I have said these words myself a thousand times and believed them too. However, these days I am no longer as sure as I once was. You see, today’s world is such a global village that there is really very little difference between the “black man” in that statement and the white man that we imagine that disease fit kill.
Now that we have all the painful political correctness out of the way (whew!), the post can start properly:
In the past, the average Igbo woman would wake up, sweep her compound and then head to the stream. There she would take a bath, do laundry for herself and her husband and then fetch water for cooking and drinking. This water will be carried back to her house on her head. She would also get some water for her husband to take a bath as men would not typically go to the stream to fetch water.
Upon returning home, she would prepare breakfast for her household. This would involve heating up leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Normally, these meals would have been kept in clay pots that would keep them warm from the night before till the following morning (tell me that isn’t technology). After eating and washing up, she would go to the farm (usually shared with her husband) and work. If the farm was far away, she would take the ingredients with her and cook on the farm. Deviating from our example for just a minute: If she had young children, she would have to leave the farm at about noon, go back to the house and cook lunch for her children.
Women planted all sorts of things: yam, cocoyam, a wide array of vegetables and herbs, tomatoes. Generally, subsistence agriculture was practiced. One would farm in such a way that the family would feed off the harvest and still have enough to sell in order to buy or barter for other goods one may need. Typically, our woman would go to the farm pretty much every day to tend to her crops and upon returning would prepare dinner for the family.
Of course, she would still find time to tend the goats and any other livestock that they had. The house would also have to be cleaned and any repairs to clothing and household equipment made. They lived in mud houses which needed to be coated over with mud from time to time.
The meals were simple and a lot of them were yam based like pounded yam with various soup, sliced yam served with vegetables or yam pottage. There was also plantain porridge. The people of old rarely ate meat. Meat was for special occasions like festivals. However, for those whose husbands were hunters or were farmers who laid traps, they would get some meat wrapped in banana leaves from time to time and use this in the cooking of meals.
For the majority, dried/smoked fish was used to cook the meals. Sometimes these were bought in the market, other times the women smoked the fish themselves. Vegetables and condiments such as pepper used in cooking were usually plucked fresh from a vegetable patch in the home or the farm.
Everything that went into a cooking a pot of food could be easily traced to its source. It was all natural. Nothing processed. Even preservation did not involve the use of any chemicals beyond sodium chloride (salt). This was of course local salt.
What about snacking? The snacks were fruits that were in season – Mangos, coconuts, udala, bananas, garden eggs, oranges and much more.
My cousins who grew up in the village recall going to school with palm kernel nuts (aki) and roasted ukwa (breadfruit) as their snacks.
The tree that provided that snack also provided the Palm Wine which was typically drank after work or offered to visitors just as we would drink or offer a soda today.
Now, that was the “black man” in that statement: One who was engaged in daily activity/exercise and ate healthy, unprocessed food.
I will be back to speak about today’s “black man”.