Celebrating food at AGROFEST

This week, we continue our discussion on AGROFEST by looking at the impact of this event on our society. We’ve touched on the farmers and vendors and the important role that they play as AGROFEST provides an important outlet not only for the sale, but also the marketing of their products and produce.

They will be exposed to over 60,000 people over the weekend, which means 60,000 opportunities for marketing. We also looked at the impact AGROFEST has on the youth. As we continue to try to preserve our culinary culture, it is very important that they understand the origins of this culture and the importance of sustaining it as we move forward.

This week, we focus on the food of AGROFEST. I am happy to see that even in its 13th year, the event has not been infiltrated by foreign fast-food for display or sale. This is very surprising to me as I am sure that it is quite easy for these foreign companies, given their deep pockets, to buy their way into such a festival.

It therefore leaves me to wonder if this is through their lack of interest or if such does not fit into the direction that the AGROFEST organizers have in mind. Either way, I am happy to see that Barbadian fare remains the feature of the festival. From fried chicken to baked pork, cou-cou and flying fish, pickled breadfruit and steamed pudding and souse….all of these and many more Barbadian favourites can be seen very well represented as you travel the length and breadth of the Park.

Having mentioned fast-food, one would think that it is high time that there is a traditional Bajan fast-food outlet, equipped with a drive-through, where you can purchase authentic Bajan fried chicken with seasoning stuffed to the bone, served with fried or boiled breadfruit, sweet potato or cassava, whichever is in season, a portion of pudding and souse, a good old BBQ pigtail, or even a Bajan soup with sugar dumplings. Ok, we’ll cook the pigtail until all of the salt is gone.

At AGROFEST, you can find several varieties of Bajan delicacies, which are proof of the skills and techniques of the creators, all of whom will argue that theirs is the best flavor on the market.  The food court is filled with home cooks, all dressed for the occasion and armed with their pots, pans and these days, the modern-day cooking devices needed for these creations.

Missing are the old Buckpot and open-flame wood fire for roasting, but this is a small price to pay for progress in this industry, not to mention, lots of these things might have been discontinued because of the now very stringent rules of our health and fire departments, which we have to credit for keeping things safe and under control with so much food and open-flame present at the event.

Starting on the first day of the event, the Friday, straight through until the Sunday in the evening, AGROFEST has become a popular dining place for many Barbadians and visitors alike. From as early as 6:30 in the morning, patrons can purchase a sumptuous Bajan breakfast, ranging from fishcakes and bakes, to home fries, scrambled and fried eggs, locally manufactured ham and bacon, fried plantain and hot cereals such as oats and cornmeal pap.

For lunch, which runs well into the evening, you can readily find dishes such as ground provisions (green bananas, cassava and eddoes), sumptuous stews made from local beef and black belly lamb, crispy fried or golden BBQ Bajan chicken, as well as fish marinated in lime and salt and stuffed with the most flavorful Bajan seasoning, fried or swimming in a good old Bajan butter sauce.

Not to play second fiddle are the pastries we know and love so much.  These are also well represented across the exhibition, ranging from jam puffs to currant slices to coconut bread, rock cakes and turn-overs, baked and served only the way Bajans can. Of course, the snow cone and coconut vendors are also featured at the event, not forgetting the number of ice-cream vendors all serving their creamy delights in uniquely different forms, in an effort to lure excited visitors who are more than willing to pay for something exclusive and distinctive.

Testimony to the growth and impact of AGROFEST is the fact that our Caribbean neighbours are now finding it beneficial to be a part of our event. This year, Trinidad and Guyana will have exhibits ranging from hydroponics to offerings of their local delicacies which will all be available for show and sampling.

AGROFEST has had a positive influence on our cooks and vendors as far as their development is concerned, given that a very important part of the event is a free training seminar conducted by the Ministry of Health for all food vendors. This provides them with an opportunity to obtain critical and much needed tips on food safety, sanitation and storage. This education is continued in the Park as a number of health inspectors can be seen throughout the duration of the event visiting food stalls to ensure that the required standards are being met. Fire officers also make frequent visits to make certain that all cooking is done in the correct manner, thus guaranteeing the safety of the thousands who attend the festival.

So, the AGROFEST weekend starts on Friday, February 24 at 10 a.m and runs until 9 p.m on Sunday, February 26. You can plan to have breakfast, lunch or even an early dinner there and be assured that you will be savouring the best of Barbadian cuisine prepared in the most traditional ways you can find.

Thanks AGROFEST for continuing to support our unique and exciting culinary culture!

 Here are two egg recipes that will definitely be available for breakfast at The Dining Club food tent during AGROFEST.

FARM-STYLE SCRAMBLED EGGS

INGREDIENTS

2 slices smoked Ham

3 Eggs

1 oz Onions, diced

1 oz Sweet Peppers, diced

1 oz Tomatoes, diced

3 tsp Tomato ketchup

2 tbsp Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

METHOD:

 1.     In a thick-bottomed pan, heat half of the olive oil and cook ham on both sides before removing from the pan

2.     In the same pan, add the onions, sweet peppers and tomatoes; cook for 2 minutes

3.     Add ketchup and cook for 2 additional minutes

4.     Season with salt and pepper and hold

5.     In another pan, heat the second portion of oil and scramble the eggs to a medium texture; season with salt and pepper

6.     Lay the ham on a plate, cover with the onions, sweet pepper and tomato mixture and top with the scrambled eggs

7.     Serve with toast.

BAJAN COUNTRY-STYLE OMELETTE

 INGREDIENTS

2 Eggs

1 tsp Bajan Seasoning

1 oz Milk

1 tsp butter/ margarine

Salt and Pepper to taste

METHOD:

1.     Break eggs in a bowl and add, seasoning, milk, salt and pepper

2.     Beat with a fork until the yolk and white are thoroughly combined.

3.     Heat butter/ margarine in omelette pan until foaming, but not brown.

4.     Add the eggs and cook quickly, stirring the mixture continuously until it is lightly set.

5.     Fold the mixture halfway over itself and pull to one side of the pan to retain
its shape

6.     All it to brown slightly before turning it on to a plate

(For variety, the mixture can be stuffed with cheese, ham, spinach etc before folding)

(Peter Edey is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, a graduate of l’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer. Email: peter@dcbarbados.com)

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