>> Wednesday, 26 March 2014
A warm welcome! It's MY FOOD time.
This is another interview in the MY FOOD online project. MY FOOD is part of my ongoing research into Caribbean food culture and food heritage. The project seeks to explore how we think about food, how we use it to connect and communicate, and the importance of food to our identity. For full details of the project and how you can participate, click here.
This week, all the way from China where she is studying food science is Grenadian, Kizzy Rennie. Kizzy, welcome!
MF: How would you describe Grenadian food?
KR: Sweet, starchy and spicy!MF: What's your favourite dish?
KR: Crayfish in Tomato Sauce. It's all in the preparation and goes down in the files as a secret family recipe.MF: I know that you're currently abroad studying but back in Grenada did you have a particular eating style, like weekday/weekend food?
KR: Sunday is Buffet Sunday, this is where a variety of dishes are made and Mondays are Leftover Mondays. Tuesdays and Thursdays fast food or find-your-own food and Soup Saturdays.MF: What is a typical weekend dish you look forward to?
KR: Fried Bakes and Jacks
MF: On any given Sunday, what's on the menu?
KR: Rice 'n Peas, Baked Chicken, Macaroni Pie along with any of the following side dishes: Callaloo, steamed vegetables, potato salad or garden salad.MF: If you had to choose a food or beverage that marks or identifies you as a Grenadian, what would it be?
KR: Cocoa tea. After my aunty rolls cocoa balls, my dad slow-boils it over the fire with milk and local spices - nutmeg, cinnamon and bay leaves - for breakfast. It's a real earth-to-table experience that I have not been able to replicate in any other country.MF: Food is at the center of most holidays and festivals. Which is your favourite holiday/festival food?
KR: Oil Down is our national dish and Independence food. We cook it anywhere and eat it anytime. It comprises of breadfruit, ground provisions, salted meat, callaloo and seasonal vegetables all cooked in curry and coconut milk.MF: In Grenada, where do you shop for food?
KR: Most of the vegetables and fruits on my plate come from our kitchen garden and every now and then, even the meat; but for the most part, the supermarket, or abattoir supplies the rest (of meat).MF: Where do you shop for food in China?
KR: In China I prefer supermarkets for safety reasons and more international variety.MF: Can you cook? Seems like a silly question given that you are studying food science.
KR: Not at all. Yes, I can cook but I am much better at baking and preserving things like yoghurt and jelly.MF: Do you get the time to cook? How often?
KR: I cook at least 3 times a week but on busy days I eat out.MF: 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?
KR: Rice 'n Peas with Stewed ChickenMF: Do you eat street food? If you do, what is your favourite street food?
KR: Snow Cone drenched with condensed milk. As a kid I would anxiously wait for the Snow Cone man to blow his bike horn so I could order my Snow Cone and watch the colours as they mixed together. As an adult, I appreciate its changes in texture and taste from start to finish. Snow Cones have never lost their appeal to me.MF: Do you cook dishes from other cuisines or from other parts of the Caribbean? I know it is obvious that you cook some Chinese food based on your location.
KR: Yes, I do cook Chinese food and in terms of Caribbean dishes, I make Roti and Cou-cou.MF: What do you miss most about the food from Grenada?
KR: The spices! In Grenada we use spices in our drinks, desserts, sides dishes and meats. For example, aniseed in Mauby drink, fresh ginger and cinnamon in Cherry juice, cloves in Callaloo and curried meat. I have tried using Chinese-grown spices in my cooking but the taste is never complete.MF: If you could take a food journey any where in the world, where would you want to go? Why?
KR: Italy and France, because of my weakness for floured-foods such as breads, cakes and pastries.MF: Given that you are living abroad, what dishes would you make and share that says, this is Grenadian food?
KR: Bakes and salt fish, souse, fish cakes and chicken pelau. I find these dishes time-saving and easy to cook, especially for a group. Most importantly, they are every day dishes in any Grenadian household. Oil Down is a winner but if I cook this, there won't be space to eat anything else.MF: You are studying Food Science in China. How long have you been in China?
