In 2010 a pregnant woman asked the internet when Tesco would stock microwavable jollof rice. A fair question, seeing as the grocery giant stocks ready made meals from India to Italy, China and the Caribbean.
Her question was answered when in November of the same year, Tesco announced that they would be launching seven ethnic ranges in the UK. Up until then, Tesco had only sold Asian, Oriental, Afro-Caribbean, Kosher, Polish and Halal foods. But decided to add Turkish, Sri Lankan, Latin, Filipino, African and South African ranges to its shelves. (Apparently African and South African are two different things…)
Tesco ethnic food buyer, Muhammad Rahman explained that Britain had become one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth and described how there was a “very strong growing demand from people who have settled here to buy food from their homelands,”. He went on to say that there was also a “natural curiosity from shoppers to try other cuisines”. And for that reason, Tesco decided to offer “educational material and tips” on how to prepare food from the new ethnic range.
Fast forward to 2014, and it was those ‘educational materials’ and ‘tips’ that led to an outcry from outraged Africans all over the internet.
A recipe for jollof rice on Tesco’s Real Food website started making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter after it became obvious that no one in head office had actually checked the authenticity of the recipe before it was uploaded.
According to Tesco Real Food, jollof rice takes 30 minutes to cook. I’ve made jollof rice on a Saturday morning with my mum. It does not take 30 minutes. The tomato stew, which you can’t make J- rice without, has been substituted for sweet peppers. I don’t know how that makes sense, but Tesco obviously approves.
Now, those of you who’ve tried jollof rice before will understand how baffling the above recipe is. And for those who haven’t, imagine buying tickets for your kids to see Hannah Montana and the person below turning up on stage.
Let’s take a look at the picture again shall we, next to what jollof rice ACTUALLY looks like.
Simple Simon took to Twitter to address the issue, @ing Tesco with his concerns:
Although Tesco apologised on Twitter and removed the recipe, it was uploaded onto the site 36 months ago, which could mean that hundreds of thousands of curious shoppers and cooking enthusiasts will be making this version of jollof rice!
So who is doing their research?! Who is making these shocking recipes? And who will be fired for this great misjustice to Africa?!
I sent an email to Tesco to find out why they had pissed so many people off, here’s how they responded:
As you can see Kevin has done a very good job at ignoring my passive aggressive tone and also included a lovely compliment about one of Ghana’s most popular dishes. He also shifted the blame from Tesco, explaining that the recipe was uploaded by a customer. A Rosie Aboyade-Cole to be specific.
I spent about 30 minutes trying to find out who she was, Tesco wouldn’t tell me. A Rosie on Linkedin didn’t have a profile pic, but she does work as a Law Lecturer at Dagenham Park CofE School so maybe I pay her a visit and ask some questions…? There’s also a Rosie Aboyade-Cole who donated kind words to her pal Jenny, who was running for some cancer charity thing. So she’s clearly not some evil woman who wants to ruin jollof rice for everybody. We’ll just have to assume it was her first time in the kitchen and her double-barrelled , half Nigerian surname is the result of her marriage to an African man who regularly eats dinner at his mistresses’ apartment, because, well Rosie can’t cook can she.
Jamie Oliver on the other hand can cook. But somehow his jollof rice ended up looking like paella!
You might as well throw some cheese on there to make it ‘proper rustic’.
On the subject of white men cooking African/Caribbean food. Who remembers the abomination that Marco Pierre White attempted to pass off as rice and peas!?
Tesco haven’t uploaded a new jollof rice recipe to their Real Food website yet, and they probably never will. But perhaps it’s better that way. Because there’s nothing worse than having your country’s national dish bastardized, toned down for foreign tastebuds, then squeezed into a tin and sold for 4 pence.