‘Sit down to a meal with a stranger, get up bosom friends.’ That is a popular saying in Calabar/Akwa Ibom State, a region in Nigeria where I come from and which, to many Nigerians, is synonymous with high quality, well-prepared and tasty cooking. The saying, above, captures the importance of food culture to the people of Calabar/Akwa Ibom. To us, food is much more than something with which you fill your stomach. It is a tool of reconciliation, for example. To show the sincerity of the end of enmity between two (or a group of) people, it is usually insisted at the time of settlement that both sides share a meal together, both dipping their hands in and eating from the same bowl. We also use food as a tool for making friends, and bridging gaps of cultural intolerance. I grew up with this, almost spiritual, love for food and the art of preparing it. Finally, I now live in Austria, where the phrase positive integration is becoming more and more important as I encounter people from other cultures. I want to take the vital lessons I learned about food while in my country and make it work for me as well as the many people I meet daily in my new country of residence. After all, you can’t dine with someone and fail to get to know a little more about them before the meal is over, can you?
What to expect at Sarah's place