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Who invented jollof rice? Senegal beats Ghana and Nigeria to the title

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The authorship – and subsequently origins – of jollof rice (known as ceebu jën in Senegal in line with the Wolof spelling) is the topic of a spicy debate between West African nations. Particularly, Senegalese, Nigerians and Ghanaians declare possession. And every believes their recipe surpasses all others.

In a bid to settle the problem we explored the topic in our book. In it we level out the “Senegality” of this dish. The phrase jollof refers to an ancient kingdom that was part of Senegal between the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries.

Extra broadly, we discovered that the origin of the dish is linked to a particular period in history – the entrenchment of colonial rule in West Africa. Between 1860 and 1940 the French colonisers replaced existing food crops with damaged rice imported from Indochina.

In time, damaged rice got here to be way more prized by the Senegalese than complete rice grain.

This was adopted by what we name le ceebu jën, un patrimoine bien sénégalais – the genius of the natives, particularly the Saint-Louisians who set about creating one thing fully new. Ceebu jën consists of rice and fish, accompanied by greens and typically tomatoes.

Because it occurs in historical past, when an artwork reaches a sure fame or notoriety, its paternity turns into an object of controversy. That is what has certainly occurred with jollof rice.

Colonial legacy

The primary act of the settlers was to make all these disconnected from agricultural actions depending on rice. This included the women and men who had come to attempt to make their fortune within the markets of Saint-Louis, one of many gateways to the West and, for a great interval, the capital of French West Africa.

If we add academics, numerous brokers of the administration and the army, we are able to higher perceive the pernicious technique of rice promotion.

Overflowing in city centres, rice was consumed in virtually all the colony of Senegal.

The success of the rice promotion technique resulted within the entrenchment of an economy that became increasingly dependent on crops preferred by the colonisers. To today efforts proceed to be made to develop rice in Casamance and the Saint-Louis area.

On the identical time, the exploitation of the market backyard areas of Niayes and Gandiol contributed to assembly the inhabitants’s want for greens.

One other intriguing a part of the historical past of the dish is the parable that’s developed over centuries across the position of a Senegalese prepare dinner known as Penda Mbaye who’s repeatedly hooked up to the identify of rice with fish.

Though nobody disputes the connection between the dish and Penda Mbaye, critical data on her identification, on the place and time she lived and on the circumstances by which the dish was created is cruelly missing. That is why we’ve got said in our book that she left historical past in a short time to take her place in legend.

Why the fervour?

To know the significance of ceebu jën within the weight loss program and creativeness of the Senegalese, it will be sensible to level out that its attractiveness can’t be lowered to its dietary worth or its intrinsic delicacy.

This culinary artwork is intently linked to a know-how and a lifestyle. Thus, the consumption of the dish is strongly linked to the ceremonial – the aesthetics of the presentation and the service.

<span class="caption">A lady serving ceebu jn. Cellou/AFP through Getty Photographs.</span>

The ladies of Saint Louis, a port metropolis within the northern a part of Senegal, are singularly credited with outstanding know-how on this space. Their finesse and magnificence is expressed in the best way they costume, their speech and their gestures. All are put to good use in order that the meal is a second once they give pleasure by being happy themselves.

Stamp of approval

On the finish of 2021 Unesco included the Senegalese model of jollof rice – ceebu jën – on the intangible heritage of humanity listing. This certification was recognition of the know-how of the Senegalese of an integral a part of an intangible heritage.

The labelling also needs to have a optimistic influence on the economic system, significantly tourism, agriculture, fishing and catering. Or, as some would describe it, gastro-diplomacy.

However to take advantage of all these benefits, Senegal should pay extra consideration to its fishery sources and, above all, settle the recurrent query of self-sufficiency in rice manufacturing for good, with the intention to put an finish to the scandalous perversion of feeding on what is just not produced.

Senegal, whose popularity relies extra on its cultural affect and diplomacy, has each curiosity in capitalising on this development. Thus, along with rice with fish, it must promote its broader gastronomic heritage to make it an extra asset for the position it intends to play within the live performance of countries.

On this spirit, Senegal’s Food Technology Institute can be given a brand new lease of life. This public institution, created in 1963, was assigned the mission of analysis and improvement in meals and vitamin.

In its efforts to boost the wealthy Senegalese heritage, the institute might set itself the target of selling all of the outstanding Senegalese consumables based mostly on millet, cowpea, bissap, ditax and (monkey bread) bouye. And to take up this problem Senegal can be properly suggested to utilize all of the confirmed experience of researchers in addition to financial gamers.

This text was written with the contribution of Alpha Amadou Sy, co-author of the e book Ceebu jën, un patrimoine bien Sénégalais.