KR: This year I am celebrating my 4th year. Yes, celebrating. There is always a reason for festivities here.MF: What is the study of Food Science?
KR: Food Science covers everything that goes into a kitchen without actually entering the kitchen. For example, food safety, food chemistry and food processing.MF: How do you hope that your studies will impact or benefit your country (Grenada) and dare I say, the Caribbean as a whole?
KR: I am passionate about seeing Grenada's agriculture and food industry grow, where we produce more locally and take more pride in Caribbean products. My studies will enable me to work along with both the public and private sectors to ensure this happens. Grenada is just one piece to the entire puzzle.MF: How was it transitioning from Caribbean food to Chinese food?
KR: At first it was rather challenging. The hardest part was that there never seemed to be enough meat on our plates. Eating with chopsticks was much easier compared to getting accustomed to smaller portions of meat and larger portions of vegetables. Also, very little dairy products are used, so, what I consider staples such as cheese and butter, are difficult to source.MF: It has often been said that "real" Chinese food is one of the healthiest diets. What is your opinion?
KR: Once I finally embraced Chinese cuisine and culture, I found myself more energetic, having better immunity and losing weight. I've been drinking lots of hot water and tea, eating large portions of vegetables, eliminating dairy, eating on time and in time. The health factor is also embedded in the cooking techniques where nutrients are not lost as quickly and more phytochemicals are included in the diet.MF: China is a vast country, which of its regional cuisines you are mostly exposed to?
KR: I spend most of my time in the South in one of the oven-cities. The heat and the humidity of the city is balanced by eating spicy food as it is believed that it "pushes" the extra water out of the skin and keeps it healthy. The national dish, Hot Pot, is flavoured with hot chilli pepper and prickly ash pepper (numbing) and is eaten at least 3 times a week. If you've never eaten it before, approach with caution.
MF: What does your typical everyday meal consist of?
KR: Chinese generally eat as many as 5 dishes and rice for lunch or dinner. I would usually have: 2 stir-fry dishes, for example eggplant and beans, lotus root, lettuce or corn. 2 steamed dishes such as pumpkin or cabbage. A small bowl of rice, couscous or steamed cauliflower.MF: Do you make any fused dishes such as Grenadian-Chinese?
KR: Yes, in the sense that I cook using Grenadian methods with Chinese ingredients. Because many of the vegetables are so different here (in China), I use what is around me. For instance, ground provisions in soups are replaced with white carrots, radishes, lotus root, taro etc. I also cook any of the Chinese leafy greens the same way we prepare callaloo.MF: What's your favourite Chinese dish?
KR: Without having to think twice, I absolutely love steamed dumplings with a mushroom and chicken filling along with the traditional chilli and soy sauce for dipping.MF: Do you every get opportunities to introduce people to the cuisines of Grenada? What is usually their reaction?
KR: Sure, especially at International Cultural events and Christmas. Asians usually find it a bit heavy. Other non-Caribbean nationals such as Africans or Pacific islanders find so many similarities in ingredients and cooking techniques and enjoy the rich flavour.MF: Kizzy, thanks so much for sharing and continued success with your studies.
You can find Kizzy online at Watermelon and Cheese.
Would you like to share your food with MY FOOD? Know someone that does? Leave a comment below or inbox me directly. The project is open to anyone that falls into any of the categories below, and you do NOT need to have a blog to participate.
- Caribbean/West Indian living at home
- Caribbean/West Indian living abroad (1st, 2nd, 3rd generation. State which generation you are)
- Non-Caribbean/West Indian married to/partnered with Caribbean/West Indian folk
- Non-Caribbean/West Indian but the region has been home for at least 5 years.
Join the conversation below or on Facebook, and don't forget that you too can participate, get the details here. The next instalment of MY FOOD is on Wednesday, April 9.