MYF - Stacy K

>> Wednesday, 16 July 2014


Hi and Welcome to another edition of MY FOOD!

MY FOOD is an online research project into my ongoing interest in Caribbean food culture and food heritage. The project seeks to explore how we connect, communicate and use food as part of our identity. These interviews are the raw data gathered which will be analysed at the end of the interview phase of the project. If you would like more details and want to know how to participate, click here for full details.

From San Jose, California, we welcome Stacy K.

StacyK photo stacyk_zps54943853.jpgMYF Living Abroad200 photo 200pxlogoabroad_zpsf5a9e45d.jpg

MF: Stacy, welcome to MY FOOD. How long have you been living abroad?
SK: About 29 years
MF: I know that you live in the US, has it always been in California?
SK: No, I have lived in a number of cities across the US including New Jersey, Virginia and Indiana.
MF: It's been almost 3 decades since you've been living in the US, how do you identify yourself?
SK: Trinidadian to the bone.
MF: If you had to choose a particular dish or two that would identify you as "Trini to de bone" what would it/they be?
SK: That's easy, Doubles and Pelau. Doubles is definitely a Trinidadian dish but so too is Pelau. Not only do I love Pelau, but most Trinidadians would consider it as one of our signature dishes. The Trinidadian way of cooking Pelau is very distinct from the rest of the Caribbean. We often burn the sugar in a little bit of oil, then add the remaining ingredients (seasonings, meat or veggies, pigeon peas and rice). I have such fun memories of my mom and aunts cooking Pelau.
MF: What food or drink, for you, is a taste of home?
SK: When I think of home, I think of a big, tall glass of Mauby and Doubles, not necessarily consumed together.
MF: When you are entertaining, whether at the holidays or general occasions, what, if any dishes from home do you make?
SK: When we are entertaining, depending on who our guests are, we sometimes make roti and curry.
MF: If the people at the gathering are not West Indian, do you still make dishes from home? If you do, do you ever explain what the dishes are or how they are made or eaten?
SK: If the people at our gathering are not West Indian, we prepare roti and curry and we always ask them in advance if it is something they would like to have. These days most people know what roti and curry is so we don't really have to explain what it is. But we do explain how we make it.
MF: What about potlucks - do you make and carry dishes from back home or something more in keeping with American food?
SK: For potlucks we try to make a dish from back home. It is an adventure for some people and definitely a way for us to try different foods from other places.
MF: What are some of the rituals, traditions or practices associated with food from back home that you upkeep? Why?
SK: One of the practices that I upkeep is eating roti with my hands because it is easier to eat it that way, but it also reminds me of being back home.
MF: What are some of the must-have pantry items that you always have stocked to make Trinidad food?
SK: Curry powder and pepper sauce are necessities for me.
MF: What type of food do you make or eat as a part of your everyday food routine?
SK: I mostly make American food but we do try to cook a Caribbean dish at least 3 times a month. The biggest challenge living in San Jose is that we do not have access to some of the fresh food ingredients we would need to prepare some of these dishes.
MF: What is your favourite Trinidadian dish?
SK: Callaloo and Stew Chicken
MF: How would you describe the food of Trinidad and Tobago?
SK: Trinidadian food is very flavourful and varied. We season everything! And our culture is comprised of a number of ethnicities including Indian, Chinese, and Spanish as well as other islanders. One of our favourite things to eat is Trinidad Chinese food. It is definitely different in so many ways from Chinese food in the US.
MF: We say the same thing about Guyanese Chinese food (laugh). How important/not important is it for your children to know the cuisine of your homeland? Why?
SK: It is very important. It is a way to share some of what I enjoyed as a child so that they can also identify with their heritage being Trinidadian-Americans.
MF: When you visit home and are ready to return to the US, what are some of the food you take back with you?
SK: When I visit home I always bring back various snacks such as Kurma, Tamarind Balls, Fried Split Peas/channa and Mauby bark.
MF: Is there any American food or drink that you have taken and made your own either by the use of ingredients, technique etc?
SK: I try to Trini-ize everything where possible. I always season my food the way we do in Trinidad, and use cilantro in everything, a substitute for my favourite Trinidadian herb, chadon beni. Sometimes I find this herb in the Asian grocery stores.
MF: Is it important for you to keep a connection to your homeland through food? Please explain your answer.
SK: Yes, both Trinidad and the Caribbean in general because I don't want to forget where I came from, and it (food) is the only link I can find on a day-today basis to remind me.
MF: Thanks Stacy!

