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The proverb is an integral aspect of culture. It is drawn from a variety of sources and it is utilized to express wisdom, illustrate an idea, and teach life lessons. Some proverbs are drawn from food. This is largely because food is central to life and a reflection of the people. In a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria where the food is as diverse as the people, we find that each of these ethnic groups has its own food proverbs. Interestingly, the interpretation of most food proverbs are not related to food but are employed by the people to give insights into other socio-cultural aspects of society. It must, however, be noted that food proverbs are not limited to proverbs about edible food items. They also include proverbs about food consumption, proverbs about cooking and tools used in cooking, and proverbs about food-related body organs. Below is a list of some Nigerian food proverbs and their meanings. The disobedient fowl becomes obedient in the pot of soup- Disobedience often has grave consequences. If a child’s first yam burns completely while roasting, he pulls the second one out before it is done- People become cautious after a sad experience. Remove the hand of the monkey from the pot of soup lest it turns to human hand- Bad thing should be nipped in the bud for it may become unmanageable in the future. If a woman learns to prepare watery soup, the husband learns to make a dent in his fufu before dipping it in the soup- One must learn to adjust to any situation that one finds oneself in. The orphaned child knows by the afternoon hunger that his mother is dead- A man confronts the reality of his situation when faced with difficulty. The woman who starts cooking first has more broken pots- The man who begins a venture first has more experience than the newcomer. No one gets a mouthful by picking the food between another person’s teeth- A man must strive for his own gains and not rely completely on others. When a child washes his hands well, he dines with kings- Hardwork can change a man’s destiny. If one person cooks for a group, they will finish it but if the group cooks for one person, it will be impossible for him to finish it- The strength of a group cannot be compared to that of an individual. A smart child sits between his father’s thighs so that his father will allow him to eat out of his food- Men tend to court profitable situations. Man is like pepper. You won’t know how hot it is till you’ve chewed it- Things should not be judged at face value. The okra should not be stronger than its planter- A child should not be above his father’s authority but subject to it. A child is not flogged the day he spills oil but the day he pours ogili- Punishment comes to the man who fails to mend his ways. The breadfruit falls when it is ripe- Things happen at their appointed time. The underrated small pot is what puts out the fire- Underestimating little things can have grave consequences. If you enjoyed reading today’s proverbs then watch out for part two of this segment next week. Have a lovely weekend.  
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This article was first published on 25th November 2020


Udevi, Obiamaka Angela holds a Master of Arts degree in History & International Studies. She's a freelance writer with a passion for food and healthy living. She can be contacted through her email address,

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