The Most Frequently Mentioned Types of Food Kola nut: the seed of the cola, an African tree. The seed contains caffeine and yields an extract; it represents vitality and is used as a courteous, welcoming snack, often eaten with alligator pepper. Alligator pepper: a small brown fruit of an African shrub, whose hot seeds are like black. The seeds may be grounded and blended with kola nut in the ritual welcoming of visitors.
Cont. Palm Oil : A yellowish fatty oil obtained especially from the crushed nuts of an African palm and used in the manufacture of soaps, chocolates, cosmetics, and candles. Palm Wine : created from the sap of various palm trees and coconut palms. In the book, people drink it a lot at feasts, weddings, and just almost any ceremony or party. Yam : a sweet potato/ vegetable with skin colors that vary from dark brown to light pink and white or yellow to purple or pink for the color of the “meat.” It is the staple crop in the Igbo culture and the main food for ceremonial occasions. It plays such a big part in the Igbo culture that they have a New Yam Festival to celebrate its nourishing power.
Discussion Question 1 Why do you think they named the different crops “women’s crops” or “men’s crops?”
Importance of Food in the Book Chinua Achebe uses food to reveal different aspects of Igbo culture. Alligator Pepper and Kola Nut are used for social rituals: welcoming others. Yams are an indicator of wealth Food also shows how women are treated differently and are looked down upon. Coco-yams, beans, and cassava are called “women’s crops” while yam, “the king of crops,” was a “man’s crop.” Food plays an important part in the rituals, feasts, and festivals that happen in the villages.
Share-cropping A system of farming where landowners lacked the cash to pay wages to farm laborers. In this system, the crop was divided into three shares-one for the landowner, one for the worker, and one for whoever provided seeds, fertilizer, and equipment. It was a very slow way to build up a barn since the farmer would only get a third of the harvest.
Cont. Most farmland is controlled by kinship groups. The groups cultivate farmland together and distribute the lands according to seniority. Rights over the use of land for food cultivation or for building a house depend primarily on descent, and secondarily on local residence. It is Igbo custom that a wife must be allocated a piece of land to cultivate for feeding her household.
Factors Contributing to Farming Timing of the rain: Rain cannot be too late Amount of rain: Rain must come in sufficient amounts: not too large nor too small Strength of the sun: Sun cannot be too strong or it’ll roast up all that had been sown Locusts can destroy the farmlands
The Process of Farming Men are mainly responsible for yam cultivation, and women for “women’s” crops. Usually, the men clear and prepare the land, plant their own yams, cut stakes and train the yam vines, build the yam barns, and tie the harvest. Women would also weed and harvest the yams from the farm. For palm products, men usually cut the palm fruit and tap and then sell the palm wine. They also sell palm oil, which the women prepare. In general, women save and sell the kernels.
The Importance of Farming Farming also shows the division between women and men. It also stands for manliness. Farming means hard work and supporting your family. Not being able to harvest good crops like Okonkwo’s father shows weakness. Farming measures a man’s success.
Discussion Question 2 Is it good for a country to be farming-based?
Quotes Chapter 4 Page 33 “Yam stood for manliness, and he who could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed…Okonkwo wanted his son to be a great farmer and a great man” Chapter 3 Page 23 “…but they grew women’s crops, like coco-yams, beans, and cassava. Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crop.”
Discussion Question 3 Should share-cropping still be observed in the Igbo tribe?
Bibliography "sharecropping." The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 24 Apr. 2009.. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sharecropping>. "Igbo Economy." Countries and their Cultures. Advameg Inc. 25 Apr. 2009. "Igbo." World Cultures. Advameg Inc. 25 Apr. 2009. "Perpetuation of Igbo Traditinos." Afro-Asian Literature. 25 Apr. 2009.