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Liberia - Cooking and Food Edit

Overview of Liberian Cuisine HistoryEdit

Liberia is situated in the West of Africa and has a natural space with a rich flora, due to the dense precipitations. Agriculture is the main occupation of the Liberian people and it concentrates on rice, manioc, bananas (especially green bananas), citrus fruits and coconut. This fact explains the traditional cuisine, which consists of a lot of rice meals (rice is eaten at least 2 times per day in all families) and fruits, which are used in various desserts, main courses and salads. Besides these, other aliments that are found very frequent in the Liberian cuisine are: sweet potatoes, yams, cocoyam, plantains, mangos, pineapples and various sorts of nuts and peanuts, which are used in almost all deserts. Still, the meat is not so much consumed, as the variety of plants and their nutrients is consistent and rich enough.

Because of its placements, Liberia is highly influenced and representative for the cuisine of the Western African space. Spices such cinnamon, cloves, mint or nutmeg and all colors of pepper have been brought to this region by the Arabian traders. In the middle Ages, the Europeans had an impact on these regions, as there were many spice trades established between the 2 continents.

Cuisines of Liberia Edit

Map of Liberia

Map of Liberia- Click to enlarge

Liberia is a small country with a rather unified cuisine. In the capital, Monrovia, the local restaurants are not so much focused on the traditional Liberian cuisine. Instead, there is a wide variety of Mediterranean food, Italian, French and American, with all their specialties. Still, due to the fact that it lies on a peninsula, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mesurado River (Monrovia is a great port city) there is a wide spectrum of seafood (especially shrimp), which is served with rice. The meals that are served here are basically mixtures of fish with other types of meat, like the Eggplant stew with Chicken, fish or other meat, Onion, Eggplant, tomato balls, tomato paste, oil and pepper or the jollof rice, which consists of a sauté made of cooked meats (Chicken, Bacon, shrimp or smoked Pork – cut in cubes), vegetable oil, yellow onions, green peppers, ground ginger, whole tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme and chicken stock – all these are placed in the centre of a bowl full with jollof rice. There is also a local dish called the Monrovian collards and cabbage, which is made of Bacon, Onion, red and black pepper and collard greens. In the rural areas of Liberia, the predominant meals include root plants, rice and fruits.

Preparation Methods for Liberian Cooking Edit

The cooking techniques of the Liberian cuisine, which are also representative for West Africa, often combine fish and meat, including dried fish. The meats are usually cooked in oil and sometimes they are bases for thicker meals, such as stews (which also include water). The fruits for the desserts are cut in large pieces. The salads and the fruit salads are served cold and they are put in the refrigerator after preparing them. Simmering is a basic procedure, for both veggies and fruits, as Liberian people prefer them tender and soft. Some of the dishes are quite simple, like the fried plantains or eggplants and plain rice. Besides these, there is a wide range of meals that include many preparations, as they consist of a base, a topping and a sauce. Cooking home bread, from making the flour till the final product is a long process, which includes devotion and appreciation of the national values.

Special Equipment for Liberian Cooking Edit

Many recipes require cooling after preparing them, like the kanyah (a sweet vegetarian snack), which is stored in an air-tight container. The Monrovian collards and cabbage is served in 2 quads-bowls, like some other stews, so these are necessary if wanting to present the food in the traditional Liberian way. Wooden spoons are needed to mix the milk recipes, in order to avoid sticking them to the pan, as there are many stews in the Liberian cuisine. Small knifes are used to peel some of the soft fresh or boiled vegetables and some fruits, while chopping the meat is done with bigger knives. The table is set quite simple, with a plain white or striped tablecloth, but with colorful dishes, pottery with patterns – all set in the centre of the table. On the overturned plates, napkins are placed and the beer glasses (beer is consumed a lot with the meals) are also turned down.

Liberian Food Traditions and Festivals Edit

The mort important celebrations in Liberia include Independence Day in July, Pioneer’s day (that honors the American pioneers), President Tubman`s Birthday (also called Goodwill Day), Unification and Integration Day, another pioneer holiday – Marilda Newport Day in December, Thanksgiving Day in November, Africa Day, Flag Day and Literacy Day (that promotes adult education). Besides these, there are the religious celebrations, with various culinary traditions, like Fast and Prayer Day in April, Christmas and All Saints` Day in November. On all these occasions, the Liberian people enjoy colorful and joyful parties with family members and drink a lot of the traditional Liberian beverage: the ginger beer. The traditional meals include the wide range of breads, like the Liberian rice bread, with cream of rice and mashed bananas, the Liberian pineapple nut bread (beaten eggs, all-purpose flour, wheat bran, dried pineapple, roasted and chopped peanuts or walnuts) or the plantain gingerbread, made with Sugar, ripe plantain, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, molasses, whipped cream and flour. Besides breads, there is the famous local dessert based on coconut – the coconut pie, which is served at dinner or late in the evening. The recipe includes regular dough with milk and a sweet coconut mixture.

People in Liberian Food Edit

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Liberian people are very hospitable people, who like a lot having and serving guests, which they treat with various kinds of meals. The housewives spend a lot of time preparing the food before the arrival of a guest and they build a special and joyful atmosphere and table set, with many colors. The Liberian people value their culinary traditions through their permanently evolving cooking styles and techniques and they all participated to the cultural and authentic Liberian cuisine. Liberian people are in touch with the nature and all its elements – they take all the elements that the nature has shown them (various root plants, cereals, fruits and vegetables) and prepare innovating mixes, special stews, creative meat dishes and spiced garnishes. The regional influences and ethnic heritage affected the Liberian cuisine and lifestyle of the people, too, but the Liberian people managed to preserve their authentic cuisine, special preparations and styles and culinary background.

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