Monday Meal Review: Liberia

THE SCENE: The first of two cakes.

I walk up to her proudly. I carry the still-warm cake in my hands. The scent of cinnamon, and molasses fills the room.

“What is it?” she asks, peering into the pan.

“Gingerbread cake” I reply.

“Ooh,” she says.

With a quick flourish I flip the cake over onto the platter.

“Should we see what it looks like?” I ask.

Her eyes grow wide.

“Yeah!” she says.

Dramatically, I raise the pan.

“What is it?” she gasps, staring at the golden rings of delicately overlapped plantains.

“Plantains” I say, smiling.

She recoils, like a vampire from garlic. It’s been a while since we’ve had plantains. They’re like strangers again.

“It’s… it’s… bananas!” I hurriedly say, grasping to find something she can relate to.

She comes closer again, looking at the buttery, sugary goodness.

“Bananas!” she smiles.

But I can’t lie. Not for long, anyway. I wait until the exact moment she takes a bite to correct myself.

“Yes, plantains are like bananas. These are plantains.”

With the food already in her mouth, she’s guaranteed to taste the new food despite any misgivings based on name alone. It’s not the first time I’ve played this trick. After a year of the child insisting she doesn’t like butter, I recently gave her a thick slice of still-warm homemade bread, lathered up with butter. The butter had melted into the bread, making it all but disappear until… until, Ava bit into the soft, warm piece of heaven. As her mouth shut, I casually said “That peice has butter on it.”

She looked up at me with huge eyes.

“Ava like butter” she said. Over and over again. And she continues to say it every time butter is on the table, on the counter, near her, or around her.

“Ava like butter.”

This time, the trick didn’t work out quite the same. Ava finished chewing her bite of cake and then asked to get down.

“Don’t you want some more?” I ask.

“No thanks,” she says. “I tried it.”

But the next day, when I make the gingerbread cake for the second time – with ripe plantains, she actually chows down (see video at bottom of post).



Ham & Green Bean Jollof [Recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

Jollof is total comfort food. I love the slight, tingling spice, the pretty green and pink and red, and how the flavors combine. I mostly love how fantastic this is the next day as fried rice. Amazing. Miss Ava didn’t want to try it at first, but she gave in and ate up two entire bowls.  Mr Not as Picky, Keith, was a fan of this, particularly the fried up leftovers. I always know when I’ve done well – it’s the times when he can’t stop eating – even when he’s already totally, completely, painfully full.

What I like least about this dish:

Not much. Just be sure to let the rice steam for several minutes before trying to fluff it…. otherwise you might squish the still-soggy grains.

Plantain Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake [Recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

The cake is spot-on. Not too sweet, not to heavy – then topped with brown sugar, butter and plantains? Yes, yes, yes. Keith adored the crispy, butter edges which he said tasted better than a muffin top. Ava liked it too, mostly because I didn’t cut it up into tiny pieces for her.. she used her fork like a big girl and figured out how to eat it by herself.

What I like least about this dish:

Don’t use unripe plantains. The ones I used the first time I made this recipe were not ripe enough and the result was a plantain that was a bit tough. If you pick a plantain that has turned dark, you’ll end  up with a softer, more banana-like texture. That’s what you want to go for!

Warm Mango and Cloves [recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

Everything. The still-warm, spiced mango tastes like pie. It tastes like cream. It’s warm and cozy. And it’s full of fiber. Which is just what you tell yourself when you polish off the entire bowl. No guilt, right?

What I like least about this dish:

Nothing, although I think it would be outrageous spooned over vanilla ice cream. With a slice of gingerbread cake.

Ava’s Corner


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