>> Saturday, 12 January 2008
The scotch bonnet pepper is another one of those things associated with the Caribbean. We use it widely in our cooking as an ingredient and when eating, as a condiment. We like pepper (all kinds) and we like it hot, heck we even serve pepper as a garnish that’s meant to be eaten. Just take a look at my previous post, food-styling is not the only reason that that pepper is sitting atop the sardines.
In this week’s column, I discuss our use of pepper and in some cases our obsession with it. Pepper sauce is a must-have condiment in homes throughout the Caribbean, though they may range in the degree of heat. We must have pepper with our food; I often take additional pepper even though pepper is already cooked in the dish. I’m outing my editor, C, she keeps a bottle of pepper sauce in her desk drawer at work! When she told me, I had visions of that ad that used to be on TV years ago where people would take out their salad dressing from their bags, jackets etc so they could have it whenever and wherever they were dining.
In addition to the scotch bonnet, we also have the wiri wiri (wee-ree wee-ree) pepper, also known as cherry peppers and the little deadly chillies known as bird peppers or bird chillies, man those little fellas are firey.
One August-holiday while visiting my uncle, his wife, Aunt Doreen, had finished cooking the rice but the stew was not quite done. My uncle said he was hungry and could not wait. He ordered one of my cousins to bring him some "oil and rice". I thought to myself, what the heck is that and how does one eat oil and rice? My cousin returned with a plate of freshly cooked fluffy white rice. I watched as my uncle sprinkled some salt, cut up some onions, cut up some green mangoes, sprinkled them on top of the rice and then threw a few bird peppers on top also. Finally, he lightly drizzled some oil over the entire assembly and set about eating. I suddenly felt ravenous. I no longer wanted what my aunt was cooking I wanted some oil and rice but I was too little and scared to ask.
When having fried fish, it is highly desirable that some pepper sauce be served with it. There used to be a place called the White Shop in Guyana (just because it was painted white, inside and out, as you can tell, a lot of thought went into that name) Anyhooo, in my radio days, my friends and I would go there just to have the fried fish with pepper sauce.
Oh be careful if you come to these parts and have devilled eggs, we like to garnish them with a whole or half a wiri wiri (cherry) pepper which we fully intend for you to eat! Well at least in Guyana, that’s the intention :)
My friend Kumi, who is from Sri Lanka, introduced me to curd chillies last year, since then, it’s been nothing but pure love. As soon as my stash is quarter way through, I start hinting for her to send me some :) No. I am not embarrassed to say that. A girl’s got to have her peppers.
I’ve noticed this past year that farmers here in Barbados are growing chillies, so whenever I get some, I stock up, a lot. To preserve them I blend them up with salt and oil and store in a bottle in my refrigerator so I always have on hand for the myriad of things I make.
I love these dried chillies also and add them as part of my garam masala mix and various pastes. The bottom line is that I am a chilli head and whether they come raw, cured, dried, sauced, boiled or steamed, I’ve got to have them, any which way and hot, hot, hot.
Have a good week everyone!