Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Food adventure: Liberia

I went on a culinary trip to the mother continent today, thanks to UT's Ready for the World Cafe. The journey took us to Liberia. (I'm from Nigeria -- five countries to the right of Liberia in West Africa.)

I was especially excited about today because an old friend was the guest chef. Hawa is owner of the Palavah Hut, an authentic Liberian restaurant on Magnolia Avenue. She and I met years ago through a story I did while I was a reporter at the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Today's first course was fried plantains with a tomato sauce. It was yum! These plantains were semi ripe, which meant they were semi sweet. I prefer mine ripe and sweet. By the way, they're not bananas. (An aside: finding plantains in Knoxville is hit or miss so I'll take them anyway I can get them.)

The second course was an eddo (or taro root) soup cooked with onions, garlic and sweet peppers. In Nigeria, we call the starchy, potato-like tubers yams (but they're not sweet potatoes.) We cook them differently. One of my favorite ways was cutting them up like breakfast potatoes and eating them with fried eggs. Mmm.

The entree was stir fry chicken with collard greens and rice. It was served with thin sweet potato strips, which added a sweet flavor. One of my table mates commented that the meal was pretty healthful: not too greasy but quite hearty. Hear, hear.

The dessert was a papaya pie (also known as paw paw.) It came with a sweet mango cream and toasted coconut flakes. It was the perfect ending to a delectable meal.

Today's cafe gave me another treat: I ran into acquaintances from my former life as an education reporter. Melissa Copelan, spokeswoman for Knox County Schools, and Buck Coatney, director of the school system's Career and Technical Education program, came as guests of Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise.

Good times.

We're nearing the end of the spring cafe. We have just two left: Persia on April 17 and Germany on April 26. And I have a really good feeling about them :)


  1. Great to see you Lola!

    1. Right back atcha, Melissa! Hope to see you again soon :)

  2. This meal looks good,and that's saying something from my non adventurous eating self! I love seeing evidence of the full life you've built for yourself in Knoxville, Lola.