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Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Cooking commentary. If you were to do a count of the prescription pills you’ve taken over the last few years would you (a) be surprised that you’ve been so sickly or (b) justify your consumption by claiming you wouldn’t be here today if you hadn’t taken them?

If your answer was b, here’s another question for you: are you sure about that?

As far as the British Medical Association is concerned there are too many of us using over the counter medicines, a view that is echoed by the American Medical Association. The medical association’s concerns are not a recent issue, you’d have to go back as far as 1974 to find what is now known as the seminal report on the over use of medicines. However, apart from the continuous rise in consumption figures, what has brought the issue into sharp focus is the fact that the current economic down turn causes many of us prefer to pop a pill rather than be absent from work.

At this stage I should make one thing clear, which is that my interest in the pill popping issue isn’t about drugs that control the effects of major ailments; though opinions are polarized on whether there are alternatives to medicines for every ailment no matter how major. I’m far more interested in levels of pill taking for ailments real or imaginary that could be dealt with using alternative means.

For me, too many people view their bodies in the way they would a modern car: they expect it to work every time, they don’t think too much about the quality of fuel that goes in it and they are prepared to change any part that doesn’t please them. In truth, if we think about it, the only important similarity between a car and the human body is that they both run perfectly well when well maintained and handled properly.

Unfortunately for many of us having a well maintained body requires consistent and prolonged effort and that does not sit well with modern lifestyles. Yet the fact that concerns have been raised on both sides of the Atlantic shows just how important lifestyle change is. In the UK the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing has presented research which sums up the problem thus: “nearly 7m Brits are taking cholesterol-lowering statins and the use of drugs to prevent or treat pain is likely to become more common in the future.”

Professor Sarah Harper from the research spoke out about Britain’s dependency on pain-relieving pills at the Oxford London Lecture back in 2012 saying, “I think we may be entering a world where preventable chronic disease will not be prevented by public health measures tackling lifestyles, but increasingly by drug therapies which will control and reduce symptoms of chronic disease.”

Photo courtesy wwweverymantricom

Photo courtesy www.everymantri.com

Harper’s prediction on where our attitudes to pill taking is heading also comes with a plea for caution: “We have to ask if we wish our future to be one where individuals at increasingly younger ages pop pills rather than eat healthily, stop smoking, reduce alcohol and take up exercise.”

In America the concern, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, is not just around the level of pill taking but the fact that the trend affects both young and old. They have summed up the issue saying, “A debate continues to wage as to whether or not American doctors over-prescribe. At one spectrum of this argument, critics point to drug epidemics in various age groups as signs of a pill-popping culture. For instance, more than 40 percent of Americans age 65 and older take five medications per day, according to a 2008 study published in the. And, each year, more than one-third will suffer an adverse side effect as a result.”

It is interesting that Professor Harper mentions that one of the things that could be done instead of popping pills is to eat healthily, this is something you wouldn’t expect me to ignore given all that has been said in this column over the last few months. But before I go into my cooking recommendations I just want to take a further look at the notion that it is possible to eat yourself healthy. The Guardian newspaper offered this piece of advice “No matter how old you are, eating a healthy diet is as essential for your well being as exercising. But there are times in life when your body may need a little extra help. Topping up on certain nutrients can make a real difference to how you feel.”

While the Guardian’s advice suggests that a healthy diet can do wonders for your health, something that I’ve often preached, it is worthwhile noting that this cannot be true in every case. Laura Tennet writing about the rise of pill culture in the Telegraph newspaper unashamedly acknowledges that she’s a beneficiary of pill culture and admits to taking Prozac for her melancholy nature, the contraceptive pill for obvious reasons, Anti-histamine for hay fever and Paracetamol to deal with hangovers. While I might take issue with the reasons for taking some of the medicines on that list I can readily accept that food alone will not fix the type of chemical imbalance that triggers bouts of deep depression.

