LINK Virginia, USA -- Very few people got out of the room without a hug from Vera Oye Yaa-Anna.
The hugs came after Yaa-Anna fed about a dozen people peanut stew, told them a story and made them dance at the Chinn Park Regional Library on Thursday night.
Yaa-Anna, of Ghana in west Africa, demonstrated the preparation of several African staple foods such as couscous with raisins, sweet bread and fufu, a dumpling made from the flour of green plantains. Her program showed "A Taste of Ghana."
The stew, made with ground peanuts, chicken, chicken broth, onions, pepper and a soy sauce substitute called Bragg Liquid Aminos, was popular with a group of teenage girls in the community room at the library.
"It's fun seeing how people of different cultures make their food," said Jasmin Stroman.
Though she liked the stew, the 14-year-old said she could take or leave the fufu.
Her friend Ronae Griffin said she had some trepidation about eating peanut stew.
"I was afraid, because it was different," the 14-year-old Ronae said.
Yaa-Anna told her audience that there was no such thing as fast food in Ghana, where people eat seated on clean cloths on the floor, and meals can take two hours because people talk and tell stories a throughout the meal.
To illustrate, Yaa-Anna told the story of a mean baker woman who hated Beggar Joe, a man who came to her house every day begging for sweet bread.
The mean old baker woman begrudged Beggar Joe the crusts of bread she gave him and one day decided to teach him a lesson.
Beggar Joe came knocking at her door, but before she gave him bread, she split the loaves and put in rat poison.
Beggar Joe walked happily away with the loaves under his arm.
On his way down the road, Beggar Joe ran into three school girls who asked him what he had for them that day.
Beggar Joe gave each of the girls a loaf of bread.
The girls ate the bread on their way home and thought it the most wonderful bread they had ever eaten not knowing that it was their mother who had baked it.
The three girls became ill and died but not before they told their mother that they had gotten bread form Beggar Joe.
The mother went crazy at the death of her daughters and the police took her away.
Yaa-Anna asked if the audience could discern the moral of the story.
Some in the audience quoted the golden rule. Others said "what goes around comes around."
"Very good," said Yaa-Anna, "But maybe the lesson is 'Better watch what you eat.' "
Yaa-Anna and the teenage girls in particular seemed to enjoy the African dancing after the story.
Others went for seconds.
Dan Swain said the stew reminded him of some of the Asian peanut sauces he's eaten.
"The story was interesting, but the food was what got me here," Swain, 37, said.