Fufu, Dumboy and Pepper Soup


Raw Fufu

One could never meet a Liberian and not know about fufu and soup.

Africa’s markets are distinguished and run mostly by persuasive women traders who sell anything and everything that you will need; from manufactured and imported foods to produce, tools, medicines, footwear, clothes, pots and pans, etc. Your soul is recharged by the market energy and humor as you stroll through, bargaining for fresh fish, meats, rice, fufu, vegetables or fruits. The market evokes the sights, sounds and smells of the aromas of Liberian cookery and waters your mouth as you move from stall to stall, imagining the spread on the table once the shopping is home and the cooking completed.

To “burst your belly” (Liberian slang to over eat) is a self-imposed habit of eating in Liberia. A well-prepared Liberian dish makes all other dishes seem insipid. Whether it is filling your plate with tender-cooked rice and pouring over this fluffy mound of rice, palm butter, exquisitely rich in flavor, or embellishing your soup with pepper that is cruelly hot, several mashed boiled okra and pasted benne seed (sesame seed is parched and pounded into paste) for your fufu or dumboy soup. When consuming these sizable meals, you speak very little and never think, at all, of your waistline. You eat. Then you look for a reasonably cool and quiet place in which to sleep. You rise slowly, relying on significant support from the chair to locate your bed or a sofa, or preferably a hammock under the shades between two trees, and proceed to lie down. When you wake, you are likely to crave something else, like a slice of the unmatched sweet Liberian pineapple or delicious plum (mango).

“Come leh eat O,” says the host to a visitor—be it a relative, neighbor or stranger—who enters a home while dinner is being served. It is a taboo in Liberia not to invite someone to join you while you are eating (no matter how much food you have available). It is also an insult to refuse the invite.

In the village Africans eat together like brothers, dipping their hands in the same bowl. In fact, this is where the bonding begins. It may be that the children that are gathered for dinner, hunches around a big enamel pan, buttocks, low to the earth, knees cupped in armpits, bodies rock on splayed feet in a flow of eagerness and joy. Their little elbow swings out as tiny fingers curl rice into balls that are greasy with palm oil. It is satisfying for the parents to watch their little ones chins become slick with palm oil.

Although rice is king in Liberia, fufu is treated special. Fufu is a derivative of cassava or plantain. In Liberia, fufu is prepared from the flour of dry retted cassava. You either buy it at the market or make your own.

To make your own, whole fresh cassavas are selected (without rot), all skin removed, washed, and immersed in water and soaked for 3-4 days, which promotes fermentation (the softening of the cassava roots need to occur for their processing into fufu). When sufficiently soft, the roots are taken out, broken by hand, and sieved to remove the fibers. The sieved mass is allowed to sediment in a large container for twenty-four hours. After sedimentation, water is poured off while the fine, clean sediment (mainly starch) becomes the fufu pulp. Finally the wet fufu pulp is molded into golf-size balls and sold at the market to shoppers. These molded fufu balls are dissolved in cold water and strain to get rid of any solid cassava particles. The mixture is poured into the cooking pot and set aside for about 20 minutes so that it settles. When the fufu sediment has settled at the bottom of the pot, the liquid is poured out. Fufu is then cooked over low heat, stirring constantly with a “fufu-stick” (wooden spoon) until it thickens, changing from a white starchy consistence to firm clear-color dough with heavy thickness in texture. It is removed from the pot and placed in a large pan for cooling.

When the cooked fufu reaches a tolerable temperature (don’t allow it to get too cold; it becomes difficult to mold), it is shaped into a sizable portion of serving (having the shape of a disk) by repeatedly folding over, pressing and squeezing the dough with your hand. As you mold your fufu, a “sprinkle of water” is used to free the dough from the pan. The dough is turned over and placed—smooth side up—in the serving bowl. Pepper soup or any sauce of your choice (palm butter, okra or palava sauce), may be added.

