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Hot Peppers

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Zwedru Market

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Market Mama

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Rice, rice or rice?

The MARKET  ...........  The very first thing you learned about Liberian cooking was that they used hot pepper.  They didn't just use it; they uuuussseeedd hot pepper.  It was all you could taste.  You could always tell new volunteers.  They were the people with the watery eyes and tears streaming down their cheeks.  We had all been there, but it still was a smug feeling to know that you were no longer a rookie.

Liberian recipes were easy to prepare.   Well, the recipes were easy.  Almost every recipe I made had onions, tomato paste, salt, maggi cubes (chicken bullion), palm oil, beans or chicken, and -- of course -- hot peppers.  But when you cooked them over a coal pot, they usually took three hours. 

The hardest times to be polite were when I was ready to leave someone's home and they said, "You must stay for dinner."  That would be fine if dinner was ready, but usually it hadn't been started when the invitation was given.  It didn't do any good to be in a hurry in Liberia.  No wonder why everyone always said, "Take time."

You didn't just go to the market place for groceries.  It was a social event.  Anything was available as long as you really didn't want something specific.  However, if you desperately had to have something, you almost always lost.  And, the one thing that had to be imported from Monrovia -- and it certainly was imported -- was chocolate.

At the market place card sharks raked in money off of people willing to risk big money on bigger money.  It was simply picking the face card out of three shuffled  card held face down.  I enjoyed watching because I never (well, almost never) was wrong in keeping track of the card.  These guys weren't that good. 

It would have been good for his business if I participated.  The dealer pulled me aside and offered to pay me to play.   Actually, I learned my lesson the hard way.  Once I was really broke and needed extra money.  I'd spent my last seventy-five cents on laundry soap.  The guy offered me five dollars if I was right and if I was wrong he'd take what was in the bag.  I lost.

MARTIN
Copyright 1999 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.