Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pig Tails 'N Breadfruit

Pig Tails 'N Breadfruit by Austin Clarke is the title of a very entertaining culinary memoir that I just finished reading. Clarke is a Barbadian (aka Bajan) who loves Barbadian food aka "Bajan hot-cuisine".

I loved the conversational and humorous tone in which it is written. The Bajan vernacular is used to narrate the story in every chapter except the introduction and the last chapter.

The introduction covers the writer's childhood and how he became interested in food. This section introduces us to old time Bajan life in the 1930's and 40's. Also, this section introduces the terms he intends to use in the rest of the chapters such as "ingreasements" for ingredients. Each chapter covers a typical Bajan meal: how to select the ingredients and how to prepare the meal. One chapter is about a dish called Bakes, another about a meal called Privilege made with pig tails, okra and plain rice, yet another covered the Breadfruit Cou-cou. There are no measurements since good Barbadian cooks don't measure foods.

I found the Bajan dialect interesting. I knew that the English speaking Caribbean islands use repetition a lot and that the pattern is also a feature of West African languages. It was not a surprise that the writer used expressions like big-big, vex-vex, fast-fast, thin- thin. I was surprised however that the Bajan vernacular tripled their repetition for emphasis; as in dark-dark-dark, good-good-good and cut up small-small-small. I never noticed prior to reading this book how much Caribbean people like to use the preposition "up" in the vernacular as in: feel-up, touch- up, love-up, and slice-she-up. Some Caribbean dialects use the pronoun "she" instead of "it" so slice-she-up is not refering to slicing a person.

The friendly competition amongst the English-speaking Caribbean islands comes out in this memoir. The writer humorously explains why sharks are plentiful in Barbadian waters: they were sent from Trinidad to eat Barbadian fishermen. The writer does however concede that Guyana has the best rum and that Jamaica has the best hard dough bread. Also, he devotes a whole chapter called Pepperpot to the Guyanese, not just their food but also their political history. He almost devoted the whole chapter on Pelau to the Trinidadians.

I also enjoyed reading about the different concepts of the dumpling. Apparently every country has a different concept of dumpling and some meals require a different specie of dumpling. In the end, there are dumplings for split peas soup, dumplings for peas and rice, Jamaican dumplings, African American dumplings, and Barbadian dumplings.

There is even advice as to what music to play and what to drink while you cook. In one chapter the advice was to listen to music by Whitney Houston, most times the advice was to listen to some Bajan calypso.

If you like multicultural books, Caribbean foods and culture then you will enjoy this book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information it helped in my son's research about the country.