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HEALING HERBS: A dish for every day of the week

Annette Maynard-Watson

HEALING HERBS: A dish for every day of the week

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Although this woman is over 45 years old, she does not remember the time in Barbados when “predictable meals” were served. Puzzled, I asked myself: where was she living?
I did not wait for the answer; instead, I reasoned that she had to be a member of the “better-off clan”. Gosh! She had missed a golden moment in history. It is sad that memories of these meals are not a part of her social development.
Therefore, as we celebrate Independence 2013, let us focus on these meals to educate those who never heard or know of them. 
“Predictable meals” were the consistent meals that historically were served daily in the average home in Barbados.
In essence, each day had a meal attached to it that rarely changed. They kept us healthy.
• Monday – Bajan soup;
• Tuesday – Split or black-eyed peas and rice (main gravy: either salmon, mackerel, salt fish or red herring);
• Wednesday – Stewed food and main gravy;
• Thursday – Breadfruit cou-cou and main gravy;
• Friday – Muffins, barley, sago, cream of wheat, rice milk with grated coconut, cocoa tea with flour drops;
• Saturday – Corn meal cou-cou and main gravy;
• Sunday – Rice and peas and an assortment of meat, such as pot roast, chicken or pork, rabbit, lamb or chicken stew; steamed vegetables, tossed salad and cucumber pickled with lime.
However, my favourite was stewed food. A Bajan woman of yesteryear who can still prepare an authentic stewed food is still considered a “boss cook”. My mother is a boss cook.
The process involves peeling an assortment of vegetables, which included most of the ground provisions, and oiling down the hands to skin the green bananas. The ground provisions were placed in the boiling water. Later, the other vegetables like pumpkin, breadfruit, carrots, English potatoes, christophenes and cabbage were placed on top the other vegetables to steam.  Vigilance and skill were needed so that over-steaming did not occur. The dumplings were added later. 
After cooking was completed came the knife skills as the cooked vegetables were sliced and placed in individual plates. Dumplings and gravy were then added. I was always ecstatic when I watched my mother manoeuvre while preparing stewed food.  
It is a pity that most young Barbadians, especially those of African descent, are unaware of “predictable meals” and their preparation. This is tantamount to losing a significant part of who we truly are to macaroni pie. 
Finally, this Independence, while displaying the old treasures like the Rediffusion, let’s ask Peter Edey to conceptualise a way to show our children how cooking and “predictable meals” are very critical entities of our culture.
• Annette Maynard-Watson is a teacher and herbal educator.