Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 1st 2015 Contents COLFIRE 33X7
(TONY TO CONFIRM)
SUNDAY 1ST NOVEMBER, 2015 – UWI TODAY 23
It was once hog food; too bland for the palates of the
slaves brought from West Africa, and it was only after
Emancipation that breadfruit found a place at the table of
free peasants – and then mainly those from rural areas.
This is part of the short story told by Sandra Barnes
a former librarian at The UWI in an opening chapter on
“The History of Breadfruit,” in the recently published book,
“Slow to gain acceptance and only consumed during
‘hard times’ breadfruit cookery was for many years
monotonous – roasted, baked, boiled or fried, usually to
accompany a main dish,” she writes, saying that times have
changed since the hog food days and breadfruit has become
a “staple of Caribbean cuisine and has found its way into
upscale supermarkets and on to restaurant menus.”
It made me feel young; because it was news to me
that the lovely, delicate flavour of the breadfruit had once
lowered it to the category of hog food. I was not surprised
though. Much of what had once been dismissed as poor food
in the region is now prized as exotic delicacies because of
the growing interest in different cuisines. Indeed, this era
can be easily described as the time of the foodie – chefs,
restaurants, cuisines, ingredients and techniques – these
are the stars bred by food channels and devoured by people
dying to excite their taste buds.
So the breadfruit, which I had only known in childhood
as a rare treat cooked with spinach and coconut milk and
other vegetables (not meat), was something warm, soothing
and gentle, not at all bland. And it was only later, when other
hands stirred the pots that I came to discover that it was as
versatile as all the other provisions we still don’t take along
on culinary adventures often enough.
For Chanelle Joseph, an Instructor at Agricultural
Economics & Extension, at the Faculty of Food and
Agriculture at The UWI St. Augustine, it brought many
discoveries as well. The book covers the wide range of
breadfruit uses in Caribbean kitchens, and while most
recipes are built upon the basic roasted, baked, boiled or
fried foundation, there are many twists that open the doors
I asked Joseph what was her favourite dish and she
said, “I enjoy cooking and was happy to try new recipes
made from breadfruit. Of so many versatile and innovative
recipes it is difficult to pinpoint the one I like the most.
However, I had the greatest consumption of those recipes
that incorporated breadfruit as a salad and as a main dish,”
not surprising as her training is in Nutrition and Dietetics
(and International Business), but there are many other takes.
Casseroles, salsas, fritters and chips; soups, salads,
puddings and pies; you can have it stuffed and buttered and
made into balls, or you can mash it and fry it and drench it
in sauce. There are breads and cakes, pastas and puffs, and
when you run out of things to eat there’s wine and punch.
The recipe for wontons caught me by surprise. I had
imagined the breadfruit as a sort of doughy wonton skin,
but no, it was the filling!
In skimming through the 115 or so recipes, I was struck
by the ways the breadfruit was described for its relevance
to the recipe: young, ripe, mature, green but mature, just
ripe, fresh, very soft and ripe, very ripe, firm, and half-ripe.
It occurred to me that my biggest problem with cooking
breadfruit dishes is that I cannot distinguish between the
stages of maturity, though I can tell which are firm and
which are soft.
I asked Lydia, who is a breadfruit expert, how to tell the
difference. “When it’s young the skin is smooth and has a
greener look,” she said, and when it is full, like for oil-down,
it starts getting a more yellowish hue.
I bet there are all sorts of ways to tell, and I wish readers
would write in and share their techniques.
The book has devoted some attention to the nutritional
value and health benefits of the breadfruit, declaring that it
helps bone and heart health, and for diabetics it assists in
glucose control and regulating blood glucose concentrations,
among other things.
The recipes have their origins in several publications
and underscore some of the subtle differences in Caribbean
cuisine from island to island – it might be the addition of
nutmeg here, or the amount of cheese there – little things
we associate without realizing it.
Like the resurgence in cassava, coconut oil and cocoa
among the list of foodie favourites, the breadfruit has made
a comeback, and this book makes it easy to welcome it into
BY VANEISA BAKSH
Chanelle Joseph speaks about
her compilation “Breadfruit
Flavours: The Ultimate
Breadfruit Cookbook,” which
was launched along with “The
Bread of Life: Breadfruit” by
Chef Volentedeo George, at
NALIS in August. The books
were launched following the
preceding month’s Breadfruit
Conference and Expo hosted
by the Faculty of Food and
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