National Geographic : 1911 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE WOODEN BOWL AND SPOON USED IN EAT: DUMBOY As soon as the soup is added the dum boy is ready to be eaten; and, while the ingredients are somewhat bizarre, the method of eating the dish strikes the traveler as even more startling. The mass of dumboy, which can best be de scribed as a sticky dough, will adhere instantly to anything dry, but is readily cut with a wooden spoon if the spoon is kept moist with the soup. An incredibly large piece is cut off with the moistened spoon, taken up with a quantity of the soup, and swallowed whole. No one thinks of chewing it, and it is customary to caution the novice by tales of the frightful operation necessary to separate the jaws once the teeth are buried in the sticky mass. As might be expected, few Europeans like dumboy on first acquaintance; and, with some, the initial distaste prevents fur ther experiments. If a second or third attempt is made, how ever, and the dish has been prop erly prepared, the habit is usually formed, and before long every night spent in the bush without a meal of dumboy is counted a privation. Among the white residents. of Liberia, fondness for this dish amounts almost to a cult. It is regarded as a sort of guaranty that one's tenderfoot days are over. While cassava is a staple food throughout West Africa, dum boy seems to be peculiarly Li berian. The dish in no way resembles the "fou fou" of the neighboring colony of Sierra Leone, though made of the same material. It must be unknown in the parts of Africa familiar to Sir Harry Johnston, for the account given in his work on Liberia is erroneous. A dumboy ING prepared in the way described by him would be quite inedi ble.* The great diversity in the methods of preparing cassava for food that obtains among the tribes of West Africa would seem to argue against the generally ac cepted belief that cassava was unknown in Africa until aftei the discovery of America by Columbus. There can be no doubt that the plant is of American origin; but, if introduced after the time of Columbus, it must have been taken up with marvelous rapidity, and the natives must have evinced an ingenuity in invent ing new methods of preparing the focrd in striking contrast to their present con servatism. * Johnston, Harry, Liberia, II, p. 99o.