Dominica Part 2 of 5
So we got into the van and was headed to the Emerald Pool and Carib Territory ( a reserve where the indigenous people still live). I choose Emerald pool because later that night I would be up until 2 am in the morning making dishes and prepping for Friday’s first Caribbean Vegan Culinary Workshop where chefs from all around the island would come to train with me and do my introductory course on Caribbean Vegan Food. Something struck me when I was there and it made me feel a little uneasy…it was that this island was filled with all the fruits that are almost “extinct” in many islands including Barbados and I did not use any of these fruits because where I live in St Martin is void of anything fresh and local. I started to sweat a bit as I passed the market in Roseau where they were beginning to set up for the weekend starting on Friday morning. Then my nervousness turned to anger where I thought about all the times I have been chastised for using a local ingredient in my book by non Caribbean people…from when I used bread fruits in 2 recipes to my use of West Indian Pumpkin.. I then started to question everything I did leading up to writing Caribbean Vegan, my choice to publish the book, the market I courted in the past, the attitude of people to me, the content of the book and I wondered who was my realised audience. I wondered if I was chasing a goal that would never fit with me and a whole rush of thoughts came through my mind at this stage I was overcomed with emotion and started to cry right there and then in the van in front of a complete stranger when he got out and picked me this fruit. After eating this fruit I realised there was time for a change.
This is the fruit from the cashew nut and I went to secondary school in the countryside of Barbados where these fruits were plentiful. I have not tasted this fruit in almost 11 years and when I saw them on the tree hanging down without name or destination…I knew where I was …I knew I was in a place of inspiration…a place where finding the fruits and veg I longed to cook with were accessible. As I bit into my cashew the juice flowed down my arms and I pushed my neck forward to avoid it going on my clothes as it stains. I was overcome with emotion again….
Clem also picked me 3 big white fleshed guavas and I devoured those on the spot. These were not too sweet as I know some guavas to be but it did the trick. Clem knew the trees well and told me the other tree had very sour guavas!
As we drove through Carib Teritory..faces peaked out from small homes and sometimes mothers and daughters went down the street and some waited on the side of the road for transportation. There was a sense of calm there, a calm I only felt years ago when I was growing up in Barbados. There is still a calm in Barbados but the calm has been destroyed by many other factors. I choose not to take any photos of the Kalinagos without permission as I respect people and did not want to shoot them like if I was on safari tour or something as I myself disliked being photographed by tourist without asking my permission.
When Clem made a stop we were greeted by several members of the community who Welcomed us to Dominica and with genuine smiles. This one nice gentleman was selling a giant soursop and a big bags of passion fruit just for 2 usd! It is ok to pay more and I did because as it was off season I was not sure if he would make many sales that day. I purchased a bag of passionfruit for my husband who can eat up to 7 a day if I let him but I did not have anything to put my lovely fruit in.
I was then greeted by this lady who sold authentic Kalinago baskets that were made for carrying heavy loads like ground provisions. I purchased two items, a basket for fruit which was made from the spines of coconut and another large basket for shopping. I love this basket and take it everywhere I go. She also gave me a hand carven spoon and fork. One thing I did not like about Dominica was rthe water in the air which constantly made my curly long afro shrink down to 2 inches! lol
I also purchased Bajan Cherries from the side of the road for around 3 usd for 6 pounds and I made juice when I got home with the ones that did not spoil. Eating 3 of these cherries gives you the right amount of vitamin C for the day.
and one more because I know you are curious to see the inside..
Before I got the Carib Territory I made a quick stop at the Emerald pool where I wet my feet and took in the beautiful scenery.
