Nigerian Food Nomenclature: Porridge or Pottage?

I don’t know the exact number of emails I have received from visitors to my website, calling me out on writing Nigerian Yam Porridge instead of Nigerian Yam Pottage. Plantain Porridge instead of Plantain Pottage.

But they are many.

I grew up knowing these meals as Yam Porridge, Beans Porridge and Plantain Porridge. So when I received a substantial amount of emails on the nomenclature, I ran to Google to do my own “research”. Yeah!

These are what I found:

porridge
porridge

So yes, the owners of the English language say that porridge is a meal prepared with oatmeal or cereal which our “porridge” recipes are not prepared with.

But …

The definition of pottage still doesn’t do these meals enough justice for them to qualify as pottage. And are you ready for this? If you read the online definitions of these words in detail, you will see that porridge is in fact a variant of pottage.

Go figure!

And …

Pottage just doesn’t sound right! It’s archaic as you can see in the definition above. Yam Pottage, Plantain Pottage … mmmh no, thank you! When we were younger, my brother and I, without knowing the correct nomenclature, laughed at people who said “Yam Pottage” and called them Igbotic. 😀

I don’t think any of the definitions is adequate.

This made me think: we Nigerians don’t always follow the popular nomenclature when it comes to food so we can call our food whatever we like and the world will agree with us.

  • What we call soup is what oyibo calls sauce. We agree with them on Pepper Soup though.
  • What we call pumpkin leaf is what oyibo calls fluted pumpkin leaf.
  • What we call Egg Rolls are not in any way related to oyibo egg rolls.

So what do you think? What names do you know these meals by? Yam Pottage or Yam Porridge? Beans Pottage or Beans Porridge?

Should we refer to these meals as porridge: Yam Porridge, Plantain Porridge, Beans Porridge? After all the thick liquid in the meal is “porridgy” if you ask me ;D

Or should we be meek and mild, do follow-follow, stay in the 18th century and call them Yam Pottage, Beans Pottage etc?

Your pally in the kitchen,

Flo

Comments

  1. Yam pottage doesn’t by any means sound alright, it wouldn’t to any Nigerian. Here we just say “porridge”, I only learned about “pottage” a couple of year back and frankly, it doesn’t sound as lush as porridge. So I would stick to Yam porridge.

  2. Yam porridge etc hoha n way to go.lol n nice1 Maije

  3. This oyibo here started cooking Nigerian food 13 years ago and never knew about the yam porridge or what porridge in general is till arrived in uk, as we do not really eat porridge in Greece. The Nigerians that taught me how to cook called it yam pottage and that’s how I know it now. I do not care what is called as long as is as tasty as I know it is. Wishing I could have some now.

  4. Ogbu Chika Mary says:

    yep yep and yep i totally agree
    i have been called out to at a function and some know it all thought they could teach me English……i told them that Nigeria my beloved country is a British Colony……so the Oyibo man wey teach me Yam Porrige et al no be mumu……so people don't make people intimidate you with big grammar…..stand by what you believe in….infact i just made some Beans Porrige….so if somebody wants to jump into the Atlantic Ocean, please do that gladly…….its a good thing you put it out so others can learn and you wnt be discouraged………i love your page, it gives me great ideas………………….CARRY GO

  5. Well, i remember my Dad calls it Pottage but to me it sound Shakespearean. I prefer porridge though…..

  6. Yam porridge, beans porridge and plantain porridge that’s all.

  7. Yam porridge all d way,whether its correct or nt,derz no yumminess in “ttage” bt “rridge”,u salivate 4 d food.

  8. Prof. Flo, it is yam porridge and plantain porridge; though i knew it as yam pottage, from a nursery rhyme (orally). Am saying the porridge nomenclature is correct.

    • Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
      Pease porridge in the pot, 3 days old;
      Some like it hot, some like it cold,
      Some like it in the pot, 3 days old. LOL

  9. I had this confusion as a child reading foreign books and finding that milk was added to porridge. See me imagining milk in beans porridge sha. Lol.

