Nigerian Food Explorer Ozoz Sokoh on Plant-Based Eating Around the World

Ozoz Sokoh
September 22, 2020

Ozoz Sokoh is a Nigerian food explorer, culinary anthropologist and food historian. On her blog Kitchen Butterfly, she maps"the intersections between foods of the world and Nigerian cuisine". You can follow her on instagram @kitchenbutterfly.

What inspired you to start Kitchen Butterfly?

Kitchen Butterfly started as a desire to find a canvas, a safe space, balm for my soul. I like to think of it as being birthed, at the intersection of a personal desire for me, about questions of who I was and what I was called for. At the time I started it - 2009, I was an expat living and working in The Netherlands and felt lost, confused.

Kitchen Butterfly has been the path I’ve walked to becoming myself, to expressing the fulness of my thoughts, desires, loves and everything else. It transitioned from focusing on interesting discoveries with food to this space that documents and celebrates the breadth and depth of Nigerian and West African cuisine, and its impact on global food cultures and cuisines.

What are some common misconceptions you think people have about eating less meat?

Some common misconceptions people have about eating less meat is a sense of it not being as exciting or as enjoyable. That’s not true.

The missing link for me is in how to make people feel confident to explore and apply a variety of techniques to crafting deliciousness.

You've said that you'd rather shop for vegetables than shoes. Tell us more! What advice do you have about how to shop for vegetables?

Yes. I’m such a huge fan of produce shopping - whether in an open market or in the confines of store aisles. I have a weekly series on instagram #MarketMondayswithKitchenButterfly where I share past and recent market explorations.

Advice? Try something new - one thing - each time you go to the store. Research its uses, think about textures and try them out with your favourite methods, spices.

I have found this a useful practice in my food journey - educating myself about new ingredients quite often brings me into the centre of discovery of new cuisines and critically finding culinary red threads that connect so many cultures and cuisines across oceans and borders. This is the ultimate for me.

A common conception is that vegan or vegetarian diets mean just drinking juice and eating salad. But we know that plant-based traditions run deep around the world. Can you talk at all about the role of plant-centric eating in global cooking?

Ha ha. I’m hard pressed to think of a culture or cuisine that doesn’t have strong plant-based foundations and legacies. The issue is often that some cultures and cuisines are elevated and placed in positions of leadership and prominence as ‘vegan/ vegetarian’.

Nigerian and West African cuisine for instance is grossly misunderstood when it comes to plant-based eating. It has a food culture rich in nuts, seeds and greens with a variety and abundance unparalleled. And while Africans are often the targets of speciesism discussions, they consume far less meat than Europe and North America. Meat incorporating it into plant-led, plant-forward dishes.

What advice would you give meat-eaters who are trying to eat more plants, in particular?

Include fruits and vegetables in every meal - add them whole, chopped, pureed, sliced, dices, any which way. Here are some ways:

  • Swap them in instead of meat and make new favourites, seasoned with your go-to spice blends. Mushrooms are great stand-ins for various meat preparations.
  • Toss a handful of your favourite fruits - and vegetables into your bowl of cereal or porridge.
  • Add greens to your grains.
  • Introduce them into your stews - grated, in chunks.
  • Snack on them - on their own or as part of platters.

Find your favourites and bring more colour, diversity to your plate.

Photos copyright Kitchen Butterfly 2009 – 2020, Ozoz Sokoh

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