Thursday, 17 August 2017

Tobago: It Takes a Community to Make A Meal/Feed a Blogger - Les Coteaux Community Centre

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Like it was in the old days when grandparents, aunts and uncles we on hand to help and there were usually several cousins to play with.

With today's busy schedules and increased technology some families are living on take-aways and ready meals resulting in a loss of many traditional and family recipes and kitchen skills are being lost.

On our trip to Tobago we were invited to join a group of local women who get together at their local community centre to make traditional and local dishes to teach the younger generation these recipes and keep them alive.
We met the group of women and were made to feel welcome and at home immediately, sitting around getting to know each other and quickly realising that it doesn't matter where you are from or how you have grown up but food brings people together. I think that the greatest gift you can give someone is to share your food with them!

The plan for the session was to make two traditional recipes and also homemade bread.  To start there was a lot of the vegetable cassava to be grated both for the 'CouCou' and for the 'Pone' - the two very traditional and popular recipes we would be making together.

The tools were simple and traditional (I would have loved to get one of those graters in my suitcase!)
So time to start grating the cassava which is a really hard root vegetable making up the bulk of the recipes.
Mr R felt sorry for the lady grating the cassava and offered to help!
A little bit of 'chit-chat' waiting for Mr R to get that cassava grated!
You know they mean business when they infuse the milk with a scotch bonnet chilli pepper!
When the grated provisions are ready for the pot it gets stirred vigorously until it thickens (kind of like an Italian polenta)
A banana leaf is put on top to keep the steam in and keep it warm.
Then the tuna stew which has been marinating gets put in a pan.
The other recipe they wanted to show us was 'pone' - I had no idea what it was except that everyone seemed to love it.  It's something they make on special occasions. It is in fact a cross between bread pudding and sticky toffee pudding served sliced sometimes with cream drizzled over the top.  It is sweet but not overpowering, I really liked it.
Pone is another recipe that uses finely grated cassava (keep grating Mr R!) and when ready for the oven is still very liquid, so much so that I couldn't imagine it cooked and solid! So off we carried the containers of pone to the community clay oven where it will cook for 6-8 hours.
Inside the oven everything is pushed to the back to make room for the trays of bread that would be baked at the same time but of course won't need as much time.
The bread was ready well before the pone - lovely fresh bread straight from the clay oven.
When the food was ready Mr R and I sat outside in the delightful Caribbean warmth of the afternoon and we ate with our new friends/family!  We were talking, laughing and sharing life stories like we had known each other for ever! Sonia and Marsha were looking after us and were glad of some relaxing time outside of the office.
Sheena took some time out of the office to join us for lunch and especially hoping to get some pone. It seems the whole office of the Tobago House of Assembly wanted to be brought back some pone. Pone takes a lot of preparation and then a long time to bake so nowadays it is not as commonly made as perhaps it was in the past meaning everyone that hears it is being made seem to pop in just at the right time.
Even the boss of the THA (Tobago House of Assembly) stopped in for some pone.  It wouldn't be ready for some hours so Mr Arnold told his staff they had better come back into the office with some for him - not a small tray but a big one and he wouldn't be sharing his!! He said this with a big smile but somehow I got the impression that to go back to the office without any wouldn't be a good idea!!
Mr R  and I had an amazing day sharing the recipes and culture of the lovely people of Les Coteaux.  We look forward to seeing them all again next year and maybe I can take a British recipe with me to make for them.  Any suggestions what you think would make a great recipe would be appreciated and you can leave them in the comment section below.

Mr R and I were guests of the Tobago House of Assembly and the Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort during our time in Tobago.  I was not required to write any positive reviews and as usual all opinions and photos are my own or Mr R's.  No photos may be reproduced in any form without my written permission.


12 comments:

  1. What a great cooking session. I love the use of banana leaves on top of the cooking pots.

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    1. It tasted so delicious too - it was worth the wait on the warm afternoon.

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  2. I love that you visited community projects like this, and the pone does look very intriguing! What went into it?

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    1. It was such a great day. I will be trying pine here and blogging about it.

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  3. What a wonderful thing to go and do on your group. Great to see communities cooking together all over the world. I bet that milk was spicy!

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    1. I love learning from the local people about there culture and cuisine!

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  4. What a wonderful experience to have had! I can't imagine what it must be like cooking in that kitchen! A fab read, this!

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    1. We had so much fun and great opportunities on this trip! Can't wait to go back!

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  5. Such a fun time, working together to make the traditional recipes.

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    1. Even got Mr R involved - that was a result!

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  6. I always love your travel posts, they are always so interesting!

    ps I notice photobucket got you too. Damn them. I had to pull all my content off there. So annoying.

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    1. Thanks Jac for your kind words! By the way, I cannot find a way to remove the photo bucket thing but as I am changing to self hosted soon I decided to leave it.

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