#FuFuChallenge: The Consequences of Virality and Cultural Staples

As you all know, Tik Tok has become super popular in this pandemic. It’s turned into a forum for people to learn new dances, educate others about what's going on in different parts of the world and see others’ opinions on anything.

Most of my favorite Tik Toks are of people trying new restaurants and meals from different cultures. One popular food that’s gained popularity over TikTok is fufu, which is a staple West African food item made from dried cassava or yam and hot water. Fufu is eaten with a traditional soup and it tastes amazing!

Obviously, you would be excited that a food you grew up eating is gaining some popularity with non-Africans, right? Not quite.

I, as well as many other Africans, had mixed feelings about the challenge because of the variety of reactions. Many of these reactions were positive. For example, one woman in California drove 80 miles to an African restaurant to try fufu, okra and egusi soup out of curiosity and ended up loving it. While some people liked fufu, some other people didn’t enjoy the dish so much. Like most foods, some people just weren’t a fan of fufu and expressed their opinion respectfully.

Others unfortunately expressed their opinion in a rude manner, spitting it out or throwing it away to make a scene. Sometimes, people would just throw the fufu in the garbage without even trying it.

These negative reactions gave me flashbacks to when I used to bring Nigerian food in middle school. My “friends” would make fun of me for eating food that smelled so strong and looked “strange” in comparison to the sandwiches they brought for lunch or the dishes served in school.

It got to the point where I started making turkey sandwiches or eating school lunch to avoid being made fun of in middle school. To this day, I wish I was more appreciative of my food and culture back then and found friends who didn’t judge me for my food.

Food is an important part of cultural identity as it allows you to appreciate each culture. Everyone’s taste buds vary though; a dish you love dearly is not always going to be enjoyed by the next person. In the end, it’s about respect.

With the #FuFu Challenge, it was fun to see people enjoying my culture’s food and witnessing NIgerian food finally get the recognition it deserves. While I was a little sad that some people weren’t fans of the dish, I was more upset by random grown adults on the internet insulting and disrespecting a dish that is a staple part of a beautiful culture. Hopefully, we can do a better job respecting one another.

Sources

  1. https://www.amplifyafrica.org/post/tiktok-users-try-fufu-and-egusi-in-latest-challenge
  2. https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/social-media/2418506/tiktokers-chewed-out-for-disrespectful-fufuchallenge/
  3. https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2021-01-19/how-the-fufu-challenge-on-tiktok-went-viral