Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Food news. It seems that not a week goes by when there isn’t concern raised about childhood obesity, which is something that I’ve written about and commented on in other articles.

This  month has seen President Obama naming September as National Obesity Month and obligating Americans to help children make healthy choices while in the UK a group of health professionals have urged the government to set up an obesity task force, more of that in a bit.

With all of this concern for childhood obesity it occurs to me that things have changed in such a stark way in a relatively short time space. If we go back 30/40 years ago when we didn’t have so many supermarket shelves groaning with processed foods there was much less worry about children’s diet, to be honest neither was there a high level of concern about children being active.

I for one was certainly a child who, much like my peers, had more than my fair share of sweets, biscuits and chocolates and yet I was wire thin and so were the majority of kids I knew. What’s more, chances were back then children would have eaten the same meals as their parents and more likely this would have been cooked from scratch.

Sally Davies. Photo courtesy www.express.co.uk

Sally Davies. Photo courtesy www.express.co.uk

Now back to that group of health professionals and their demands for an obesity task force.

To quote BBC Health News, “In an open letter to the chief medical officer for England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, the health professionals say, “An entire generation is being destroyed by a diet of junk food and sugary drinks”. Should the task force it come into existence the group, led by The Royal College of General Practitioners, demand:

“Increased support for the National Child Measurement Programme, improved investment in IT programmes for weight management, more training in malnutrition and obesity for GPs and other health professionals as well as outreach projects to educate families about the dangers of obesity.”

I’m pleased to see that the health professionals recognise the importance of families being armed with knowledge to help them make good decisions of healthy eating.

Photo courtesy www.wfp.org

Photo courtesy www.wfp.org

If parents accept that they’d do well to not just think about calories but understand what makes for a balanced diet they will be able to set up their children for a lifetime of healthy eating.

I’m also convinced that if parents are aware that a lifetime of obesity problems can lead to a shortened life span then they would pay greater attention to their child’s food intake. I will recognise that regardless of knowledge and intention financial position is going to be the major deciding factor in determining a child’s diet.

Anyone who’s been around old people from the Caribbean will, I’m sure, be familiar with the saying “bend the tree when it’s young.” The saying goes on to say, for those that don’t know, “For if you try to bend the tree when it’s old it’ll break.” This aphorism sure as hell makes sense when raising a child to become an adult with healthy eating habits. I also think that there is something in serving up the type of food that generations before us ate and this has influenced the videos I’ve selected for this particular feature.

I’ve also rounded the views of nutritionists just to give you a clear idea of what sort of things should be in your child’s diet if you want to set them on the right path:

Jessica Crandall. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “A child needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals to grow.”

Elizabeth Boham. MD, MS, RD, Functional Medicine: “Focus on breakfast… Make sure to include a good protein source… eggs, smoked salmon, meats, nuts and nut butters… Focus on vegetables… Focus on limiting sugar.”

Ruth Frechman. Nutrition and Dietetics: “If children do not eat many fruits or vegetables they may lack nutrients important for growth and development… Serve your children balanced meals, so that they grow up healthy and strong.”

Cooking Kids- Caribbean Jerk Turkey Wings

I’m not one of those people who thinks that there’s something cute about kids cooking; surely the best way for kids to appreciate and understand good food is by learning to cook.

This video features two sisters who though they don’t look older than ten clearly have enough cooking nous to be able to confidently talk us through this jerk wings recipe. The video itself has some problems: the camera work is unsteady, the sound quality is variable and the kids understandably lose their fluency in parts. If you can look beyond this you have a product that is not only easy to follow but could be used to inspire other children.

There’s also a hidden bonus in this video: the girls, joined by a younger brother show you how to make a corn casserole as well as roasted courgettes. With all of this cooking going on the video is a lengthy watch, almost 14 minutes in total, and doesn’t come with any graphics so you might want to allow yourself some time note taking before you start cooking. The actual cooking process isn’t complicated but given you are producing a three part meal you can expect to spend some time at it.

Lastly in terms of buying the ingredients there is nothing here that should cause you a major problem, especially as jerk seasoning is so popular it is widely available in shops and supermarkets.