Here are some photos from the pool
We got back into Roseau around 1pm and I had to meet Terri Henry. Terri had contacted me at the beginning of the year excited that there was a new Caribbean Vegan book . After hundreds of email exchanges and the event was confirmed Terri worked day in and day out with the help of her two friends Martha Cuffy and Celia Sorhaindoto pull off this event and it was not all about me and my food…that was just one aspect…there were speakers, tents, a million things to organize and Terri was still up cheering even on the final day. I really saw the true meaning of veganism there finally because all the reading in some magazine and reading about other people and things I cannot relate to I was able to see a really passionate spirit at work. Terri wanted to me meet one of her friend “Deschampes” who is the chef at his own establishment called Rootz Healing Foods and he is an Ital Chef. When we got there he was still making the special of the day was unknown but we waited patiently and I was presented with this ital dish. Now ital food is suppose to be 100 percent natural food…some Rastafarians are vegan but others eat ital foods which can include honey and will wear leather crafts. As I spoke at the event and I was face to face with persons of the Rastafarian faith I asked myself who the hell am I to try to change a religion, a resistance and a culture because I do not eat honey. I
I took a look at where I was coming from and it was from an island that did not grow its own food and it depended on the USA and Europe for everything. Most bloggers write from these places of mass import but many have access to fresh ingredients, I did not. In essence their ideals become the standard for veganism. Were my ideals coming from a privileged place and was I too practicing Western Veganism in the Caribbean or was I just benefitting from some imported health food products that took my dishes to another level? I also wanted some products to be available in Dominica but hoped that it maintained its whole food approach to veganism as well. Things like yeast flakes, and aluminium free baking powder and also some sea vegetables which are processed there but are not widely available. As I stayed longer in Dominica I realized I needed to rethink and redo a few things and I knew I did not want to come across as privileged and ignorant. When I went vegan in Barbados I was a student with not a lot of money and to bake meant money even apple cider vinegar cost and ground flax and I grew tired of the rice beans and vegetables or the ground provisions and beans. After moving to St Martin I had access to cheaper health food items and some of the vegan “luxury” items but as I write this there was a part of me that wanted to give up because I longed for the baked goods I ate before and for other familiar textures and flavours. Knowing what and what was not there Terri and I formulated a list of things I had to bring. I like the fact I can find everything in St Maarten but loath the fact that I cannot find anything completely fresh and nourishing. At this stage I was rethinking my approach because everything I do had to be from a place of respect. I personally just accept it as it is and try not to force my beliefs on other people’s culture as Rastafarians were living and eating like this for years and I am in no place to tell someone how to live. They are also show good examples in sustainable living. This is why I always try to tell people to take ital for what is is ital food and that veganism was another aspect but can fit in the Rastafarian faith…yes it is confusing but I don’t cook a lot of ital food but Daja has inspired me to cook more especially when I move somewhere like Dominica with fresh organic vegetables and ingredients because by the time the few roots get to St. Martin the taste and essence is lost to be honest.
Here is Daja’s dish
Here we have some dal cooked in coconut milk, some root vegetables and fresh vegetables. I could not move after eating this and I love “the fry” at the top which reminded me a little of fried fish I grew up eating even if he did not use seaweed the spices he used reminded me of that. I loved it and it was my first ital sit down meal. Thanks Deschampes!
He also sold plantain chips and also nut cake or nut brittle and both of them were the best I ever had. I picked up some raw cocoa and some nutmeg with the mace still intact to make some cocoa tea when I returned home.
After lunch Terri and I ran to the supermarket Astaphans one of the major sponsors to pick up some items I needed to work with on the Thursday night. I then headed back to the hotel to relax a bit and prep for my big night of cooking and acting an the executive chef for a event at the Anchorage.
Before I end….the hotel offered us a vegan meal that we could have gotten at the buffet like everyone else
Here is it
It is a lentil croquette with vegan mushroom sauce, italian pasta salad…..
After eating this I rushed to change into my kitchen gear and take over the kitchen to prep for 14 dishes in 4 hours…..as I walked up the stairs with my non skid Nikes and hair wrapped in a scarf and makeup wiped cleaned I began to feel a change within me…a fire that I never felt before and a worth that many tried to take away from me due to fear.
Coming up Event number one ..where I meet the chefs from all over the island, interviews, new found friends and me actually making cupcakes…yeah me!
and why am I sitting like this anyways?
Fin out next time