>> Wednesday, 29 January 2014
Welcome to another installment of the MY FOOD Project!
MY FOOD is an online project of my ongoing research into Caribbean food culture and food heritage. The project seeks to explore how we think about food, 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 full details of the project and how you can participate, click here.
It is a pleasure to welcome to the virtual dining table, Michele Eastmond!
MYF: Welcome Michele. How long have you been living abroad?
ME: 7 yearsMYF: Where do you live?
ME: London, EnglandMYF: Where are you originally from?
ME: Barbados. I am 100% BAJAN!MYF: If you had to choose 1 or 2 dishes that identify you as Barbadian/Bajan, what would it or they be?
ME: Only 2 dishes... hmmm. Number 1 would be the national dish: Coucou & Flying Fish, however, as Flying Fish is scarce where I am, it is supplemented with salt fish. Number 2 would have to be Steamed Pudding and Pickle. I do not eat pork so the souse would not play a major part for me personally.
As a child, my grandmother sold pudding and souse every Saturday. She grew her own herbs, vegetables, and raised her own pigs. Saturday was also the day when I would visit her, there was the aroma of the pudding being cooked... and everyone coming by for their orders and subsequently hanging around for a bit or dropping off whatever item was in abundance such as avocados (pears), other seasonal fruit or an extra bottle of pepper sauce. These memories are invoked each time I have or prepare steamed pudding. For me, the characters and memories represent fantastic examples of the Bajan spirit and character.MYF: What food or drink for you is a taste of home?
ME: Drinks - Sorrel, Mauby and homemade Bajan Lemonade (made using limes). Food - any Breadfruit dish but especially breadfruit Coucou, Coconut bread with coconut filling in the middle, Cassava Pone.MYF: When you are entertaining, whether at the holidays or general occasions, what, if any dishes from home do you make?
ME: Depending on the occasion and audience, Bajan Fishcakes are a must!! I will also do variations on certain staples but usually I try to use indigenous Barbadian or Caribbean ingredients in new and inspiring ways. For example, I once made Raviolli using green banana to make the pasta from scratch.MYF: If the people at your gathering are not West Indian or from Barbados, do you still make dishes from home?
ME: YesMYF: When you go to potluck get-togethers, would your choice be to make a dish from Barbados, especially one that identifies you and where you are from? Or would you make something more in keeping with the foods of your new home?
ME: It depends on the audience. If it is mainly non-Caribbean people then I definitely try to make something distinctly Barbadian or Caribbean. However, if it is an audience made up of mainly fellow Barbadians and Caribbean people, then my emphasis would be on creating a dish which melds indigenous (Barbadian/Caribbean) ingredients to produce a dish external to the region.MYF: What are some of the rituals, traditions or practices associated with food from Barbados that you upkeep?
ME: 1. Lime and salt the meat. 2. Washing rice. 3. Growing what I can - this is difficult as I live in a very restrictive space but I still try. 4. Limited use of pre-packaged ingredients. For example, when making Coconut Bread I prefer to grate the coconuts by hand as opposed to buying pre-grated coconut.MYF: Why?
ME: It was ingrained in me while growing up that preparing dishes wasn't about getting it done quickly, it was also a time to socialise, slow down and just enjoy the company of those in the kitchen, on the patio or wherever the particular food ritual was taking place. Continuing these practices in a foreign country helps me to channel some of the energy of past times and rejuvenates my spirit with the seemingly relentless onslaught of negativity that you face in the "big city".MYF: What was the food you missed the most when you first moved abroad?
ME: I did not miss a particular food per-se but what I missed and still do miss the most, is the ability to purchase Caribbean ingredients in a clean setting. Yes I can get breadfruit in London but the markets/stores and areas I would have to venture to do this are appallingly dirty, dangerous and un-inspirational. Therefore, I mainly miss the ability to shop for Caribbean ingredients in a clean atmosphere.MYF: What are some of the must-have pantry items that you always have stocked to make Bajan food?
ME: Okra for Coucou. My son LOVES Coucou, so there is always a bag of okra in the freezer and cornmeal in the cupboard.MYF: What type of food do you make or eat as part of your everyday food routine? Caribbean food? British food?
ME: I just try to eat healthy, the dishes I make on a daily basis are from a blend of cultures, however, if I had to really stretch it, it would mainly be Caribbean. Our region is the originator of fusion cuisine so even when I am making something non-Caribbean, there is always a little touch of the region's spirit in it.MYF: What is your favourite Barbadian dish?
ME: Coucou or Steamed PuddingMYF: How would you describe Barbadian food?
ME: Delicious!!!MYF: How important is it that your children to know the cuisine of Barbados?
ME: Extremely important!!! I am very proud of where I am from and a major part of that is based on the ingredients and dishes on which I was raised. These are important building blocks that I must share with my children.MYF: When you visit Barbados and are ready to return to England, what are some of the foods or ingredients that you bring back with you?
ME: Breadfruit, Mauby, my Mum's Coconut Bread, her Conkies, Tamarind Balls, Stewed Gooseberries, Roti skins, Pepper sauce, local fruit wines and my Mum's black cake fruit mix.MYF: Is there any street-food or shop-around-the-corner snack that was your favourite or makes you recall a memory?
ME: The man that sold homemade Bajan ice cream from the back of his car every Sunday evening. I am talking here about years back when there was a vendor selling ice cream in Bridgetown on Sundays. This brings back fond memories of the anticipation of hearing his horn and then sitting outside with my siblings and cousins enjoying the sweet, rich creaminess, wishing it would take forever to finish and simultaneously devouring it quickly so that it wouldn't melt all over our fingers and clothes. (Smiles)MYF: Is there any British food or drink that you have taken and made your own? In other words any British dish that you have Bajan-ized?
ME: Yes! When I make the English Fish and Chips, I season the fish or use a seasoned flour mixture before cooking.MYF: Is it important for you to keep a connection to your homeland through food?
ME: Yes, quite simply because I love food. My best memories and most nostalgic moments are ALL food related. Through the trials and challenges of being a foreigner, the dishes and ingredients from home are a refuge and keep me connected to what is really important in life.MYF: Thanks for sharing Michele.
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 into 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 the region has been 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, February 12th.