The Haitian Cassava

Haitian Cassava Bakery, www.oceantrader.coHaitian cassava (kasav) is as primal as you can get when it comes to traditional Caribbean foods.  Every island culture uses cassava as a food source.  Ground provisions, as it is referred to in the Windward and Leeward islands, is also called “hard food”.  This is more a tribute to cassava’s ability to fill you up rather than the vegetable’s mass or tensile qualities.  In Haiti it is mostly eaten in a bread form, but it can be added to soup or served as a side offering on a plate of creole chicken or fish.  With a sweet onion and creole sauce it goes well with any type of stewed meat or seafood.  In a bread form the cassava flour is used for making a flat cake which is baked on a large round platen fired by charcoal the old fashioned way.  The yucca is peeled, grated, cleaned and ground into flour using a very basic hand powered flourmill.  The peeling, grating, pounding, milling and baking process is usually shared between the men and women, but it is hard work.

   

The finished pizza-like cassava cake is then cut into smaller rectangles for immediate sale. In other island cultures and even Africa, the cassava paste can also be fermented, seasoned and then boiled. In the larger cities in Haiti people will travel far to buy cassava bread and sweets.  When the country folk travel into town to sell their cassava products it can be the source of slow moving traffic as the city dwellers embrace the opportunity to buy their cassava bread from the street vendors touting their goods between gridlocked traffic lanes.

   
   

Cassava is called manioc, mogo, tapioca root and several other regional names.  The Carib and Taino Indians cultivated and used cassava as a food staple just as it is still being used in the Caribbean, Africa, the Pacific islands, South America and even Asia.  It is has been reported widely in the corporate press that an enzyme from the cassava plant has been isolated and is being researched as a possible cancer treatment.  On the other hand, if the cassava plant is not prepared and processed properly it can produce enough residual toxins, like cyanide, which can cause serious poisoning.  Obviously indigenous cultures around the globe have been successfully using cassava as a food source (carbohydrates and little or no protein).  It is traditionally eaten with a variety of other foods.  If you ask any West Indian native or Haitian if he or she can recall anyone being poisoned by eating cassava they will scratch their head and tell you no in a very reassuring way.  They will also be polite enough not to tell you that the question was a bit ridiculous.  When you travel to the Caribbean query the locals for the two best restaurants featuring traditional Caribbean cooking.  Why travel all those miles to end up in tourist joints that are prepped to serve you the same frozen-fried and over processed foods you can eat back home.  Go local and explore boiled fish, stewed meats, and a variety of chicken that will be memorable meals.  The taxi drivers will normally steer you in the right direction.  If there is cassava on the menu you have found the right place.  Image © www.oceantrader.co

Comments

  1. Mimose Dixon says:

    I live in California and would like to know how and where I can buy the Haitian cassava?

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