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Humans for the Caribbean

By By Ian Sieunarine

Age: 51

I was born in the southern part of Trinidad in a place called Point Fortin and came to Canada in 1985.

I am a maintenance worker at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre in Toronto

I like to entertain my wife Tricia and my 11-year-old son. That’s my idea of fun.

My best Caribbean meal is my mother’s callaloo (leaves of the dasheen/taro plant). Her homemade callaloo with all the trimmings…crab, pig’s tail, coconut milk, okra, Scotch bonnet pepper and Golden Ray butter.
Golden Ray butter is hardly used nowadays. You use it in small amounts when you want to take up the taste a notch.

The one Caribbean food I could never live without is roti in its many forms…fried bake, bus’ up shut, pholourie*, etc.

The one Caribbean food I would never touch…When you come from poverty, you have the mindset that anything given to you, you eat it. Whatever was put on the table helped to bring harmony. Growing up in Trinidad, meals meant greeting strangers, celebrations and so on. When you heard a goat bawling in the backyard, it meant that it was getting prepped for the pot. And Sunday dinner was integral in bring the family together.

My grandmother could take a dry (mature) coconut, add oil and fry it or roast it with Scotch bonnet pepper and whatever else was in the house and we would eat it with roti. For us, it wasn’t just food. Plus, we had the kitchen garden which was central to the home. Food is a language, and the more you share, the more you share the love. That’s what’s missing today.

If I had 24 hours left to live I would indulge in anything from the ocean. Anything that could be taken out of the sea and cooked…cooked close to the ocean and I would want to do it in Trinidad. I’m a water baby and I love sea food.

My thoughts on the Caribbean is that these days we are selling out ourselves to the big countries. For example, China can move in and say they own this or that.

We’re not maintaining our values from yesteryear. I always say that if the Caribbean had come together as one body, the region would’ve been more competitive in dealing with the outside.

Separately, we’re losing our identity. Who we are as a people is being lost. It’s close to being too late for us to find ourselves again. The whole Caribbean is in a state of emergency right now.

* Recipe in our online Caribbean Christmas cookbook…coming week of Dec. 3

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