We can all remember being admonished at one time or another, to not be licky-licky, meaning – careful of what you eat and where you eat. Whilst many will recall, the admonition, few will be able to say, what were the reasons for those cautionary, advice. Some, on the other hand, will associate the warning, with them being warned to mind their manners.
The truth is, when it comes to our dietary practices when our forebears and elders, cautioned us against being flippant in our approach to when and how we dined, their concerns, were more about our physical and mental health, and well-being than it was concern, for our table-manners.
Whilst their concerns were bred from an era different to ours, some of the cultural practices that informed their opinions then, might be in recession now, but the truth is, those practices whilst in remission, are never too far from the surface, and this is a truth our elders know so well, and try to keep us appraised of the pitfalls, we might think are too archaic, to really impact us, in this day and age.
Some of these culinary practices are fairly commonplace, some others are downright bizarre and some are borderline dangerous. And the most frightening component of all this is, the fact that some of these potentially dangerous practices involve some of our favourite dishes…
By now, we should be all aware, that Ackee, the beloved component that is partnered with Cod-fish, to create our National Dish, unless done so with care, can lead to fatal poisoning. As we are aware that a number of other foods, such as Barracuda, Octopus and lately Lion-Fish, can also cause those who consume them harm, if not handled properly.
The Foods we will be highlighting in this Feature, however, is not about Food prepared under less-than-ideal circumstances that lead to accidental harm. We are talking about Foods that can do psychological and or physical harm; and others that whilst popular, can be unhygienic, and even tho, the science may be out on some of these culinary ordinances, the threat some, pose to body and or limb, are real and documented.
- Mannish-Water: As a child growing up, I once saw my neighbour slaughter a goat, and after doing so, removed the goat’s horns from the Goat’s head. To my horror, there were life maggots jumping from the holes, where the horns were a few seconds before. But even more surprising, I was the only one offended and or surprised by this ghastly scene. And to make matters worse, the goat’s heads, hooves, and intestines, were then roasted, the hair removed from the head and hooves, and then used to make mannish water. No Mannish-Wata, for me….
- Cattle, Goat, Sheep, Or Fish Head: The head of the aforementioned animals and fish is thought to have certain healthy and of aphrodisiacal properties. Never did understand how and why some eat and or enjoy these dishes, as eating any dish with its head attached or detached as a meal, with its dead staring eyes, is a scary prospect, not a culinary delight or adventure.
- Pigs’ Intestines: Once a primary source of protein for the very poor, I grew up beside a restaurant in Linstead, which specialty was Pigs’ Tripes. The problem, for me, is that I associate a foul odour, with cooking Pig’s Intestines, and so, it holds no endearing culinary appeal for me. On the other hand, I have indulged in Cow’s tripe, in the dish of Tripe and Beans, and whilst it is not a favourite, on the occasions that I indulged, did rather enjoy it. Pigs Tripe remains a no-no, however.
- Cow’s-Skin. I am yet to be convinced of any redeeming nutritional value of consuming Cow’s Skin. but it is right up there among the list of exotic foods that our menfolk enjoy, supposedly, due to the benefits derived from its consumption. I really have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea, that a product that is used in the production of belts, pouches, shoes, etc., has a nutritional value. But… A Well known Chef, caught my attention when she suggested that the gelatin, which is the natural make-up of cow skin, is indeed good, for the body, in that it will help with easing the tension caused by aging joints and help in maintaining their elasticity. Still waiting on the Peer reviews on this one…
- Goats Testicles: There was a tendency back in my home village of Treadways, back in the day, of roasting the testicles of a freshly killed Ram, on banana or Coco-leaves. Adding salt and then wolfing it down. It supposedly, added to male virility
- Cow-Cod: Never did understand the fascination of adult men, with the consumption of the male reproductive organs of animals. But as long as I have conscious memory, men have been consuming the male reproductive organs of particular animals, under the guise or notion that it helps with their own sexual prowess. So, in this vein, Cow-Cod and the testes of other animals have been sought after, procured and considered a very important ingredient in the out-doorsy cooking men usually indulge in, when away from their families, and just hanging with the boys. Considered a delicacy by some the freshly roasted balls of a bull, is considered an aphrodisiac and a prized dish for middle-aged men.
- Cattle Marrow (Brains). For quite some time the practice of eating the brain, of Goat, Sheep, And Cattle, was considered a rite of passage. With some supposed redeeming value. But after the break out of Mad Cow’s disease in the 1980s and this breakout was linked to Bovine Spongiphalus encephalitis, Cattle marrow, which was not at all a favourite, was a definite No-No!!
- Rat Soup: Rat soup was regarded by some as having some kind of medicinal value, and was recommended in the treating of whopping cough. Not quite sure how common the practice is today. But rat soup, is not a dish I am likely to try soon.
- Sweet-Potato Spuds, or Pumpkin Buds. It has been said for the men with philandering eyes, the best practice back in the day, to tame them, when Tying was not successful, was the act of ‘taking the lead out of their pencils’. Now the act of taking the Lead out of his pencil, literally meant serving your lover a dish that would end up with him suffering from erectile dysfunction, as after a diet of this dish, he would eventually lose his interest in sex. And this dish was usually cooked young potato spuds. Or Pumpkin Buds, when served over time in his meals, would lead to a diminishing of his sexual appetite and result in him staying home.
- Stewed Peas: With lots of Pigs Tails, is one of Jamaica’s favourite dishes. I recall, as a boy however, overhearing a conversation between two of my neighbours, in which they were cautioning against the eating of Stewed Peas, especially from a woman, near and dear to you. It was said it best to eat Stewed Peas from a total stranger, rather than a friendly face as there were times when something special was added to the stew peas, to keep the man at home. The term I recall being used was to “Tie-Him”. According to folklore, the practice of Tying a man, so that he did not stray into the bed of other women was a serious concern back in the day. And according to old wife’s tales, the practice of ‘Tying”, was peculiar to Stew-peas, as the recipe included using some of the blood excreted during the menstrual cycle, to cook the stew peas, and then serve it to the object of one’s affection, and that would keep him from straying.