When I first arrived in the UK I had a lot of questions about food. I guess the food blogger in me was just slightly starting to wake up. I had arrived, not knowing anything about British food, and homesick and wanting to recreate the Sierra Leonean dishes I was used to. Then I actually tried to recreate them and the questions started. I spent a lot of money calling my mother (who had been in the UK in the 60s and 70s) to ask her advice.
Q. What is a good substitute for cooking with sweet potato leaves?
Q. Can you freeze scotch bonnet chillies?
A. Yes but cut them up and take the seeds out first, as they are too soft after they’ve been frozen.
Q. What is the British name for jiblocks?
A. Baby white aubergine
Q. Palm oil is really expensive here, can I halve the amount of palm oil in dishes?
A. Yes, sure, it will still taste good, just won’t have that rich oiliness (actually I always found our home-cooked plasas too full of palm-oil, so am rather glad to have discovered that you can reduce it).
Then there were the calls back about how Gran because I’d made all my akara too dry (the key is the ratio of bananas) and what she did to specifically make her jollof rice so much better than mine (less tomato and more coconut milk).
And as you can imagine calls back home where long and very expensive. And mobiles were only just getting common. I had no idea how to call home cheaply. I do remember one month were I spent all my allowance calling home via the nearby phone box and had to spend the rest of the month living on toast, tomatoes and tea.
And then I remember the total lack of communication during the war when the place my family live in was attacked. I knew about the attack, and then heard nothing. For a week. I again spent rather a lot more time in the phone box calling anyone and everyone I could get hold of. Relying on landlines that were full of static, and most often not working . Turned out my family had been holed up with thousands of other strangers in the basement of a large hotel dodging bullets and bombs. Some scary times.
Nowadays, we are lucky to be able to have mobiles and cheaper ways of keeping in contact with home. Especially through companies like Lebara. Their aim was to help migrants like me to keep in touch with families and friends through their good, low-cost products and services.
Sierra Leoneans and other migrant communities of have been making good use of these. I can tell you how many times I have been walking down Brixton market and hearing someone tell their newly arrived friends about Lebara. Seriously.
So, if I had moved to the UK now, rather than almost 20 years ago, I would not have had to spend ¼ of my income on telephone calls, would have been able to talk to family and friends more, and basically would never have felt as cut-off and lonely as I did then. Lucky younger people!
More importantly, Lebara also donate a portion of their profits to the Lebara foundation which provides housing, health measures and schooling for displaced communities around the world. So we get to call home and also get to help other communities around the world too. It’s all good.
Do go check out Lebara and see what they can do for you.
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