Fruits and vegetables. Popular Liberian ingredients include cassava, fish, bananas, citrus fruit, plantains, coconut, okra and sweet potatoes. Heavy stews spiced with habanero and scotch bonnet chillies are popular and eaten with fufu.
GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT
Located on the west coast of Africa, Liberia has an area of about 43,000 square miles (111,370 square kilometers), slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. The Nimba Mountains, near the Guinea border, rise to 4,528 feet (1,380 meters), and the Wologizi Mountains reach a maximum of about 4,450 feet (1,356 meters). There are six principal rivers, all of which flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Liberia includes some of Africa’s most impressive evergreen forests. Fruit trees include citrus varieties, the alligator apple, papaya, mango, and avocado. Pineapples grow wild. Agricultural crops include cassava, rice, sugarcane, plantains, and bananas.
2 HISTORY AND FOOD
Liberia was founded in 1822 for the resettlement of freed American slaves. Its name comes from the Latin word that means “free.” The capital city of Monrovia is named after the U.S. president James Monroe, who established the Republic of Liberia. Much of the culture and foods from Liberia are adapted from African American culture. This can be seen in the American currency that is often used to purchase groceries and in the American English language that is spoken on the streets of Monrovia. Rioting Liberians calling for cheaper rice in 1980 supported a failed coup against the American-Liberian government. There are thirty native Liberians for every one American Liberian, but American Liberians have control over the official government. Native Liberians fought a civil war against American Liberians from 1988–1995. Since then, the country has struggled to recover and make enough food for its people.
3 FOODS OF THE LIBERIANS
Many Liberians grow their own rice, sugar cane, and cassava (a starchy root). Rice is eaten at least twice a day (much more than any other starch). Foreign rice, or pasava , is considered much better than locally grown
rice because of the rocks that get mixed up with the local rice during harvesting. Palm oil or palm butter usually comes with the meal, and wine is also made from the palm nut. Cassava leaves and potato leaves are both boiled and eaten like spinach. Sugar cane is either refined, or after cutting through the tough bark, the sweet juice is sucked straight out of the cane bought at the marketplace.
Fufu (a doughy food that accompanies most meals) can be made from rice, plantain, cassava, corn, or yam. The starchy food is dried, pounded until ground, boiled, and rolled into two-inch ovals. Most Liberians use cassava to make fufu; a variation, called dumboy, is boiled before mashing. Fufu is swallowed instead of chewed. It is popularly eaten with a spicy soup. Beef internal soup is made with beef, dried codfish, tripe, and other smoked fish caught from the nearby ocean. Hot peppers are added to many foods for an extra kick, and ground cayenne peppers are used as flavorings and preservatives. Favorite dishes include palava sauce, made traditionally with plato (okra) leaves, dried fish or meat, and palm oil; and jollof rice, a chicken, beef, and bacon dish with vegetables and rice. Palava sauce comes primarily from the counties of Maryland and Grand Kru.
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