Nigeria is blessed with a number of waterways. These bodies of water- rivers and rivulets, creeks, lagoons and lakes, provide food, channels of communication and trade between various Nigerian communities. Fishing is an ancient profession in Nigeria. It used to be the dominant profession of people in riverine areas. It was a gendered occupation; only men engaged in it. Fishing was also a highly skilled pursuit, a clear proof of man’s adaptation to his environment.
Fishing engendered migration. This is because availability of fish fluctuated with tidal movements. Fishermen, as a result, tended to migrate in a sort of transhumance along with the flow of water current in search of catch. Therefore, they established temporary fishing settlements where they returned to yearly. Since these migrations were essentially tagged “men only,” when the time came for it, their wives assembled foodstuffs and ingredients that would sustain their husbands for the duration of their stay in the settlement. Most men at that time knew the rudiments of cooking. At the settlement, the fishermen made meals with their catch. Fisherman’s soup is a delicacy invented by these fishermen.
Fisherman’s soup is a popular delicacy in the riverine communities of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Bayelsa states. These states are in the Niger-Delta region. Most of the land in this region is unsuitable for agriculture. As a result, people of this region make their living from the sea. The weather is often cold in most of these communities. This perhaps explains their love for spicy food and hot drinks.
Indeed, one would not be wrong to say that the fisherman’s soup was borne out of the fishermen’s passion for the river from whence they earned a living. There are several recipes for this soup. While some people use tomatoes in preparing this food, others do not. Some people use okro in cooking this soup but others don’t. Again, while some people use garri in thickening this soup, some others use pounded yam. These different styles of cooking merely show the creativity in cooking but do not detract from the authenticity of this wonderfully simple meal.
Fisherman’s soup can be mistaken for native soup because they look alike. Apart from fresh fish, shrimps, clams, periwinkles and whatever seafood the fisherman caught from the sea, other ingredients for preparing this delicacy include pepper, onions, crayfish and salt. The soup is a fast soup. That is because seafood does not cook for long or it will scatter in the pot. This soup can be enjoyed with pounded yam, eba, semo or fufu.
Onwuka Njoku, Economic History of Nigeria (Enugu, Magnet Business Enterprises, 2001).
Joseph Ugwuoke, Agriculture in the Pre-Colonial Era of Nigeria: Forms, Importance, Problems and Solutions to the Modern Day.
Nigerian Lazy Chef