People here are among the poorest in the world, so meat and even fresh fish are a luxury. Our household is considered well-off by most standards, so our soup is regularly flavored with reconstituted dried fish and stock bones that are sold in shops off the main road. I have yet to see a butcher shop that sells cuts of actual meat. The fish is bony, oily and takes some getting used to, but it flavors everything here -- even meat soup -- so I'm accustoming myself to it. The bones that flavor the soup are another story. They smell like meat, flavor the soup like meat, make me want to eat meat, only they aren't meat -- just scraps of gristle and sinew around the bones.
During the Second World War, the U.S. built an air base outside of Monrovia that tapped Liberian natural resources to supply the African and European fronts with all the rubber they needed. The American soldiers were on a diet of imported rations, and the local Liberians who lived nearby nicknamed their area "Smell-no-taste," because they could smell the food the Americans were eating, but they never got to taste it.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world. There are more than 15,000 aid workers in Liberia, and there is still a large UN Peacekeeper presence. We can buy South African wine, German chocolate and even Indian papadams in the supermarket.
I wonder how many Liberians I pass or converse with every day feel like the people in Smell-no-taste, looking at my well-stocked fridge and my car, seeing evidence of my better health and education, and minding the gap.