Queen of Leftovers – Sandra Lord’s Post


By SANDRA LORD – Caribbean

My Country’s Organic Kingdom

I NEVER KNEW THE CONCEPT OF LEFTOVERS until I came to this country. Now, I’m the Queen of Leftovers and the Doggy Bag – primarily because my hectic schedule leaves little room for daily cooking; but I have been able to strike a happy balance between my new eating habits and the healthy food and cooking traditions I learned as a child growing up in the Caribbean.

I was watching Oprah a couple weeks ago and was intrigued by the topic of conversation with Michael Pollan that centered on the “processed food diet that dominates American supermarkets and how it compares to more natural diets in other parts of the world.” It took me on a nostalgic journey to the natural foods grown in my country.

Although the Caribbean is generally viewed as Third World, we were raised with a lot of the organic foods that many Americans crave today. On any given day, most people had access to a variety of healthy meals. With its lush vegetation and abundant supply, and friendly, generous neighbors, one didn’t normally grow hungry.

The funny thing is, although we had natural foods and food staples in abundance (ground vegetables and fruits of every color), for the most part, we tended to yearn for the heavily processed foods from abroad – namely America and Europe. You know, the grass is always greener on the other side syndrome.

Islanders lined up to buy ‘Irish potatoes’ from, you guessed it, Ireland (in retrospect, I think that’s where they came from), instead of those grown by our local farmers.

Chicken, beef, frozen seafood were also regularly imported.

Fresh eggs & milk faced stiff competition from the pasteurized versions and incredulously, we rejected our natural brown cane sugar for the imported white sugar.

But my mother ensured we ate all the right things.

We grew up in the city, but because the island is small (238 square miles), the city was virtually just a stone’s throw away from some of the farms. So, we had access to fresh eggs and milk. 

And as absurd as it may sound for a Third World country, even with refrigeration, we cooked fresh every day and threw out what was left over.

We bought freshly-caught fish and all types of seafoodsea urchin, turtle eggs, turtle meat (no longer allowed), seaweed (from which we made a nutritious beverage, sea salt (coarse natural salt) conch (“lambi”), shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and eel.

The turtle eggs in particular were absolutely delicious and nutritious. We par boiled them; the shell remained soft and malleable. We delighted in biting a small hole into the shell and gently sipped all of the warm nutrients out, savoring every little bit. No kidding, after having had the turtle eggs, we just felt strong and healthy.

Actually, I don’t recall myself nor my six siblings being sick much as children or adults.

Apart from the shellfish, I loved red snapper (called “red fish”), but most of my siblings liked the flying fish, which lived up to their name. They actually flew into the air as they sought to delight their audiences with acrobatic performances, unaware that they would soon be in the pot.

Mom also made sure we had Omega 3s – fish oil, which smelled awful and was horrible to the taste, so she resorted to the tablet form – not much better, but, bless her heart, she got us to take them with the comforting loving words “it’s good for you;” coconut oil for our skin and castor oil for hair – not recommended prior to romantic situations, but, oh, how it did wonders for our skin and hair; goat meat and goat milk; herb and spices-seasoned stuffed cow’s intestines known as black pudding or blood sausage in other parts of the world (black pudding is considered a delicacy in the islands, but not to me as I thought it was just gross), and many other healthy foods & provisions.

Mom did give us one import and that was a daily dose of “green tea, ” which we detested then, but thankfully, consumed as instructed.

To top it all, we had our very own truly homemade, natural “hot chocolate” — from the raw cocoa beans. We ground the beans into a paste, rolled into a stick or loaf-like figure and let harden. Then we would grate the cocoa stick, put the powder into a pot of water with milk and had the best “hot cocoa” or “hot chocolate!” J By the way, the processing of the cocoa bean, which includes laying the beans out in the sun to dry spawned a cute little phrase from our outspoken Caribbean islanders, “[people] who don’t put cocoa in sun, don’t look for rain,” which analogy serves as a rebuff of sorts to busy bodies.

