Breadfruit and Me: A Brief History of War

Hey hey!  I’m hot-footing it all across the interwebs this week–check out my post on how I started running (twice!) on Bridget’s awesome blog Pounding Pavement and Plants!

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I think I’ve discovered my vegetable nemesis.  Ladies and gentlemen,  meet the not-so-humble breadfruit:

This vegetable just will not let me be.  It haunts me and taunts me and very rudely gives me the vegetable finger, no matter what weaponry I throw at it.  We have a history of military squirmishes. I believe you could well call it a full-blown war at this stage.

Battle Number 1 (Fall campaign 2008) took the form of traditional Puerto Rican breadfruit tostones (fried slices of breadfruit).  It may not have been ripe enough, or maybe it was too ripe.  I also think I sliced it in the wrong direction.  The tostones lacked both the requisite crispy exterior and the creamy smooth interior.  Breadfruit 1, Laura 0.

Battle Number 2 (Spring campaign 2009) took the form of curried coconutty breadfruit.  I dutifully wrote down the directions from a coworker and stuck faithfully to the recipe.  The breadfruit stuck faithfully to the pan.  It tasted like Elmer’s glue paste with a sprinkle of bitter.  Breadfruit 2, Laura 0.

Battle Number 3 (Summer campaign 2010) took the form of a breadfruit salad that I tried to copy from my neighbor.  Mr. L raved about the neighbor’s delicious breadfruit salad, which was done much like a standard potato salad (mayo, onion, canned vegetable).  I should have known that I had no business dealing with 1) canned vegetables and 2) mayo-based salads because I just don’t do either.  I boiled the beast breadfruit, dressed the beast breadfruit, and (almost) bawled at the beast breadfruit’s refusal to pick up ANY kind of flavor (other than bitter). Breadfruit 3, Laura 0.

Needless to say, this frustrates me and keeps me up at night.  Why is it so hard to judge its ripeness?  Why is its texture/flavor combo so temperamental?  How can I tell what each particular breadfruit is best suited for?  Was breadfruit put on this earth to drive me crazy?

I’m not capitulating.  I’m not giving up.  Aw, hells no.  I’m gonna beat up on that breadfruit like I’ve wailed on caraili (bitter gourd) before. For heaven’s sake, I am Puerto Rican.  I should be able to tame a damn breadfruit in my sleep.

So on Tuesday, Battle Number 4 took place.  I armed myself with my weaponry:

  • Saltfish for me/veggie mince meat for him
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Trini seasonings (Scotch Bonnet peppers, seasoning peppers, chive/green onion, garlic, thyme, green seasoning mix)
  • Olives (which I didn’t end up using)

I worked some magic by stewing the above while I boiled the breadfruit into submission, then mashed it up with some sauteed onion, garlic, and herbs of the above varieties.  I then plonked the fish/meat down and covered with the mashed breadfruit to make a tropical (aka more feisty) version of a shepherd’s pie.  I shoved it all into the oven, crossed my fingers that it would turn out and that my oven would not turn against me, and prepared for the worst.

This is what emerged from the oven:

And this is what landed on my plate:

I held my breath and crossed my fingers before tasting it.  Guess what?  It rocked!  The breadfruit layer was not bitter at all and it actually took on the flavor of the bucketload of seasoning I put on it.  The bottom later of saltfish melded very nicely with the breadfruit and, with the bonus of a slightly crisped top, the combination worked really, really well.  The Mr. very much liked his vegetable mince version, too, which was seasoned the same way as my saltfish.

I  really, really can’t wait to make this again. I will not go nipping breadfruits from branches along the side of the road, no matter how tempting, to make this again.  I solemnly swear.  I don’t fight dirty like that.

Final verdict on Battle Four?  I win!! I therefore take the liberty of pronouncing this last battle the only battle that really matters in the outcome of our war, and declare myself winner.

Fabrics and Food Shopping: A Lesson In Obsession

Quick note-slash-big announcement:  I’m on Hollaback Health today in the first of a series of regular posts on how to improve your writing!  Head on over and find out why writing matters so much–and why I just NEED to get up on a soapbox and make us all better bloggers.

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This weekend, I confirmed a fact that I already knew beyond a reasonable doubt:  I am a Class A hoarder.

I don’t hoard junk that would land me on those ridiculous TLC shows.  I just hoard non-perishable food items and fabrics.  You know, the usual stuff.

The worst part is that I know that I do it.  In fact, I recognize the process:

  • A fancy can of something interesting or an insanely bright piece of fabric (usually cotton–let’s keep it real) catches my eye.  I get so excited I have to buy it (usually because it’s both special AND cheap) and I yammer to the salesperson about it as I purchase it.  I can tell they all roll their eyes when I walk out of the store.
  • The purchase turns out to be SO special that I just can’t bring myself to open it or cut into it.  I set it aside for the right dinner/occasion.
  • The right dinner/occasion never comes.
  • Fast forward a few months/years and I’m unearthing eight cans of chickpeas and a jar of sweet and spicy jalapeno jelly/ X cuts of fabric from the depths of my kitchen/sewing mess.
  • Cue shame–but cue indifference, too, because by the time I dig it out I’ve moved on to other, more exciting finds.

