A woman cooking Moi-Moi on her period must twist a piece of foil into a line, knot it, and drop it into the boiling pot of water, or the dish will stick to the bottom of the pan, and the food will not be edible because it will not set.
Moi- Moi is a Nigerian dish made from mashed black eyed peas, corned beef, onions, tomatoes, and peppers. The ingredients are combined and rolled into foil. This is then placed in a pot of boiling water for about an hour. When the mixture is done cooking, it is removed from the pot and left to cool and set. Afterward, it is cut into patties and served.
As a child, I often cooked this dish and several others with my mother. Not long after I began menses, I was making the dish with my mother and she asked if I was menstruating. When I replied that I was, she told me that I was to take a piece of foil and roll it into a wire. I was to then twist it into a knot and drop it into the pot. When I asked her why we did it, she could not give me an answer about its origin. She told me that she learned it as a young child in Lagos, Nigeria from her maternal grandmother. I later witnessed several of my aunts and my grandmother do the same thing when preparing the dish for a large family gathering. I have not witnessed anyone perform this ritual when making any other dish.
After researching many superstitions involving menstruating women, I found several that relate to cooking. These include:
– Fruits canned by a menstruating woman will spoil in the can
– mayonnaise made by a menstruating woman will curdle
-Wine made in the presence of a menstruating woman will turn to vinegar
– Bread made by a menstruating woman will not rise
-Butter churned, or jelly/jam made, by a menstruating woman will not set
I personally believe that these superstitions derive from misunderstandings and curiosity about menstruation. Many societies feel that blood is an impure substance, and the fact that most often when blood is pouring from an individual it means that an injury has occurred or death is soon to follow makes the process of menstruation unnerving. This is probably why it was thought that unless some sort of ritual was performed to prevent it, a menstruating woman touching an item could contaminate or ruin it.
Annotation: Mikkelson, Barbara. “Monthly Taboos.” Snopes. 14 June 2005. 21 Apr. 2008 <http://www.snopes.com/pregnant/menses.asp>.