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Would you like to share your food with MY FOOD? Leave a comment below or inbox me directly. This project is open to anyone that falls into any of the categories below.


  • Caribbean/West Indian living at home
  • Caribbean/West Indian living abroad
  • Non-Caribbean/West Indian married to or partnered with West Indian folk
  • Non-Caribbean/West Indian, however, the region has been home for at least 5 years.


Join the conversation on Facebook. It's easy to participate, click here for details. The next instalment is a fortnight from today.

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Tomato-ee Eggs

>> Wednesday, 9 July 2014


Tomato Eggs photo teggs2_zps4f01e020.jpg

If you've been reading me for a while you will know that I do not like to make my own breakfast. You will also know that breakfast, for me, can never be the same thing day after day. In other words, I'm not the type of person that can have cereal everyday for breakfast, or oats, eggs, or even the same fruit every morning. If I had Harry Potter's wand, I'd summon something different every day and breakfast would easily become my favourite meal of the day. Alas, I'm only a muggle.

With college closed, and having some time to dilly-dally in the mornings, I set about making myself breakfast. I felt like eating eggs but I wanted it to be saucy so that I could drag my bread through and  mop up my plate, hence this tomato-re eggs.

There's no particular recipe, you just need to get some tomatoes, a couple of eggs, salt and pepper and a sprinkling of green onions or chives which pair well with eggs and tomatoes.

Start by chopping up the tomatoes finely. Heat some oil in a pan, add the tomatoes along with salt and pepper to taste and cook the tomatoes until they are soft, and can be mashed easily with the back of a spoon. Lower the heat after you add the tomatoes so that they can cook gently. Once the tomatoes are mashed and become a pulpy sauce, break a couple of eggs and add them to the pan and cook to your preference. No need to add any more salt and pepper as there should be enough seasoning in the tomatoes. Garnish with chives or thinly sliced green onions and eat!

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MYF - Sharlyn Mitchell-Taitt

>> Thursday, 3 July 2014


Hello Everyone, welcome to another instalment of MY FOOD!

MY FOOD is an online research project into my ongoing interest in Caribbean food culture and food heritage. The project seeks to explore how we connect, communicate and use food as part of our identity. These interviews are the raw data gathered which will be analysed at the end of the interview phase of the project. If you would like to more details and want to know how to participate, click here for full details.

From Kennesaw, Georgia, please join me in welcoming Sharlyn Mitchell-Taitt.

Sharlyn Taitt photo SharlynTaitt-2_zps9333543c.jpgMYF Living Abroad200 photo 200pxlogoabroad_zpsf5a9e45d.jpg