There were little things we learned like the chewed up stalks of the sugar cane made a great tooth whitener; if you got stung by jelly fish, you would have to use your urine on the spot to get the tentacles out; and a myriad of proven remedies for all kinds of aches and maladies.

The Rastafarian movement, popularized by the late Bob Marley emerged in the late ’70s and ’80s and has since done a lot to reclaim the value of the locally-grown foods. Dreadlocked young men and women committed to a vegetarian, all-natural lifestyle rejected anything processed or imported and once again made it fashionable to embrace the locally-grown foods and products.

Still, the tendency to import is still prevalent. Anytime I go back home, it’s heartbreaking to see expiration dates on many of the foodstuffs that were previously organically produced… most of which are now virtually exclusively imported.

Interestingly, being in the US, I find it to be the OTHER way around. Many Americans now seem to desire the organic foods I left behind.

Sadly, we did not appreciate all we had going for us at the time! L For, in an area where it was not unusual for people to live to be 90+ years, cancer is now claiming lives in abundance and at young ages…not surprising to me, as I believe many non-FDA approved meats and foods surreptitiously make their way to these countries, unbeknownst to the people.

54 Responses to “Queen of Leftovers – Sandra Lord’s Post”

  1. Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen says:

    What a great post. It is funny how the grass is always greener on the other side. But I do believe it is profound to note the change in health status with the change in diet to more processed foods.

    • Marilyn Smith says:

      I agree. Very interesting article and insight on another culture. Curious about your name Jenn the Leftover Queen.

  2. Sandra G. says:

    I loved reading about your experiences growing up. It is amazing how you can sense “the belonging” to a family around a home cooked meal. It is more than food, is that special touch and flavor that makes you who you are. Just like you, in Argentina, my country of origin, my mother cooked on a daily basis and always from scratch. The meat came from the meat shop and the veggies fresh from the vegetable shop. My mother would not set foot in a supermarket, because she knew the products were not fresh. Sadly, just like in your country, things have changed, however, the old shops are still up and people get to chose. By the way potatoes are originally from Southern Peru. When the Americas were discovered by the Spanish, they took the potato back to Europe

    • SandraCo-Founder of this Blog says:

      Hey Sandra G., thanks for sharing. It was great to read your comment. Do you miss Argentina and the foods on which you grew up? I miss the fruits from my country. By the way, I went to Argentina a few years ago and had a wonderful time. I rode a horse and went white water rafting for the very first time in my life. My sisters and I had a fabulous time and look forward to going back. Hey, how do you like blogging on this site? I’m having a great time and the comments are fun. I enjoy your articles and will post a comment on your current post on violence against women and children.

      • Sandra G. says:

        Of course I miss Argentina. I don’t think one realizes how much we are rooted to our countries until we move away. That is the reason why we bring many aspects of our country of origin to America and we entwine it with our new life. As far as foods, that is one of the things I keep up with. At home we mostly eat organic and home cook meals. My husband, being an organic farmer, is an absolute foodie and a great cook. I have a lot of help from him in that department. My kids, I don’t know if to say fortunately or unfortunately, are used to good food also. So, I can’t just get away with anything or food from the frozen aisles. Sandra, I love this blog. What a great opportunity to share our visions and opinions about our life in America!

  3. GQ says:

    What a beautiful country. What would possess someone to leave paradise and come to the hustle and bustle of America is beyond me. I’d switch places in a minute and never leave the beach :-)

  4. Beverly Robert says:

    I am from the islands too (Antigua). You are correct about the misguided “grass is greener” thinking regarding our natural foods and the imported leftovers from other countries. Great article. Great blog. Beautiful country. Would you ever go back to live?

    • SandraCo-Founder of this Blog says:

      Hey, fellow islander. Welcome to our blog. I’m glad you like the article and support my view of the attitude we displayed toward our own locally grown foods. Thankfully, things are turning around. I actually performed in Antigua as a teenager and got the royal treatment by your government. Antigua is beautiful. In answer to your question – I’ve always said I would go back to retire, but I’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’ll go back as often as I can. Check us out again and post as often as you can. If you feel like writing something, shoot us an email. Best regards.

