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Blue Food Festival...a brief report

Dasheen plantThis is a once per year event. Hopefully from this article you will learn a bit about Tobago cuisine and its role in the life of a Tobagonian.

First and foremost the question you are asking, I hope, is “What is Blue Food?” Blue Food is the local name given to a root vegetable that actually goes under the name of Dasheen. It is a large somewhat hairy tuber which, when peeled, sliced and boiled takes on a bluish colour. The wonderful thing about Dasheen is not that it is a very tasty tuber, which it undoubtedly is, but also the leaves of this plant are the main ingredients in this hugely popular dish, Callalloo. The leaves are chopped and boiled with ochroe and coconut milk to provide a soup which can be served as a starter or as part of the main meal itself. These two, the leaves and the root are sufficiently popular on this Island to give Dasheen its very own festival, a celebration of its merits not afforded to other lesser roots, of which I must add, there are several!

Now the function of the festival is three fold. Firstly to provide an opportunity for local cooks to show just what they can do with Dasheen. Sadly there were only three groups doing this but one in particular proved to be really innovative in what she could do with this not so humble root. Dasheen punch, liqueur and wine were there as drinks, but it was the dishes that took my breath away. Curry, lasagne, pizza, rolls, sweet bread, to name but a few of the many platters on display. These, however were for show only whilst I was there, presumably before the judging took place, perhaps afterwards they were available for tasting. In the desire to get home before the whole place was washed away by the rain, I left too early to discover what happened.

However the second part to the event was the food that had been prepared for sale. And of course the standard Dasheen dish was available, simply boiled to sop up the stewed meat sauces. The meat on the other hand was very varied from the wonderful Tobago pork to the wild meats like deer, agouti, iguana etc, that abound in the rain forest. Although, at the rate they were being eaten, one did wonder how much longer the rainforest work be able to provide abundant supplies of these animals, some of which are rare and even endangered. But this was not a concern at this moment in time, here was the main reason for the large number of visitors arriving at the festival, the blue food displays, the Miss Personality competition, the DJs etc, being merely a side show compared with the real business of eating seriously well cooked stew meats with ground provision, dumplings and, of course, blue food.

And naturally the bar was well-frequented, large quantities of beer and rum being the essential part of eating and afterwards whilst liming away the rest of the day with friends and neighbours. And this is the third reason for attending the festival!

Something will have to be done about the parking and the shuttle bus as this caused a fair amount of energy to be expanded on discussing the way it was organised, and little of it positive!

However those I met afterwards had a really good time and are looking forward to next year, hopefully when the rain falls less often!

By Mark Puddy

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