MF: Welcome Sharlyn, where in the Caribbean are you originally from?
ST: Trinidad and Tobago
MF: How long have you been living in the United States of America?
ST: 5 years.
MF: Given that you have not been living overseas that long, I take it that you still identify yourself as Trini/Trinbagonian?
ST: Yes. Wherever I am, I will be a Trini!
MF: Is there a dish or two that you would say particularly identifies you as Trini?
ST: I don't believe there is any dish as unmistakably Trini as Pelau. It's a colourful fish (consisting of rice and pigeon peas, usually featuring chicken or beef, all simmered in coconut milk. It's perfection! Pelau is full of flavour and spice and that's as Trinidadian as you can get. Another dish I would pick is Callaloo, as it is prepared in Trinidad and Tobago, with dasheen bush, disced pumpkin and ochro (okra) as we say in the South, a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (that's fished out at the end of cooking) and blue crabs thrown in for that extra bit of perfection. No matter where in the world you are, you know there's a Trini somewhere in the mix if either of these dishes show up.
MF: Is there any food where you are currently in the US that you feel drawn to?
ST: While I am Trini through and through, I do love the food of the South - black-eyed peas, collard greens, fried chicken and waffles and Southern-style biscuits. I think its because people here prepare their food in a similar way and with the same sort of love and sense of family and fellowship that Caribbean people do. I remember hearing someone say you can tell when someone prepares food with love, and it is certainly true here. When it comes down to it though, I love a good American barbecue. My husband and I enjoy grilling outdoors in the summer. We do all the favourites - hot dogs, burgers, chicken, seafood and even ribs on the occasion.
MF: What food or drink for you is a taste of home?
ST: This is a tough one since there are so many dishes that qualify. But I'll pick the Christmas favourite - Pastelles. Pastelles are cornmeal stuffed packages, usually containing some variation of ground meat, olives, capers and raisins and wrapped in banana leaves. I've spent a few Christmases without them for one reason or another, and last Christmas I was determined to remedy that. Making pastelles can be tedious and time-consuming, but it it so worth it in the end. Although they did not originate in Trinidad and Tobago, pastelles have become a major part of Christmas for us. When it comes to the drink, Mauby is king. There's nothing like a nice, tall glass of homemade mauby on a hot summer day. Yes, I said homemade… not that fizzy, store-bought stuff. Georgians love their iced tea in the summer. Me, I'll take the mauby.
MF: When you're entertaining, what are some of the Trini dishes that you make?
ST: It usually depends on the gathering and time of the year. For instance, at Christmas, I usually make Coconut Sweet Bread and Ponche de Creme (eggnog blended with dark rum). For my son's 2nd birthday party in 2012, I decided to make pholourie (spiced split peas fritters which are considered a street food in Trinidad and Tobago) with a tamarind dipping sauce and it turned out to be a huge hit with the kids and adults alike, that people kept asking me when I was going to make it again.
MF: When you are entertaining at home and the people are not West Indian, do you still make dishes from home? If you do, do you explain what the dishes are, how they are made or to be eaten?
ST: Absolutely! Even if it's one dish, something has to have some sort of Caribbean flair. I would certainly explain what the dish is and I'm always pleased and encouraged to see that there's interest in the food and people often ask for recipes, which I'm always willing to share.
MF: When you go to potluck get-togethers, would your choice be to make a dish from back home or something in keeping with your new home?
ST: If I am asked to make a specific dish, then I make that dish, regardless of where it's from. If it is left up to me, more often than not, I would choose a dish that's Caribbean, or, specifically from Trinidad and Tobago.
MF: What are some of the rituals, traditions or practices associated with food from Trinidad and Tobago that you upkeep? Why?
ST: Probably the way we clean and season chicken. It hurts my head to see people just toss chicken straight from the package into the pot/pan and then just add salt and pepper. Also, using coconut oil in cooking. There has been a resurgence in the use of coconut oil in recent years, because people are just discovering or rediscovering the benefits, but I grew up around people, including my mother, who made their own coconut oil on the stovetop.
MF: What was the food you missed most when you first moved abroad?
ST: This may sound funny, but what I missed the most, up to this day, are mangoes, particularly since I grew up with a Julie mango tree in my yard in Trinidad. I can honestly say I have yet to eat a mango here that comes remotely close to a ripe, syrupy-sweet Trinidad mango. The ones we get here come from Florida, Costa Rica and Mexico etc., but they just don't compare. However, I admit, they are great for other Trinidad and Tobago delicacies like Mango Chow and Mango Chutney.
MF: What are some of the must-have pantry-items that you always have stocked to make Trini food?
