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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Friday, July 06, 2007

ON FOOD ( rambling, bumbling, missing home)

I’ve just had an Oprah moment (go ahead snigger, its okay). I sit here sipping this vile detox juice, having an online emoticons clogged chat with the shrimp whilst catching bits and pieces of the Oprah show and yes you guessed it, she’s talking about weight issues. My phone flashes, it’s a reply to a text l sent to four of my gal pals yesterday. It went like this. “Darling, l’ve just had the most divine orgasm, Thai. Beats the Italian one of last night and the Chinese one of the night before, best of all it was free”. Two days ago, my friend Sumonu Bello Osagie from the Nigerian embassy picked me up at La Guardia. Sumonu was the brainchild and magic genie that facilitated my “Funmi in New York” series in 2003 and he is one of those warm, supportive, happy giants with a great laugh and snazzy style. Once settled in my hotel, he asked me what l wanted to eat with mischief dancing in his eyes. Sumonu knows l love to eat so off we went to Peking Duck just round the corner from the Nigerian embassy. Since then it appears that l have been on one huge gastronomic excursion perhaps to salve the raw nerve exposed by the financial drain and professional disappointment this trip has become. Now l know what you are thinking and this is why l have always hesitated about writing about my insane love of food. As to the where it all go question? Patience, it is tied to my Oprah moment.

July 4 and America is celebrating. I do the touristy thing, put on my MBTs, sling a camera across my chest and start walking and sightseeing. From the Museum of Modern Art to Madison square Garden to Soho, Little Italy and China Town. I go window licking (with window shopping you know you might be able to afford the stuff on display, just max out your credit card, window licking? Not a chance in hell of buying any of it) at certain stores on 5th Avenue and treasure hunting at Barneys, Jeffery’s and all those small indie fashion outlets in hipper parts of town. My shopping rules are to only buy stuff l love (happy gear l call them), at the most reasonable price and only in the styles that flatter me. I don’t do slavish fashion, overt designer billboarding and copycat dressing. I like happy, individual styles and am always looking out for the most fun, individual and body happy people on the streets from Ikeja (hardly ever at those plastic island parties, which is usually a boring monolithic jungle of prescribed, safe, overt, top to toe designer labelled body dysmorphic blandness) to Athens.

Through out my city trawling l stopped to refuel at the many bistros and alfresco restaurants on my path. By evening l get a call from my new friend Vicky (typical strong 9ja woman, widowed single mum of the bright, beautiful, high achieving Efe) and we headed for Yum Yum on 9th for dinner. I am not going to bore you with details of the experience but it did inspire the text message above. After that we drove to the East river for the annual MACY’S fireworks but it was over before we got there. Vicky, sumonu and l had been out to diner and movies the night before, whilst l have been to Balthazar and Fresh for lunch the past two days so it does feel like l am eating my way through the big apple.

Now to my Oprah moment, as l watched the show, l felt the familiar disquiet that had always prevented me from talking about food and weight issues. The fear that because looking the way l do would make it less authentic. As l watched, it suddenly hit me, l too do have body image issues (a woman without any is to be approached with great caution). I hate it when my butt completes a leap some full 60 secs after my feet are back on terra firma, l hate the constant battle to keep my stomach flat (naturally slim people store fat in the stomach more than others), l hate exercise and l love rich comforting food. There, l said it and being my size doesn’t make it any less true. To each her own. I feel liberated to talk about my love for food and the silly tricks l play to combat the inevitable consequence (yes skinny girls have those too, go figure).
I have always loved food as l associate it with my beloved long gone mother. I am also a food snub as l expect food to be prepared and presented with love, passion, attention to detail and creativity so whether it is soufflé like amala with gbegiri from Alhaja in Peckham, tender isi ewu from oron road in Akwa lbom, mussels from Belgo in Camden, lamb from the Berbers on the mountains in Marrakech, oysters from McCormick and Schmick"s or sushi from Nobu. I expect food perfection. Flavourful, colourful, fresh and scrumptious. Perhaps this is my saving grace, as l do not like dead, soulless, inert commercial junk or processed food.
As a result l am a food channel and AA Gill die-hard fan. I love to eat out although Lagos and its overpriced, over hyped, food ignorant, rude staffed restaurants and bars are a challenge. The consequence of my gastronomic excess is that l suffer mild to serious food allergies and intolerances all of which l battle like a trouper with homeopathic remedies. Once my butt response time exceeds 60 secs l detox i.e l eat only raw, living food (fruits, vegetables and complex carbs) for a day and add cardio to my training regime. Those are the days l am most irritable.
I know l am lucky but l feel compelled to ask to be allowed my own slim babe’s weight whines without that bloody disbelieving (sometime playa hating) eyeball roll.
Recently my friend Pamela who is certainly no shrinking violent weight wise (wink, wink, gosh! Pam’s got a chest to slaughter for) came to stay and she it was who pointed out to me that my problem is that l see people first as people and not a weight category but that this is not true for a large majority of people. Maybe it is because of overcoming my own past crushing insecurities about my body (skinny angles and bones, k legs and squashed nose) but l see people first as a personality type as against a dress size. Thus l'm always perplexed when perfectly gorgeous women whine about wanting to be thinner on one hand but will not let me whine about my own gravity battling issues on the other. Gals, lets be democratic about this and let us all media confused, body x raying females give ourselves a frigging break preferably over some hot chocolate and macadamia nut and raisin muffin


Anonymous said...

The relationship women have with food has always been a strained one. However, i think there is a valid point here - Nigerian women are largely overweight and must learn to tackle their weight. its shocking how a robust size 10/12 is regarded as thin here. I have never met anyone who looked worse after healthy weight loss. i want to congratulate you for being thin and healthy. This is a rare sight in Nigeria and i hope we women take note and make no mistake - thin is the best! Makes one look young and clothes fit like a dream!

Cheetarah said...

U must go to Chilis Fummy! Its just steak and buffalo wings but Iswear its to die for! I love food too jare! I sooo feeling you. Oh I hope ur shrip isnt missin u 2 much plus whaddyu mean the trip was a disapiontment?Elucidate(see grammer,lol!) pls

Saymama said...

Funmi, interesting perspective. I'll be more conscious of my behaviour the next time my super thin friend complains about her body:-)

I feel you on the food tip - I too beleive that the pleasure should never be taken out of food and a rude waiter has the ability to ruin that whole experience for me!

But while you're in NYC, you must check out Bette Restaurant on W. 23rd St. You won't be sorry.

Unknown said...

oprah's weight loss challenge show was an eye opener for me...
exercising for the rest of my life.. not sure i can do it...
...can see u enjoyed new york...

u look good...

Anonymous said...

Am going to plagiarise your itinerary when I visit NYC in a few days' time. Any chance of borrowing your pals too?

Ms. Catwalq said...

at least you are naturally skinny.
i store evrything i eat, even the oxygen I inhale goes somewhere on my body. right now, i am believing strongly that it is in my stomach.

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ anonymous, healthy is best ;-)

@ cheetarah, where is it at girl! the dissappointment? may tell the story one day, it involves very important people and might still turn around in which case it will be a great story.

@saymama, kai didnt see this early enough, will keep it in my future itinerary.

@jjc, anytime babe, anytime.

@catwalq, l bet you look great though.

My 2 cents said...

I think Sumonu Bello Osagie is the nicest man in the world..Bummer he's taken!