By Rachael Cedeno. This one is for all those ardent breadfruit lovers out there. Quick question: Did you know that the breadfruit is not indigenous to this region? Back in the 18th century it was actually transported by ships from the Polynesian islands to the British colonies of the Caribbean. Why? Well it was brought here primarily to be food for the slaves who worked on the plantations harvesting cane, cocoa and other crops.
Now, for it to be considered good enough only to be slave food, you could imagine the stigma and shame that was linked to eating it both in the years during and after slavery. Actually, even up till today in many other Caribbean islands, people still hold this attitude and consequently they have a strong aversion to its consumption, believing that it identifies them as poor or low class.
What amazes me though is that if I had never actually looked it up, probably I would have never known about this disgraceful past. In Trinidad anytime you hear somebody cooking breadfruit, the reaction people have is like “Wuh! Ah passing back with meh plate in five!” Far from being linked with the hardships of that perilous century, the mere thought of a breadfruit is enough to make mouths water and create feelings of uncontrollable hunger; or should I say greed and longing? So many people love it!
It has an irresistible flavour which satisfies and leaves you anticipating your next encounter.
My grandmother likes to serve it boiled in coconut milk, seasoned to perfection with her homemade seasonings and fire sauce! She usually tops it off with a little butter as soon as it comes out of the pot, still steaming. Then she might add some smoke herring in a thick savoury sauce, the kind that will make you want to lick your fingers, the spoon and the plate! Add a healthy slice of fresh avocado, or zaboca as we say, to make a meal that was already perfect soar to heights of the sublime. Oh gosh! Ah tasting it now! Hmm!
And there are so many other ways to enjoy this versatile fruit both in its ripe and green state. It can be roasted, fried, steamed, and of course there is the ever popular oil-down, a dish that has the power to attract and keep a crowd.
Still stunned that the breadfruit was slave food? Don’t worry, they say Trinis have a knack for transforming bad into good and isn’t this a beautiful example of that? So next time you pass a breadfruit tree take a moment to reflect on what you now know and take pride in what we have created.
November 2011 – Issue 1 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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