I met with my Small Business Development Center advisors on Friday and one of them suggested that perhaps people were afraid to try African food because it was foreign. I’d known this all along, but to have someone say it out loud made me take note even more. Everyone who has had our food agrees the food is A-1 as we say. It is healthy, it has no preservatives. 7 ingredients or less, no compound ingredients you can’t pronounce. It is delicious. SO why aren’t more people eating it? How do I get more people to try it? Because people are afraid of what they don’t know.

I’ve decided to introduce the series I’m calling: What’s in a Name? My advisor said if with each picture I posted, I zoomed in and explained the ingredients, perhaps people would not be so apprehensive. When people can connect the ingredients to the ones they can find on their grocery store shelves, then they can bridge the gap.

So I will begin with Oto. Both ‘o’s in Oto are the ‘o’ sound in ‘otter’.

Oto is a birthday food. What does that mean? Exactly that! It is food that is eaten on the day of your birth. The actual day you were born as well as the anniversary of that day. How many times a year you have oto depends on how many family members reside in your house. It is a very simple dish made from mashed yams. Think mashed potatoes not whipped; water not milk. It has two main ingredients: yam and palm oil. Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the African Oil Palm tree. It is red in color, and high in saturated fat, and can be found in international markets. It is also highly controversial environmentally since its growing and subsequent production destroys a lot of forest land and renders certain species extinct. Conversely, it is one of the cheaper oil options in most markets and a little bit goes a long way. It has the ability to solidify in much a similar way as coconut oil does. Oto is garnished with boiled eggs; if you want to be fancy, include chopped bell peppers to add color. To be truly traditional, it is served in an earthen ware bowl called the eka (shown in the picture).

Oto made its premiere at the Hills Market pop-up counter on Chef Kuukua’s 40th birthday. The next birthday to be celebrated is not until June. Be sure and don’t miss it this time! 😉

Until next time…now you know what’s in a name!