Grilled Tropical Pork Tenderloin with Mango Ginger Sauce

This video comes from the Grace Foods Creative Cooking department so at least the basic production values of good sound and visual are expectedly in place. With this particular video you’ll have to get past an operetta style song and dance routine before the cooking starts; it does seem that Grace Foods do like to offer up highly package cooking videos.

The cooking process is a little complex as it involves a reduction process, creating a marinate as well as butterflying and stuffing a pork loin so you can expect this to be a challenge to your cooking skills. As usual with anything that requires marinating you can expect that the preparation process is time consuming if taken from start to finish, the marinating is done overnight which is the best sort.

I’m a sucker for a presenter in chef’s outfit as it seems that with the preparation explanation you can expect some knowledge gleaned from years of working in a professional kitchen, as is the case with this particular presenter. In case you haven’t thought through how you are going to serve this dish there’s also a professional looking serving up of the finished dish.

In terms of buying the ingredients there isn’t anything that should cause difficulty, however you might have to rely on a Grace Foods stockist to find the mango nectar. I dare say that if you are feeling particularly adventurous you could make your own nectar from fresh mangoes.

Lianne Lay’s Caribbean Cooking – Episode 1 & 2

Though I’ve never before acknowledged my fascination with the extent to which people who have no family connections to the Caribbean are interested in tackling Caribbean cookery this is a good place to start. These particular videos are worthy of attention as one provides information about the ingredients and the other explains the cooking process.

There’s a range of dishes being prepared, which is always great if you want ideas for a  full meal and would struggle to come up with something to serve with single dishes. Though there is quite a bit of cooking to do with this video you don’t have to worry about the difficulty as all of the dishes are quite straight-forward, they’ll just take time to put together.

In terms of the getting the ingredients together for the most part there’s nothing here that should cause any difficulty if you live somewhere that has a big name supermarket.

However I have never seen tinned Salt fish, but at least the dried packaged version is readily available, and am quite fascinated by this. I know that some people are put off Salt fish by the preparation process so the canned version seems to be a good solution, however you’ll have to take Lianne’s word for the quality of this product; I might also be useful to know that Lianne finds the canned version is not as salty as the packaged version.

Chicken Fried Rice Recipe.

Here’s another entry from Chris at caribbeanpot.com, who has to be the most prolific Caribbean cook out there so can always be guaranteed to provide something healthy and interesting.

I drawn to this particular recipe not because it is a traditional Caribbean recipe, we have to acknowledge our Chinese brethren for this, but because it contains a healthy mix of protein and vegetables. I’m also convinced that most children, no matter how fussy, can find some parts if not all of this dish enjoyable.

The preparation and cooking process is not particularly challenging, the hardest thing to deal with is cutting up the ingredients so that they are all a uniform size. Everything goes into the same pan, once the rice has been pre-cooked, so the actual time spent cooking and cleaning up afterwards will not be taxing.

Lastly there’s absolutely nothing in the list of ingredients will be easy to find and as Chris says you can always make your own variations, just remember to keep it visually interesting.

Vegetables-tortilla Wraps

On the face of it this dish will seem like a departure from Caribbean cookery but don’t worry this video is an offering from Chef Ricardo, who has been featured before now and he makes it clear that this is a recipe for Jamaican vegetable wraps. I’ve also featured the video as it is a good way of upping your child’s vegetable intake.

While I’m happy to encourage everyone to accept that taking time to cook is a good thing if you’re looking for something quick and easy, as many parents can be, then you’ll be pleased to know that Chef Ricardo states that this recipe takes 10 minutes from start to finish. While the ingredients are fairly straight forward I would suggest that you experiment with other Caribbean vegetables as long as they are cut thinly for quick cooking: for instance it would be interesting to add pre-cooked yams, green bananas or sweet potatoes.

Chef Ricardo

Chef Ricardo

If the cooking process is quick then you will not be surprised to hear Chef Ricardo say that the cooking process is easy, in fact the most challenging aspect of this dish is how to present it in an appealing way.

As for shopping for the ingredients, again there’s nothing here that would cause any difficulty. If you want to experiment with ingredients then it is down to you to use what you can find but I would always experiment with cooking them in a way that makes them easy to quick fry and be placed in a wrap.