Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cassava comes to Shreveport via Osodi International Market, 2030 LineAve

Cassava market by IITA Image Library
Cassava market, a photo by IITA Image Library on Flickr. Duvernay

Dorcas Oyefara was tired of traveling to Texas just to stock her pantry. So she and her husband opened Osodi International Market on Line Avenue in Shreveport.

"No one was selling African foods here before this," said Oyefara, who retired from teaching school and left Nigeria in 2009 to follow her husband, Ben Oyefara, to Monroe. "We used to have to go to Houston or Dallas to buy the things I grew up eating. There was a void to fill. We couldn't find these things really in all of north Louisiana."

Now they are part of a growing community of international grocers in Shreveport-Bossier City.

Oyefara said she felt unfulfilled when she joined her husband in Monroe, where he has been serving as a physician since 1999. In May, she came to Shreveport, where he also teaches at LSU-Shreveport. And together they opened the market that specializes in African and Caribbean foods.

It's an unassuming place, easy to drive past without a second look. Inside are typical-looking shelves and stocks in a sterile-looking room; but the wares and supplies are foreign even when they seem familiar.

African beans, yams and yam products and African spices are stacked with packaged goods imported directly from Nigeria. The frozen goods — cassava leaves, bitters and goat meats, the Oyefaras usually must pick up in Dallas. Their Jamaican spices, ackees and other Caribbean foods are shipped from Texas and Miami.

And in the cooler are bottles of Fanta of a shape and taste usually unfamiliar to Americans. "When people drink this one, they don't want the other anymore," Ben Oyefara said.

Although the Oyefaras' business is small and still working to grow, they say they've reached out to a growing population of Africans and Caribbean natives in the area. "They come in and they are from everywhere," Ben Oyefara said. "They are from Ghana, Tunisia, from all the Caribbean islands, from Kenya and the Congo. They didn't have access to their native foods. They have our foods now."

more at