What is food at its core? In our current era, we’re overwhelmed with artificial, highly processed consumables. Sabina Jules of Motherland Spices (popularly known as Mammy Doro) vigilantly stands for Hippocrates’ notion, “Let thy food be thy medicine and they medicine be thy food.”
Born and raised in Cameroon, Jules began cooking at 9-years old. She would sell fried plantains with greens and fish in the summer, earning money for her school supplies. Though her parents never received a formal education, her mother saw its value and pushed Jules, one of eight children, to pursue it. Traditionally in Cameroon, it is much more common for girls to be focused on marriage than a formal education. After completing her schooling, Jules emigrated to the United States and launched her career in database administration.
After 30 years in the workforce, she could no longer ignore the path that truly set her heart on fire, cooking. Growing up, she learned how to do so from her mother, who cooked for presidential delegations, and her aunt, a trained cook from Nigeria. When Jules attended an event where a friend cooked pepper soup, it sparked a revelation. The dish wasn’t an accurate representation of the delicious food she knew from back home and realized the need for authentic Cameroonian cooking. She called home and asked her mom to gather seasonings, like bush onion and African basil, and mail them to Jules’ home in Baltimore. She blended them into what would become her pepper soup seasoning, testing the recipe on her (very honest) children.
Many other seasonings soon followed the pepper soup blend: jollof rice, red beans and rice, chicken, and more. Jules continued her career while building a following for her spice business and catering on the side. Her certification in food, health, and nutrition drove her creativity in the kitchen. In her own words, good food should keep you away from the doctor, not bring you to them.
In 2021, though, she made the full leap to full-time culinary endeavors with Motherland Kitchen and Spices in Frederick, Maryland. Now, Jules is making the Cameroonian foods of her childhood, from jollof rice to moi moi (black eye peas with onions, red bell pepper, and seasonings), and practicing her belief that food should be tasty and healthy.