I’d rather have pepper soup with my fufu.

To eat fufu, make an indentation at the edge of the disk-shaped dough with your spoon, tear off a bite-sized piece (not too big because fufu is swallowed instead of chewed. There’s no rule for eating fufu. You may chew it if you like) and scoop up some soup, or sauce, with it. Fufu is slightly sour in taste, which is due to the process of fermentation. However, your taste buds are exclusively directed to the tasty soup or sauce. Adding certain condiments like benne seed (sesame seed is parched and pounded into paste) boiled bitter balls, okra and lime to the soup for your fufu or dumboy dish will kick it up a notch.

Dumboy (another variation of cooked cassava, like fufu) is boiled cassava pounded into thick, viscous dough. You cannot buy this at the market, and its preparation is laborious. First, you peel the cassava, cut into pieces, wash it thoroughly, and place it in a pot to cook for about fifteen to twenty minutes (the cassava should not be too soft). Drain off the water. After the boiled cassava cools, cut into mid-size chunks. Put the pieces in a mortar, the eminent food processor tool in all of Africa kitchens. With the use of the pestle (companion of the mortar), beat/mash/pound the cassava pieces continuously as the dough will become sticker and sticker. To prevent the dough from sticking, occasionally dip the pestle in water to moisten it. Keep beating until your dumboy is of the desired consistency. During this preparation, stroke of the pestle hammering the dough in the mortar produces sharp popping sound, a sort of understanding that is music to one’s ear. The belly growl and your mouth waters. After reaching your personal desired consistency, the dumboy is prepared like fufu (the molding process) and placed in a serving bowl. Adding certain condiments (benne seed, boiled bitter balls or okra and lime) to your soup kicks it up a notch.

Pepper Soup
The supreme companion for your fufu or dumboy

In Liberia, no matter how it is prepared, no matter what preferences of ingredients used, no matter what it looks like—redden with tomato paste or not—Pepper Soup, for the most part, is sacred. It is the cure for under-the-weather illnesses (common cold, hangover, heartache), the perfect stabilizer for your over-consuming of alcoholic beverages and, of course, the utmost companion for fufu or dumboy. Pepper Soup is serious business, y’all, no fooling. It is equally full of flavor as it is complex. The mystic of Pepper Soup is, it can be as equally tasty when prepared with very minimum ingredients as it is if prepared with every conceivable element that can be added to a dish. This dish is magical, especially cooked the Liberian way! Some ingredients could include, beef, bitter balls, bony fish, bouillon, cow foot, chicken feet, catfish, fish head (snapper, grouper, barracuda) dried fish, goat meat, crab, pepper, tomato paste, trap, salt, spices, crayfish, Kitili, and many other things.

When Caribbean star, Calypso Rose, visited Liberia and ate some Pepper soup, she returned to her home and, right away, penned the song “Pepper soup”, naming every ingredient imaginable. There has never been a Liberian party where her song is not played or pepper soup served.

Be Encouraged to try something new, eat some fufu with pepper soup.

Don’t buy your child a Christmas gift until you’ve read this….

Give a gift to last a lifetime. The Good Manner Alphabets Book (how to be a super polite kid) is a picture book that offers a unique way to teach young children good manners using the 26 letters of the alphabet we all know. Each letter of the alphabet is represented, relating to teaching social standards with the principles of right conduct and good character. Good manners can be taught as soon as your child understands what you’re saying, therefore The Good Manner Alphabets Book was written mainly for young children. This book is based on the rules of good manners with the hope that children can have fun learning the rules of good conduct using the alphabets.

Why this book is important: If children are not polite and considerate in the homes, they cannot help showing that fact away from home. Good manners are a very important key to a child’s social success, but no one is born with good manners. Teaching children good manners is a daily process to help them develop social skills, showing them how to interact in a polite manner with people and also teaching them to treat others with respect.

After the hard work comes the award.

