Custom – Nigerian


Many traditional culinary dishes in Nigerian culture contain lots of pepper and so there is a saying, that was said to me many, many times (as I loved to talk at the table when I was younger) that you should “not talk while eating at the table for fear of getting pepper stuck down your throat.”

The practical implications of this saying is that talking while eating something that contains pepper can be dangerous and potentially deadly. The cultural implications is that it keeps children from excessively talking at the table, which—in many cultures—is considered to be bad table etiquette, and reminds everyone of the dangers of talking while eating not only foods that contain pepper but really anything.

I think that this is rooted in Nigerian culture because when you go over a Nigerian’s house for dinner everyone is so busy eating that no one really talks when the actual meal is in progress. It is not until most everyone has had their first helping of food that dining table conversations begin. Furthermore this custom gives nosey children (like me) a chance to eavesdrop on the conversations of adults by using the excuse that I am eating and not being able to disturb/interrupt because my mouth is full of food.

Achebe, Chinua. Thing’s Fall Apart. Anchor Books: New York, 1994.