  5. Joan says:

    I was not into leftovers and cold foods until i came to this beautiful country. Now i am the princess of leftovers. Love the blog.

  6. Joan says:

    Are you guys really sisters?

    • SandraCo-Founder of this Blog says:

      Yes, we are indeed sisters. Glad you like our blog. Tell your friends. Thanks for your comments.

  7. Nancy L. says:

    We are a supersize me nation with a poor healthcare system and bad eating habits. And we wonder why our kids are obese, suffering from ADD, ADHD and all other health problems. Interesting, engaging post.

  8. Nate R. says:

    This type of cultural stuff is interesting to me and I found myself really getting into the information you shared. Beautiful blog. Beautiful country. Beautiful women (you and your sister). Congratulations.

  9. Richard Rx says:

    Third World? Give me this third world paradise anytime. Enjoyed the article.

  10. Ira says:

    I watched the Oprah show too and heard about goat’s milk for the first time. It sounded gross to me, but I guess it’s a matter of getting accustomed to different things. What’s the deal about the sugarcane stalks as a tooth whitener? Also, you didn’t say exactly where you’re from but from the picture your island looks absolutely gorgeous (as are you and your sister) and if I may ask a third question, do you get to go back to your beautiful country often?

    • SandraCo-Founder of this Blog says:

      Wow! We’ve gotten quite a few questions about my country. I’m from St. Lucia. Thanks for the interest. Well, I go back as often as I can, although to most family and friends, “not often enough.” :-) My sister, Allison, who co-founded this blog with me just returned from St. Lucia where she and my mom vacationed for about three weeks. They had a great time and I was so jealous that I missed all the fruiits, including juicy mangoes, the fresh seafood and other local delights. She will be writing about her trip hopefully sometime soon right here.

  11. Conrad G. says:

    I really enjoyed this article. You painted a very charming picture. I am actually thinking of taking my family to your country or one of the other beautiful islands on vacation in the summer. Any recommendations?

    • SandraCo-Founder of this Blog says:

      All the islands are beautiful. Most people tend to go to Jamaica, although, believe it or not, I have never been. However, St. Vincent, Antigua, Barbados, Martinique, Grenada are all nice. It depends on what you’re looking for. Dominica is pure and virtually untouched by mass development. Of course, to me, St. Lucia is the most beautiful. It’s no accident that we are known as the “Helen of the West.” Apart from the natural beauty of the islands, the warm, friendly people really add to a really great experience.

  12. Jeffrey K. says:

    Great article. Was your country recently featured on the Bachelor? The mountains look just like the ones in the background where Jake proposed. Lovely place.

    • SandraCo-Founder of this Blog says:

      Hi Jeffrey. Thanks for your comment. Yes, my island of St. Lucia was featured in the last few episodes of this past season’s Bachelor. The majestic mountains in the background are two volcanic plugs that rise from the sea and are considered a ‘World Heritage site.’

  13. Windra B. says:

    So many great articles on this blog, so little time. You ladies rock! I liked Jasmine’s post on finding love in LA and I like this post too. You took me on a nice trip to the Garden of Eden, literally. Why did you leave?? Right now I keep myself healthy by exercising and eating all organic foods but I am seriously thinking of becoming a vegetarian.

  14. Original Kelly Clarkson says:

    That’s an interesting observation about the spread of cancer in your country. I think if those greedy corporations could find a way to distribute non-FDA approved foods to us in America, they would do it in a minute. Actually, I think they already do so…..in poor areas. Very nice article.

  15. Jasmine says:

    Sandra,

    Wonderful blog.

    When I was in Dubai on vacation, I asked for a box to take my leftovers. The server looked at me very funny. One of the friends who was from there told me that it wasn’t customary for people to do that. I think the concept of carrying leftovers is very big in the U.S.

    Caribbean sounds like a terrific place. I do also miss and crave the organic vegetables and fruits that I used to have in my country. The fruits smelled different. Have you ever noticed that we can keep an apple we purchase in U.S. in the fridge for a month sometimes? You can never do that with organic fruits and vegetables. They perish within several days. or that fact the chickens are huge in the U.S. makes you think about what we put in our bodies.