Reward your super polite kid with this beautiful “You’ve Got Good Manners” certificate, embossed with the Village Tales Publishing seal and signed by Sapo. Of course, it can also be signed by a parent or teacher.

The story behind the book: to inspire young children to learn respect, good values, ethics, morals and good behavior.

When I was layoff in 2009, most of my extended family members were also out of a job (no income or low income); and as school was about to close for the year, most did not know what they would do with their children during the summer—10 weeks! I had no luck finding employment while I worked on my other writing projects. I needed a break from my writing and an idea came to mind—run a small summer camp with the family kids! My mother, a retired school teacher and a few of the older children in the family (recent college graduates) liked the idea and joined me. A local pastor allowed us to use his church for the camp. (two of his children attended). The parents provided lunch, we planned indoor activities at the church and outdoor activities in the parks, all at no cost. Sharing my life with those 11 children for 10 weeks added more meaning to my life than anything else. That summer I wrote a booklet called, The Good Manners Alphabet Book. By the end of summer, the kids (age 4-11) had memorized all 26 one-liners of good manners using the alphabets.

Today, I have extended the booklet into a book and have added paragraphs to the one-liners so older children can enjoy it as well. I honestly hope this book help girls and boys become happier, more agreeable children and over time, adults who have turned into proper ladies and gentlemen. The least we can do is train our children’s eye to see how they may add to the enjoyment of others, therefore making friends. The right kind of friendship may give joy for a lifetime.

African Woman’s Plight

Queens of the market
What is playing in your ears today? I hear a voice from Africa that tells a story of need. Poverty in Africa has a woman’s face! Women labor with the burden of being the backbone of the country’s economy, making small farms and selling fruits and vegetables to provide the basic necessities for their families. They have a hard time, often travelling long distances to the markets on dirt roads that are mostly impassable, especially during long rainy seasons.

For many, formal schooling was interrupted for so long because of war (mostly internal conflict). Opportunities for young African women in Liberia and across Africa are scarce, so most women run their small business market. To run a successful business, women need to be able to read and do basic math calculations. The most fundamental way out of poverty is Education—knowledge and skills. Women must learn valuable business and social skills that will allow them to participate fully in planning and organizing their communities.

Education is a key to ending poverty, giving women a voice to reject the corruption that has also contributed to Africa’s poverty, and to embrace a culture of human rights aimed at protection for them and their daughters. Education will give them a fighting chance against discrimination and exploitation. It will give women the possibility to become economically self-sufficient. Education will give women the opportunity to decide on matters concerning their own lives, giving women a voice with which to defend their own interests in those societies that undervalue girls.

But challenges remain all over the continent. Women leaders are still in very small numbers, however, that will change. Hope lies in the kind of example set by organizations like Shades of Liberia, Women of F.I.R.E., and Ward Academy for Girls, which develop projects enabling women to become economically independent. We need to support their efforts to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. Women entrepreneurs, like the market women, are playing a major role in the fight against poverty. I call them, Queens of the market.

You see… gracefully, she makes her way toward the market balancing a pan of eatables—or anything for that matter —on her head. At times carrying her baby under her arm or tied to her back.

She takes her familiar place in the stall and amidst the noise of the market, you will see a tough, assertive woman evolved in her own power structure to settle with a customer for the final price. Every minute is accounted for by repetitive tasks, and there is no time for relaxation in the marketplace.

The Queen is not in business for herself; it is for her family. Every cent that is earned will help her husband for family maintenance and her children. What is overlooked is the market woman plays a much important role in moving her country to economic prosperity. She is rarely praised or acknowledged for her hard work. Most do not realize that it is her strength and resourcefulness that is responsible for the food found on the dinner tables in just about every home.

