Today's newspapers reveal, TT$1.oo for a "hops" bread. Trini is now going to have to shell out an amazing $12.oo for a "quart" of hops, a sometimes staple of the working woman's arsenal in feeding a family. The "hops" bread, that delectable golden top crust and soft, cotton candy textured interior, hot out of the bakery oven with a smear of butter and a slice of cheese was once a familiar sight in many households, including my mother's.
While I haven't had one of these in long time, my mouth still waters at the thought of the huge wicker baskets that used to arrive in the shop every afternoon from Miss Thelma's and then Mikey's Bakery in Tunapuna. They were delivered hot, each day, around 3:30 in the afternoon and there was usually a run by housewives to get their hops and a block of "shop" cheese". Having just come home from school, my Granny would slice one open, slip in the cheese and we'd sit in the back and deconstruct our sandwich into bread and cheese. First you'd have to pull the soft insides out of the bread, eat that separately and then smush the cheese into the crust and have it slightly melting.
As pleasant as this is, I wonder though at all the things that are staples in our diets, few of which are actually indigenous. Things like wheat , smoked herrings, salted cod, even cheese are not grown or made here. These are really foods that have become ours either culturally or historically. Think about it, wheat is not grown here, though we have herds of cattle there numbers are not sufficient to produce milk and cheese in viable quantities. But who says we need bread, milk and cheese every day? These are tastes that have been acquired over time by really superior marketing. We've become convinced that just because it is convenient to use, or that we eat it because mommy and granny did or because some nutritionist in the "first" world says it's so that it is in fact necessary. Clever really. Ever notice, the country that feeds the world has the most power. If you can hold people to ransom over that most important of commodities, FOOD, then you're the one with the power. You can't eat oil and gas.
Now I like nice bread and I love cheese, usually of the stinky variety but can I live without them? A couple of years ago I had this recurring allergy that would leave a not so nice looking rash up my arm. The dermatologist suggested it might be from what I was eating. Then ensued a year of keeping a food diary, eliminating things from my diet and then slowly re-introducing them one by one. I gave up wheat, quite a hardship given my then love of pasta. No bread, no roti, no pasta, no pastry, you name it, once it was made out of flour it was gone. My skin cleared up, all of it. My sinus condition got a bit better when I gave up dairy. Hmm, I was on to something, and no, my vitamin levels hadn't suffered either, the other stuff I was eating made up the loss.
Eventually my skin condition was diagnosed and I started eating "normal" stuff again but I've found the answer, Everything in moderation. My diet is varied and as far as possible I eat what is fresh and in season. My food bill is still astronomical like everyone else's but I don't feel there is anything I HAVE to have. So as the Subway ad goes, if I'm going to eat US$5.00 dollars, it had better be for something I really like.