It’s so easy, because of the proliferation of American media in Trinidad & Tobago, to discount our customs as inferior. Trying to figure out how to eat properly as an adult gets trickier, because everyone is touting some new miracle food, and it’s usually one we’re not likely to get in Trinidad and Tobago anytime soon. And if you can get it, it’s really expensive.
So I’m trying in my dotage, to re-learn some proper eating habits. And of course my pocket, and possibly health will benefit greatly from my looking to foods from home. In that vein when a friend of mine forwarded an email touting the superior health benefits of local foods, I decided to keep it. I’m not sure who wrote the original, so I’ll summarize the contents and link to the relevant websites.
LOCAL FOODS T&T – HEALTHY EATING
Guava trumps apples, because it has four times the fibre, more potassium, and 19 times the vitamin C – Damn! That’s not the end, apparently 1 West Indian Cherry has 15 times the vitamin C of 15 Apple. Guavas 25 times the Vitamin C of a bunch of grapes, and 4 times the fibre.
While cranberry have been getting good press lately, especially since it contributes to good bladder health. But coconut water, which has received some bad press is said to have half the calories and more potassium.
Cooking with coconut milk is recommended, because it adds great flavour and contains no cholesterol. So it’s superior additive to food than margerine. Ackee and Avacado are fatty foods as well, but they contain good fat, like the kind found in olive oil.
VEGETABLES AND PROVISIONS
Callaloo is said to be nutritionally superior to broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. It has more than 4 times the calcium, 2 or more times the iron, with more than twice the vitamin A. Ground provisions are a great too, dasheen, eddoes, local sweet potatoes are full of nutrients Irish potatoes don’t have.
And a time like this calls for recipes. Though I’m a proud Hilarian, I have to give credit where it’s due. The Naparima Girls Cookbook is the, hands down BEST cookbook for Trinidadian meals. All true Trinis living foreign have this on their bookshelf. But the real tribute to its greatness it that locals have it on their shelf too. It’s been re-released with a brand new design, which you can see here.
From here on, it gets sticky. Local cooking star Sylvia Hunt (she’s a Hilarian) ruled the television air waves with her show “At Home with Sylvia Hunt” in the 70s and early 80s. Mrs Hunt is no longer with us, but her legacy is that she paved the way for the new crop of homegrown celebrity cooks, in that she was our first. She produced several cook books, but I don’t think they’re available anymore, apparently there’s some family drama involved. These recipes are more authentic, in fact I’m not even familiar with some of the things she has in the book. Unfortunately I don’t have her recipe book on hand, because it’s my mother’s and she has it in her US home. But in 1981, New York Times writer Jo Thomas met up with Mrs Hunt for a lesson on how to make callaloo (I can’t believe she didn’t use coconut milk) . Quick note: I think most people use Callaloo as a Sunday Lunch side dish, not a soup.
And finally there’s Caribbean Fruits and Vegetables by Beryl Wood. I can’t find any online pictures of her book, and I’d scan one for you, but again my mother is keeping her copy close to her chest. But if you read the Amazon review of her book, you’d see it’s well worth the search. Like Sylvia Hunt’s it’s an older book, so the recipes are more authentic. According to my mother, Ms Wood was a Tobagonian woman who taught Food and Nutrition at the John Donaldson Technical Institute. Mommy describes her as an excellant cook, and says Caribbean Fruits and Vegetables is a must have!
Whoa, this post has me jonesing for some Oil Down. And according to all this information, it’s actually quite good for me. Of course everything in moderation. Happy eating!