    For me so long as communication is achieved, food can be called whatever. 😀

    • My world class writer! It’s only a bad cook that will add milk to beans o! I remember it’s the been-tos that said Yam Pottage etc because they can’t imagine milk and yam 😀

  10. Iwuanorue Blessing says:

    I like this site a lot and have learnt so much from here but I have this challenge as a wife and mother when it comes to what to prepare for my family breakfast,lunch & I'll be glad if there's a provision here for a healthy family timetable. It will go a long way to help some busy mums who wants to make sure their family eats right,thanks.

    • Blessing I have this challenge too, so you are not alone. But I will share how I add variety to our family menu soon. 🙂 Meanwhile check 1Q Food Platter’s page on FB, she shares family menus from time to time.

  11. oni ibilola says:

    Itz atually porridge nt pottage. But when we think of it better pottage might be right, frm wah U said pottage is soup abi? Nd porridge is made frm cereals, I dnt think yam, potatoes re cereals, we all knw they ain’t. We cn make soup frm anytn we wnt, so, I think yam pottage is d right thing say cos they actually look soupy aftr cooking, they are jes very thick sha buh most tym itz always good to follow d crowd, so dt U dnt sound crappy. Yam porridge it is then! #lol#.

    • LOL @ sounding crappy! Oni we definitely don’t want people rolling their eye balls when we say the wrong things. But the English language is not making it easy for us to make an informed choice! 😀

  12. Great Blog! All of these recipes are making me drool!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Ok, Ok, Ok, Ok, lets analyse this. Flo my sister, according to your write up ''Porridge is whatever with Milk added to it shebi? Cool, and ''Pottage is stew or source shebi. Ok naw. What do you prepare stew or source with? Tomato, pepper, onion, oil, chicken, fish etc shebi? What do you prepare Yam, Bean or plantain pottage with. Same ingredients shebi? ''so therefore'' The correct thing is POTTAGE Hoha. Weda or wedant. Agreed? Agreed. QED……bdw thanks for sharing all these recipes. I came here today to find how to cook Afang 'pottage'' sorry Afang soup and I am off to cook the soup. I am from Nnewi and Afang soup is not very common amongst us but I love afang soup. Cheers

    • Hahaha Anny (pet name for Anonymous) LOL you are so funny and I love your analogy! lol @ Afang Pottage! Nwanne m, rapu ndi ocha, fa na-acho onye fa ya a-confuse. 😉 Biko after arranging that Afang Soup, try and send my share o.

  14. Pottage just doesn’t sound right to me oo my dear. I saw 8t on someone’s blog the other day and I was like… Na mistake? Lol
    Nice blog you have here dear!

    • Abi o! The thing never sounds right. Maybe it’s because we are used to referring to those as porridge.
      Thanks and welcome to my blog Sassy Mum. ?

  15. Definitely would go with porridge! the other doesn’t sound right! it’s something i’ve been wondering about myself so I just googled it and landed on your page! obviously a very popular question haha!

    • hahaha Mummy Tola it’s an age old question ooo! With some people fighting grammatical wars over it sef. 😀
      You are highly welcome. I thank Mr Google for bringing you here. 😉

  16. I will agree with pottage since vegetables are added, even more things can be added.

  17. Does Ji awai ring able to anyone!? Lol thats what we frm Asaba call it and you can’t go wrong with that. I have heard of “yam pepersoup”, “epuru or ukodo” for my Waffarians…

    Now in trying to rightly translate the above to English I believe Pottage will be very apt now hear this: Provided the dish is soupy with either the yam or beans not entirely crushed. If in the alternative you have the yam or beans all in bits and soft or entirely crushed, then I believe we have ourselves a “Porridge”! After all there’s a difference between Beancake/beanball and Bean pudding!

  18. Cakeslexotica says:

    Its actually pottage not porridge, in the medieval times pottage is made with vegetables and swede (which had a consistency of both yam and potato) . Porridge is simply cooked oats. Pottage may not sound good to our ears simply because we are not used to seeing that way. But in any case it’s good to get the facts right

  19. I may be late to the party but upon searching to learn if pottage was even a real word i stumbled across this wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pottage from this it seems “pottage” is in fact the most correct term for the dish as it is essentially a thick stew made from a vegetable.
    However I maintain that it is not TOO relevant, everybody, regardless of the phrase used seems to understand the dish of subject without confusion.

