Roast Breadfruit and saltfish echoes from a distant past, one that resonates where Trini food originated and the struggle it has endured. But, to me, it has another memory of a struggle…….
The year was 1990; a year that proved to be very trying for us as a country and also as an individual during that time. We were watching a football match on AVN TV4 when the channel went off the air; “weird we thought”, so we switched to the other channel. To our dismay, on channel 2 TTT there was a Muslim man on the screen talking for a while and then that TV Channel went off the air as well.
No more TV I thought, but at least there was the radio. And soon that was getting weird too…Daddy was stationed at the radio, keeping vigil so to speak, listening to the latest breaking news. I couldn’t even begin to understand what was going on in our beloved country of Trinidad and Tobago….
My vocabulary expanded overnight with new words such as Coup, State of Emergency and of course Looting. Up here in the valley (Maracas Valley) we seemed to be unaffected much and life seemed to roll on quietly for a while. That is until we saw people with extra groceries and appliances. And, there was talk of Hi Lo and other Supermarkets looted for all its worth.
Businesses in “Town” (Port of Spain) were hit the hardest. People raided businesses like wild animals, breaking window glasses and burning buildings. Men were seen single handedly carrying refrigerators on their backs while others looted the shoe and clothing stores. Daddy said he would have nothing to do with that so we stayed at home. Something bad was really happening and it was getting even more serious than I thought. …..
Then the electricity went and the tank of gas (LPG) finished. Were we to panic? Never! Daddy said that he was accustomed to nothing; came from nothing and we should not let this bother us one bit, “We will live like long time” he said. We got some batteries for the radio and in the shed we set up three stones and cooked all our meals from then on. To make matters worse it was month end and most families had not done their shopping. It was a mad rush; flour “ran out” in the groceries and there wasn’t much else you could buy because everyone were panic buying. Luckily for us we eventually got a sack of flour.
From then on we survived on the little we had. Frankly, it didn’t bother me at all. The daily menu was minimalistic: pot bake forever more with something like pumpkin talkari, curry seim, fry cabbage or potato choka on the side. Plain salted butter in a piece bake was a real favourite of mine when mom made it and it always hit the spot with a warm cup of cocoa tea right before bedtime.
We had a few stools of sugar cane growing down the hill. These were the black ones that were very sweet and soft; so soft that you could peel it with your teeth. So evenings were spent sucking sweet cane and chatting about the state of the country and when it will end. Evening “ole talk” stretched into night where the discourse continued under the light of a pitch oil lamp ( kerosene lamp) while a pot bubbled on our three stone “stove”. Life continued like this for a while.
As children, we didn’t have much to do other than sit and laze around reading a book or go to the spring to bathe because the water went with the electricity as well. But, we had health and strength and of course each other…
Breadfruit the Saviour
And then we come to the breadfruit….
We had a Breadfruit tree in the yard and it was really a blessing. We boiled and fried breadfruit and made oil down, but my favourite memories was when we roasted breadfruit. This was as simple and rustic as it got. I always remember them saying that when you’re roasting breadfruit make sure to roast by the head first. So the breadfruit was laid on the stem side first on the three stone We just roasted the breadfruit and had it with some saltfish sauce or sometimes just sliced and fried it . It really went a long way to filling our hungry bellies. It broke the monotony of the pot bake and a side of whatever was available…..
Looking back now, I’m thankful for the experience. Now I appreciate this and other simple meals that I have posted already. I’m also thankful to my ancestors who passed on this and other Trini food traditions that has lived on in our minds and our very souls. Here’s a part of our trini food history, roast breadfruit and saltfish. Enjoy!
Roast Breadfruit and Saltfish Recipe
1 medium breadfruit
1 cup flaked saltfish
2 tomatoes diced
2 chadon beni leaves
3 pimento peppers
4 cloves garlic, divided
1 sprig chive
1/2 medium onion
2 tbsp flour + 3 tbsp water
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tbsp roucou
2 cups water
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
Roast the breadfruit cut in eighths and peel.
Chop the chadon beni, pimento peppers, 2 cloves garlic, chive, and onion.
Dice the tomatoes.
Heat the oil and saute 2 cloves of garlic for 1 minute.
Then add the seasoning mix and the diced tomatoes. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
Add the saltfish and stir.
Then add the roucou, pepper and black pepper.
Add the water and flour mixture. Let simmer about 5 – 10 minutes until a slightly thick sauce is produced.
Note: As an added step you can fry the breadfruit after roasting, then serve withe the saltfish sauce.
Before I go I would just like to leave you with some footage of what transpired on those six days.
Ah what memories… Hope you enjoyed my roast breadfruit and saltfish; comments are welcomed.