The Handsome Dutchman and I are coming to realise that we are food lovers or foodies, as they are popularly referred to. Eating food which is well prepared and made from quality ingredients is something we both grew up with and, to some extent, have perhaps taken for granted. Thinking back on it, food has always been something we enjoyed together. When we are on holiday, we often research the new and best restaurants or take each other to an old favourite wherever we are. When at home, we like to cook together – sometimes simple and when we have time, something more elaborate. The number of boxes of kitchenware transported to Trinidad pay testament to that. When we lived in Köln, we survived mainly courtesy of the Italian gourmet supermarket around the corner, our neighbourhood sushi bar and our weekly delivery from the organic farmer – more or less ideal, in our view. In Aberdeen, we had a near narcotic-like dependency on Waitrose, supplemented by Sunday dinners with Mummy and Daddy Castaway sourced from the best farmers and butchers that Aberdeenshire offers, including, when available, dirty carrots from Huntly. Carrots which were so full of flavour and so fresh that they still had the farmer’s soil on them – a mile away from the identically shaped, orange, glow-in-the-dark carrots you sometimes find in supermarkets.
And yet, I never really thought about how important food is to me and how much of a shared passion it is with the Handsome Dutchman until now. Before coming to Trinidad, I had read about the fantastic cuisine with the blend of influences from Africa, India, Europe and Latin America. After all, Port of Spain is known for its restaurant scene. There were a hundred and one things I had concerns about our move from Europe to the Caribbean – not least, would we be able to get hold of decent wine after we had completely finished our wine collection in Aberdeen – but food was not one of them. I certainly had not expected to find that food would be one of my bigger struggles in the first months. Naively, I just had not realised the consequences of living on an island which relies on food imports and where food availability just is not on a par with Europe. With the exception of some tropical fruits, vegetables and roots, spices, coconuts and chicken, basically all food is imported to Trinidad. Food production makes up less than 1% of Trinidad’s GDP. Imported food is expensive and food inflation has averaged almost 16% vs the same month previous year between 2004 and 2017. I did not expect to have to go to three stores to find fresh rather than powdered milk. Having unsuccessfully searched high and low for the foods which we like and are familiar with, it was time to adapt our meals to what was available more locally. Local food is fresher – imported food has a really short shelf life by the time it is in the supermarket – and if we were going to pay through the nose, we would rather that went directly to local farmers than somewhere in a complicated import supply chain. We signed up for a locally produced organic box from the Alliance of Rural Communities and a with a few other (admittedly some imported) ingredients sourced here, last Friday I made a meal which the Handsome Dutchman and I concluded was actually good enough to repeat. At least all those boxes of kitchenware are being put to good use and we have here in the house a kitchen that not only looks good but functions well and all that makes the cooking more fun. The menu consisted of two different kinds of sweet potato (conventional and purple yam) baked and topped with chickpeas roasted in olive oil and herbs, callaloo, tzatziki (made with lime instead of lemon and those unfamiliar cucumbers) and a salad made from tomatoes, the ubiquitous lime and Chinese celery. It is not quite our regular favourite mash-up of antipasti and tapas dishes but we enjoyed it!
On the other hand, the least said the better about my attempt to make guacamole with the wrong kind of avocado which was also not ripe. You can’t win them all…..Follow @CastawayintheC