What I want to look at however is the types of foods that you can take that will, given that you’re not suffering from a life changing illness, give you a feeling of well-being and help you fight off minor illnesses. Before I lay out my recommended recipes here’s a list of foods that are said to make you feel happy and as such should be a part of your daily diet: walnuts, tomatoes, mangoes and cayenne Pepper. As for the cooking I’ll focus on collard greens, quinoa, salmon, clams and avocado.

Cooking Collard Greens The Caribbean Way

Shrimp Avocado & Mango Salad.

You know I’m always positive about recipes from Chris at Caribbeanpot.com not just because of the production values but because the wide variety of dishes on offer. Still it is unusual for me to kick off with a double bill from the same cook however it was difficult to find anybody who offers dishes involving collard greens and avocado.

I won’t dwell too much on the production values of these two videos but unusually they are not up to the standards we’ve come to expect. The editing in the collard greens video has some unusual jumps in the sound and there’s a strange shimmering in the shrimp video. Some of this might be down to the age of the videos but fortunately the production issues don’t get in the way of information being presented.

Production values aside the presentation as always makes the preparation easy to follow, which given that these are relatively simple dishes shouldn’t pose any real problems.

In terms of the ingredients the only thing that I can see that might present a problem sourcing is collard greens; they are popular in the USA but I’ve never come across them in the UK. That said collard greens are grown in various parts of Europe such as Spain, Portugal and Eastern Europe so it must be possible to find them. I’m also aware that collard greens belong to the same food group as cabbage and broccoli and are available all year round but are said to be tastier in the cold months.

Caribbean Quinoa Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette over Baked Plantains

This is another one of those videos that shows the popularity of Caribbean cookery outside of the Caribbean. I also have to confess that there are not many cooks in the Caribbean making use of quinoa, which is hardly surprising as rice is still mighty popular and quinoa is only just beginning to gain some traction as a super food.

Though the presentation method makes the recipe easy to follow there are no instructions on cooking the quinoa, so just in case you’ve never cooked you’ve never cooked before here’s an explanatory video.

Going back to the salad video I should say that despite the lack of information on cooking quinoa the production values are quite high so the camera work isn’t intrusive and the sound quality is clear throughout.

Lastly sourcing the ingredients shouldn’t present any difficulties, after all this is shot in America so there really can’t be anything that you can’t find in the UK or the Caribbean.


Caribbean Salmon Fish Stew

Short and simple is the watchword with this particular video, which given that fish should never be over cooked is what you’d expect with a salmon dish.

I have featured Café Calypso videos before so you may recognize the presenter and be familiar with her presentation style. In terms of production values there’s a lot less talking, which is a shame as the presenter has a nice style and imparts useful additional information. The bulk of the preparation directions is presented through on screen graphics but where there is sound it is of a good quality and is accompanied by well thought out camera work.

With the principle ingredients being salmon, onions and tomatoes I can’t believe that you’ll have sourcing problems. What I will say is to note of the presenter comments on how to judge the quality of the salmon if you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to buying fish.

The Posh Pescatarians Turks & Caicos Conch Chowder

Now I did say that I was going to feature clams in one of my recipes but in this recipe the clams comes in the form of clam juice. If that isn’t enough clam for you then, provided you can find them, why not adapt this recipe by adding them into the mix.

Since we’ve started off talking about the ingredients I’ll tackle the sourcing issues here. There are a number of things that I’m not clear about and therefore I can’t advise you on how easy they are to source, these are camamari, cilantro and habanero pepper. You may well have to do your shopping in a specialist shop or use your own substitutions.

As for the presenter’s explanation of how to put this dish together much of it provides clarity, however it would have been nice she’d had identified everything that is being put into the pot. So all that is left to mention is the production values, which aside from the ingredients’ omission works well in terms of good camera shots and sound quality.



We provide news and information for anyone interested in the Caribbean whether you’re UK based, European based or located in the Caribbean. New fresh ideas are always welcome with opportunities for bright writers.


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