The last time I discussed food on Through the Eyes of ‘U,’ I mentioned the likes of cassava leaves, foo-foo, gari and coconut jelly. Now, a couple weeks later, Round 2 of my excursion with Salone food and drinks include fried plantains, okra, pap, palm wine and my rematch battle with foo-foo.
In my first food column, I had simply and completely forgotten to mention the fried plantains that I tried during my first week in Salone. Nevertheless, it is a delicacy that I have enjoyed on several different occasions since then. I suppose it’s very similar to roasting fruits and vegetables over an open fire when one goes camping in the U.S., but then again, I have never done that either. At first I was surprised to see a fried/roasted banana as a dish, or even an appetizer. But once I had one bite, the warm and soft texture of the plantain was uniquely delicious. It’s definitely something that I can envision myself continuing to cook for myself even when I get back to the states.
During my short visit to the provinces in Pujehun, I got to try some new dishes, including okra with rice. As I mentioned in my first food column, I have welcomed any and all dishes that have been accompanied by rice, so the okra was a perfect meal for me. The slippery sauce was more like a soup than a rice dish because it was loaded with so much palm oil – I had heard stories of some people eating so much okra and palm oil that you could see the orange color seeping into their skin.
I’ve tried two different kinds of pap: The first was a rice-base and the other a corn-base. Both were good, and surprisingly sweet. The first time I tried the rice-base pap I was expecting something salty because it reminded me of a Japanese porridge called “okayu,” but as I drank the pap from a small cup, the sugary-sweet sensation almost startled me. I must admit, I enjoyed the corn-based pap, which I tried while in Pujehun, more than the rice-based pap. There was just something about the creamy corn soup that made it go down my throat a lot easier and it was a finer finish.
Palm wine is a delicacy which I find myself growing more and more proud of being able to say that I’ve had it, and looking back, I wish I had drank more of it the first time. Also known as “From God to Man” because it’s an all-natural alcoholic drink obtained directly from a fruit grown in trees, palm wine is sweet and almost refreshing, although the small bits and chunks of fruit and leaves that remain take some getting used to.
And finally, I tackled foo-foo once again in the hopes of conquering it a second time around. The final verdict: I don’t like foo-foo. Both times that I’ve tried foo-foo, I haven’t been able to finish the dish. At first I thought it was simply because I was eating it wrong – in my first column I mentioned that I was trying to take big bites rather than just swallowing it in smaller portions – but I just can’t bring myself to swallow the chewy, dough-like foo-foo without cringing a little. It makes me a little sad because I want to immerse myself in the Sierra Leonean culture, and I see many locals (including many of my Awoko colleagues) partake in the dish for breakfast and dinner.
I guess, for the time being, I’ll stick with cassava leaves with rice… lots and lots of rice.
By Yu Nakayama