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Here, Eat This

A beginner's guide to Nigerian cuisine.

Whole grilled fish

Whole grilled fish is pretty much what it sounds like. Nigerian restaurants in Houston typically serve tilapia or catfish, sometimes in a lovely curry sauce. This is standard stuff.

Akara

Wondering what Nigerians eat for breakfast? (Aside from scrambled eggs? Because: scrambled eggs, mostly.) This is one popular item, a fritter that's made with ground black-eyed peas. Akara puffs up when it's fried and has the same texture and consistency as falafel but with a very mild flavor. This breakfast pastry is fine on its own but is at its best when dipped in akamu.

Ogi/akamu

If you've eaten grits, you've eaten akamu (a.k.a. ogi). The two breakfast porridges are virtually identical, save for the way that they're served. Whereas Texans and Southerners flavor their grits with salt and butter, akamu is sweetened ever so slightly with the addition of condensed milk. The resulting hot cereal is extra creamy and delicious when scooped up with fluffy bites of akara.

Heineken

I hope you like lagers, because Heineken basically runs the beer game in Nigeria. Beer is a popular beverage in the country owing to Nigeria's colonial heritage and the fact that a cold pilsner tastes really fantastic on a hot, humid day. But you wouldn't know anything about that, would you, Houston?
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The Eating Our Words 100

Going Radical
Staci Davis of Radical Eats on vegan diets and a meaty new restaurant.

Carla Soriano

Eating...Our Words has embarked on a project to profile 100 Houston culinarians of all fields, practices, careers and backgrounds.

What she does:

"I own a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free restaurant, which is sort of a little dive on the near north side that we like to think pumps out really great food. We sort of cater to people that are looking for a healthier alternative and also just people looking for something different," Staci Davis, owner of Radical Eats, explains.

"We like to have fun with it," Davis continues. She believes that vegetables are vastly underused. And she's not a fan of fake meat. So, rather than put out imitation meat products made from vegetables, Radical Eats' menu makes fresh, locally sourced vegetables the protagonists on the menu.

Prior to opening her storefront, which has now been going for "just under 20 months," Davis did farmers' markets, weddings and catering for about four years, as well as sold some food products at Antidote and Black Hole. She opened Radical Eats because she needed a new "home" in which to create all the products she was selling around town. Since opening the restaurant, Davis has been getting "busier and busier and busier," so she had to "let some of the other stuff go," but that's not to say that she wouldn't like to go back to her roots and sell all around Houston.

Why she enjoys it:

As far as why she got into and enjoys the food aspect of her business, Davis has been a chef since she was 17, and she's always loved it. Every time she goes to a party, she always ends up in the kitchen. She likes working in kitchens — "the camaraderie, the speed, the creativity. I've been doing it for a long time. I've always liked vegetarian food. I've always liked playing with vegetables. It's just something I was good at. Another thing is that I always wanted to get some products in the grocery store. All the fake meats never fit the categories that I wanted. I wanted specific things, and I wanted to fulfill what I thought was a need," Davis says. She created a large part of Radical Eats' Mexican-inspired menu.

Why she enjoys owning her own business:

"I like the people that I work with — they're all kind of nuts. And it's just fun solving problems and seeing it work. It also just makes me feel like a grown-up. I like the customers; I like telling them jokes. It's fun. It's just like family."

Thinking that Radical Eats would be one of those restaurants that cater to a super-small niche audience, I ask Davis what her customers are like, to which she responds enthusiastically: "They're all over the map. I have everything from Christian fundamentalists to anarchist punk rockers and all ages — even 12-year-old kids that come in by request to celebrate their birthdays because they are vegetarians and all live in Pasadena. You've also got old men that have been eating meat and dairy all their lives and have had some doctor or health professional tell them that they really need to start figuring out how to eat differently — they'll come in. Black, white, brown — everything. We maybe sway a little bit more toward some of the neighborhood people, but really, it's all over the map."

What inspires her:

Davis lists several different things: "The farmers' market. Vegetables. The farmers that grow it all. The weird stuff. Pictures of food. Food. The stuff that grows out of the ground. Politics inspires me, too. I try as much as I can to support local farmers and stay away from big agriculture, although a lot of it is unavoidable. To me, it's all about global warming and the way that we're polluting our environment. A vegetarian diet can sustain a lot more people than a meat-eating diet. It's important for me to convince people to eat more vegetables — it's better for their health. When people eat the regular American diet, they are broken down and unhealthy."

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1 comments
MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Jollof rice takes some effort to cook but it is worth it. Warning:  ADDICTIVE. Thanks, Ms. S this is fun.

 
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