I really enjoy when people start talking about fusion foods and dishes as I feel quite at home on this subject. It has always been one of my passions. As a Trinidadian, it comes naturally as a direct result of centuries of our collective history, geography, culture and more recently due to globalisation.
In relatively small islands in the Caribbean, Trinidadian cuisine has been allowed to fuse for centuries by its rich history, multiculturalism and the diversity of its people. The islands’ heritage were made up of Amerindians, Africans, Indians, Europeans, Chinese, South Americans, Syrians and Lebanese – the fusion of cultures and different ethnicities have influenced its cuisine as well as other elements like its music. Trinidadian food writer, Wendy Rahamut, wrote in her cookbook ‘Caribbean Flavors’ that “each of these cultures has left its own unique mark on the food of the region evolving in their own way to produce a new type of fusion cuisine that is mouth-watering, spicy and delicious.”
“Each of these cultures has left its own unique mark on the food of the region evolving in their own way to produce a new type of fusion cuisine that is mouth-watering, spicy and delicious.”
-Wendy Rahamut wrote in her cookbook ‘Caribbean Flavors’
Over 27 years ago in 1989, Alan Davidson described Trinidadian food in an article ‘Cooking up a Rainbow’ for The Sunday Times as “Food in Trinidad is an attractive hodgepodge and it does reflect the ethnic mix.” Right up to date to the present, this is also very much happening in Trinidad with new generations tapping into the richness and uniqueness of the islands as mentioned in this article ‘The Trinidadian Eating Experience’.
As a differentiation between world cuisine and fusion food – world food is when the dishes remain pure to its identity but are consumed by other groups. On the other hand, fusion food is when the ingredients, culinary techniques, skills and most of all…tasteful flavours have been merged and/or used to enhance a particular dish. I am not a food industry expert to define it as such, but it certainly seems to me that is the result with fusion food.
I grew up in an East Indian home but long before then, there were other cultural ingredients in our makeup that was accessible which meant that we adopted and adapted different styles and influences over 200 years. A typical Sunday lunch in Trinidad can be rice, callaloo (spinach dish with an assortment of vegetables, crabs and coconut milk), stew meat, roti (flatbread originating from Asia), and macaroni pie with fresh salad – there are continents of the world connected just on that one special plate! Not only is this fusion food – it is soul food!
There are continents of the world connected just on that one special plate! Not only is this fusion food – it is soul food! …on Trinidadian Food.
My love of food got more interesting when I moved to North London as a student. My family and friends exposed me to all types of restaurants and cuisine ranging from Greek-Cypriot, Turkish, Italian, Nigerian, Asian, Bengali and some traditional English dishes. It seems that fusion food has evolved in my time here too, with mixing and experimentation occurring to this day. Everyone can observe (and even better, taste!) that London is a fully cosmopolitan capital and so the city is lucky to offer these flavours to accent some of the best diversity of world cuisine.
Mintel reports in ‘World Cuisines 2016’ that Londoners are still very much interested in World Cuisine “while growth potential remains limited for Chinese and Indian market, there is still strong interest in the growth for emerging cuisines”. New markets and new cuisines will certainly lead to more fusions with food as well as innovations. You just have to experience a music festival to observe a whole array of world cuisine in one place.
For some people, food is a necessity but for others it is a passion. I have written a few times on food businesses for the Business & IP Centre where I work. In the 1990s, I remember when my colleagues thought I was odd talking frequently about food at work. At work and in my community, I have heard several stories of real-life examples where people use that passion to creative amazing food, and start their own businesses. Food is certainly a necessity to sustain us but most importantly and delightfully – be it solitary or social, it helps us identify ourselves and share our world with the people we want in it.
Food is certainly a necessity to sustain us but most importantly and delightfully – be it solitary or social, it helps us identify ourselves and share our world with the people we want in it.
I do enjoy cooking and that again is something that was instilled by my lovely and caring mother. From a young age, she allowed us to help with baking, general food preparation and to play with dough whilst she made daily roti. My mother is an excellent cook and is very good at what she does. She used to cook ‘en masse’ in tasty and large quantities for the local temple and for other functions or parties at home for family and for neighbours. A respected family friend used to give her all the ingredients to make Trinidadian Christmas cake. That is an amazing compliment! I still miss my mother’s cooking as I left home as a teenager. I am also married to an Italian, and so the fusion food story gets even more flavoursome and intricate! My mother-in-law is also an amazing cook. I have learnt a lot from both of these women and they will remain very special foodie idols to me.
So what about my cooking? I used to cook only fanciful things as a teenager. I am very good at quiches (see my feature photo at the top here) since then. However, I started cooking regularly as a student and my passion as a foodie was always there. I generally cooked Trinidadian at the beginning but even in those early days I would experiment with international dishes. Typically, I was buying food books, magazines and watching television shows all before the Internet. Also, I have been taking photos of my dishes way before digital cameras and social media since the early 1990s. I suppose if I could turn back the clock, I would consider this foodie interest for my own creative business but for the moment I am happy to cook for the following obvious reasons – for pleasure when I have the time, not dieting, fundraise for charity and to simply enjoy food with family and friends.
This is my first dedicated post on my blog on food, therefore it is more about my background and reasons for being a foodie. I hope you understand me a bit more as I intend to blog occasionally about food businesses, share favourite recipes or just slip in the thoughts on the flavours I encounter on my merry way. Twice on holiday I had the benefit of French and Italian friends and family who cooked their national and regional dishes for me. It was just as lovely, satisfying and an honour when they asked me to cook Caribbean food for them in Italy (photos above) and France (photo below).
So I am sharing on here some of my favourite photos of food that have excited me and made me feel happy. Since I have had a smartphone, the last 5 years or so I have been sharing dishes from the staff canteen where I worked. You may have noticed. I guess it is that foodie impulse that makes me want to share these photos with you. I hope you don’t mind that.