Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Report from a Roadside Market Stall in Monrovia

These food stalls are the main source of groceries for most Liberians, so they seemed like something worth looking into. Thanks to the patience of teenage shopkeeper Joseph, who described some of the products he had on sale, and allowed the photo.

Most of the food is sold in sizes enough to make a single rice-based meal for a small family. Large cans are opened and parceled out into small plastic packets that people can better afford. While we were on the scene a young woman appeared with her plastic kitchen tub and proceeded to select just enough of a few items (peppers, okra, yellow rice, a small fish head, and a shallot) to create dinner. She argued about the price for a minute, but Joseph charged us both the same, so his margins are probably wafer-thin. The vegetables and fruits are all much smaller than we’re accustomed to in the developed world, likely being heirloom varieties grown without chemical fertilizers.

Foods: some kind of yellow tomato-like fruit, onions, shallots, garlic, ginger, several kinds of peppers both fresh and dried, Maggi cubes (MSG), canned mackerel, tomato paste, canned sardines, small chunks of very ripe local fish in a plastic jar covered with a bowl, okra, limes or lemons, imported rice, local rice (more expensive, held in higher regard), small bags of rock salt, small bags of peanut butter for sauce, and several dried and fresh spices. Bottom right in the photo you can see pinkish kola nuts, which are broken apart and chewed to produce a mild caffeine-like high, reducing hunger. Right behind the kola nuts are these big grey and black chunks that look like concrete, though Joseph said the substance was “for eating”. [Anyone know what that might be?] In the bottles are cooking oil, hot sauce (?) and some kind of alcoholic drinks.

Sundries: ball-point pens, AA batteries, balls of homemade (?) soap for clothing, matches, chewing gum, hard candies, and some very small packets of powdered soap.

One head of garlic, four limes, and a small onion came to L$35, (or about 3/4 of a US dollar). Per capita income is $2/day, or so.


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