And so it goes.

I usually don’t feel guilty for it, except for when I do, and today is one of those days, sadly.  So, in the interest of not humoring my compulsions, I hereby announce that I will refrain from multiple-can purchases of beans until I’m down to just two cans of chickpeas (two being the amount of cans that I end up using any time I use beans–helps me make leftovers).  I will also refrain from buying any more fabric until I’ve dealt with at least three of the cuts of fabric I’ve squirrelled away.

Honestly, inspiration has struck in a million different ways for each of these beauties.  I just have to simmer down and make a decision and get on with my bad sewing self:

Purple was purchased in April, yellow in February, red in May
Uh-oh: the blue on the right was purchased in March 2009, the green in September 2007 (!), and the one on the left in May

Clearly, I have a problem–and some sewing to do.

And yet…

This De-Hoarding Measure does not mean that I can’t evade my own rules by making bean-free dishes and chopping up my curtains to make my own Hostess With the Mostest/Trophy Wife version of this Anthropologie dress:

Convincing reasoning, no?

Are you a ruthless de-cluttering machine, or do you hoard things like the world is ending tomorrow?  What is your hoarding poison?

Foodie Fix: A Slice of South America In Trinidad

In a total Homer Simpson “D’oh!” moment, I realized that posting a Foodie Friday post at 10 pm on a Friday night kind of defeated the purpose of calling it Foodie Friday since, well, it would get read on the weekend.  Silly, silly me.  So from now on, you’ll be seeing Foodie Fix (and Trini Tales, too) appearing at their usual times, sans the day of the week added in.  It makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things, I know–but at least I feel like I got one over the tyranny of the days of the week. Tyrants…

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Anyway, to the matter at hand…

Which is the eating of Venezuelan food in Trinidad:

A few months ago, Mr. L suggested a surprise lunch to a restaurant he’d recently heard of.  Our gluttony pushed us to brave torrential rains and, ever since, we’ve had to impose a limit on how many times a month we get to go to Taryn’s for lunch.   I swear I have an internal GPS and it only ever wants to take me there (23 Mucurapo Road, St. James, Port of Spain, in case you’re in the area and want to set your real GPS or map-skillz to it, too).

The first time we went, I had the pabellon lunch, which had stewed beef, fried plantains, black beans and rice.  It was delicious and I had to be wheeled to the car because it was so filling:

The second time, I went for something a bit lighter and, in the process, ignited a torrid love affair with the Venezuelan arepa:

I had it with the stewed beef filling and rice and beans on the side and was so appreciative of how tasty it was that I almost asked the lovely owner if I could work there full-time just so I could be paid in arepas.  Thank goodness I have a bit of shame.

This time, I figured that nothing in this world can’t be improved with the addition of a fried plantain or three, so I ordered the arepa with stewed beef and fried plantain (with the customary black beans and rice on the side):

At least this time I knew the dangers of its deliciousness and only vaguely considered making rash offerings of services in exchange for arepas.

It’s not just the delicious food that keeps me coming back.  The ambiance is homey and familiar with its low bar and woodwork and sweet table decor; it’s very much like the kind of Old San Juan lunch spots that I love so much when I go to Puerto Rico:

Please pardon the arm--there are only so many times a man will kindly move his arm before you risk losing your camera--and your plate.

The service is extremely friendly, the cast of regulars is reassuring to see, and the prices are really, really good considering that you are paying for a crispy-exterior, soft-and-meaty interior slice of heaven on a plate.  Oh yeah, and I get to hear and speak Spanish, which always does my little scrawny heart great good.

Someday, I’ll manage to resist the arepas and order some of their other Venezuelan specialties, like the shepherd’s pie-type dishes with plantain and fish or plantain and stewed meat (which are much more familiar to my Rican-girl palate).  Someday, pigs might fly straight into my mouth, ready-roasted, too.

Until then, I’ll be trying all of the arepas on the menu.  I’ve tasted the cheese ones (which are made with a salty white cheese and which would totally rock my dairy-free world, if they could):

I’ve yet to try the ones stuffed with pork, chicken, fish, or shrimp.  I’m afraid of what would happen if I did, because then I’d be ordering several arepas per sitting and that would just not do.

Oh Venezuelan food, where have you been all my life?  (Oh yeah, you’ve been seven miles from Trinidad and quietly chillin’ in the Trinidad Northern Range where the Spanish in Trinidad lived–and in St. James, too, apparently.)

If you are tempted to have an arepa adventure this weekend (as I may well be), check out the recipe on Food Wishes (you can use any brand of masarepa cornmeal–note, it’s not the same as masa harina!) or the recipe on Venezuelan Food and Drinks.

Buen provecho!