Drinking to the gods

There she was, seriously head-geared, too full of energy (considering it was over 100 degrees outside) and chanting in Liberian Grebo: Abli ware a bati oooo..!”

“Bati oooo!” We all responded as we had been told. Whatever I’d expected when I left a nail-biting Ghana v. Uruguay match to watch Vera Oye put up a “culinary theatre production” at Martha’s Table, the “life-imitates-Nollywood”, libation-pouring exercise I was now witnessing was certainly not it. In less than two minutes Vera had taken us from downtown DC to an Orunmila festival. I felt bad for the non-Africans, they looked like they were about to make for the door (if you fall in this bucket, please see crash course on libation here). I put on my “I’m tough” look and whipped out my camera. This was getting interesting.

As World cup drama unfolded on the field between Ghana and Uruguay, events just as theatrical were taking place in the modest kitchen for the homeless and under-privileged where we had been invited to help educate neighborhood families on better nutrition. If they weren’t educated; surely they were entertained. First this:

After they’d all been thoroughly shocked out of their wits, it was time for the cooking demonstration. In quick succession, they were shown how to make a healthy guacamole (Vera’s tip: include cilantro, it makes all the difference), using liquid amino as a healthy salt substitute, testing your water for acidity/alkalinity and how to make a simple but delicious meal of couscous and vegetables.

And then, just when we’d started wondering how the word “theatre” ever made it on the event description, we were seated at the table and Vera had launched right into it. A dramatic rendition with all the trappings of a good African story – the majestic king, his lowly subjects, the beggar, the search for a timeless ideal; as a Nigeran, I couldn’t help but recall the show “Tales by Moonlight“. 1-min soundbite:

As most fables do, this one ended well; the moral being that happiness is a conscious choice that lies within the reach of every individual as long as he/she desires.

Even if we weren’t all quite so convinced, the couscous was so miraculously “al dente”, the boiled plantains and cassava went down so easily with the spinach/cilantro duet and the Liberian rice bread so moist and spongy, we very nearly reached Nirvana ourselves – all without the help of that half-naked, bare-footed cryptic old man in Vera’s story. Thank you Vera, keep up the spirit and lets continue to cherish those food traditions that make us who we are! For program menu and recipes, click here.

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One Response to Drinking to the gods

  1. Obiocha says:

    Must.See.What.Grail.Message.Says.About.Libation!!!!

    otherwise, a beautifully written piece….again, thou hast outdone thyself, sister :)

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