As I read Madame President about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becoming both Liberia’s and Africa’s first female president, I felt humbled, angry and intrigued. Humbled by all the creature comforts I’ve been born into and yet have the nerve to complain about the challenges I’ve faced, which pale in comparison to what Liberian woman have had to face. Angry over the violence, greed and machoism of the men who plunged their country into such an abyss all the while hoarding wealth. And lastly intrigued by the fact that women, who were assaulted at such a frequency that hardly anyone batted an eye, still had the resiliency to take care of their families by forging into the woods to find something to sell.
Throughout the biography, I looked up pictures of various people who were mentioned. I listened to popular political songs during the time. As if hearing music from that region hadn’t transported me to my times as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania, the mentioning of food truly landed. Although Tanzanians have their own take on similar ingredients, Liberians have their own flair on such staples as bananas, spices, rice, beef, chicken and something I’d never even heard of before, potato greens.
Since I usually prepare one big meal a week to store in plastic containers and warm up during the hustle and bustle of my work week, I dedicated this week’s cooking to Liberian recipes, starting with rice bread. My general attitude about recipes is that they are guides, which I readily adapt to the ingredients I have, my Vitamix to grind up fresh spices and make sauces, and my usual quest to use the smallest amount of cookware to have fewer things to clean up afterwards.
I chose two recipes: Jollof rice and rice bread. The most interesting one was the latter. I never made a vegan style bread, but I recommended this recipe to both my mother, who’s tasked with Thanksgiving dinner with vegans, and my sister who’s a pescatarian with vegetarian and vegan kids.
I’d never heard of cream of rice before this recipe, but logically enough, it was right beside the cream of wheat. I mixed the small box of cream of rice with three mashed bananas, freshly grated nutmeg, some sugar, oil and baking powder, which was supposed to be baking soda except I didn’t have any. One thing I underestimated was the amount of oil to grease the baking dish. I discovered that after the fact. I even warned my mother. After I got the goods from the baking dish, I sat back and enjoyed it’s deliciousness: crispy on the top, slightly sweet and moist on the inside.
One day, I’m going to taste something more authentic, but in the meantime, I’m very happy with the Teresa version.