    • Sandra: Co-Founder of this Blog says:

      Jasmine, I’m glad you enjoyed this post and understand my longing for the organic foods I grew up with in the Caribbean, since you have the same craving for the organic foods of Iran. With regard to your “doggy bag” experience in Dubai, it’s interesting how people from different cultures view certain practices that are commonplace in others. When I first came to the U.S., I frowned on taking leftovers home like so many of my American friends. Now, I have no problem asking for a box for my leftovers since I order healthy meals at the restaurant anyway. However, I saw a news feature sometime ago that said even some of the so-called ‘organic foods’ are not. The thing is, we have to feed a growing world population, but the means by which we are going about it is really scary.

  16. Trevor L. says:

    As I sat to read this blog this morning with my poached eggs, sausages, bacon and ham, I suddenly had a loss of appetite. You gals know how to get to a man’s heart – his stomach. I should’ve read about Tiger and Jesse instead. Shucks! :-( Come to think of it, there’s still time to read about Jesse and Tiger, they’re both swine like I’m about to devour. Now I can enjoy my meal, thank you very much.

  17. Scot M. says:

    I like this blog. Jasmine’s comment about Dubai and leftovers was very interesting to me. The contrast between the affluent Dubai and the poor third world countries makes it even more amazing that they would have a common custom of frowning on leftovers. Great article.

  18. Steve R. says:

    A great read, Sandra. I didn’t know you could write like that! See you this month at the Hollywood Networking Breakfast.

  19. Aaron says:

    We tend to think of third world countries as poor and needy and from what I’m reading, you are the rich ones, in all the ways that count. Congratulations on a beautiful article. And I agree with some of the comments here. You and your island are beautiful. Married?

  20. Trevor T. says:

    Happy Easter American style! :-)

  21. Max says:

    curious, what are your Easter leftovers like?

  22. Matthew Perez says:

    It is unfortunate that your home country is moving toward this direction, but it is only natural for a developing country. The Caribbean is a place where the economy is not at its full potential and is struggling to match the modernization of the more developed world. Like America, the Caribbean is going through a cycle: starting naturally, moving towards mass production, and I am almost positive that it will return to its organic roots. It is only a matter of catching up with the world, and it will soon realize the importance of organic production, especially in such a fragile environment as the one there.

  23. Periwinkle says:

    I am disgusted with the way Americans eat. I didn’t say ‘we’ because I take myslef out of the equation. It’s just degrading the way people pile on the greasy foods especially in the Latino, Black and poor communities. Maybe people will change their eating habits when they see the calorie counts next to the food items they usually order as mandated by Obama’s new healthcare law which requires chains to do starting next year. Only in America would chicken McNuggets and large fries and a DIET COKE feel like health food. America, take a clue from the French! They eat butter and bread and drink wine, but they walk a lot and EAT SMALLER PORTIONS.

  24. Medit says:

    Periwinkle, you are a racist. You pig.

  25. Badassss says:

    Periwinkle, this is the worse garbage I have ever heard. You must be some hamburger eating french fry snorting trailer trash that feels better knocking other races down.

  26. Pilates101 says:

    FYI, Perisimpleton, all of America piles on the greasy foods, not just the Latinos or blacks, thank you.

  27. Thaine B. says:

    One of my friends already told me about this place and I do not regret that I found this article. Beautiful.

  28. Blabb says:

    I too am disgusted with the way Americans eat but I am more disgusted with the way you think Periwinkle. You are obviously uneducated although you try to sound like you know something.

  29. Thelma says:

    why must everything turn into a racial issue. this is a nice story about FOOD and some morons just have to make it racial. I am convinced the food we eat here is making some of us more stupid.