  20. Yam Pottage says:

    I think it’s confusing people here to rely on Google only as the authoritative source of differentiating between porridge and pottage. Both basically mean the same but porridge is usually associated with cereals and oatmeal. Hence yam pottage and beans pottage may be more appropriate while pap, oatmeal, custard are better referred to as porridge. Check out the Wikipedia article on the subject.

  21. I respectfully wish to wade into this debate, albeit a little late.

    I first of all note that the author in her arguments claims that pottage is a soup or stew, however the arguments she presents omits that there is also a general consensus that describes pottage as a thick soup or stew consisting of vegetables and often meat. In contrast porridge is usually made from oatmeal or cereals. I also believe generally a porridge is considered a sweetened dish and most often eaten as a breakfast.

    There is no doubt that yam is not a cereal or oats and for this reason alone it wouldn’t meet the criteria of a porridge. Additionally, yam tubers are considered or treated as a vegetable adding more weighting to why it should be regarded as a pottage.

    There is also an argument that the term pottage is archaic, but there no suggestion of what word it has been replaced with. Being archaic does not make a word obsolete nor change its meaning. Furthermore from its etymology pottage is from the French ‘potage’ which again is a general description of a dish prepared in a manner consistent to how yam pottage/porridge is made.

    I have always known the dish by its Ghanaian name mpɔtɔmpɔtɔ [umpotoh-potoh] (which effectively describes its viscose consistency) so when i first heard the term yam porridge, I came to the conclusion that this was a typical malaproprism which often happens, when a none native speaker uses the english language.

    Another example of such a malapropism would be, how in Ghana, steem is nowadays used to refer to a magnet. This term most likely comes from conflating the word steel and its magnetic properties, whilst there are similarities steel and magnet are distinct objects. Likewise porridge sounds very much like pottage (clearly not a coincidence) and the two dishes have a similar consistency. In fact one reference suggests that porridge was influenced by the middle english use of the word pottage, suggesting that whilst there are similarities between the two they are not the same, porridge being a more distinct and specialised dish. Effectively porridge is a specialised type of porridge but not all pottages are porridge.

    I am also quite confident that if you ask the older generation they are more likely to use the term pottage, illustrating that this what it was first known as when referred to in english.

    I also maintain that familiarity with a term also doesnt make it quite right. Another example of this is, quite often nowadays in Ghanaian english people say ‘ship’ to pronounce the word whip (to beat or lash) the biggest irony of this error is that in the written form of Akan (a group of languages spoken in Ghana and West Africa) the two letters hw together – produce a ‘sh’ sound but note in the word whip the order of the two letters is not even the same.

    I think these are all compelling arguments that the correct and original term is yam pottage.

    However i have to concede that language is dynamic and that since porridge now seems more popular in its use it will endure.

    To avoid all this fuss i will stick to the Akan name and only if i have to describe it to the unitiated am I likely to use the word pottage because i believe if I said porridge I would confuse a seasoned english speaker, into believing that this was a sweetened dish of cereal.

    • I love your detailed analysis Kwaw! This debate can definitely go on and on and both sides will always have valid reasons. Just like you conceded to the dynamism of language, I had to resign to the fact that in Nigeria, we don’t always follow food nomenclature conventions. 😀
      It’s never too late to join the conversation on this blog.
      You are highly welcome on board. 😉

      • I failed to mention I prefer Asaro/Mpotompoto/pottage or porridge – whatever you may prefer to call it, made from cocoyam (amankani) rather than yams.

        Thanks

  22. thanks so much everyone for your contributions so far,I have really gotten to understand the differences though google brought me here… I love this blog

  23. Abegi… I call it “Asaro”… Who cares about the English name? Sushi is Sushi whether you are Japanese or not! 😀

  24. showemimo tolani phardeykemmie says:

    for me I think the pottage is correct cos one my aunty is a chef n she’s d one DAT thought me DAT pottage is correct

  25. It is lost in translation. It is neither porridge or cottage and yet it is both. Our food just doesn’t always have a direct translation and that is okay. Whatever English word Nigerians choose porridge or pottage is right.

  26. Ifeoma-Chiamaka Ezeh says:

    Sincerely, we can’t use a universal name like the sushi of Japan owing to the fact that we have over 200 languages maybe. In Igbo, we call it nothing really as ji awai isn’t the classical porridge but it is the closest.

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