Saturday, March 5, 2011

Liberian Cuisine

"Rice and Pigeon Pea with Plantain and Fufu Porridge with Key West Shrimp" is probably not what you will be eating in Liberia 


    One of my closest friends is in grad school at Columbia University studying human rights and was recently selected with a handful of other students to travel to Liberia to work with his school and the U.N. to do some social research. I've asked him to take pictures of different native foods and restaurants and document some of the traditions and eating habits of Liberia while he's abroad. He said he will when he goes but being the curious type I decided to do a little research of my own. So this is some information that I dug up on Liberian Cuisine. Hopefully my buddy, and anyone else who reads this will have a little advantage knowing what there is to eat when you happen to find yourself hungry in Liberia.

    Founded in 1822 for the resettlement of freed American slaves. At one point Liberia was known only for it's hospitality, academic institutions, rubber industry and iron mining. The root of the words liberation and liberty, Liberia gets it's name from the Latin word meaning "free". Liberia suffered a 7 year civil-war between (1989-1996) which brought about a steep decline in the living standards of the country, including its education and infrastructure. The capital city of Liberia is Monrovia which was named after the 5th U.S. president James Monroe. Throughout Liberia they use American currency and speak the English language. Most modern Liberian culture and foods are adapted from African American culture while over recent years fufu and other African dishes have made appearances in popular vegetarian and vegan menus.

    Many Liberians grow their own rice, sugar cane, and cassava (commonly known as yuca). Rice is regularly eaten much more than any other starch but imported rices are preferred over the local brands quality. Most cooking is done with either palm oil or palm butter. Wine is also made from the palm nut which I would imagine serves as an excellent pair with a big ol' goat dinner! Yuca leaves and potato leaves are both boiled and eaten like spinach. "Fufu" (basically a ball of seasoned dough cooked various ways) can be made from rice, plantain, cassava, corn, or yams, dried, pounded until ground, boiled, and then rolled into a ball. Another traditional version of fufu is called dumboy. Goat soup is the national dish of Liberia and is served on important occasions, everyone in Liberia loves it when celebrating, except for the goats.

   Farmed Liberian fruit trees include different citrus varieties, alligator apples, papayas, mangoes, and avocados. Pineapples grow everywhere in the wild of Liberia. Other agricultural crops include cassava, rice, sugarcane, plantains, bananas, lemon grass and ginger. A regular Liberian dinner consists of dumboy or fufu served with palm butter and palava sauce, meat stew, country chop (a mixture of meats, fish, and greens cooked in palm oil), "jollof" rice, and beef internal (offal) soup. Rice bread and sweet potato pone are served for dessert, and ginger beer is the traditional beverage. Coffee is available throughout Liberia but is only served on special occasions. In the capital city of Monrovia, there are some modern restaurants, but in most towns there are just small "cook shops" that offer stews and fufu whereas most of Liberia is impoverished and can't afford to dine out. Most cooking is still done outside on a stone hearth, just like Mama used to make! - K.C.C.

   Not to come across as if I'm confused of current global events and the ongoing political revolution in Libya. My friend is going to Liberia, there is a difference. Liberia is a very small country (43,000 sq. mi.) slightly larger than the state of Ohio to the south west while Libya is one of the Largest countries in Africa (679,362 sq. mi.) to the very north of the continent. Libyans eat some really interesting stuff too. Some of which looks delicious! Check it out here:

"Monkey works, baboon draws." - Old Liberian proverb meaning "Why should I work and you take credit?"
Here are my sources: 
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Fufu  with  Vegan stew

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