Krios start teaching their children how to take care of their surroundings and keep their homes clean from a very early age. Both boys and girls are taught how to cook, clean the house and compound and launder their underwear.
From the time a child is about five years old, he is given the responsibility of sweeping leaves in the compound or sweeping and dusting some small room in the house. The responsibilities gradually increase as the child grows older. From sweeping and helping around the kitchen by washing plates, the child then graduated to helping to ‘pik plasas’ (i.e. plucking vegetable leaves from their stalks), for cooking plasas or palava sauce.
From there, the child graduated to going to the market with an adult or older sibling to learn how to do the marketing, which is quite a tricky business. This was followed by being taught how to ‘clean’ (gut) fresh fish and prepare dried fish for cooking by carefully lifting off most of the skin, breaking the edible part into large pieces and removing most of the bones. Woe betide the teenager who does not quickly learn to remove every offending bone from the smoked flat fish called bonga, a delicacy for almost every palava sauce!
Palava sauce is a mix of carefully selected leafy vegetables (sometimes two, three or even four), cooked in palm oil, with dried fish, meat or entrails, ground melon seeds (egusi) or groundnuts (used only when the former is not available). The palava sauce could also be ‘draw soup’ (so called because of its texture). This could be fresh or dried okra or kren-kren (green vegetable leaves that have a slippery texture). The desired slippery texture used to be enhanced by adding lubi, a soft grey, rock-like substance that had to be ground into fine powder and sprinkled over the sauce. These days, because of the scarcity of lubi, bicarbonate of soda is used.
Palava sauce was usually served with fu-fu, rice or farina (gari softened with water). By the age of ten, most Krio children are expected to be able to prepare simple soups and stews and should, at least, know how to cook rice, our staple food.
Eating food out of home, especially cooked food, was something we were warned to avoid as much as possible. We were given designated places, invariably in the homes of close family and friends, where we could eat. I’ll never forget the time I committed the cardinal sin of eating something that had been prepared by the mother of a girl who sold groundnuts in front of my mother’s eldest sister’s house! A few days later, the girl and I quarrelled and she immediately threatened to go and tell my very-strict aunt that I had eaten their food. I don't think I have ever again experienced the terror I felt at the thought of my aunt – and, of course – my parents finding out what I had done! The girl never did carry out her threat though, and after a couple of days I started to breathe easily again!
TO BE CONTINUED....