>> Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Welcome to the first installment of the MY FOOD Project!
This is an online project into my ongoing research into Caribbean food culture and food heritage. The project seeks to explore how and what we think about food, and how we use food to connect and communicate. It is also about the importance of food to our identity. For in-depth details of the project, and how you can participate, click here.
It is a pleasure to welcome first to this virtual dining table, a very dear friend, Halcian Pierre from the twin island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.
MYF: How would you describe the food of Trinidad and Tobago?
HP: Trinidad & Tobago's food is what I like to call a "fusion", simply because of the many cultural influences that make up our country. African, Indian, Syrian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Anglo Saxon and even our own Indigenous Peoples - the Caribs and Arawaks - all have left behind a rich legacy of cooking methods that can still be found in everything we eat.MYF: What is your favorite dish? And why?
HP: I have so many faves it's often hard to choose, but when I think of comfort, oddly enough, I find it in meatballs and spaghetti.MYF: What is generally your eating style? In other words, some people practice a diet of weekday food and weekend food?
HP: These days because of my workload, I find myself eating takeout, but I am careful to pick things that I would make myself. So, rather than visiting fast-food outlets, I look to the food courts, where I often choose things like Shepherd's Pie and fresh salad, or Lasagna with fresh salad. On the weekends, I cook and make enough to last until Tuesday, so for the remaining work week I eat from the food court.MYF: On any given Sunday, what's on the menu?
HP: Macaroni Pie. Baked Chicken. Boiled Provisions. Callaloo or Red Bean Stew. Fresh salad. The side dishes would vary though, according to what's available and what's in season.MYF: If you had to choose a dish or beverage that marks or identifies you as a Trinidadian, what would it be?
HP: As a Trinidadian, I would say that for me, the Pelau has been something inherently "Trini". However, the Indian influence has put the roti on top, so I guess it depends on where in Trinidad you're from. It's a kind of South/West/North/East kind of thing.MYF: Food is at the center of most holidays and festivals. Which is your favourite festival/holiday food?
HP: It never feels like Christmas until I make Pastelles. There is something about the smell of the meat with the olives, raisins and capers as it's cooking… even the banana leaves they're wrapped in leaves a certain aroma in the kitchen. It's a scent that just screams 'Christmas is here!' It's Venezuelan in origin, but I have been making them for as long as I can remember, and oddly enough, it was a Vincentian woman that introduced me to the Pastelle as a child, and that love affair continues to this day.MYF: Where do you generally shop for your food (vegetables, fruits, dry goods, meat, poultry & seafood)?
HP: I shop all over. Supermarkets, warehouses, small shops, grocers, the market, specialty shops… there's even an online grocery that I use from time to time.MYF: Can you cook?
HP: Love to cook. It is my Zen.MYF: How often do you cook?
HP: Again, because of work, I cook on the weekends. If I had a choice, I would cook or bake everyday.MYF: What is the one dish that you can whip up in no time and can make off the top of your head (without a recipe)?
HP: That would definitely be Stewed Chicken, my Beef and Spinach Lasagna or my Corn Soup.MYF: Do you eat street-food? If you do, what's your favorite street food?
HP: I love Saheenas, even more than Doubles, which is like the number 1 street food in Trinidad & Tobago. Saheenas are made with ground split peas, callaloo bush (taro leaves), and other seasonings and spices, fried and cut into two to receive a dollop of cooked channa and even more sauces. When I was pregnant with my daughter I craved them mostly.MYF: If you are having overseas guests (visitors not from the Caribbean) and you needed to make a couple of dishes that say this is Trinidadian food. What would you make?
HP: Well, the Trini-Stewed-Chicken is something I would definitely love my guests to try, just for them to see how we brown the meat using the burnt sugar… that process always surprises foreigners. I would also make them our famous bake and shark, just so they could have a taste of some of the many spices sauces and slaws that accompany it.MYF: Do you cook dishes from other cuisines or dishes from other parts of the Caribbean? If yes, what do you make?
HP: Of course! I've done bruschetta, skirt steaks, crab cakes, frittatas, cheesy linguine, oven barbecued ribs… I plan to try empanadas soon. I believe that variety is the spice of life.MYF: If you were migrating forever, what do you think you would miss the most about the food in Trinidad?
HP: I would miss our Trinidadian seasoning. Just as the Spanish have their sofrito, we have our bottled seasoning. Every Trini home has a bottle in their fridge just waiting to put a couple of spoonfuls into something they're making.MYF: If you could take a food journey any where in the world, where would you want to go and why?
HP: I want to go to Greece… visit the Mediterranean coast. I want to taste their fresh cheeses, olive oils, fish and shellfish, fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, even ouzo. I think that the food there is so colorful and fresh. It has been said that the people there live very long because of their diet. I want to sample it before I die. LOL!
Halcian Pierre blogs at Come Taste This!
Would you like to participate or know someone who would? Leave a comment below or inbox me directly. The project is open to anyone that falls in to one of the categories listed below and you do NOT need to have a blog to participate. This project is also open to people of the Spanish, Dutch and French-speaking Caribbean.
- Caribbean/West Indian living at home in the region.
- Caribbean/West Indian living abroad (1st, 2nd, 3rd generation. State which generation you are).
- Non-Caribbean/West Indian and married/partnered with Caribbean/West Indian folk.
- Non-Caribbean/West Indian but has made the region home for at least 5 years.
Leave your thoughts below and don't forget that you too can participate, get the details here. The next installment of MY FOOD is on Wednesday, January 29th.