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Back to blue food

by Terry Joseph
April 25, 2003

Dasheen, sweet potatoes and other less-colourful members of the ground-provision family collectively known as "blue food", may soon make a triumphant return to local dinner-tables, if the T&T branch of the Movement for Earth-Nutrients Unlimited (MENU) has its way.

At a private lunch yesterday, MENU mouthpiece Petal Green said the blue-food crusade was prompted by a number of global developments, ranging from the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), through fallout from Operation Iraqi Freedom to fresh anxieties over genetically modified foods (GMF).

"We consequently varied our focus," Green said, "because strict definition only embraced GMF, but now that the scorched-earth concept has itself broadened to include downstream effects from the use of weapons of mass destruction and communicable annihilators, we were forced to include sanctions as part of the precautionary template.

"The war in Iraq introduced the possibility of reprisals from countries ostracised because of negative responses to the coalition," Green said, "and if we can't trust the French, Germans and Russians to help topple Saddam, then it cannot be unreasonable to suspect that foods prepared or packed by people from those countries may contain much more than anti-US sentiment.

"The French have already been dealt with and I can now tell you Russian borscht will never again be soup-of-the-day. We outlawed the strudel and proposed a name-change for hamburgers so no thought of Germany will reach the table. MENU also knows the majority of Britons objected to the war, so we struck off dishes like kidney-pie and steak with English potatoes, muffins, pot roast and Irish stew.

"Then there's Italians who, initially, weren't too enthusiastic about joining the liberating forces either, so pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, provolone and olive oil have also been axed from our list of foods coming from that formerly fascist and now Saddam-loving country.

"And quite apart from folklore suspicions about the inclusion of dog and cat meat in certain dishes, it was easy to delete Chinese food altogether," she said, "as we could not guarantee that SARS may not be sneezed into any of the favourites, from lapchong to lychee and even more easily into soy sauce from Beijing, where 90 percent of world's supply is manufactured.

"On the subject of GMFs, a whole range of wheat-based and dairy products were eliminated at a stroke and there is residual concern about mutton and lamb chops even after Dolly, the cloned sheep, was finally put to sleep; since no one can say for sure the extent to which she was exposed to rambunctious rams during her lifetime.

"The question of avoiding GMFs guided our deliberations," Green said, thrusting a ream of supporting evidence, from newspaper clippings to television news transcripts. Topping the sheaf was an article by Anchalle Kongrut from The Bangkok Post (April 11), telling of a Greenpeace protest outside the Nestle plant in Pathum Thani Province.

In the story, a statement from Nestle said the company respected consumers' views. "Nestle complies with all laws related to its business including labelling laws. Nestle will label all products that contain genetically modified corn and soy bean according to Thai regulations," the company release said.

"You see, we are gaining in the war against foods tampered with by companies who tell us they are doing it for our good," Green chimed, as she pulled up a transcript from Canada's CTV Television Online news of January 31. "Heinz goes green," screamed the headline atop a story of that country's largest baby-food manufacturer's guarantee that it isn't using GMFs.

"And Brazil is also onside," she trumpeted, while reaching for a January 20 Reuters report filed in Sao Paulo. Headlined "Brazil to re-export or burn US modified corn cargo," Green hailed Odilson Ribeiro, that country's director of agriculture, for saying a 7,400 tonne shipment of US corn found to contain traces of banned GMF will be burned, re-exported or used for paper production.

"Mark you, the Americans are blowing hot and cold. An Associated Press report of November 12, 2002 from Washington DC says the US is ordering a biotech company to destroy 500,000 bushels of soybeans because they were contaminated.

"But just four months later, March 27 to be exact, an ENS story also filed in Washington DC quotes House Speaker Dennis Hasters in saying "US lawmakers are urging the Bush administration to challenge the European Union's moratorium on modified crops." On the other hand, the Brits may get a break, since Downing Street has okayed funding for next month's public debate on the subject.

"So you see, the battle is properly engaged. And since the new style is that

when war starts it is fought on every front, MENU decided to issue its own advisory on Trini eating. We even had to cancel longstanding favourites like macaroni-pie because of the Italian connection, but we are taking no prisoners.

"Actually, after much debate, it came down to either pelau or roti, until a committee member observed both names had that tabooed francophone ring and worse, implications for tribal conflict between Indians and Africans. So although those foods may be considered as distinctly Trini, in accordance with the new policy, we had to delete them from the shortlist of national eating choices.

"And that is how blue-food was voted in as the new national dish," Green concluded, reaching for a covered dish at the far end of the table and unmasking a display of diced dasheen with callaloo dip on the ready. "Care for a some cutters?" she asked, "or shall we go straight into the main course?"

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