A Travel Nurse Volunteer in Liberia: Local Foods to Try

Celebrating a Community of 500,000 Strong!

By The Gypsy Nurse Staff

August 8, 2014



A Travel Nurse Volunteer in Liberia: Local Foods

The Gypsy Nurse Volunteering in Liberia with Cross Cultural Care

As you probably already read, The Gypsy Nurse is volunteering in Liberia.  I plan to bring you along with me; virtually and give you a ‘feet on the ground’ accounting of the entire process.


On a Mission for an Authentic African Meal 

Two volunteers arrived unexpectedly on my second night in Monrovia. Sally and Stan. They have been working out at Robertsport for about the past three weeks. Sally is an RN, and Stan is working with C3 to set up a rainwater catch system to increase water availability. The Locals are currently bringing water from the nearby river to the hospital for things like flushing toilets and washing hands.

Sally and Stan were on a mission to find some local food for me for dinner. Anyone that knows me knows that I am not fearful of street food, and I generally seek it out. Sally and Stan are no different.  We ended up sitting on benches along the side of the road and eating with our bowls in our lap. The food was amazing, and fortunately, there were no ‘after-effects’ from the street food.

Food Name:  Cassava Leaves

Summary:  This dish is from the via tribe and happens to be a national favorite of most West Africans. Although cooking methods varies by country, all west Africans love their cassava leaves. In Liberia, it is cooked with assorted meats, onions, hot peppers, and palm oil. It is served with rice.  –
This is one of the dishes that I had for dinner last night.  Mine was served over white rice and had a wonderful flavor.

This is another dish enjoyed last night which is cassava leaves ground in palm butter.  Again with wonderful spices and flavor and served over rice.

Cassava Roots and leaves are utilized for many of the local dishes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassava: According to the article, cassava contains cyanide and has to be prepared properly to release the cyanide and avoid poisoning. Fortunately, I avoided any cyanide poisoning.

C3 – A Day in the Life of the Volunteer

The MoH here in Liberia has provided financial assistance for C3 to provide the volunteers with assistance to make life in Robertsport just a little easier.  I’m provided with a cook and a cleaner.  Jebba currently fills both roles for me.  She cooks 4 days a week and cleans 3 days a week.

I have to say that although I love having the help, it’s a weird feeling to me to have someone cooking for me. For whatever reason, the cleaning doesn’t bother me; I’m unsure if this is because I’m not at home while she cleans or because this is a service that I’ve paid for in the states. I will say that although having a cook is a bit uncomfortable for me, the food has been amazing, and I’m thrilled to have her. It’s been a wonderful experience to have someone cook local foods for me, and I’ve found that I have enjoyed everything that’s been prepared.

The only thing that is a bit unlikable regarding the food is that there are many bones in the fish.  I’m a bit spoiled as my dad is a fisherman, and he has always filleted the fish and removed all of the bones for me.   The locals eat various fish from the Barracuda that is wonderfully large and meaty  (and my preference) to dried and smoked fish, which tends to have many more bones and much less to my liking.

If you are familiar with Liberian history, the US sent many of our slaves here after being freed in the United States.  Many of Robertsport’s population are descendants of these slave families.  I think because of this, it makes it difficult to have one of them waiting on me.  Let me give you an example:

Jebba comes to the house on Monday through Thursday evenings arriving around 5 pm. I’m usually playing cards with the local children while she cooks.

She then serves my dinner and sits to the side, scraping the bowls and eating from them.  I’ve offered her to sit and eat with me, but the closest she has come is to sit away from the table in one of the chairs instead of on the floor next to the kitchen.  After I finish eating, I generally pack a small amount for lunch the following day and offer Jebba to take the remainder home for her and her family (she has two girls at home that sometimes come with her).

Local dishes that I’ve tried to date include:

  • Cassava and Cassava Greens
  • Potato Greens
  • Eggplant Soup
  • Fish, fish, and some more Fish!  (It’s a fishing community, after all)!

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