I love ackee and saltfish. No, let me rephrase that, I love ackee and saltfish. It’s the taste of Saturdays; it’s the taste of home. I love it with a generous helping of callaloo, some okra, and if the mood takes me some bammy. Someone pass the coconut water please! I also love to eat well. Whole, fresh, healthy food, free of harmful chemicals, chemicals that are designed to make everything more resilient, grow bigger, grow faster, more uniformly to appease a sense of beauty that has become warped. I am conscious and mindful of the food I eat, I want it to be as fresh as possible, as organic as possible and preferably in season. So, with that in mind I was thinking about the ingredients I was lovingly putting into the duchy on Monday night: The coconut oil, organic, check; the skellion, organic, check; garlic, organic, check; the sweet pepper, onion, thyme, scotch bonnet, all organic and local, grown by my uncle in Birmingham or in my garden, check. So what of the salted cod, the ackee, the cassava, the core of my meal? Hmm, a niggling thought in my mind was that perhaps these weren’t so chemical free.
I am the daughter, the niece, the cousin, the family friend of avid gardeners. I grew among men who were patient with and respectful of the earth, men who understood the interconnectedness of soil, nature and food. I grew up among women who knew what food should look and taste like. In years gone by my mother would comment how the yam/breadfruit/beef she had bought didn’t look or behave, once cut or whilst cooking, like the one she knew from home and would wonder with concern about the additives that she felt they must be putting into the food. The people I was raised around knew when food had been tampered with. They would always prefer organic, or as they would put it, food without “all that rubbish”. All of them will tell you that to eat well is essential to being well.
So, I am thinking about Jamaican food. I am thinking about my glorious pot of ackee and saltfish.
Modernity, global competition and economics have seen the same impact on Jamaican farming as indeed it has in agriculture across the world. However, in recent years there has also been a growing organic movement in Jamaica amongst farmers. There is a return to natural ways of farming. As elsewhere in the world, Jamaicans are aware and speak of the effects on eco-systems and ultimately us of chemical farming. This is great and welcomed news. Sat here in the Cotswolds, my pot gently simmering away, I am also determined to produce organic food and produce some of the Caribbean food I grew up with bringing that to my own dinner plate. To eat organically and to eat whole foods it to return to the natural ways of eating.
So begins my journey into looking at growing my beloved Jamaican foods amongst all the other fruit and veg I love. I look forward to the journey.