I pray that they be encouraged, as I end with the words of Franklyn Douglas, “Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.” It is for every market woman that I write this poem:

The Market Woman
Vivid colors of tropical fruits,
limes, oranges, mangos and pawpaws,
pineapples, plantains, bananas, guavas,
plums, eddoes, yams and cassavas,
sugar canes, palm nuts and red hot peppers.

Gleaming white heaps of new country rice,
tan baskets and brown mats,
blue-purple eggplants, red-violet kola nuts,
indigo head ties, lappas and Vai shirts.
Distinct arts of carvings and paintings,
jewelries of flashing gold, brass and copper.

The stage is set;
the buyers and the sellers have met
with plenty of haggling on the price
until an agreement is reached.
In Africa’s colorful marketplace,
women reign supreme.

Swift and graceful,
she takes her familiar place in the stall.
Then on a table or a bamboo mat,
she spreads her wares of
fuzzy green okras; ten to a pile.

Her hard 16-hour workday continues;
settling her price for little profit,
dashing to satisfy her buyers and
hoping they remember and come back.

Cleverly, she fills a crying baby’s mouth,
smiles at a waiting buyer whose order she’s tending,
exchanges three okra piles for some money,
then embraces her baby who stays hung sucking.

No leisure time, no relaxation;
attentive, diligent and tireless action.
Amidst the hurly-burly marketplace,
she, too, haggles with customers
over price and quantity.

Money earned feeds the family,
dresses the children, pays for schooling;
Grateful for her hard work on their behalf,
she is the heart of her family survival.

The market woman returns home,
kindles the fire and prepares the evening meal.
She serves food to her husband and children—she eats last,
washes herself, puts her house in order
then goes to bed at last.

Liberia: Picking Up The Pieces

Changing ideas and the way of life in Liberia:

For those who desire freedom, Liberia is a land of promise, not a promised land. When Africans in their despairs were being removed from their homes by slave traders (Africans and others) and while Africa was being divided by European powers, our tiny beloved Liberia stood alone as an independent state upon a continent of western colonies. The division of Africa would have been an accomplished fact, in which Liberia could not have had a place. When the British held Sierra Leone to the west, while the French held Cote d’Ivoire to the east as well as Guinea to the north, our tiny beloved Liberia stood alone as an independent state. We also give accounts of the many struggles between the black-skin and brown-skin Africans, settlers and tribesmen, and the formidable difficulties of acceptance of one another. How can anyone not agree that Liberia’s story is an impressive one of fortitude?

We have fought our wars, we have died, we have cried, we have mourned; now we must pick up the pieces and strive to put every Liberian’s life back together. Each of us must set the pace for others to follow, to become a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. We must each challenge ourselves to make a positive difference in a Liberian’s life. It is up to us, Liberians, to build a nation of national consciousness.

We must pick up the piece of hope and dream of a better tomorrow for us and our children so that our universities, colleges and trade schools will engage in accepting students’ applications for higher learning rather than being used as a place of shelter from stray bullets. We must give our children, Liberia’s future builders, an equal chance to make changes for Liberia’s growth in years to come. We must keep hope alive!

We must pick up the piece of joy and celebrate the laughter that once echoed with the drifting wind from the Atlantic, as the voices of our children were heard from their games in neighborhoods, village yards, city yards, schoolyards and playgrounds. Playing together is a fundamental tool in learning to get along; in building togetherness so that when children grow up to become adults they can respect one another.

We must pick up the piece of prosperity and dare to travel the many roads to accomplish our wishes of becoming teachers, taxi drivers, auto mechanics, small business owners, carpenters, governors, clerks, electricians, secretaries, journalists, doctors, rubber tappers, nurses, policemen and policewomen, farmers, market vendors, ministers of the gospel, senators, soldiers, lawyers, writers, musicians, tailors, plumbers, artists, etc, etc, etc.

