly for the rest of her stay. Okay it was weird at first, but I soon convinced myself that I loved it.

As time went on, I soon found the perfect consistency for me, and thus was born my very own oat fufu.

The benefits were incredible, lowered cholesterol, normal blood pressure and not having that dead weight like feeling, like a brick was weighing me down like my past trysts with akpu.

No sooner than I had barely gotten over my no swallow dilemma, my evil PCP soon found another way to crash my hopes by insisting that palm oil was also a no go…now tell me how the hell will my soup taste without that palm kernel flavor eh?

It was as if the woman was on a mission to crush me. This oat fufu thingy is like the next best thing since sliced bread and oh…I tell you, I sure did ignore that woman doctor. I did switch to olive oil…yeah! But trust me I still added 2 to 3 tablespoons of the red stuff (abi na only flavor I bin want), and the taste? Still… Gbam!

They say too much of anything will kill a man, but I also discovered that if you deprive a man of something so deep to their core without placebo or gradual decrease, it can also kill him. I almost died from swallow deprivation. Thank God I survived to share my story with you all.

I am Dotta, still here with you; enjoying my swallow albeit in moderation now. You now know the how and why of my love for swallow. So I still hope to be here a while much longer to savor more of this most awesome of foods for as long as life permits.

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