Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

Health news. Recently I made mention of a spate of news stories concerning the problems caused by a lack of sleep: it seems the medical world is concerned that too many of us are spending too much time in the digital world rather than getting a good night’s sleep.

This situation is further exacerbated by a 24-hour culture, which means that many more people are working shifts than ever before and all of this is leaving many of us without the amount of sleep a body needs to function normally.

While many of us having tried to get through our day having had very little sleep would look forward to getting some rest I suspect few would make a link between lack of sleep and obesity.

However scientist from Oxford University, Cambridge University, Harvard University, Manchester University and Surrey University are concerned enough to issue warnings on the dangers of cutting sleep, for them there is clear evidence that our 24-hour lifestyle is one of the factors fuelling the global rise in obesity rates. For the scientists the health dangers are clear: there are definite links between reduced sleep and cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, a variety of infections as well as obesity.

I believe that there is a common sense logic that says that sleep allows the body to repair itself; university scientist would seem to confirm this by pointing out that changes in the human body are driven by a body clock.

Whether or not you believe that the human body is still biologically the same as any that could be found in our evolutionary past there appears good evidence to support the idea we haven’t changed much over the centuries.

So it is fair to conclude, as our university scientist do, that the 24 hour society is really living against our natural day night cycle and that’s why we are seeing a rise in obesity rates.

Professor Russell Foster, of Oxford University, is quoted in one newspaper report as saying, “We are the supremely arrogant species; we feel we can abandon four million years of [human] evolution and ignore the fact we have evolved under a light-dark cycle.”

As with any health issues getting a full handle on its impact is not just about looking at the short term affects: with this particular issue there is evidence indicating that lack of sleep is a driver of childhood obesity.

This tells us that unless action is taken now the impact of our children’s lifestyle will see them carry health problems into their adult life. However the solution to childhood obesity caused through lack of sleep requires a discipline of not having televisions, computers, video games, tablets or mobiles in the bedroom.

I know from my experiences as a teacher that some young people will complain about not being able to function in a lesson because they’ve been up until two or three in the morning; breaking this hard wired habitual behaviour is not going to be easy. Professor Charles Czeisler is quoted in a BBC News feature saying,

“… Smartphones, tablets and computers have high levels of light in the blue end of the spectrum which is “right in the sweet spot” disrupting the body clock. Light exposure, especially short wavelength blue-ish light in the evening, will reset our circadian rhythms to a later hour, postponing the release of the sleep-monitoring hormone melatonin and making it more difficult for us to get up in the morning.”

While Czeilsler can provide us with an explanation of sleep disruption by focusing on the physics the issue also needs to be looked at by analysis of what we eat and when we eat.

Now there is some science involved in being familiar with the types of food that help us to sleep and how they work. One of the amino acids (amino acids are recognised as the building blocks of our body’s protein and as such it helps in the healing of wounds and the repairing of tissue) proteins that promote sleep are known as Tryptophan, which work by boosting the body’s production of melatonin. Another hormone that is known to help promote sleep is insulin, which helps Tryptophan to work by blocking those amino acids that would normally compete against it.

Clearly it would make sense to think about eating an evening meal that will help you to have a good night’s sleep, ideally doing so at least three hours before going to bed.

From my reading I’ve come across a list of foods which should be eaten if you want to sleep well and from this list I’ve chosen foods that fit well with Caribbean cookery, these are: chicken, turkey, rice, pasta, potato and tuna and they make up this edition of video reviews


Jamaican Chicken Soup

Being a soup this recipe ticks a number of boxes: it is obviously going to be healthy as a low fat dish, the chicken means that it will help you to sleep well, providing you don’t eat too late at night and the vegetables will contribute to your seven a day intake.

For those of you that like simplicity this should appeal given that it is a one pot dish so the most difficult thing that you’ll have to deal with is preparing your vegetables.

As for the ingredients the bulk of them should be fairly straight-forward to find in the average grocery store but if you’ve never bought ChoCho you might have to visit a specialist.

