Roasted Corn Villagers often ask some questions about life in the city like “can people in big cities get all the staple food we easily do because of our closeness to nature? Or better still “do big men get fresh bush meat just like we do here?” The truth is that with money, city dwellers can get all the natural freshness in food as villagers do.
In many cities, especially the Federal Capital Territory, it is very common to see various markets flooded with fresh vegetables and meats, thanks to different portions of land that are temporarily used for farming. More importantly, farmers and traders from neighbouring states like Niger, Nasarawa, Kogi and Kaduna bring their produce to FCT markets for its teeming residents. At urban and satellite towns of the FCT presently, one of the seasonal food crops which has helped to close the social divide between the rich and poor is maize or corn; a nourishing grain meal that residents consume with fascinating relish and panache.
It would be interesting to know that of all farm produce, maize/corn sellers enjoy great patronage each time it is in season. Why? Because roasted or boiled, maize is one of the cheapest and delicious food items both the poor and rich can easily purchase. It is readily available in residential or commercial areas and the preparation is done on road sides as one drives or walks along. It is prepared in different forms to suit consumers’ tastes. Want it roasted or boiled, hot, warm or cold?
It is always ready. More appealing is the fact that one can easily get the very tender and strong maize from sellers – just take your time to look for your choice. And, while a plate of food goes for between N250 and N1000, one could easily opt for this affordable food option to arrest hunger. In Abuja, it is common to see some very important personalities (VIP’s) park off the roads to make their pick of freshly roasted or boiled corn sold by road sides. Some others send assistants or drivers to purchase these local delicacies for them. It is often common to see some rich people in the city struggling to get cooked corn with some low-class citizens.
Many of “our big men and women” come from humble backgrounds, where they once enjoyed the delicacy, and would suddenly show sheer abandon for corn when in season. Don’t blame them, when they struggle over a cob with you. Maria Okoro, a maize seller, gives her view of the delicacy’s popularity. “Maize is good food for our people and it is a type of farm crop that can be cultivated all year round. Like me, I both farm and sell. I make more money during the dry season; let me say between November and June.
This time, many people don’t farm because of lack of water. What I do is that I go to the sludge, that is, where river has dried up, plant my crops. Maize takes only three months to mature and it goes to the market for a large profit. You know like now that other farmers are still expecting their maize to grow, I sell each cob for as high as N60, depending on its size”.
Okoro continued, “This is what I have been doing here in FCT for over 10 years. There are many other people like me and we farm together. As you know, Abuja land is very fertile with much rainfall. This helps us during the dry season to have enough swamps and water for irrigation. When my children return from school, they help me roast or boil the maize for waiting consumers. It is very good business. With the yield realised from the business, I have been the breadwinner for my family of five, since my husband died few years back.
But during the raining season, you know there will be excess in the market. So it is not as costly as it is during the dry season. But on a general note, what we could not make during rainy season, we get in dry season. My brother, can you tell me now in this city what can easily provide job opportunities for our women like trading in maize?” She teased, fanning the glowing coal that roasted her corn. The unemployed women in the society according to Mrs. Okoro, can start the business with a paltry sum of N2000.
This, she said, would empower women to contribute to the economic well-being of their families. Some residents, like Adama Jonah, a civil servant, also explained why they cherish eating this meal. Jonah said he enjoyed eating maize anytime of the day because “it is a particular food I have loved from childhood. It is so difficult to leave it. Sincerely, maize is very delicious and rich in vitamin”.