Culture

TYOS: Food, Self and Identity with Mamobo Ogoro

Mamobo Ogoro. Photo by Eilis Walsh

As part of the Tell Your Own Story Project – an initiative aimed at promoting inclusivity in Irish media and the wider community –  UL lecturer Florence Le Baron-Earle spoke to Nigerian born Mamobo Ogoro, founder of Gorm Media, about the food and dishes that represent where she grew up.

The French gastronome and epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin famously said: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”. Indeed, eating but also the act of cooking and celebrating food as a whole is indicative of an individual’s personality and culture. 

Social entrepreneur and Founder of Gorm Media, Mamobo Ogoro, has recently received the title of Activist of the Year 2021 at the Black and Irish (B.I.G) Awards ceremony. She is our first respondent to the ‘Food, Self and Identity’ Questionnaire and shares her love for Irish and Nigerian food. Bon appétit!

Quick Fire Questions with Mamobo Ogoro

  1. What is your name and occupation? 

Mamobo Ogoro. I am a PhD Student in Applied Linguistics and Psychology at the University of Limerick. I am the Founder of Gorm Media which aims at sparking common grounds on social issues. I am also co-chair of the Ethnic Diversity Forum, and Board member of the Lime Tree Theatre.

2. Describe yourself in a couple of words or sentences. 

Open Minded. Hard Working. Curious. Kind.

3. Where do you come from? 

I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and raised in Wexford, Ireland.

4. What food or dishes represent where you grew up? 

Coming from a dual cultural background, I grew up eating a mix of Nigerian and Irish food. But I have to say Nigerian Food gives me the most comfort such as fried rice, Jollof rice or Egusi Soup– a soup you eat with pounded yam (or other swallows[1]) using your hands. Lots of rich meaty food, high in flavour and quite spicy. When I grew up, I didn’t embrace Nigerian food as much as I do now. I remember one particular incident at Halloween where we gave away Nigerian pastries. Some kids actually threw them back at our house. I didn’t want to stand out and asked that we give Irish treats after that. 

5. Is there a scent, spice, or dish that brings you back to your childhood? 

Smells of fried meat, hot chillies, curry and thyme.

6. Has anyone influenced you in your cooking? If yes, who?

Yes, my Aunty Yiobo, she is such a great cook and makes the best fried rice I know! I always try to replicate it, but it is never the same.

7. What is the most exotic food you have ever tried?

Whale in Norway.

8. What do you consider your greatest cooking achievement? 

Leading Christmas Dinner. We have a massive family dinner with roughly 15 people. We usually do a big buffet-style dinner blending Irish and Nigerian food: mashed potatoes, vegetables, turkey (Spicy like in Nigeria and traditional Irish), roasted and honey-glazed ham, fried rice and jollof rice, assorted meats, stews, and swallows. I usually do the turkey, my sister and cousins help peel and chop vegetables, make desserts, etc. It is a way to unite the whole family. This year might be different; I don’t know if we will be able to meet as usual.

9. Do you have a cooking disaster anecdote to share? 

One time, I came back from a festival having tried the best Senegalese dish, Chicken Yassa. I had a first date and we were having dinner in my place, I thought I could replicate it well and barely glanced at the recipe. I proceeded to add way to much mustard and the dish was AWFUL. It tasted like tangy onion chicken, it was so bad. We couldn’t eat it and I had to apologise and swear that I was a way better chef. Safe to say there was no date number two.

10. What do we always find in your fridge? 

Eggs.

11. What is the cooking utensil or gadget you cannot live without? 

A frying pan.

12. Do you have a ritual in preparing and/or serving food? 

Does washing the food first count?

13. What is your favourite herb? 

Thyme.

14. Do you have a go-to food or dish when you need comfort, e.g. when sick or feeling low? 

Nigerian fried rice or any Nigerian dish to be honest.

15. Do you prefer supermarkets or farmer’s markets? 

Supermarkets.

16. Do you prefer eating in or out? 

Depends who is cooking.

17. What is the best way to cook an egg? 

Scrambled. Put the eggs in a bowl. Add some milk (optional). Mix everything. Fry it in a pan with some oil. Toss it around until satisfaction. I like mine sightly underdone. Add salt and pepper. Sometimes I add thyme too.

18. Do you have a food pet peeve? 

People licking the spoon and putting it back in the cooking pot. Ew! 

19. What time do you usually eat the main meal of your day? 

6-7pm.

20. What did you have as a main meal yesterday? 

Rice. I eat a lot of rice as you can tell!

Finally, please, share with us one of your favourite recipes.

Nigerian fried rice. Find the recipe here.

The Food, Self and Identity series is an initiative of the Tell Your Own Story Project.


[1] “The term “swallow” is widely used in Nigeria to describe starchy foods that are cooked to a dense paste and eaten with various soups. They are called “swallows” because of the method of eating, i.e. using your fingers, take a morsel of paste, dip it in soup and swallow” (source: radianthealthmag.com).

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