i was all ready to declare my first liberian cooking lesson a success and then the boyfriend had to go and get sick after eating what my housekeeper and i cooked up. but i have felt fine ever since so i am still going with the idea that it was a success, but i might include a disclaimer in all future kitchen endeavours.
it is not that i can't cook, i just have no idea what to do with all the greens in the market here. and i can still count the number of times i have cooked chicken on one hand (three, if you are wondering). but i am getting better at eating it (it was served a lot on my recent trip to morocco), so there's that.
mary, my housekeeper extraordinaire (and you will recall, currently my closest friend in monrovia) wanted to teach me to cook and had offered to go and buy what we needed at the market. i figured it was a good opportunity to get a tour of the market so i asked if i could come with her, which she thought was a grand idea and off we went.
i thought our project would be cut short immediately after leaving my house and seeing the opposition party march going down the main street in protest of the recent elections and to mourn their dead from clashes with police a few weeks ago. i looked at mary as if to inquire on the security of us wandering through the hundreds of people and she, a proud ma ellen supporter, didn't seem concerned so on we carried on amongst the chanting and yelling and shuffling throngs. in fact, mary thought it might be a good photo opportunity, but i am still shy about whipping out my camera (slr or iphone).
the market is a huge building jammed with stuff and things and bits and bobs. in amongst the kitchen items, there is a small produce section. here are your choices: palm nuts, cassava leaf, potato leaf, collared greens, yams, onions, garlic, banana, plantain. none of which i know what to do with.
mary and i had previously agreed that she'd teach me how to make collared greens so that is what we bought and had the woman in the market cut them up small, small for us with her giant (and incredibly sharp) knife.
after picking up some seasoning, a basin to wash and massage the greens, and onions, we headed back home where mary unceremoniously butchered a frozen chicken on my countertop. i noticed she kept all the trimmings to take home with her, but otherwise all the chicken bits when into the oil. my job was to watch her and ask questions and take photos (often at her request).
we fried the chicken with some onion and added the greens into the pot while mary sang 'we are frying, oh!' in went the seasoning, tomato paste, chiles and then i manned the greens with instructions from mary not to stir too much and add water occasionally. she got on with making the rice and soon, our meal was complete.
it tasted better than any west african food i have had before and it received positive reviews (apart from the upset stomach...) and was a fun process. next up, a field trip with mary to the larger market in town.