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On food in Liberia…

27 Sep 16
Andy Jones

Perhaps a food has never been so beloved as rice is in Liberia. The children at the Home would be content to eat rice three meals a day. Rufus, the Director, told me, “No matter what else we can eat – bread, fruit, spaghetti – we are not satisfied at the end of the day unless we have the belly full of rice. Bread cannot satisfy; it gets stuck in the throat and cannot go down to the stomach to help you.” White rice is the foundation of every supper, with a little soup (similar to Thai or Indian sauces that go over rice) and a piece of meat (usually fish, sometimes chicken or beef). This main meal can take between 3-5 hours to prepare, which is the chore of a pair of children at the Home, and serves as late lunch/early dinner/midnight snack/leftover breakfast. The soup is vegetable or palm oil based, and typically is prepared with chile pepper. Thankfully the cook is sensitive to our mild preference and withholds the pepper for our portion. Served with supper is typically cucumber or orange, and sometimes a piece of bread that Kayla has helped to bake (see her post about her travails in the kitchen 🙂

Breakfast consists of cream of wheat or quick oats, sometimes sided with baked or fried bread, or egg. Lunch often doesn’t happen, but when it does usually it is spaghetting with oil and pepper. Water is pumped from the well, which is a pleasant upgrade from the processed culinary water we were used to in Rose Park. The occassional snack or treat could be sweet bread, donut, biscuit/cookie, or a variety of seasonal fresh fruits.

I have been surprised and impressed with how Kayla and the kids have adjusted to their new Liberian diets. Kayla determined before she left Utah that she would be willing to consume meat on occassion if she felt her protien intake was not up to par. It has not been, so she has been. Fish and chicken. Equally remarkable has been the way each of the kids has been willing to eat anything that has been placed in front of them, including whole fried fish, bits of beef bone, and chicken bone. Inspired by their new Liberian friends, each has discovered their teeth to be very capable of grinding a chicken leg bone into something swallowable and tasty. I quote this conversation verbatim, had with Ivy as I was eating my dinner late today : “Dad?” “(num num) Yeah?” “Are you going to eat that?” “Eat what (num num)?” “Your chicken.” “Yup.” “What about the bone?” “Nah.” “Can I have it?” “You want to eat the bone?” “Yes. I like it!” “Fine. It’s yours…” “Ivy?” “(crunch crunch) Yeah?” “Could you have imagined two weeks ago that you would be asking me if you could eat my chicken bone as a snack?” “Well (crunch crunch)… We didn’t really have any before, and I didn’t even know you could eat bones back then.” “Fair enough. Enjoy!” Ruby gets credit for being first to make the attempt. Ya think maybe the kids need more non-rice food if they’re begging to eat the bones? Or maybe they’re just amazing people for being so willing to embrace a new culture and diet and way of life so completely. Probably both 🙂

When I’m in Monrovia running after our NGO documents I usually will grab some snack from street vendors. Roasted cow corn (by this I mean not the sweet and fluffy corn grown for human consumption back home in Idaho, but the tough stuff grown in the fields by dairymen to feed to their hefers), sketchy looking gyros, roasted plantain, sweet bread, egg sandwich, sack of peanuts with fun-size bananas, and of course plenty of 5 cent water satchets along the way (a pint-size plastic bag full of “purified” drinking water from which you tear the corner off with your teeth and suck the water out).


  1. Avatar
    Mom September 28, 2016 at 1:06 am

    I love these memories you bring back to me. Maybe, just one time, have the kids get some of the chili peppers that goes on the rice. It will be a memory they won’t soon forget. ^_^ The Filipinos also feel the same way about rice. They have told me that if they don’t get their rice, they start getting sick. They eat it three times a day.

    Love the story of Ivy and the chicken bone. Sweet little girl you have there. I am so glad you take the time to share these experiences you are having.

  2. Avatar
    Wynn October 18, 2016 at 3:47 am

    Love the post. In Peru they loved sucking the bone marrow out of chicken bones. Sounds like you guys love it now too.

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