Trinidad is Cooking!

My name is Danielle Delon and I’m publishing a cookbook on the food of Trinidad & Tobago that starts 5000 years before Christ.

My father was Barbadian so I’ve lived in Barbados. My grandfather had a big stone house and the beams were made from wrecked ships’ beams. People used to come to our house during hurricanes. We had big sugar cane lands up towards Black Rock, which has become a bit of a Diamond Vale now. And you know the Brethren Church got

everything ‘cause they real weird! They took away everything from us. They ripped us off.

Growing up in Petit Valley, the scent of tonka bean was around the place. Shakespeare, John, Donne, Blake, Byron, these were my friends. These are the people I grew up with in a bamboo patch near to a stream in Petit Valley. My brother wrote to me: “When you were small, I’d see you reading in a bamboo patch and there would be tears in your eyes”.

I was getting a piano on the day of the terrible flood in Valley in ‘63 and thank God they didn’t deliver it: everything was covered in mud, everything was lost. My parents tried to protect us from the enormity of their loss. I think that’s bad. You should tell your children. Chinese do it

I’ve never paid to join a club. Yet I’ve been to practically every club in London. I’ve been to Tramps. They said [original 1969 co-founder] Johnny [Gold] wasn’t there any more but they still entertained us.

When the Diego Martin highway was built, it ran right through our house. That U-turn after the big tree, that was where our house was. That highway didn’t just dislocate communities, it dislocated families! Families that maybe had trials going on, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But our hibiscus hedge survived on the highway’s edge until about a year ago.

I describe in the book, in the introduction to my introduction, a scene where I’m pelting a stone at a mango swinging in the wind. And that stone just happened to cut the stem! And I caught that mango! That started a lifetime of food.

Jesus talks privately with Judas. What he’s telling Judas: you will be reviled, hated, but, if somebody doesn’t love me enough, doesn’t have enough faith, then the prophecies can’t be fulfilled. So he orders him, didn’t he, “Go and do what you have to do!” And then everybody fell asleep and somebody cut off the ear of the soldier and Jesus put it back on. I believe that happened! And I believe his whole message was of forgiveness.

I firmly believe in an afterlife and that we’re all connected by a spiritual pool of vibration and that our work, it’s amazing, that you suddenly realise that a light vibration is different from that of a hummingbird or that of a stone. So the stones remain plonked on the ground and a hummingbird can hover. And, I read it somewhere, if you squeeze me, I want honey to come out! I don’t want anything like acid and things. And that’s the faith I practise. And it’s taken a lot of work to get there, really!

Being a victim pays no dividends, darling. Nobody can be more angry than a bloody Scorpio, darling. But I choose to be good. I rather be seen as the village idiot than as its terror. I just puncture that balloon with my thought and move on, and let them say.

I’ve lived in London, Saudi, Spain, Ibiza before it became Ibiza. I was there when they filmed 2001: A Space Odysseyand I remember thinking, I should go home and make pizza! Because we’re a flour-loving people, because of roti. And because we love cheese! And I never did it! And then, there was Mario’s! He got it.

My cookbook is about food and Trinidad culture. Everything I’ve done is linked to that. I can’t seem to get away from the theme

You have to start at the beginning and the Banwari Man, 5000BC, lived here: what did he eat? And, as you think about it, it’s really one door opening into another, along a pathway of light that is Trinidad. Because this island is so loving.

The book is divided into chapters of who arrived and the food they brought and shared. [UWI professor] Pat Mohammed, wrote, “Currying Flavour”. Bridget Brereton wrote the British, Joanne Ferreira the Portuguese, Rita Pemberton Tobago, Michael Toussaint about the Africans, Marie Abdullah about the French. My instructions were: tell me what they ate; and, from that, I pull it and make the recipes. I have hundreds of recipes, having done the Hi-Lo calendar for over ten years.

The best thing about doing this cookbook is yet to come: cooking all the food!

A Trini is someone who can laugh while changing all the time. And a Trini loves to eat!

Trinidad & Tobago, to me, is so representative of love and sorrow, of gain and loss. It means something in my heart that I could never leave. Although I love Barbados.

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