We must pick up the piece of pride and help to build Liberia into a nation that will compete with the rest of the world in economic growth, sports, science, and research for the benefit of mankind. We can build manufactories, create jobs, export merchandise and acquire wealth through honest hard work. Liberia is blessed with many natural resources. How wonderful it would be to have malls or shopping centers built in every nook and corner throughout Liberia. Not just in Monrovia. If we build it, people will use it! Some may say that I am a dreamer, but I can assure you that I am not the only Liberian dreamer. Every human can appreciate things that somehow accommodate his or her needs.

We must pick up the piece of dignity and have our beloved Lone Star wave alongside flags of other great nations of the world and be recognized as a people, wearing the well-deserved badge of honor and respect. Our presence, along with our voices, must reflect the need for basic human rights in our country as well as around the world. We must stand up and be counted as peacemakers, not abusers of human lives in meaningless wars.

We must pick up the piece of unity and consider our ethnic heritage as one; we must address our uncompromising conservatism of tribalism and embrace each other as one people with the common goal to continue the legacy of our brave mothers and fathers who sacrificed their lives for ours. Working together, Liberians are capable of acquiring greatness on God’s planet earth.

We must pick up the piece of faith, regardless of your belief, Christian or Muslim, and treat each other, as you would like to be treated. We must be able to open the doors of our place of worship with eagerness to praise God together rather than with fear that it could become a place of massacre.

Our Progress or our Past? Liberians are faced with the same dilemma confronting people throughout the world—illiteracy, illness, poverty, human rights, opportunities and uncertainties. Why should the achievement of a better life for every Liberian seem hopeless when our struggle is not against outside factors? In Liberia, it should not be hatred and segregation that must determine our future. We ought to use positive influence to create a good life for every Liberian in every community. Liberia will grow when each Liberian can produce something beyond his own needs. I believe in Liberia’s progress because I have acknowledged Liberia’s past. Success in Liberia is foreseeable. If not us, our children will make this possible!

To be a Liberian means that you are a star, a Lone Star, unique in every way and by all measure, special. Liberty children, Lone Stars, be encouraged.

Straining Toward Your Goal

Webster’s defines Goal as an end that one strives to attain. This can be applied to anything; writing a novel, or a book of poems, or building a playhouse, or even restoring an old car or furniture, the race is in the finish! I’d rather use the Chinese parable, “the journey is the reward.”

  • Set a reachable goal, No need to invent, the wheel has already been invented. ‘Don’t bite off more than you can chew’, taking on more responsibilities than you can handle. That’s like throwing your confidence away when it has a great reward stored up for you.
  • Imitate the best and keep learning from him. Apply all those things that made him/her successful in your goal for your benefit. You are not imitating to become that person, but rather, to gain from them.
  • Forget what lies behind; look forward to what lies ahead. Recognize that the choices we make worsen or lessen our wounds; what we’ve experienced bring about the changes we need. Lesson learned, in the words of William Shakespeare,

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

  • Action! Action! Action! Exert yourself in purposeful activities. Press on toward the goal for the prize; after all, footprints in the sand are not made by sitting down.
  • Arrogance will play NO positive role in your journey. Success does not consist in talk, but in action—your work.
  • Self-control/Discipline is the strength (root) of your will, mind and determination. Plant the energy-seed of enthusiasm and you will reap a sense of dedication that maintains allegiance to your goal so that you are not turned aside by any reason.
  • Pay forward. Remember the chains of others, where you have the skills, offer it. Who knows, that person (or another) might have what you need to break your chains.
  • Follow the leader. He/she is successful for a reason, and can lead in a unique way that may carry you down the road to your success. Follow his/her practice regardless of how long it will take.

These rules are what I try to follow. If they suit you, Be encouraged, you have need of endurance… go ahead, accomplish your task.

Double Headed—Writer/Publisher


Fewer people are reading today, and there’s more competition to sell your book than ever, especially if you are a self-published author. Why do I write? Not only is writing an absolute passion of mine, I write to entertain and hopefully educate while at it. Writing is also, sort of, a therapy for me. I am given the opportunity to express myself, and can also vent through the different characters I develop, also sweep up ideas of my mind into orderly thoughts and hopefully provoke change. Many of my characters are developed around society’s social ills and controversial issues, therefore allowing me a persuasive voice to get those points across.

