Fungi, Foenchi, Pastel(l)e, Kalallue, Crab & Rice Is Very Nice (1950)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sun Nov 30 23:56:23 UTC 2003

   The Virgin Islands cuisine might be considered part of the American cuisine.  America does own the islands, and the recipes have traveled to Miami and New York.
   Some of this is in VIRGIN ISLANDS NATIVE RECIPES (1954) and WHAT A PISTARCKLE! (1980), neither of which is here at NYU.
   The 1950 and 1954 and 1962 dates aren't too bad.  OED is as usual out to lunch--not on these foods, though.
   Pastel(l)e was seen on a T-shirt in Trinidad.  There are some important hits in the ADS-L archives.

  4 February 1962, TIMES-RECORDER (Zanesville, Ohio), pg.2, section C, col. 4:
_Danish and French Settlers_
_Influenced Caribbean Foods_
   NEW YORK (UPI)--Daube meat, a pot roast, has gravy so delectable that the smell of it once nourished a beggar whose only food was dry bread.
   This is Caribbean folklore but there's some truth in the anecdote recorded by J. Antonio Jarvis, a Virgin Islands historian.  The aroma of daube meat is delicious.  The meat is seasoned with rock salt, pepper, garlic, cloves, mace, nutmeg, parsley, celery, vinegar, onions, tomatoes and thyme.  Like many other native foods, it is a tropical version of a foreign recipe--in this case, French pot roast.
_French Influence_
   Virgin Islands cuisine was influenced strongly by early French and Dutch settlers.  Today, most restaurants in the American-held islands bow to the ourists' preference for American food.  But the melting pot cuisine survives in private homes with family recipes.  Forty-nine of them are in "Virgin Islands Native Recipes," published by The Women's League of St. Thomas.  The chief contributor was Mrs. Mildred V. Anduze, a retired school teacher and food expert.
   Other native recipes of French derivation include benye and boija, banana fritters and banana-coconut muffins.  A Danish-style recipe, herring gundy, makes a main dish salad of ground salt herring with chopped vegetables and eggs.
   Creole dishes incled accra, blackeyed peas with okra; fungi, plain corn meal mush; and tu tu fungi, sweetened mush with blackeyed peas, meat, tomatoes and onion.
   Tannia soup comes closest to being pure native cookery, because its main ingredient, a carrot-shaped tuber that tastes like a white yam, rarely is found in U. S. markets.

   5 June 1946, COSHOCTON TRIBUNE (Coshocton, Ohio), pg.4, col. 3:
   It began with a pastele, which seems to be the Puerto Rican version of a tamale.  It's cornmeal, stuffed with olives and raisins and bits of meat and heaven only knows what else, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed until done.

   23 December 1969, GETTYSBURG TIMES (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), pg.3, col. 2:
   Amelia Matos and other housewives of all economic levels spend days in the kitchen preparing pasteles--individual meat-filled masses made with banana meal and wrapped in banana leaves.  Using fresh coconuts, they make a variety of (Col.3--ed.) sweets and a special fermented drink called toquito.
   The culinary highlight is the lechon asado, or roast pig, which has usually been fattened since the previous Christmas.

Understanding Culture Through Recipes
Jane McCallum
Journal of Educational Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 4. (Dec., 1950), pp. 235-237.
Pg. 236:  The principal food is fish, fungi (similar to cornmeal mush) soups, and teas made from native plants.
   The native women are good cooks with the gift of seasoning their dishes to give variety to their menus.  Another one of their specialties is _parfey_, a highly seasoned meat, fish and vegetable soup thickened with cornmeal, and the women on the island of St. Croix delight in making both _parfey_ and fish pudding, a marine version of angel food. Kallalue plays an important part in the food habits of the Islanders.  It is a thick, nourishing soup--a meal in itself, and there are as many ways to prepare it as there are cooks on the Islands!*  Kallalue is made with spinach bower (amaranthus dubuis), okra, thyme, celery, parsley, ham, hambone, pig's tail, fried fish, crabs or conch, hed (sic) hot pepper pod, and then it s further seasoned with a combination of spices and is finally served with balls of fungi.**  It is always served to family and guests at the Christmas season and on New Year's Eve.  It is said that those who eat Kallalue on New Year's Eve are assured of good luck in the coming year.

*See the article in this issue, "No More Kallalue," by Irene B. Wojtowicz.
**Fungi is sometimes spelled _fungee_ or _foengi_.
Miss Jane McCallum is working toward her Ph.D. in Home Economics at New York University.

"No More Kalallue": Impressions of the Food Habits, Production, and Marketing in the Virgin Islands, U.S.A.
Irene M. Wojtowicz
Journal of Educational Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 4. (Dec., 1950), pp. 224-227.
Pg. 224:  Near the center of town on St. Thomas, is the old open market place, where the friendly native women sit all day long with their wares.  Here you will see the straps of bright-hued fish with such odd names: hog-fish, angel or madam fish, bonito, doctor-fish, jew-fish, old wife, yellow-tail, blue fish, etc.
Pg. 225:  Strangely, local preference seems to be for canned salmon rather than fresh porgies; or as the popular Calypso song goes: "No more kalallue, just give me raw codfish."  Kalallue is a delectable native dish combining the odd assortment of pig tail, ham bone, spareribs, land crab, and kalalallue leaf, which resembles spinach closely.
   Kalallue is traditional for New Year's Eve and the preparation of it takes on the air of a spree.  it isn't aa dish one whips up lightly and carelessly in one day.  A few days before the actual preparation of kalallue, the youngsters are sent out at night with lighted pine torches to catch the land crabs, which then are kept penned in barrels to be fattened up.  In the meantime, the other ingredients are readied.  Since West Indian food is highly seasoned, the spices and herbs play an important part in the creation of Kalallue.  Among these: thyme, "Papa Lolo," a shrub, and a local spinach called "manbower," are used.  For vegetables, there are tannia leaves, huge, like elephant ears, spinach, diced okras, spring onions, tomatoes, fresh peppers, and a few sweet potatoes.  The herbs and spinach are boiled until tender and then taken out and chopped in a bowl.  The okras, dieced, are mixed in and everything green is cooked with the fish and meats until very thick.  An important accompaniment is Old St. Croix Rum or a highly spiked lime punch.

Pg. 226:  Very little corn is grown on the island due to the high incidence of disease and pests, and yet cornmeal is used to make a native dish called "foenchi" in the Creole language.  it is really a bread substitute but the native considers it a meal or the chief part of the meal.  They even float it in kalallue like dumplings.
   Rice, along with cornmeal, is also a staple of the island diet.  "Arroz con Pollo," or nearby Puerto Rican influence, is a favorite, with the poor of the island substituting crab for the chicken.  Indeed, according to a local saying: "Crab and rice is very nice."

Pg. 227:  The story of kalallue is from a manuscript by J. Antonio Jarvis, St. Thomas, V. I.

More information about the Ads-l mailing list