African Food Preservers for Food Security – The Caribbean delight: Soup on Saturday
Soup is a food recipe that is described as a liquid food made from boiling meat, fish or vegetables in water. The consumption of soup is part of a meal. It’s usually the starter. Caribbean soup; however, is a complete solid meal that leaves no room for starter, drinks or dessert. This difference is the basis of this article. SOUP ON SATURDAY
The Caribbean soup – the Saturday delight- is a dinner that is prepared from a number of nutritive vegetables and meat cooked together with added flavours to suit the family taste. The soup cooked in each family may have the same basic ingredients but each has a unique flavour and taste. The love of this soup by Afro-Caribbean peoples is one common theme shared by all.
Most nationals of St. Kitts may add the following vegetables and ingredients in soup: carrots, breadfruit (7), yam (5), christophine(1),(chayotte, chou-chou), tanya (8), (coco) dasheen (2), (taro, or yautia), eddo (3), pumpkins (4), potatoes (6), sweet potatoes and dumplings made from plain flour, corn flour with or without added coconut. Onions and spring onions, thyme, cloves and salt are the spices that add the flavour. The meat used is either beef, neck of lamb or breast of lamb. Some families use chicken (without the skin) for meat. SOUP ON SATURDAY
There are subtle differences in the art of soup preparation. The ingredients that may have different tastes, consistency or colour that may be observed in families or in different islands of the Caribbean.
Soup making process:
The cooking of soup appears to be an exciting and enjoyable moment as soup is always prepared with the aspiration to be consumed by all members of the family preferably at one sitting, or at each individual’s desired moment. But it is always on Saturday. The cooking of soup starts by washing the meat in water with lemons, vinegar and salt, after which it is put in a pot with cold water and set to boil. Boiling of the meat is carried out until the meat attains soft texture.
During this process the meat scum that floats must be removed. There is no set time to boil the meat, as different meat types require different times to cook to softness. Vegetables are added at different times to allow cooking to a desired texture without crumbling to a broth. The hard to cook vegetables like carrots, yam and christophine, are put into the pot first, then potatoes, tanya dasheen, pumpkins and dumpling, that cook fairly fast are added. Some vegetables are cooked to a desired texture, then removed from the pot to avoid changing to mash. Breadfruit, which may take a long or short time to cook, depending on its maturity, is treated this way.
All the desired spices and the soft pre-cooked vegetables like breadfruit are added to the soup just at the end of cooking. The combinations of vegetables that are added to the soup have nutritive qualities, and the ability to impact taste and consistency. Paramount is the knowledge of the type of vegetables that have the ability to modify the consistency of the soup in a desired way.
For example, potatoes, dasheen, tanya and yam do to make the soup thicker, but christophine, breadfruit and carrots do make the soup thinner or watery while sweet potatoes impart subtle sweet taste to the soup.
The terms “shorten” or “lengthen” the soup have been used in some families to denote thickening or thinning the consistency of the soup respectively.
Cooking of soup appears to be an art, science and technology, put together to achieve a nutritive dish that has captured the hearts of the Caribbean peoples and beyond.
The history of the soup:
Many factors that include: low income, affordability and availability of fresh meat could have led to Saturday being an obvious day for soup. It was economical to slaughter only on Saturdays. Payday was on Saturday morning not Fridays!
When the slaughter was done on Saturday, many people could afford to buy the meat and the vegetables for the soup. This practice of soup making has remained despite great advances in incomes and changes in lifestyles.
The benefits of the dish:
Soup is highly nutritive and the best-balanced meal ever prepared. It is recommended for all ages and even the sick have found it beneficial. The vitamin A, and sugar in carrots and sweet potatoes, the steroidal chemicals, mucin and proteins in yams, tanya, dasheen that promote growth and vigour, the proteins in the low fat meat, the combined minerals, vitamins and trace elements from products like christophine, breadfruit, and pumpkins, without forgetting the health benefits of herbs and spices together make the soup a rejuvenating health food.
“In the bowl of ready to eat soup pictured, meat, carrots, potato, tanya and the colour imparted by pumpkin are apparent”.
The future of the soup:
The entrenched cultural acceptance of soup in the Caribbean and Caribbean communities worldwide is sustainable and the future looks secure. However, exporting the soup idea to other cultures and possible commercialisation is hampered by the lack of specified quantities, the range of ingredients and the standardization of procedures that would ensure similarity and reproducibility of a defined taste and consistency.