During the 90’s, I started writing poems for the school paper and local community paper, then short stories and essays. Since then, I’ve written a book of poems (Journeys), a book of essays (My Dear Liberia), two children’s books (A is For Africa & Good Manners Alphabet Book), two collections of short stories (The Dowry of Virgins & other stories) and (Montserrado Stories), my first novel, Heart Men, in 2010 and its sequel (Dead Gods-HM2) to be released in 2014. I went through the effort to become a published author and the task was… mystifying, to say the least.

Writing has also given me the opportunity to ‘dip my foot into publishing’. When I started writing during the 90’s, it was next to impossible to get a major publisher interested in a book deal, especially if you were a novice writer without an established platform. I, along with two business partners, started Village Tales Publishing and was able to self-publish my first book, MY DEAR LIBERIA (Recollections) in 2004. Today, Village Tales Publishing provides those services other writers need to self-publish their book. Self-publishing enabled me to determine my own fate; becoming a professional writer and published author. But, self-publishing is not easy!

The role of the self-publisher is to produce a book that reads, looks and feels like any book from a major publisher. A quality book needs content editing, copyediting, layout and production, cover design and an ISBN (a unique tracking number for your book that identifies a title’s edition). Then, marketing and distribution! Oh, and accounting! You wear many hats.

My personal journey went from selecting the genre of my book to countless hours of research, to writing, re-writing, re-checking and re-editing as many times as I needed to, selecting the graphic for the book cover, fonts, typesetting interior pages, obtaining an ISBN for each title/format from Bowker (the official U.S. ISBN agency), book barcodes, copyright registration with the Library of Congress and registration of the title in Bowker Books in Print, which is used by all the major search engines and most bookstores and libraries. I acquired the skills of Microsoft Office (Publisher, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel & Access) and several Adobe programs (Photoshop, PageMaker, InDesign & Illustrator)… then, I understood what it takes to publish or get published. BTW, I also acquired the skills of website building (Dreamwever, html and xhtml languages, Joomla and WordPress) and social media (Tweeter, Facebook and Goodread).

As a writer/publisher—the obligation, that is, is double the pleasure; double the load! Writing is challenging, and getting it from manuscript into a book is even more challenging. Being a writer/publisher is like assuming the roles of mother and doctor at the same time—giving birth and doing the delivering yourself. You work very hard. You work long hours. But this is my passion. I love what I do and enjoy doing it. So, I approach every writing project as a labor of love and every book, a new baby.

Is all this hard work actually worth it? For me, YES! The reward is immeasurable! It’s almost not financial, but the reward lies in validation, appreciation and a sense of worth. When the readers fall in love with your creative world and its characters, the admiration is priceless. Money is important, of course, since it is a source of income. But it’s the readers that motivate me to keep writing.

If you are thinking about writing a book, or publishing one, or both, do not do it for financial gain. Financial success is far from reality (some writers do gain financial rewards), but that should never be the reason for writing or getting published. The journey is wonderfully challenging, so no matter what, never give up and… be encouraged.

Be Encouraged!

Every life follows their very own pattern, that’s why all things happen for a reason. Put fate aside, and some unseen force draws each person toward the lesson needs to be learned, or the life that needs to be lived, or the fulfillment that needs to be achieved. Perhaps the ultimate happiness comes when the disasters of your life in retrospect are its greatest blessings. Such is the pattern of life. So, no matter what you are facing, be encouraged.

God gives understanding in everything, as long as you make a good effort and never give up. “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules; and it is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of crops,”—2nd Timothy 2:5-6

Through this blog, in humility, I wish to pass on my experience that may encourage and inspire others.