Friday, March 27, 2009

Miss Valerie

The unpainted cinderblock section at the end of Miss Valerie's house is the kitchen. That's where "the magic happens".
One of the first things we noticed about Miss Valerie's house is her obvious care for flowers and plants. Cultivated flowers and landscaping are not a characteristic of the Liberian homes we saw. As we pulled up to Miss Valerie's house the tended plants and the lovely flowering shrubs artistically arranged for maximum effect made it clear she has a passion for growing things. She even had flowers and plants in pots at the house entry.
Every day of the teacher training at LCMS we were served wonderful meals of authentic Liberian food. The person responsible for serving 60 plus hot lunches every day was LCMS Home Economics teacher, Miss Valerie. Not only does she teach, but with her crew of ladies and her mini-van, Miss Valerie operates a successful catering business, specializing in weddings and parties of all kinds.

Miss Valerie's home based business operates out of her home kitchen. It is attached to the house and has no windows or roof. Wide open to the fresh air, it keeps the heat outside - not in. Three charcoal cookers in the outdoor kitchen and a charcoal oven located inside the house are the main cooking "appliances". With limited electricity, Valerie has no regular refrigeration but makes good use of a freezer that runs periodically when electricity is available.

The day I visited Miss Valerie's house she was preparing one of our fabulous lunches. While she applied lovely, professional decorations to a birthday cake, she supervised her cooking crew in preparing extraordinary amounts of rice on the three small charcoal cookers. She had baked the cake herself in her charcoal oven. Anyone who has tried to bake in an oven with an automatic thermostat knows steady temperature is critical to successful baking. It's challenging enough to cook on a charcoal cooker but to actually bake cakes in a charcoal oven guessing at the temperature? The sight of several loaves of bread and tea cakes cooling on a nearby shelf and I was really impressed.

Miss Valerie has linked her passions for food and teaching and has boundless enthusiasm for both. She is also committed to working with young women through her church - teaching them to develop strength of character, self-respect and self-reliance through cooking!

We caught Miss Valerie in the midst of lunch preparation this day but she stopped long enough to welcome us in. She also has a green thumb!

1 comment:

  1. Seriously, I don't know how she does it. But she does! What I really find amazing is how she makes the HUGE pots of rice that turn out perfectly!