This Sunday we my oldest daughter and my godson gathered at my sister’s to celebrate mother’s day with my mother and close family friends. I was asked/told that my contribution would be curry chicken and paleau (stew chicken cook together with rice and gongo peas) but then my sister called and asked that I change the paleau to a ital rice and peas in the event there were guess that were not eat meat/poultry eaters.
This request for Ital brought back memories of the Rastafarian communities in Trinidad who were the originators of the term Ital to describe their style of eating, cooking and preparing foods. Essentially Ital foods means food prepared without artificial additives, basically its primarily vegetarian foods, natural foods from the earth utilizing all of the lands resources. It is a lifestyle akin to the Aboriginals with a few differences of course although the premise is the same to use and not waste and keep things as they were meant to be.
There is a wide variety of vegetable and fruits in Trinidad most of which I cannot remember and some of which I do. It took me a while to sift through my memory and I was pleasantly surprised with the list of vegetable and fruits I remembered. I’d say the ones I disliked were easier to remember than the ones I love. I don’t know why that is, I guess disgust has the same hold on ones memory as desire. Their tastes are distinctly sealed in my memory though some of the names escape me.
I remember *potatoes, yams, dasheen, tomatoes, *green fig, *cassava, eddoes, sweet potatoes, *pumpkin, breadfruit-which I hate with a passion, ochroes-only like cooked in callaloo, zaboca (avacado) “don’t like,” Tipitambo, *mangoes-calabash, doodouce, starch, rose, julie, turpentine, ten-pound, *cherries, *tamarind, *guava, *cashew fruit, *pommerac, pawpaw (papaya) “dislike”, *plumes, *passion fruit, *sapodilla, *five fingers (star fruit), *grugru bef, barbadine, carailli (bitter melon)“don’t like”, cocorite, *peewah, *sour sop, *grapefruit, *orange, *hog plum, *pommecythere, *chennette, *pineapple, mamisiporte just to name a few. Lord have mercy, I miss those fruits, hmmmmm….I can taste some of it now in my minds eye but I digress.
All Ital foods are prepared, seasoned with herbs and spices and cooked with no salt. It’s pretty simplistic yet complex cooking because if one doesn’t have a palette for the right combination of spices the food can end up unappetizing and taste bland.
I remember hanging out with my Rastafarian friends we called it liming and having a Ital cook out where everybody brought something, vegetable, herbs and spices, pot, spoon, matches, wood, water, paper plates and spoons because nobody wanted to wash dishes after and we’d make a fire and cook, eat, and have a good ole time talking a bunch of nonsense and laughing hysterically. With a smile on my face caused by the reminiscence of memories I started preparing to cook my Ital rice and peas. Since I was cooking for 15 to 20 people I washed 10 cups of rice, opened 4 bags of gongo peas also know collegially as pigeon peas and set out my herbs and spices to make my meal sing. Here is a sneak peek.
The evening with friends and family was wonderful. Everyone loved the Ital peas and rice alone with the rest of the meal, curry chicken and roti, oxtail, macaroni pie, and salad with green, red, yellow peppers, lettuce and tomatoes. It was a lovely feast with ice cream for dessert. After I gave thanks and said grace we all dug in and eat to our hearts delight.
I gifted my mother with a silver and ruby bracelet from my girls, sister, godson and I. She loved it and ask that we put it on her right away. I was given a blender – which I wanted, a pair of new balance sneakers, two pants and two tops, these of course is a combination gift of mother’s day and birthday. Having being born on Mother’s day it matters not when my actual birthday lands whether before of after mother’s day it is celebrated mother’s day.