There was a lovely book launch at the Institute of Jamaica last Monday morning. It was all about a book titled Breadfruit Recipes, Sweet and Savoury, by Andrea V. Whyte.
The Lecture Hall is to me always a delight, with its wooden floors and its soft pink and dove grey furnishings. I sat at the end of a row of agriculture students from the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in rural Portland. It’s amazing how people who come in to events from the rural areas are invariably very early. Anyway, I enjoyed my chat with these young people.
“Taste this and tell me what you think,” is an oft-repeated phrase by the cookbook’s author, Andrea Whyte. According to her son Norman, and others, this is how she often greets you, should you come and visit her. Her Taster-in-Chief is always her husband Junior, who responds with a “Mmm-hmm!” Ms. Whyte was until recently cooking in a Florida kitchen, but now lives in Jamaica. “She is always cooking,” said her niece, Amba Small Brown, who edited the book and highly recommends her aunt’s red herring chips. “She has a huge heart.”
Ms. Whyte is founder and owner of Isle Bites, a small company in Montego Bay that offers pastries and a range of delicious foods. You can shop for her food on her website. Ms. Whyte is a traditionalist, a non-believer in food waste; and her motto is “Tun yuh han and mek fashion” – in other words, make do with what you’ve got. She is a great believer in healthy eating.
All the recipes are gluten-free – no wheat involved. Many of them use breadfruit flour, which is quite available in stores and which Ms. Whyte makes herself, along with cassava flour and sweet potato flour. Her products include sweet potato pudding mix and other good, wholesome stuff. We tasted lots of the breadfruit products afterwards. To be honest I wasn’t sure about the breadfruit smoothie – perhaps an acquired taste…
Back to the breadfruit – which, according to Olive Senior’s A to Z of Jamaican Heritage (my Bible), was in great demand as a cheap source of food for the plantation slaves. It finally arrived in Jamaica (first stop, Port Royal) from the Pacific in 1793, brought on the HMS Providence by the English sea captain William Bligh (he of Mutiny on the Bounty fame). The descendants of the first breadfruit trees planted can still be seen in Bath Botanical Gardens in St. Thomas – which is still the parish where, in my view, the best breadfruit is to be found in season.
In his speech, the amiable Floyd Green, Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, spoke of the “tremendous export value” of breadfruit. Food security is a growing issue for Jamaica. Minister Green said the government is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) office here on a school feeding programme that will use only Jamaican foods. There’s so much potential.
On her website, Ms. Whyte observes: “A person who enjoys these delicious treats need only apply their taste buds.”
So, get those taste buds ready!