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Each Caribbean territory has its own customs, peculiarities and social and cultural traditions. Naturally, this extends to the culinary field.
Jamaica, for example, is known for “beef style”jerk ” or akí and cod; Barbados, for its flying fish and “cou cou“; Trinidad and Tobago, for its “pelau”, shark and bake or by the “doubles“; although Caribbean people are likely to enjoy all kinds of food from any region. This is especially true for those who live abroad, for whom Caribbean cuisine has a sumptuous aroma that reminds them of home.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a Trinidadian blogger living abroad decided to use mandatory confinement time to get creative in the kitchen. “With no intention of going out unnecessarily,” writes Isle Chile, “we are trying to use the ingredients we have at home to prepare our meals.”
The result is a series of tasty and easy-to-make recipes, often accompanied by entertaining anecdotes or Caribbean reflections, that can make confinement time more enjoyable. These are some of the highlights:
A favorite with rice
This simple dish, which includes stir-fried rice, peas, and meat of your choice, is extremely popular. Isle Chile explains:
I can't think of a specific time when Trinis eat pelau. It works any time of year, at any festival or celebration (…) It can be stored for the week in the fridge and the staler the pelau, the nicer it tastes, in my opinion.
I can't think of a specific time when Trinidadians eat pelau. It goes with any time of the year, any festival or celebration (…) It can be kept for a week in the refrigerator and the longer it goes, the richer the flavor, in my opinion.
As for the method, he says that “the pelau consists of cooking everything together”. In addition, he adds that a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk enhance the flavor and that this could be the reason why, in his version, the rice does not look as golden as in the typical “pelau”. However, it does not matter so much how golden the rice is, but the secret lies in finding “that point just in the cooking time when the dish is neither too dry nor too pasty.”
“Roti” ready to eat
Although the blogger is comfortable cooking curries, making “dhalpouri” (the tapas to wrap the roti, made with flour and split peas) is not her forte. Fortunately, they are almost always available in packages and you just found some in the freezer, so a little later, the chicken and meat rotis were ready to enjoy. Writes:
In Trinidad, my family, like many, would accompany a roti with a red soft drink (pop), sweet drink or as we would call it (cutting off the last letter of the first word) a sofdrink or a sweedrink. Of course, I didn’t have one (…) so I got creative and made a cranberry spritzer instead… Look, it red oui (yes), and I was happy to pretend.
In Trinidad, my family, like many others, would accompany a roti with a red soda, a sweet drink or as we would call it in English, removing the last letter of the first word, sofdrink or sweedrink. Of course, I didn't have, (…) so I got creative and replaced it with a cranberry spritzer I made. Look, it's red, yes; I pretended with joy.
Roti is so popular in Trinidad and Tobago that there is a saying: “You can't make everyone happy. You are not a roti. ” In this way, Isle Chile reflects: “In my opinion, there is nothing tastier or more special than a roti and there is no better way to say 'I love you' than by bringing me roti.”
For most Antilleans, the concept of “Sunday lunch” is a great event. Not only is it generally a sumptuous ceremony involving the use of “luxury” plates and silverware, but it is also an opportunity for family and friends to spend time together. Isle Chile remembers this tradition with great affection:
There was nothing like smelling Mummy's pot on a Sunday and very often, when we were riding our bikes in the neighborhood, the wafting smells from everyone's Mummy's pot came together to make your belly growl as you played as you made sure you were close enough to home to hear your mother shout, 'Come inside for lunch!' Those were simpler, purely happy times and as I look in my fridge today to pull together my version of Sunday lunch in this time of pandemic, these memories will keep a smile on my face and the love of my birth land (…) will flow from my heart, to my hands, to the spoon to the pot and to my family this afternoon. I think I will play a little soca (music) too, to transport me mentally to Trinidad and put me in a cooking mood.
There was nothing better than feeling the smell of Mom's food on a Sunday, which often melted into a single aromatic breeze with the rest of the smells coming from other mothers' meals. As we rode our bikes around the neighborhood and played, our bellies growled and you made sure you were close enough to home to hear Mom yell, “Come in, lunch is ready!” Those times were purely simple and happy. When I look at what's in my fridge today to create my best version of Sunday lunch in times of pandemic, those memories outline a smile on my face and love for my homeland (…) flows from my heart, passes through my hands and reaches the spoon, the pot and my family in the afternoon. I think I'll also hear a little bit of soca (music) to mentally transport myself to Trinidad and enter a culinary mood.
Her step-by-step recipe covers both the meat and the pea portions on the plate, as well as the macaroni mix. According to her son, she “throws” both in the kitchen. This is definitely a dish to enjoy.
Homemade cheese paste
Cheese paste preparations, a Caribbean staple, can be found everywhere, from sandwiches to puff pastry. It is very popular at children's parties – people often use food coloring to make multi-layered sandwiches in rainbow colors. Needless to say, children devour them in no time.
Eager to enjoy home-cooked food, Isle Chile naturally opted for the “old and beloved Trinidadian cheese paste sandwich”:
Lately, I find comfort in a cheese paste sandwich on plain, soft, white bread. It is not the best nutrition and so many people look down on white bread but you know, life is short and when you need to comfort yourself while you live a life on lock down you should indulge.
Recently, I feel comfortable with a cheese paste sandwich, made with white bread, soft and without added. Nutritionally it is not the best; Many people despise white bread, but life is short and if you need to feel good while in confinement, you should indulge yourself.
Her recipe includes cheddar cheese, mustard, mayonnaise, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and parsley. His instructions end with a few wise words:
Today I made a sandwich that was much more than a sandwich – it was a taste of the pleasure of simplicity. Life is going to get really simple in weeks to come. The spread of the virus will peak. Please stay at home. Make whatever your comfort food is and know that if we could all sacrifice our way of life for a few weeks for the greater good, we will help stop the spread of this virus. (…) Find your cheese paste, my friends, because this too shall pass.
Today I made a sandwich that was more than just a sandwich … it was a snack of the pleasure of simplicity. Life will be really simple in the coming weeks. The spread of the virus will reach its highest point. (…) Find your cheese paste, friends, because this will also happen.
To see all recipes, enter here.