Pig Tails 'n Breadfruit: A Culinary Memoir

Austin Clarke, Author New Press $22.95 (248p) ISBN 978-1-56584-580-0
In this delightful culinary memoir of Barbados, Clarke deftly captures the way his mother and other women talked about food and treated cooking: vegetarians are dismissed as ""those who prefer bush and grass, as if they is sheeps and cows""; the cook is instructed to listen to music while making ham hocks and pig tails, and exhorted, ""Show me your motions, girl!"" As Clarke notes in his introduction, the whole concept of measurements and written recipes is foreign to the women of Barbados (who do almost all the cooking) since they learn their way around the kitchen from their mothers. Native Bajan Clarke entertains with discussions of Souse (made of pig parts including the snout and ears) and Breadfruit Cou-Cou (which Clarke's mother claims was fed to slaves because they could never hide afterward--the gas they passed gave them away). It's the cultural insight that's the real treat here, though: in a chapter on Bakes (basically, fried dough), Clarke relates the significance of flour in Barbados and the implications of the insult, ""Boy, you are wearing a flour bag!"" He also has a few stories of his own to tell; a chapter on the sardine omelet he once cooked for Norman Mailer and another on cooking in front of his aging mother (who corrects his technique, even as she readily admits that she has never cooked the African Chicken he is making) are charming. Clarke's voice deserves to be savored. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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