Thursday, 26 March 2009
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
We got home to discover....the water has gone off! (And remained all day and night, meaning cold showers for those poor girls). Hmm, we should have stopped by Sofaia after all!
And now here it is just one week later! We are looking forward to enjoying it very soon. Our friend also gave us a lesson in picking sweetcorn - get it when it is very pale yellow and it won't be hard and chewy like ours was! I took a bunch and found a massive caterpillar (or two or three) in each, so my new lesson is if it doesn't have a caterpillar it is probably too dry!
Monday, 23 March 2009
Sunday, 22 March 2009
F is for Fruit a pain Fouyapen Breadfruit
You may recall from an earlier post that breadfruit is a very close relation to the chataignier, with the difference that it doesn't have seeds (and has smaller leaves and a smoother skin)
A bit of history - breadfruit plants were in fact on the HMS Bounty at the time of the famous mutiny. Whilst all the crops were thrown overboard, Captain Bligh returned to Tahiti and succesfsully took a crop over to the West Indies in 1791. It was intended as an excellent (and cheap) nutritious food for slaves; ironically, when it finally made it to them they disliked the taste and refused to eat it!
Breadfruit is known as the poor man's food here and there are trees literally all over the island. In these days of MacDonalds and pasta, it is not particularly appreciated by the young generation and so you can find the fruit in abundance rotting under trees. Not so at Pika! Mamie and Papy being very fond of it will use (or sell) just about every fruit that emerges.
Apparently it got its name because when baked or roasted, it tastes and smells like freshly baked bread. I have to say that this has not been my experience - must be used to a different kind of bread!The breadfruit is ripe when it has little white latex marks on the skin, and Bertie tells me that it is only good to eat when it is picked rather than fallen on the ground (either it is unripe or it is over ripe and will explode!).Enjoying it
Breadfruit can be used in tons of different ways:
The most common way in Mamie's kitchen is simply boiled. She peels off the green skin and the inside seedy part (a bit like the inside of an apple, I shall put a photo on next time we eat one!) and boils for a bit. It is then served with a meat or fish dish and other racines.
Her other favourite use for it is in bebele, a traditional soup from Marie-Galante, for which it is diced into tiny cubes.
It can also be baked, boiled, roasted or steamed - now that breadfruit season is back on I would like to try some of these out myself.
I tried mashing it with potato for a shepherd's pie once but you really could tell the difference and I am not sure I liked it!
Bertie tells me we ate a souffle - gratin made with breadfruit but I don't remember that one amongst all my experience of Caribbean cuisine!
One way of getting the new generation to eat breadfruit is making it into chips.
Nor is it restricted to savoury dishes:
A new use of breadfruit is in cakes and in a traditional Guadeloupean drink, chaudo. This is a (very delicious!) hot milky drink usually made with eggs, condensed milk and spices but breadfruit can replace the eggs. It is traditionally served with a plain cake that you dip in it at the party after a child's First Communion, but now it is found at all sorts of occasions.
Before the fruit comes out, the long spongy male flower is known as the popote and this can also be used to make a sweet snack.
We had a go at this, firstly soaking the popote
then scratching off the outer fluffy layer
Next step was to boil them in a syrup made with spices and then leave to cristallise in the sun, but we didn't quite make it that far! I look forwad to tasting the outcome one day...Good for you
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Next stop (when I have tidied them!) will be the girls' room and finally the bathroom.
A neighbour of ours died on Sunday morning and within hours the whole community was aware of it and chatting about it - the fact that deaths are announced on the radio helps to spread the news! This particular neighbour was notable as she wanted Bertie to marry her granddaughter and used to call him her grandson in law. I often wondered if she was put out when I arrived on the scene!!!
As with many people here, one of her two children was in France so they waited for his return to hold the Veillee (wake). This happened last night and boy was it the social occasion of the month! The street was packed out with cars, Bertie popped in and said that there were groups and groups of people (including many of his family) sitting around chatting and eating - and laughing and joking! See what I mean about a light-hearted approach to death...! Even if you only know the person's brother-in-law or granddaughter or something, there is still a good chance that you will attend out of respect for your friend. It does seem easier for people to attend such events here - unlike at home, life is very quiet and little happens in the evenings (or even the days!) so there is not a full calendar to juggle with in order to fit such an unexpected occasion in.
The family has to provide refreshments and just about anyone can come along so there is quite a feast on hand. Plenty of rum too. Hence plenty of men who like their tipple (especially free) attend the occasion. I have heard on several occasions that there is more cheer and laughter at a wake than a party!
A traditional dish for a wake is soupe de pattes - I thought this meant pasta (pates) but actually it meant beef feet! Not feet, what do we call them? There might also be music, and the wake can carry on well into the early hours - Bertie's sister was an early bird getting in at 1am. It is a great chance to catch up on people you haven't seen for a while. The coffin is in the house and people are supposed to go in and pay their respects, and the food is in a marquee type place outside. Mamie said that on this occasion they had singing and prayers too, but I imagine that depends on how involved in the church the person's family is.
Then the funeral was this afternoon. We went for a final walk by the sea with mum and as we were coming back up to the house we could hear trumpets so I asked Bertie's niece if it was the Carnival. She explained it wasn't, but was in fact the musicians accompanying the coffin to the church. (Not all families choose to have musicians but apparently this lady loved to dance - so they played tango music.) All the people attending (and there were a lot, judging by the number of cars outside again) met outside the house, generally dressed in black and white (though my mother-in-law told me any colour goes, except red she added with a bit of horror at the thought!) and followed the coffin. After a short service they went to the cemetry and then I suspect that there will be more food back at the house after.
The Catholic tradition then involves a week of prayers each evening, which is attended (usually) by good ladies from the church (presumably the lack of rum available reduces its attraction significantly) as well as mass for the person. And the grand finale is another party on the 9th day, again with plentiful refreshments and rum, and a large number of attendees. There is then yet another mass and party on the 40th day All of which sounds rather exhausting! Mamie said that when Bertie's brother died, she was indeed tired out by all the proceedings.
There are also lots of traditions and superstitions tied up with death here, which I would love to know the root of. As with Gwada myths, was there some reason and logic initially to these? I have heard that the body has to leave the house feet first; a parent isn't allowed to follow the hearse to the church if her child has died or she will lose another (I checked with Bertie's Mum and neither she or Papy went to their son's funeral for this reason); it is not good to visit someone after a funeral, and so on.
I have discussed with friends on many occasions the whys and wherefores of the different attitude to death here - is it perhaps to do with the strong Catholic background of the island, that means people are much more comfortable with the idea of the afterlife? Is it the strong community atmosphere (people are far more in contact with death here than we are)? Or just the generally more laid-back, accepting attitude to most things that there seems to be here?
In any case, it seems to me a good thing that a death can bring people together in such a way and that an elderly person dies in the comfort of their home, surrounded by family and friends, and that their life is celebrated by many from the community, rather than being alone, perhaps in a nursing home, their past life unappreciated and their passing barely noticed.
Note: This all relates to the Catholic tradition of celebrating death - the evangelical churches will undoubtedly have a very different way of doing things, but as Catholics are in the vast majority, these traditions are very much a part of life here.
Lunch was delicious - Annabel Karmel's Bang Bang Chicken (a real favourite here with children and adults alike!) and Sweet Potato Gratin (maybe a bit sweet for me though) and boiled plantain, yum!
On Tuesday we went to the Dispensaire for his year review. It was a new doctor and I didn't quite get a lot of what she said, so I am hoping it was not important! She did mumble away lots I must say. The important facts were: