Youngsters cook up traditional foods

Local youngsters discovered some unique flavours of Caymanian dishes after taking part in a cookery lesson at Cayman Academy School on Sunday.

The Department of Children and Family Services, with the Seventh-day Adventist community team and seniors in the districts, hosted the inter-generational cook-off to celebrate Child Month in May. The theme is ‘Be Strong! Be Brave.’

“We wanted to teach young children how to prepare Caymanian dishes but also learn to value the wisdom and teaching of our older persons,” said Cassandra Fearon of Department of Children and Family Services.

“I never tried breadfruit salad before,” said Gabriel Piercy as he assisted West Bay senior Marie Rivers with dicing breadfruit to make a salad. Piercy said he joined the group because he watched his parents cook Caymanian dishes at home, he liked it and wanted to try it.

The seniors assisted the youngsters in preparing some relatively easy Caymanians dishes. There was breadfruit salad, porridge, and custard-top corn bread prepared in the school’s lunchroom.

Rivers said her grandma taught her how to cook. “We had a kerosene stove in the house, but granny cooked on her caboose outside,” she said. Adrian Tibbetts said he knew how to cook most of the dishes because his mother made them at home. “We make lots of Caymanian dishes around Christmastime and other holidays,” Tibbetts said.

Food has always played a major role in the culture of the Caymanian people. They grew their own fruit and vegetables and fished the seas.

While the men tended the plantations, the women grew vegetables along the house sides. The children searched the bushes for wild fruits, berries and nuts, such as naseberry, guineps, mangoes and almonds.

Cooking in those days was mainly done on cabooses, open boxes made from wood in which white sand was placed at the bottom, and metal rods kept the cooking pot in place. Cabooses continued to be in common use well into the 1970s and some people still use them today. Cabooses were kept outside, near the side of the house, and sometimes in an small shed with a roof.

The kids at Cayman Academy also tasted and heard about swanky, a drink made from seasonal tamarind, and the uses of local bush teas.

Swanky is prepared by collecting ripe tamarinds from the trees. After shelling the tamarinds, the pulp is placed in a container with brown sugar and water and rubbed together until the pulp is separated from the seeds.

More water is added, and the mixture strained and enjoyed with most meals, especially fritters and fried fish. Sometimes a lime or baking soda was added to give a different taste.

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