Travel Diary: Ofada rice, time and adding value
If you catch a bit of interest in Ofada after reading this, that’s part of the plan and if all you read is a story that’s okay too.
I wrote this on my way to Akure, right after devouring a plate of Ofada rice I’d purchased from an eatery just before my departure from Lagos.
As one not easily given to falling asleep on a long road trip, I had just gotten ready to kick off with my playlist and some reading when the thought of the price of my Ofada meal crossed my mind and brought with it memories of what this specie of rice used to be.
Ofada rice was not always called Ofada. I grew up knowing Ofada rice as ‘Oh God’ rice, a staple in most average and below average income homes in Ondo. I remember the Uncle Ben and Aroso (no, idea what the name means) brands were for the bougie class, who could afford thoroughly refined rice imported from wherever we were importing rice at that time.
‘Oh God’ derived its name from the fact that Ofada rice had a lot of stones that almost always left you screaming (first timer) or muttering (regular) “oh God!” ‘ah!’ or ‘oh!’. If you were a regular eater, you had to chew cautiously to easily detect and spit out stones early enough before your teeth attempted, rather weakly, to grind brittle, jarring sand or stones. Sadly, it’s human nature to be a little impatient especially with food. One can sometimes get too confident after a couple of sand and stone-free spoons only to be quickly humbled by an ‘Oh God’ moment.
The preparation of ‘Oh God’ was always akin to the preparation of beans. You had to first pick the stones from the rice, a process that was equivalent to a case of ‘as you lay your bed, so you shall lie on it’ i.e intense scrutiny is required. Then you had to carefully parboil so as not to overcook the rice and turn it into mush on second cooking.
I personally dislike ‘Oh God’ rice due to the preparation process and the long suffering attached to it. ‘Oh God’ rice was then the cheapest rice in the market because it was cultivated locally. You could also argue that the price was a compensation for buying stones alongside the rice but that was in the 90’s.
Looking at my plate, I realized how things have really changed and a plate of Ofada rice (because it’s almost exclusively grown in Ofada town in Ogun state) goes for 800 naira. Consequently, there are now better means of cultivating, harvesting and packaging Ofada rice without a truckload of sand and stones in the mix. In fact, Ofada is now costlier than imported rice. It’s more nutritious and has its own manner of presentation — the local leaf and it’s yummy signature stew boasting of meat, ponmo, fish and locust beans.
Creating its own niche, Ofada rice has earned its stars, adding value to consumers without losing its own originality and value. I could go on and on or even sing a song, or maybe not. But I’ll end my Ofada rice gist here and return the pen I borrowed to the owner.
I have a thing for writing in a notepad before typing.