FOODWAYS AND FOLKTALES by Vera Oye Yaa Anna
In January 2008, Vera Oye Yaa Anna, presented a program for the African Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress entitled Foodways and Folklore. As a culinary Griot, Ms. Yaa Anna prepared a buffet meal of Garlic Collard Greens, Couscous, Jerk Turkey, Spinach and Cilantro and fried plantains, with Auntie Oye Pettit Rice Bread Muffins for dessert and a beverage of Alkaline tea, made with ph balanced water. The program was open to the public, and as it was held on a Saturday, many families came. Understandably, there were no left overs.
The carefully and tastefully presented food was served alongside folktales and history about how these foods came to be, and the interconnection between Liberia, the native land of Yaa Anna, and the United States. She told the history of how freed slaves came back to Liberia with some influence of the times they spent in the United States. Later in the program, Yaa Anna told humorous, moral tales in the fashion of the Palaver Hut, a Liberian tradition where people hold discussions and tell stories. The three-hour program, which included time to eat the delicious food, time to hear the history of the food and time to hear amusing stories with some sage information embedded in them. Yaa Annas engaging story-telling, healthy and lovingly prepared gourmet dishes made for a fun and educational Saturday for the two dozen visitors, who then asked when are you going to do this again? We here at the Library of Congress would gladly extend the invitation again for this excellent program.