The video is put together under the cook like a Jamaican label, which has been featured before and I’ve always said I like the fact that their videos have a homely feel about them.


Roast Turkey With Honey & Lemon Juice

I’ve often wondered why so many of us don’t eat turkey outside of the Christmas period: it is a meat not too dissimilar to chicken in terms of possible cooking methods, fat content and healthy eating. Also there are many supermarkets that sell various turkey joints so it is not necessary to buy a whole bird.

This particular recipe uses a crown of turkey and you’ll have to look beyond the regular mentions of Christmas in the presentation. The presenter, Chef Ricardo – who I’ve featured before now – uses a marinate process so don’t expect to be eating this dish shortly after starting the cooking process, though the very fact that you’re using a turkey crown means that you’d expect this not to be a quick dish to produce.


Chef Ricardo

Chef Ricardo

While you’ll have to spend some time preparing this dish the actual cooking process, including the marinating, isn’t difficult once you’ve got the crown in the oven. As for buying the ingredients there’s nothing among the marinate ingredients that would cause you any difficulties and as I’ve already said turkey crowns are widely available all year round but just don’t expect to buy one from your corner grocery store.

Lastly in terms of presentation while the main focus is quite literally on the turkey crown it would have been nice to have had a greater variety of camera shots as well as some shots that actually had Chef Ricardo in them.


Caribbean Tuna Sou Sky

This dish claims to be a good example of St Lucia cooking and since I’ve never heard of a sou sky who am I to argue. Fortunately the sou sky isn’t complicated to prepare, requires no cooking and you can make it by varying the ingredients to suit your palate or the ingredients you have to hand.

While I’ve never been an advocate of fast cooking, it’s much better to think about cooking as something that rewards you for your time and efforts, this particular dish takes no time at all and could be just the thing if you really do need to get dinner on the table in a hurry.


Parrot Fish Creole Court Bouillon

One of the things that I’ve been impressed with since doing these features is the growing amount of people who have taken to inviting us into their kitchen to show us how to cook Caribbean food; this particular video is presented under the banner of Caribbean Cookery Videos.

In terms of the video quality this one essentially looks and sounds fine however the camera-person makes an often seen mistake of shooting in a way that draws attention to the camera work. What you’ll see with the camera work in this video is creeping zooms and fidgety shot selection that creates lighting changes mid shot.

Putting aside the production issues the homely presentation has at least got the key elements right: there is clarity in the way the recipe is explained, the presenter clearly has very good product knowledge and most importantly has a warmth that makes you want to pay attention.

One phrase that is often used by the present is ‘there’s nothing fancy being done’ this tells you all you need to know about how difficult this dish is to prepare, what’s more apart from the making the marinate this is a one pot dish.

For the most part the ingredients, which are usefully set out in graphs at the front of the video, are fairly straight forward however the Parrot Fish isn’t something that you can find in a standard supermarket, even the major chains.

The only place I’ve seen Parrot Fish on sale is at a specialist fishmonger with customers mainly from Africa or the Caribbean. That said the effort involved in tracking down your fish will ensure you’ll have a rewarding dinner plate.


 Caribbean Fusion Cuisine – Sweet Potato and Callaloo galette

Here’s another cook operating under a banner name, UK based ‘Fusion Cusine’, only this time it is clear with that we are looking at professional kitchen set up. Not only do with have a chef presenter but we also have production values in terms of sound and camerawork that match the professionalism of the presenter.

In the preparation of this dish the chef uses a mandolin to slice his potatoes, I wouldn’t expect you to have one at home but a food processor with a slicer attachment will do the same job and will be much safer. If you don’t have access to a food processor then this recipe will test out your knife skills as you’ll have to cut your sweet potato in thin and even slices. To put the entire dish together will be time consuming, as there are a number of stages to it but you can see from the presentation it can be served up as a dinner party dish.

While the dish might be a little involved to prepare actually buying the ingredients shouldn’t be too much of a problem: I’ve recently seen cans of callaloo on sale at one of the major supermarket chains that has a specialist section dedicated to Caribbean foods.