Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Caribbean
A Culinary Discovery

This is a different kind of cook book… Oh yes. Do you know why I say different? It’s different because it concentrates and deals with the cultural aspect of each Caribbean Island and the Culinary too.  This particular cook book was written and edited by Rosemary Parkinson who took a tour around the Caribbean discovering and exploring the multitude of foods and its cultures.

When first opening the book there are a few paragraphs on how magnificent some of the Islands are and what they have to offer. However, I chose the paragraph about Dominica as I'm concentrating mostly on the culture and foods of Dominica.  I don’t know about you but when I read Parkinson’s brief description I couldn’t wait to read what she had to say about the islands, especially mine.  How does the paragraph make you feel? Would you want to read on?


I was so excited to see what Parkinson had to say about Dominica I skipped right to the page. She started the passage by speaking about Dominica and its culinary delights and how the island has retained much of its traditional lifestyle such as the simplicity of everyday life.  A people who appreciate and respect the original inhabitants of the island and of their pride in preserving their culture.
The food reflects the nature and make-up of the island.  There is appreciation of vegetation and the abundance food.  A land covered by forests and protected species that can only be hunted during the hunting season and the populace showing their appreciation for the crabs, mountain chicken, manicou and agouti by adhering to the law on hunting.

Mountain Chicken

Reasons why many species have disappeared from other West Indian islands still inhabit the island of Dominica.  Parkinson tells of the pride that the people have in their culture and their versatility in appreciating reggae as well as their local cadence or zouk music.
An island where creole is spoken as freely as English, of vegetation in every shade of green, of virgin forests and waterfalls, sprays from the Atlantic oceans and mists from waterfalls and dewy mountains.
Of a people in tune with nature who enjoy locally produced fresh foods, inhabiting an island paradise that is often referred to as the “Garden of Eden”.


There is no long winded paragraph with an abundance of detail.  Parkinson has simply provided the readers with a recipe list and a paragraph on how to cook the dish.  She has chosen a simplistic form and structure to deliver the recipes which in a sense stops the reader from losing interest in how the dish is prepared.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

One evening my mother was reminiscent about the foods she enjoyed while she was a young girl growing up in Dominica. I took this as an opportunity to record what she said...

First of all, she started by telling me, 
"Dominican food consists of recipes from the native Caribs, African and European (mainly French cultures". 

I then asked her whether Dominica shared any of the same or similar dishes as the other Caribbean Islands. She went on to say... 
"Yes, with the islands that were once colonised by the French and reverted to England and the other French Caribbean islands.   Most of our dishes are different from the other Caribbean islands or the names of the dishes are different because of the language we speak (French creole (kwyĆ©ol)). My memory of the food I ate growing up consisted of a lot of fruits, lentils rather than kidney beans and pulses.
People were subsistence farmers so food was plentiful and fruits and vegetables were abundant. Much of the food was organic, except for the imported meat, which would eat when the fishermen did not have a good catch, besides meat was considered a treat to enjoy during Easter and Christmas".

As a young child, and even now, I always enjoyed hearing my mother tell me how "Families' slaughtered pigs, cows and chickens. Many families were fortunate to have had free-range chickens walking around their yards.  The whole village would feed them and sometimes kill other people’s and eat them too.  Fish was bought fresh from the fishermen at the seaside".  Lobster was considered “poor man food” no one bought it, the fishermen would end up giving them away.  Hard to imagine.

I found it very interesting that the bread they ate most of was Cassava bread rather than ordinary bread. The Cassava bread is made from manioc and baked in the traditional way, on a very large cast iron container on an open fire, was a popular staple diet of the native Caribs before the Europeans and Africans arrived. 

Another favourite is the avocado, the flavours are so different from those bought over here (England).  The flesh is rich and creamy.
There were other fruits like paw paws (papaya), fresh cashew which we would pick from the tree, eat the plum, slice the cashew open and eat the nut after rubbing it in our hair to avoid our lips being burnt by the oil from the husk.  We used the husk to play games. How imaginative is that?

Each Island has its own National dish, Dominica's own being quite unique. Mountain chicken (frog) and before you go urgh, don’t knock it before you try it.  It is called mountain chicken because it lives in the mountains of the island and tastes like chicken.

There is a knack to killing and cleaning mountain chicken.  After you kill it you have to know how to clean it properly by removing all the nerves, otherwise even after the head has been chopped off the frogs would continue hopping around (like headless chicken), pardon the pun. Once the frog was killed properly, the next part was being able to clean it properly by skinning it.

My mother’s great aunt was particularly good at that.

We both agreed that "One meal that has remained as a favourite is lentils boiled with salt fish and dumpling. Some meals you never forget, that is one from childhood that has stayed with me".

(Cassava image)
(Mountain Chicken image)

Thursday, 6 February 2014

I think you'd agree that we all love food... 

However, Most people think of the Caribbean and they think paradise. Mention the food and they think ‘jerk chicken’ or rice and peas. The truth about Caribbean cuisine is that it is as diverse as Europe. My family originate from Dominica where the culture is English French creole.

My parents always talk of growing up on sea food. The national dish is Mountain Chicken’ (frog). Fish is a large part of the diet as is crab, octopus, squid an all manner of sea food and vegetables.

My dad is the cook in the household. My mum protests every time she has to cook. Nonetheless, her coleslaw is to die for.

My dad cooks up a storm, broth with smoked ribs, cabbage, green bananas, dasheen, Tania, yam and so much more… He also cooks Callao (spinach with dumplings, breadfruit).