Why ‘Sweet’ Salone?

Sierra Leone is sometimes referred to as “Sweet Salone” which translates to “Sweet Sierra Leone” in Krio. Krio is a Creole language that emerged during the colonial period as a lingua franca among the descendants of freed slaves and liberated Africans who resettled in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. Today, it is one of the most widely spoken languages in Sierra Leone. These diverse groups of Africans brought with them their native languages and cultures, resulting in a mixture of African languages, European languages (particularly English), and influences from Caribbean Creole languages. The interaction and intermingling of these different linguistic and cultural elements gave rise to the development of a unique Creole language, which became known as Krio.

The term “Sweet Salone” is an expression of endearment and pride for Sierra Leoneans, reflecting our affection for our country despite its past challenges and hardships. It conveys a sense of optimism, resilience, and love for our nation. Despite the difficulties the country has faced, including a civil war, mud slide and the Ebola outbreak, the people of Sierra Leone continue to embrace their cultural diversity, natural beauty, and rich heritage. “Sweet Salone” encapsulates the idea that Sierra Leone is a place with warm-hearted people, beautiful landscapes, and a unique blend of cultures, making it a special and cherished homeland.

Looking back

“Granville Sharp’s original Province of Freedom lasted only four years, from 1787 to 1791, but because a succession of freed slaves were able to create their own province of freedom in Sierra Leone during the nineteenth century.  The British who came to rule Sierra Leone after 1791 were unable to do so with consistent and over-all effectiveness, particularly in the area’s of local government and the administration of justice.  The resultant administrative and legal void was filled by the settlers and liberated Africans who were able to establish effective control of the political, economic, and social dimensions of their society.

The contact between the Liberated Africans and the Europeans who came to administer, to trade, to convert, and to teach produced an Afro-European society by the second half of the nineteenth century.  The cultural product of this contact is known as Creole society. 

Creole society has a much wider cultural spectrum than is usually attributed to it; it is far more Afro-European.  There were three groups of immigrants to Sierra Leone before 1807: the Orignal Settlers of 1787, the Nova Scotians of 1792, and the Maroons of 1800.  There were also between 60,000 – 70,000 liberated Africans who were saved from the holds of slave ships trading illegally after 1807 and settled in Sierra Leone. The children of the Liberated Africans are called ‘Creoles’.  There culture tended to be more European in its outward forms largely because of its geopgraphical focus was Freetown.  Creole society also embraced a wide variety of cultural forms which had their origins in the African past of its members.  The language of Creole is Krio, and their staple food such as fufu is not European, but rather indices of the Afro-European cultural fusions which had taken place in society itself.  The Creole then is a second generation immigrant to Sierra Leone, descended from Liberated African parents, whose cultural pattern was Afro-European”. 

Province of Freedom – A history of Sierra Leone 1878 -1870, John Peterson. 

Recipes from the heart of Sierra Leone.

My Cookbook, Sweet Salone, includes Sierra Leonean street food, traditional main dishes as well as Afro-fusion starters and mains. Food fusion is a form of cooking that combines contrasting culinary traditions, techniques and ingredients into a single dish. There are various forms of fusion food, including regional fusion which combines food from different regions or sub-regions.  Food fusion allows experimentation and freedom in exploring a contrast of flavours and textures. Creativity is at the core of culinary innovation. It’s very important to me as a chef to explore and show audiences something new without compromising on nostalgia. I have a keen eye for aesthetics and an imaginative approach to food presentation and my growing foodie audience on social media were eager to learn, explore, and incorporate diverse influences into their cooking.  Over the years I have developed a deep understanding of cooking methods, ingredient properties, and flavor combinations. This enables me to experiment confidently, adapt recipes, and create unique culinary experiences, influenced by my heritage and the schooling of my mother and grandmother.

I attended Leiths culinary school in London, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but the comprehensive knowledge of Sierra Leonean ingredients, including their seasonality, sourcing, and potential uses can only be attributed to my childhood in our Sweet Salone. I embrace the richness and diversity of African ingredients such as grains (e.g., millet, sorghum), tubers (e.g., yams, cassava), legumes (e.g., black-eyed peas, lentils), tropical fruits, leafy greens, and an array of spices and herbs. I like to embrace techniques from other culinary traditions to create innovative and harmonious dishes and I like to enhance, improve and be progressive wherever possible.

At Leiths I learnt a lot about classical European culinary techniques, including knife skills, food preparation, cooking methods, and recipe execution.  These are essential skills for professional Chefs.  This is not say that I didn’t have knife skills, my Sweet potato leaves chopping technique may raise eyebrows or make pulses race, but it is the same one Sierra Leonean women have been using for centuries, and I am quite clear that I learnt to cook in Sierra Leone.  I would ‘play-cook’ in a rusty broken down car as a child and pretend it was my kitchen, I began helping my mother cook from age 8 or 9 and my grandmother continues to inspire me.

I am a Sierra Leonean born Chef and I cook Sierra Leonean food and dishes inspired by heritage.

Therefore, as this book is filled with recipes from the heart of Sierra Leone. It was named accordingly; Sweet Salone.