Tuesday 7 July 2015

Agege Bread by desire and amazing consequence

Whistle-stop London
At the behest of Funmi Iyanda, I found myself on a train to London on Saturday soon after a conversation where we decided we need to have a chat.
I left home in shorts and a shirt, wearing boat shoes, a straw hat and nothing else, not even a jacket because we were having one of those unusually glorious summer days in England. Sunday morning was hardly the precursor to a summer's day, it rained and I was not dressed for it.
Arriving at hers, I settled down to a cassava meal with a mix of three different stews that I insisted on having despite her protestations to the contrary, I insisted and enjoyed it.
The evening passed with visitors literally exhausting us, so we never really went out to the US Independence Day picnic because as usual, our good friends are not the best or most reliable timekeepers for engagements.
Good view but the food
On Sundays when I am with Funmi, we have breakfast / brunch at Ginger & White where we meet an eclectic crowd of Bohemian types over scrambled eggs, assorted organic breads and spreads. Their baked beans and peanut butter are just completely something else.
Anyway, as it transpired, we did not make G&W round the corner, but were persuaded to make a beeline to Monument Station to Sky Garden on the 32nd Floor at 20 Fenchurch Street where the building widens at the top, earning it the name, The Walkie-Talkie. The curve on the building can exhibit the qualities of a concave mirror reflecting and concentrating incidental sunlight to the point of melting parts of cars parked in its vicinity.
Getting in the Sky Garden building almost exceeded the security requirements for international travel at airports; names, phone numbers, metal detectors and baggage scanning equipment, all for the sake of breakfast. We got up there and whilst we might have been bowled over by the views, that was the only thing going for the Sky Garden, the location, cold and unfriendly, the menu was at best perfunctory. A bloody waste of time, to put it mildly.
A place to forget
We left wondering whether to return to the tried and tested or explore the possibilities at Borough Market just one station’s stop down at London Bridge.
We decided on the latter and after perambulating for about 15 minutes, we settled for Le Pain Quotidien where the fare was passable for survivalist mastication rather than for taste or culinary skill.
Femi who had joined us at Le Pain Quotidien was very helpful as I had purposed that on my visit to London, I will get some Agege Bread. She called Anino who suggested we try the Agege Bread shop on Deptford High Street and along the way we would have been able to get some moin-moin for Funmi too.
The Agege Bread adventure
We caught a black cab and made for Deptford, stopping in front of the Agege Bread shop where on entry we were met with a feast of Nigerian delicacies that excited us beyond Pavlovian abandon.
Moin-moin, asaro, ewa aganyin, puff-puff, fresh fish stew, chin-chin, buns, jollof rice, fried rice, fried plantain (dodo), suya and much else, I was whooping with extreme glee that my order probably took the best part of 30 minutes. Visit the All Nigerian Recipes website for an introduction to the vast palate of Nigerian cuisine.
As we were making up our minds about what to get, the proprietor and owner of the Agege Bread business came in and a conversation started, first with Femi and then with Funmi and the next 3 or so hours we were entertained and regaled with his perceptions of living and thriving in the UK having arrived from Nigeria some 30 years ago.
An inspiration and new friend
Whilst Agege Bread might mean many things to many people, the trademark and brand belongs to the Agege Bread business in the UK and it is the standard by which imitation sweet breads are measured.
In all this, we got to visit the East Street outlet of Agege Bread walking through the workrooms and if there was enough time, we might have even visited the main factory in Greenwich.
We were inspired very much by this very confident, self-assured entrepreneur whose perspectives of integration and work ethic left us almost ashamed of what some other Nigerians come to do in the UK. Agege Bread is soon to have a shop at London Heathrow's Terminal 5 too.
Many of the points he addressed are probably best covered in another blog, but the great revelation and achievement of the weekend was how the simple desire for Agege Bread led us to an unforgettable encounter with an ambassador of values those of Nigerian heritage can espouse and exhibit if we decide to be the best we can be.
A friendship was blossoming and part of that was he gave us a lift, not to the nearest station but all the way back home in North West London before returning to his home in Kent.

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