Egusi Soup


EI: “So basically, in my family but I feel like Nigerian culture in general, there’s this one dish… It’s a soup, it’s called egusi soup. I don’t know all that goes into it. I know egusi is a melon, but you eat the seeds, so the soup is made by grinding up the seeds and mixing it with vegetables. It kind of smells… It makes the house smell bad. Not necessarily bad, but you know when egusi soup is being made in the house. It’s just a dish for whenever, but there is a process of making it, so you have to plan in advance. Finding the different ingredients is hard because you have to go to a specific Nigerian grocery store, and there aren’t that many of those, so you have to make the trek to go to the grocery store and make it which is a full day kind of thing. It’s more difficult, but it’s not for, like, special occasions.”

CONTEXT: EI is a black freshman at USC studying business. She grew up in the Bay area in California, but her family is Nigerian.

EI: “My family, we don’t make it very much, but it’s basically when my mom or my grandma comes and she and makes it. It makes me feel like oh wow, it’s a part of Nigerian culture, like immersed. I feel like that was always fun because my sister and I would come home and we’d smell the smell and get so excited. We’d be like “oh my gosh, yay! Egusi!” Because before we’d have it once in every like five years. We’ve been having it more recently which is cool, but now, we have it and it’s that same excitement of ‘Oh, I haven’t had this in a while’ even if it was the other day.”

ANALYSIS: I’ve never heard of egusi soup before, but a quick google search reveals that it’s a fairly common dish associated with Nigerian heritage. While the dish is not eaten at a specific time in EI’s family, it definitely has a purpose: for EI, it’s a means to connect her to her culture. She stated that it makes her feel immersed in Nigerian culture. Nigerian culture is not super common in the Bay area, and based on EI’s comments, it takes effort to express that identity. After all, she stated that Nigerian grocery stores are far away—in order to acquire the ingredients to make egusi soup, it takes a lot of effort. The making of egusi soup becomes very deliberate. Not only that, it’s acquired an association with the women in her family as her mother and grandmother are the people who make it. On the topic of ingredients, it’s interesting that the egusi hasn’t been replaced. Often, people replace certain materials if they’re hard to get. However, because the egusi itself is the main part of the soup, it can’t be replaced without losing the egusi-ness that makes it egusi soup. It makes the trek to the Nigerian grocery store is entirely necessary.