An excerpt from award-winning multimedia artist Daniel Boxill's poem "Slave Food" which takes us through the dark origins of traditional Bajan food.
Pig feet, Pig snout, Pig tail…
…Chicken foot, Chicken neck, Chicken head
I feed myself on what is left over from THEIR banquets. I feed myself on what the silver spoons toss aside and leave for the trough, for the dogs but never for the n*****s.
Entrails, Innards, rejects…
I bury what I can in jars of brine under The Dwelling THEY allow me to inhabit. Food is a luxury and I can’t let anything waste.
Pickled. Salted. Dried.
I salt and dry strips of flesh on the hot tin over The Dwelling. I keep these in my pockets as sustenance for those days when THEY think I don’t deserve to be fed. Sometimes I steal this flesh. Sometimes THEY are willing to throw us flesh as a reward for THEIR successful harvest, THEIR religious celebrations or THEIR rare instances of guilt. Sometimes I can keep my own flesh as long as we treat THEM… Ain’t nothing like a good old nigger pie, THEY say.
Yams, Eddoes, Cassava,
Breadfruit, Plantain, Okra,
Aubergine, Maize, Pumpkin…
I thank the Orishas for every inch of ground I get to call my own. I give thanks for every provision I grow for myself. I give thanks for every day I get to eat. I never feel so free as when I know that this food prepared before me, even with the presence of THEM surrounding me, is truly my own. Thanks and praises, for when I know that my hand, my sweat and my tears is what raised, clothed and fed me, it is then I know what freedom feels like.
Cou-cou, Soo Soo, Fou-Fou
I thank my ancestors for teaching me how to cook and how to survive. I thank them for allowing me to inherit Cou-Cou. I grind the corn I left to dry into a fine flour. I mix it with water turned slime from the okras and other herbs I boiled then put aside. I heat the mixture, constantly stirring with a flat wooden paddle, my “cou-cou stick”, until it congeals, adding more of the slime water as it thickens. Under the flame I returned a sweet potato to the earth, leaving the embers to slowly roast it. Normally the okra slush would contain or be served with salted cod but today I have freshly caught flying fish which I roast once I remove the finished cou-cou from over the flame. This is a Saturday meal. This a special day meal. This is not a meal that one has the energy to make when labouring under a harsh sun and starving sunrise to sunset but I am making the effort because it is my name day. This food will serve me for days to come and the remaining corn flour will make porridge for breakfast this week.
by Daniel Boxill