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) http://onfoodandwine.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/manioc-1.jpg
(Mountain Chicken image) https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=mountain+chicken&espv=210&es_sm=122&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=0aj6UqLLOuHF7AbCqYEw&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1517&bih=714&dpr=0.9#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=neKg7xpkuuKciM%253A%3BmEMDcpKC5_rvSM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.shoarns.com%252FMountain%252520Chicken%2525201.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.shoarns.com%252FMountainChicken.html%3B575%3B331


  1. A real insight to the Caribbean way of life and more importantly their way of eating! My mouth is literally watering despite the vivid description of killing and cleaning the mountain frog!
    I find it interesting that lobster was considered, as you stated, a 'poor man's food', yet at most restaurants in London I have been to it's the most expensive dish on the menu! I wonder if that was a shock for you or your mother when you came to London? Sorry for the personal question just was wondering... I know it would be a shock for me :)

    1. I'm glad you have mentioned that crab is an expensive dish here as I too was amazed that my mother had told me that it was a 'poor mans food'.
      I believe it was a shock to my mother because when she was explaining it to me she expressed how she wished she had never taken it for granted and would now have to pay great amounts to enjoy the dish.