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THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Sticking to my ‘hard times’ food

Al Gilkes

THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Sticking to my ‘hard times’ food

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Am I glad I was born into and grew up with hard times.
The reason is that while “nuff, nuff” people are running scared about the uncertain future staring them in the face like cat eyes on a dark night, especially since the presentation of the recent Budget, I am quite comfortable about how I will make it through the dark days to come.
I believe how and what people eat will be a major challenge simply because the memory of how to cook even a simple meal like a rice and peas with beef stew or a fish soup (not broth), has been blotted out by the ready availability of various fast foods and the new national dish, macaroni pie.
I am so glad about never having lost my taste for the foods on which I was nurtured. As a result, for example, I can still get up in the morning and make my stomach feel happy with a cup of tea or coffee and a bowl of oat flakes and a banana. Alternatively, some scrambled egg with Eclipse biscuits or a tin of “sardon” in a salt bread will do the job just as satisfactorily.
As a change from oat flakes, quite often you would find me at the stove in the morning with a pot spoon stirring a saucepan of good old-fashioned corn flour pap to keep any lumps that would spoil the enjoyment from taking shape.
As far as the sardines are concerned, you will always find several tins in my cupboard because anytime during the day or night that I feel like a snack, there is nothing better and more satisfying for about $2.
In terms of the real food, the heavy stuff, I am still very much into the whole gamut of ground provisions that include sweet potato, yam, eddo, breadfruit, green banana, okra, spinach, green corn and the list goes on.
I can’t take plain rice. Nor do I like rice that can be used as shotgun pellets. My rice must be very friendly and in the minority in the company of split or whole peas, green or dry pigeon peas, bonavist or other beans.
Fish is the favourite meat to grace my rice, ground provisions, soup or whatever else is the dish of the day. Salt fish is no longer included, given the cost of a proper piece these days, and I believe that eating it will more than likely soon become a memory. For you double entendre minds, what I am talking about has nothing to do with what Sparrow sang about.
So where does pork fit into the equation? Yes, I love pork in any form or fashion – baked, fried, barbecued, stewed, soused, you name it. Fortunately again, I grew up at a time when pork was a delicacy mostly for consumption on Sundays and at Christmas. So increasingly like salt fish, the price of pork will keep it as a delicacy at my table. Beef, on the other hand, was only known to me in stew and never in steak and so on back in the day. Thus it continues.
Many people talk about soup when they should be talking ’bout broth. For whereas you do drink broth, my soup is so thick with the aforementioned ground provisions, together with heavy flour, corn meal or whole wheat dumplings, that at times it could be eaten with knife and fork.
The final piece of my traditional favourite food for which space allows a mention is cou cou, which I enjoy with anything from beef or pork stew to steamed fish. It also used to go down well with a tin of canned salmon or mackerel. Have you checked the price on a tin recently? No longer for me.
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.