Healthy Soul

Celebrating my 60th birthday in Tubman Hall, Harper, Maryland County

I’ve been thinking about a super special celebration for this sixth decade of life. I wanted it to be special. And it is. I started the year in a new country. I’m on the African continent for an extended period. I’m being stretched in a fascinating way on this work assignment.

For the first time in my life I live, work and socialize with the same group of people. They have to stand in for my friends and family, so I invite them to celebrate with me over dinner. It’s a traditional Liberian meal.

Dishes at my dinner - fried green plantain chips, potato greens with bony fish,  mashed pumpkin, and fried fish.

Dishes at my dinner - fried green plantain chips, potato greens with bony fish, mashed pumpkin, and fried fish.

With so many of the food items bringing forth childhood memories of comfort foods I initially wanted to prepare them the way Jamaicans do. Quickly that plan was dropped as several items basic to the Jamaican cuisine like tomatoes and scallions were unavailable. The next thought was “when in Rome EAT as the Romans EAT”. I not only needed to find out the dishes in a typical Liberian meal I also needed to find someone to prepare them.

Palm butter, from the oil palm nut, is the thickened sauce from the pulp and oil of the palm nut with fish, chicken or bush meat.

Palm butter, from the oil palm nut, is the thickened sauce from the pulp and oil of the palm nut with fish, chicken or bush meat.

As Bob Marley, my birthday twin, would say “To the rescue, here I come!” Marie Simmons, my neighbor a few doors down and a Liberian came to my rescue. She guided me through the planning and securing of people to make different items. I began with dessert. The scarcity of eggs makes cakes and baking in general rare. Miss Sophie does not need eggs for the paw-paw (papaya) pie and somehow she “found” eggs to make the cassava cake.

Cassava cake and paw-paw (papaya) pie - succulent desserts.

Cassava cake and paw-paw (papaya) pie - succulent desserts.

Palm butter is a soupy dish made from the oil palm nuts grown all over Maryland County. The explanation I got is that the nuts are boiled for the fruit to soften and fall off the kernels and for the oil to be expressed. After several strainings to remove the kernels and skin, the pulp and oil are boiled into a thick sauce.

Kurl and her Mom, Myth are from the Philippines.

Kurl and her Mom, Myth are from the Philippines.

Usually bush meat (the meat of animals like monkeys or other game) and chicken are cooked in it. I asked for fish. The palm butter is served with jollof rice (seasoned rice or cook-up rice in other places) and potato greens. Mashed pumpkin and fried green plantain chips rounded out the meal.

Marie Simmons is my neighbor and from Liberian. She guided me in the planning of the dinner.

Marie Simmons is my neighbor and from Liberian. She guided me in the planning of the dinner.

Food was setup on our back porch but folks settled in wherever they felt comfortable. As always the crowd evaporates and a few people are left. That’s when we learned that Lillian had twin sons when she was 23, a daughter when she was 35, and another daughter at 43 years of age; that Marie’s sons treated their young sister who was almost 14 years their junior like a doll; and that Brigitte is a fellow Aquarian with a birthday on the 13th.

Brigitte, Iona, and Lillian hangout in my place for the "after party" conversations.

Brigitte, Iona, and Lillian hangout in my place for the "after party" conversations.

 

It was a super special birthday celebration. It brought the sunshine way past midnight. And no, we didn’t sing Stevie’s version of the Happy Birthday song.

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served.

Any special celebrations on your horizon?

 

12 Comments

  1. I cannot believe that you are now celebrating the 6th decade!! Where has the time gone? Days under the mango trees and sugar plum trees at Amity, visiting Crown Street, hanging out in Long Island and Manhattan? Wow Jen I guess I gotta realize that time is really marching on. That we ARE in the time of our parents and they in theirs… it seems so strange yet poetic. I love that you are on that life giving continent exploring and working and sharing it all with us. What a way to celebrate and to embrace the upcoming 7th!
    Love you cuz!

    • Hey there Vanessa – isn’t it amazing! I am so happy that we have so many wonderful memories, and can still make more. Yes, we are the generation we have been talking about. I am still pinching myself. It was a wonderful birthday celebration – easy and fun. Thanks for the beautiful wishes. Love you too!

  2. Happy Birthday.

    • Thanks, Garth. I am wishing I could be at Pat’s party on the 18th. I know it will be a blast – I’m missing Negril and the beach. She is not on FB and I don’t have an email address for her, so please convey my greetings to her.

  3. What an amazing birthday celebration! You have such a great community around you. I am so thankful for all of for blessings. You go girl!! LOL! May all of your wishes come true!

  4. Belated Happy Birthday! I am in awe of your birthday celebration with new friends and new foods. Each time your news appears in my In Box, I am excited about you and your wonderful adventure. You are continually in my thoughts and in my prayers.

  5. Hi Jennifer, a belated Happy Birthday! It is great tor read that you are having a good time and making new friends and discovering things abut yourself and your new home. Continue to enjoy this special time in our life.

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