It is 9:10pm on a Sunday night. The weekend is winding down and most students at Miami University are scrambling to complete the homework they have not thought about since the start of the weekend.
But Fifi Oginni, a sophomore marketing major at Miami, has something else on her mind: Sunday family and friends dinner. This Sunday’s theme is Afro-soul food.
Her guests walk in one by one, ranging from freshman to juniors. Fifi is hosting this dinner particularly for first-year African American females at Miami. She wants them to meet other upperclassmen of their race, and get some college advice.
“I wish I had a group of girls like this when I was a freshman here, that’s why I invited them. Cooking brings everyone together,” says Fifi as she begins seasoning the ground beef.
She heats up the oil and begins to slice plantains. Fifi continuously runs back and forth to a large black bag, taking out cooking utensils and seasonings not found within in a 20 mile radius of Oxford, Ohio.
“Oh this bag? It’s my cooking bag,” she says as she removes her golden cupcakes from the oven. “I keep my supplies in here so no one steals or uses my stuff when I’m not here. I’ve had problems with theft in the past.”
She begins mixing her homemade cheesecake icing.
Being a sophomore, this is the final year Fifi is required to live on campus. Next year she’ll no longer be required to share a residence hall with hundreds of others. But more importantly, she’ll no longer have to share a kitchen.
Fifi has ran into issues since her first year at Miami with people stealing her food from the communal fridge and using her products. She explained how limiting and frustrating it can be when trying to make these grand meals for sometimes an upwards of 50 people when she has no kitchen space to call her own.
As the food begins to fill up the small table in the communal kitchenette, Leanne Koveleski, junior strategic communications major at Miami, walks in and is quickly taken back by the copious amount of food Fifi has prepared.
“Oh my God this looks soooo good!” says Leanne. “Auntie Fifi has done it again. Let’s eat it at my house. I have a lot more room at my apartment!”
All four other guest agree, and begin to help pack up the food and head to the car.
When they all settle in at Leanne’s house and finally eat the meal, no one could deny the diversity and many origins of the food she made and the many origins of food sitting on the table.
“I was born in Nigeria and came here when I was five, so it influences everything I do, especially my cooking style,” says Fifi. “My mom taught me how to cook. She instilled in us a love for good food, quality and flavor and how to provide it for ourselves.”
Growing up in a Nigerian-American household influenced the type of dishes she made and the ones her mom taught her to cook. Over the years she discovered her own cooking style and hasn’t slowed down since.
Fifi has now opened her “kitchen” to old friends and new. She loves to cook for her Sunday dinners, as well as for celebrations, get togethers and even competitions for on campus organizations.
“Getting paid for my cooking? Yeah I’ve considered it,” says Fifi. “People have asked me to cater for them and have offered me money. I wouldn’t mind especially with the expenses of college but I don’t want this to be a business. It takes away the intimacy of it.”
She enjoys spending time making quality food because of the bonding process that comes along with it.
“Most of my favorite childhood memories all started in the kitchen. It’s a special process,” says Fifi.
Fifi also sees cooking as a stress reliever. She believes that a home cooked meal can remind others of home and de-stress them as well, especially with the daily struggles that college brings.
Troy, sophomore French major and close friend to Fifi has enjoyed many of her meals throughout the years and is always eager for more
“I feel like i’m always harassing her to cook for me but she’s amazing so she knows why,” says Troy. “What I like best about her cooking? Honestly it’s when we’re all together, cracking jokes on each other and helping her clean up. We have made some wild memories while smashing on some lasagna.”
So what is the future of Fifi’s cooking? Though limited, she does not plan on letting that get in her way of doing what she loves: Bringing people together over a flavorful, homemade meal. She looks forward to living on campus and having a kitchen to call her own.
“I dream of my future kitchen. I have a whole Pinterest page filled with ideas already,” says Fifi. “I know, I know, how typical of me.”
To some, cooking may just be a means to meal but to Fifi, it will always mean so much more.