Friday, November 23, 2012

Recipe: Ma Augusta's Shortbread

Ma Augusta behind the counter at Otis Spot with a fresh batch of another one of her specialties:  Light Bread

As made and sold at Otis Spot, Buchanan in the 80's

This is Liberian food as far as I'm concerned.  While it may not be traditional Liberian fare, I first ate it in Liberia made by a Liberian and so it is included here.  It goes great with Jolof rice and collard greens.  It is also wonderful for breakfast with coffee.  It tastes sort of like a crispy cake and the recipe was passed on to our family from an amazing Liberian woman named Ma Augusta (more on her below).


5 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 sticks of butter (softened)*

*Ma Augusta used margarine as milk products are difficult to find in Liberia.  Butter tastes much better in my opinion.


Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder together.  Add eggs and butter, and cut into dry ingredients   Mixture will be coarse.  Add approximately 1 3/4 cups of water.  The batter should be thin enough to pour into a pan but thick enough that you have to use a fork to spread it out towards the edges of the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 - 40 minutes.  Knife should come out clean when inserted into center.


My mom with Ma Augusta at Otis Spot.
I am on the left eyeing the light bread
Augusta Togba, or "Ma Augusta" as she was known, was an amazing woman.  She was a neighborhood mother for all the children who lived around her shop "Otis Spot" including us white kids.  In those days, many children were sent into Buchanan from the "bush" because it was assumed that there were better opportunities for education and future employment in the big city.  The result however was that hosts were often unable to handle the added financial burden and there were tons of kids without parents running around town.  Sometimes they were able to get them into school, but this was not always the case and there are sorts of sad stories about how these children survived or tried to survive.  In Ma Augusta's days hungry children knew that they could stop by Otis Spot and Ma Augusta would make sure they had something to eat: rice crust, light bread, or her famous shortbread.  She was a very generous, strong and wonderful woman and the sense of reassurance and stability that she brought to that area of Buchanan will be missed.

Setting up a Voter Registration booth at Otis Spot

Election Official and neighborhood registrants on the Otis Spot porch.  


Otis Spot was a place were people could come and play checkers (Liberian rules), eat light bread wrapped in Swedish newspapers thrown out from nearby LAMCO and of course palavar on the porch about all things political, religious and controversial (this is a Liberian fine art).  It was here that I came to enjoy palavar for palavar's sake as we discussed such diverse topics as the Rastafari, the treatment of animals, Apartheid, political corruption, colonialism, et al.  Ma Augusta was always within earshot to throw in a few comments, laugh at or with us and break up the occasional fight and encourage us to leave her place with peace and goodwill.  

Open Bible Road goes past Otis Spot on the left and leads up to Tubman Street.  It was on this porch that checkers, palavar and shortbread were enjoyed by all.

Today Otis Spot is the site of a small church and the open palavar porch has since been screened in.  An era is gone but the recipe for Otis Spot still remains:  mix motherly nurture, community, palavar, checkers and of course Ma Augusta's famous shortbread and see what happens!

RIP Ma Augusta - You are missed!


  1. This is such a wonderful story, it made me sad. Sad because I have been here for 32 year and I missed those days in Liberia. The pictures brought a pleasant feeling though. I am from Cape mount but it's all the same.

  2. It took me 25 years until I was able to return. It was bitter sweet and I was very happy and very sad at the same time. I was happy that I was able to visit your Cape Mount area. Such a beautiful place! I hope to return to Robertsport again soon and visit my friend in Sinjay.

  3. i really luv this history bro.. i know now u are a full grown man...@ Sis Annan, re u from the Kiazolu family from central Buchanan, Christian high sch road?? if u re, nice to meet u bcuz i had a classmate from Central Buchanan Road called LUNA KIAZOLU.... thanks so much again Heath Vogel!! it's Amazing to see this story.. well done!

  4. So many memories. Thanks for sharing