Connecting With West Africa’s Plant-Based Past – The New York Times

Ms. Osuchukwu runs Plant Food Federation, a website focused on plant-based approaches to Nigerian cuisine, and she is one of many cooks in West Africa and the diaspora navigating the experience of being vegan in a culture that holds certain ideas about food close. She is also part of a growing number of people trying to confront a misconception that it is difficult — and even limiting — to eat a meatless diet using West African ingredients.

On the contrary, Ms. Osuchukwu, who is originally from Calabar, in southern Nigeria, said that there are many ingredients available across the country that can be used to adapt traditional dishes for a plant-based diet, like sliced ugba, a fermented oil bean seed, which steps in for dried and smoked fish in native rice and in abacha, a salad of shredded cassava, red palm oil and fresh herbs.

“People always ask me know how I handle being vegan or plant-based in Nigeria because they believe we don’t have food diversity here,” she said, “and I always look at them like, ‘No, actually, we have more food diversity locally, right here, than in many different parts of the world.’ ”