ST: Gosh, too many to mention. Chick peas, curry powder, amchar masala, roasted geera (cumin) for my curry dishes. Rice and canned pigeon peas for Pelau. Salted cod, tomatoes, onions and pimento peppers in the fridge for salt fish buljol. In the back of the pantry - CRIX! CRIX is a vital item. Anything paired with Crix crackers automatically and magically becomes Trini. That being said, Crix and Chili sometimes. Yum yum!
MF: What type of food do you make and eat as part of your everyday and weekend routine? Caribbean food or American… ?
ST: It usually depends on my mood and that of my husband and son. Sometimes we're in the mood for Caribbean, sometimes Italian, sometimes Mediterranean etc., I do cook a lot, even it if means cooking a couple of days or freezing leftovers. I also use my slow cooker quite often. Anyone who thinks they don't have time to cook should get themselves a slow cooker. I believe it's much healthier to cook your own meals as often as possible so that you can control the ingredients and know what you're putting into your body.
MF: Do you have a favourite Trinidad and Tobago dish?
ST: I still have to think about this because I love so many of our dishes. If I were forced to pick one, it would be Pelau. Pelau with some coleslaw and a slice of avocado on the side is heaven to me.
MF: How would you describe the food of Trinidad and Tobago?
ST: It is everything that we are - diverse, unique, colourful, flavourful, spicy and memorable.
MF: How important/not important is it for your son to know the cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago?
ST: It is very important because it is a part of his culture and our legacy to him. My husband is also Trinidadian and he feels the same as I do. Our son is 3 but he already has been introduced to many Trinidad and Tobago and Caribbean dishes and likes a lot of them. Of course, we would like him to have an appreciation for good food from as many other countries and cultures as we do also. As with any young child, his tastes vary daily, but I am pleased to see that he has a real appreciation already for the cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago and I hope that as he grows older, his appreciation continues to grow as well.
MF: When you visit home (TT) and are ready to return to the USA, what are some of the foods/ingredients that you take/bring back with you?
ST: I always wish I could bring back an entire suitcase filled with food. I certainly would bring back every ripe mango I could get my hands on! But alas, the prices airlines charge nowadays for baggage keeps me in check. I bring back things that are hard to find here, like curry powder and the other spices for curry that I keep in my pantry. Dasheen bush, cocoa blocks (for Caribbean-style cocoa tea), pimento peppers, macaroni, because all they sell in the grocery stores here is the elbow macaroni, which is fine but a Trinidad macaroni pie just ins't the same without the long macaroni you get back home. I also bring back the ingredients for the mauby drink and Promasa cornmeal, which is the only brand of cornmeal you can use for pastelles.
MF: Is there any street-food or shop-around-the-corner snack that was your favourite or makes you recall a fond memory?
ST: Yes! Hands down that would be phulourie for me. Right outside of my primary school, there were two tuck shops run by 2 ladies - Ms Patterson and Ms Pope - out of their home. I, along with many other students, would eagerly anticipate the recess and lunch bells so we could run through the neighbouring secondary school (which I ended up going to eventually) to these shops where we would spend our pocket money on sweets and various homemade snacks, including warm phulourie which we could buy - 5 for a dollar. They were served in small brown paper bags with plastic bags inside containing either mango chutney or tamarind sauce to dip the phulourie in. Such a treat! Today that won't be considered a healthy snack in the least for school kids, but back then we burned lots of calories in the school yard playing. This memory is as vivid today as it was when I was 10. I still remember the aroma, the texture and the colours!
MF: Is there any food or drink in America that you have taken and made your own? In other words, put your Trini/Caribbean stamp on?
ST: I sometimes add salted pigtail, culantro/chadon beni, sliced corn and cornmeal dumplings to roasted squash soup to pay homage to Trinidad corn soup.
MF: Is it important for you to keep a connection to your homeland through food? Please explain.
ST: Absolutely. As I said before, I believe our food is a significant part of our culture and legacy. It's a strand in the tapestry of our lives. Those dishes, techniques and flavours were handed down to us from those who came before us, and that in itself is a glorious gift.
MF: What an excellent note to end on. Thank you so much Cheryl, your answers are very helpful and insightful. Thanks for sharing your food with MY FOOD.

New logo photo 160pxnewlogo_zpsb841e265.jpg

Would you like to share your food with MY FOOD? Leave a comment below or inbox me directly. This project is open to anyone that falls into any of the categories below.


  • Caribbean/West Indian living at home
  • Caribbean/West Indian living abroad
  • Non-Caribbean/West Indian married to or partnered with West Indian folk
  • Non-Caribbean/West Indian, however, the region has been home for at least 5 years.


Join the conversation below or on Facebook. It's easy to participate, click here for details. The next instalment is a fortnight from today.

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