Our cuisine is unmatched. That is something we all know and which we are very proud of. Over the last few years, as internet speed has gotten faster and the prices have dropped, Cameroonians at home and abroad have been starting cooking channels on YouTube for various reasons.
While some may genuinely want to make a living from their YouTube channels, others treat it as a hobby – something they can, every once in a while, go back to. Some hopped on it as a trend and quickly stop creating content for their channel after the excitement had worn out.
Beyond the usual advice of content quality, and consistency in posting, one has to be able to look at food blogging, Cameroonian food blogging, in other ways. For example, Sylvia Dasi, is a Cameroonian living in the USA, and is a passionate chef and food blogger. In her own words, she aims to teach the next generation of Cameroonians in the diaspora how to cook their own food, so that they don’t lose their identity, culture, and origin.
Looking through Sylvia’s YouTube channel, out of the 20 videos there, there was one that particularly caught my attention. It was a Sauté Salmon with sweet potatoes. It was cooked with “cancer-fighting ingredients found in many African dishes.”
Having lived with a cancer patient I can remember how difficult it was for them to deal with the dietary restrictions that one has to respect when undergoing chemotherapy. It was interesting thus, to see a fellow Cameroonian help people with knowing what kind of meal can help such a person, and giving facts about the natural chemical composition of the meal.
Because, let’s face it; If you have ever tried to go on a diet, you already know how difficult it is knowing what exactly is in your food. We do not buy our food from the supermarket, like white people, in tin cans that are labelled with dietary information telling us how many calories are packed in one serving. Instead, we go to the market, and we haggle over the prices of fresh food, which we bring home to cook.
This little bit of information begs to explore the many gaps that exist today in Cameroonian food blogging, and how those who are interested in getting into it can exploit these little niche areas and give our cuisine the visibility, knowledge, and value it ought to have.
As explained already, this is a pretty big problem. We just don’t know what is in our food. Going through a number of YouTube channels that vaguely addressed the issue, I noticed that the few who attempted just rambled off details that they picked from the internet. Many clearly have no real idea what the information even meant. One of the greatest challenges bloggers will have to face, is to reformat this information in a manner that will be easy to be understood and remembered by people reading or watching. Bloggers will have to move away from making such information sound less clinical and more practical and familiar.
PRESENTATION AND AESTHETICS:
Yes, this is a big problem. Social media is becoming a very visual and aesthetic place. As much as we want to give people real value, we also want to make sure that HOW we present it is a major consideration. One of the issues is that today, many people start blogging or vlogging just because they want to catch up to a trend and not because they really have a WHY they are trying to answer. That is why you have many abandoned blogs and YouTube channels.
As much as it’s important to start small, try to invest in a good phone camera, learn how to film and hold your hand steady, learn how to use natural light to your advantage, learn how to put your ingredients in a visually appealing way. There are thousands of food channels out there and if you want to compete, there is a minimum barrier of aesthetics that you need to have.
DEMOCRATISATION OF OUR FOOD:
Now, I was made to understand that our brothers and sisters in the U.S, for lack of waterleaf use some other vegetable to cook their eru. The next point reflects on how this could have come about, but what I want to point out here is how we can see how we can incorporate recipes from other countries into our cuisine. There are so many ingredients and methods of cooking that closely resemble ours.
Being able to mix these without losing the essence and the identity of our cuisine can push other people from different countries to want to try it out, and thus, get a close taste of what Cameroonian cuisine looks like. It will be fun to see such a YouTube channel.
This is something that we as Cameroonians do not do with our food. I read a comment on YouTube where someone berated the lady cooking about a certain ingredient she put in eru. The person commenting said that Bayangi people cook it a certain way and it should not be cooked otherwise. Well, my mum puts garlic in her eru. We need to be open to experimentation. We need to push the boundaries of our cuisine and see how we can break away from “standard” methods of cooking.
BETTER CURATION: This is really a follow-up on the idea of people getting into food blogging with a WHY in their mind. When you have a real purpose and a drive that is rooted in something strong, you are able to churn out content after content. And while doing so, you learn how to better curate different interesting topics relating to Cameroonian cuisine.
Already, many Cameroonian food bloggers hop on the popular dishes like eru and ndole. I have never seen anyone blog about foods that are eaten in the North of Cameroon. I heard that the leaf of the hibiscus flower is eaten as a soup. Already it is from there that we get folere. How come I have never seen anyone blog about that? There is a huge work of curation that still needs to be done for our cuisine.
STRATEGY AND AUDIENCE COGNIZANCE: This should have been the first point but I prefer to put it last because, perhaps if there is any takeaway I need you to take away it should be this one. Decide what audience you want to reach and define a strategy your are going to put into place to reach them.
When you are sure about who you specifically want to speak to, and how you are going to reach them, it becomes easier for you to better curate and present the content. As a blogger, you could very well be targeting Moroccans with Cameroonian cuisine. But you need a WHY and you need to know and understand the average Moroccan and you need to have a strategy to reach them.
Now, go out there and make Cameroon proud.
- Wandji Wilfred.