Bier And Akpukpa Is For Lovers Of Good Natural Food
February 2019, as I was about rounding up my service year, despite the fears of the security challenges in Benue state that time, I applied as INEC Adhoc for the 2019 election, and got my posting to Gaadi, a suburban area in Makurdi. My team and I parked lightly, a plain trouser, on a khaki top, an extra top we can quickly change to and discard our khaki top if it gets violent so no one will recognize us as we run for our lives. No serious food parks or anything to make our yokes harder. On that cold harmattan morning, before the election started, I was already very hungry, I had to look around for something to eat. That was when I saw this woman who had creatively carved fine lines with a broom on the sandy surface around her small Iyoughtoho, the local fireplace burning lightly, there was an assembly of what I know in Hausa as Kwarya da Lude the local spoon and round calabash plate we use to drink Fura…
Bier is different from the normal Nigerian Pap or koko. In fact it is not Bier if a part of the corner of your mouth doesn’t slap like you are taking Agbalumo.
“Mama please give me Koko and that Moimoi”. I pointed at the hot steaming moi-moi packaged in green leaves folded like a craft man’s latest discovery. “My pikin, she laughed. “You want Bier and akpukpa?” Oh Bier and Akpukpa it is then. This was the first experience I had of what later became my favorite breakfast the past three years. Bier is a very popular Benue delicacy originating from the Tiv Tribe, but now very popular among all the tribes in the state.
Bier is different from the normal Nigerian Pap or koko. In fact it is not Bier if a part of the corner of your mouth doesn’t slap like you are taking Agbalumo. It made with guinea corn and has this spoke looking face and the same colour with a fine ash coloured sand. The akpukpa tastes finer. Akpukpa is made from beans or Bambara nut. It tastes like moi-moi with a bit of the people’s culture added whatever that is.
Two years in Makurdi, and I know every famous Bier and akpukpa joint in town. It is one of the constant business you find women, so my joy knew no bounds when my friends and I got to this joint one day, one of my friends greeted a young man whom we assumed was waiting to be served and asked him “abeg, where the woman wey dey sell?” he laughed and said “Na me dey sell” Daniel Atile Terhimba, 25, a 300 level student of Microbiology at Benue state university, upon his mother’s ill health during the pandemic took over the business from his mother who had been doing it for 40 years! He sat with us all through answering our questions, laughing while at it, he noted the mixed reaction he gets when people see him sell “Some thinks I am foolish, I mean, you know, being a guy, and all, and some are often very impressed that I was able to take over my mum’s business, but does it really matter what anyone says? I am getting everything I need from it, my school fees, and I am able to take care of the family’s need” He concluded.
Visiting different Bier and Akpukpa joint has made me seen the good, the not so good and maybe the bad. One thing I can say over the time is that, as the production cost become higher due to the increase in the price of food items and raw materials for production, many joints are undergoing the pressure of being able to retain their customers, and had to maintain the constant price despite high production cost. (A cup of Bier is #50, Akpupka costs #50 for the eggless and #100 for the one with egg). This has resulted in production of substandard food. Dooyum, a young lady, and an Akpupka enthusiast like myself once noted to me: “Many of them can no longer afford the price of beans, so what they do is mix the beans with some other things like yam, especially when yam is surplus. That’s why you see the akpukpa gets so strong and tasteless, sometimes you are hardly able to finish #50 own”
Bier and Akpukpa is not only an important part of Benue’s culture, it is a breakfast option for anyone who enjoys good natural food. It is 100% made from natural products, from the green leaves used to cover the Akpukpa instead of the unhealthy leather option we are used to, to the reusable local calabashes used for the Bier, (except the firewood used during production) it is an interesting food that has not been yet explored or invested in by the food-loving people of Nigeria and beyond and would be a refreshing option away from the usual processed unhealthy breakfast options we consume every day. Personally, If I ever get to own a 5-star restaurant, Bier and Akpukpa will be the first on the breakfast menu.