Sunday, November 22, 2009

Harvest Time (Rice) in Kenema - 1969

cutting swamp rice on Dama Road in Kenema

A Mende man (and woman) felt that he had not eaten unless he had rice. Rice was the staple in upcountry Sierra Leone in those days. It was in Africa that I learned to love rice - and to this day this remains. Rice was labor intensive to grow. All done by hand from the farm preparation (using machetes to cut the brush, then the environmentally challenging slash and burn technique to prep the soil followed by broadcasting the seed and scraping it into the soil) this all took time. At the end of the dry season the rice koernels turned brown and were harvested again by hand. This photo is of a swamp that sat on Dama road, the road from our house into town. A group of people here are cutting the rice. Mende rice was delicious - I felt that it tasted almost like meat. The only rice I had known previously was the so called Carolina Rice that I had had in America. Mende Rice was brown, large koerneled, and when cooked with their plasas (sauce) was wonderful. A Mende meal with hot pepper and laced with red palm oil and perhaps potato leaf or casava leaf (and occasional meat) was something that I grew to love. The pepper took a while to get used to but it was an acquired taste that remains with me to this day. I had Mende Chop daily cooked for me by our neighbor Sabina Garlough. I would love to sit down again and have a good Mende meal.

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