  30. Belinda says:

    I eat organically and ever since I started 9 months ago, I have never had more energy or felt better. Some people say that organic eating is more expensive than junk food, but that has not been my experience. I have saved a lot and eat better now than I have all my life. In this economic crisis eating organically has helped me survive on a limited budget. I go through a buying club for dry goods, get most veggies through gardening and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), meat in bulk from the farmer. I also shop for organic or fresh vegetables, meat and seafood at the local Asian Markets – they’re much cheaper and often better quality.

  31. Mr. Smith Goes to Market says:

    By simply reducing your meat intake, you improve your diet and in the process save money.

  32. James G. says:

    Jamie Oliver has good intentions with his new food revolution tv show, but he sure has his work cut out for him. We seem resistant to improved eating habits because it means giving up all the junk, grease, huge portions – all the stuff that’s not good for us but tastes oh so good. It doesn’t have to be a sudden drastic change. We could wean ourselves off of these things gradually. The thing is to take the first step.

  33. Trevor Phillips says:

    Belinda, thanks for the information on CSA. I never knew they existed so I’ll look for one in my area. Improved diet is great but let’s not forget exercise. Diet AND exercise is the key. Thanks for this article. It was a very interesting angle on the subject of organic food.

  34. Angel says:

    Many of you may have seen the recent episode of the Oprah Show when she discussed how our meat and food is raised and manufactured today at which time they made references to the film FOOD INC. The film reveals how the shocking process of how and manufacturing our food, and breeding farm animals has drastically changed from the farming days in North America.

    This is a MUST SEE!!

    You NEED to see and share this film with your family and friends, especially if you or they
    have any health issues. This is gross but MUST be seen by all persons who eat food……PASS UNTO YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS. Here’s an opportunity to watch it online.

    http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/The_Passionate_Eye/ID=1464545109

  35. Miscellaneous says:

    The Food Inc. link from Angel is for Canada and does not work for us in the U.S. but I was able to Google ‘Food Inc.” and what I saw made me sick to my stomach. As much as I want to, I’m not sure if I will rent the DVD. I’m not even sure if I want to eat anything again!! Sandra, you left a gold mine in the Caribbean for what?????

  36. RedMan says:

    this movie changed my life. now i’m off meat and i feel great cuz im helping to stop animal abuse. rent this movie, it will change your life.

  37. Bang Bang says:

    Don’t base your opinions about food on a movie, hollywood is more deceitful than farmers and have more to gain by stirring up controversy. How do you expect us to feed the billions of people in the world if we don’t come up with some creative ways to help nature along?

  38. Tab from Tulsa says:

    Food Inc. and King Corn are 2 movies everyone should see. These movies show the secrets of the food industry. All high school kids should be forced to watch these movies. We are facing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and it’s all from the food we are eating. The genetically altered food in the name of big fast profit is a DISGRACE. Sandra, I hope your country still grows organic food.

  39. Cara Q. says:

    Growing your own vegetables is a GREAT idea, but with what? The seeds and plants you buy from the store are from the same genetically altered fruits and vegetables we are concerned about. Also, is the soil in your backyard free from fertilizer and the like? So what do we do? This is scary.

  40. ChristyAnne says:

    If healthy food is no longer sold in the supermarkets, what do we do then? Even the so-called organic foods are questionable.

  41. Sam says:

    Yuck!! Forget this. I’m moving to the Caribbean.

  42. Sean H. says:

    I’ll never eat meat again.

  43. Allan Eggert says:

    We only live once and something’s gonna kill us one way or the other. This organic craze is just the media’s way of scaring us as they do with every thing every single day. I say eat, live, play.

  44. Wynthia says:

    Food Inc. is really gross and scary, true. I’m still thinking of how to live my life after seeing that movie as I really like junk food, but know I need to eat healthy. Liked your article.

  45. Organic Farmer says:

    What is organic agriculture?

    “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, or enhance ecological harmony. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations” –USDA

    In short, is much more than what we eat. It goes further in to our quality of life and what it does to our health and the health of our planet and neighbors. Blogs like yours contribute to the general outreach of people that otherwise would not be informed nor have knowledge of certain information that could have a positive impact in their lives. I am sure that the organic movement in the Caribbean some 50 years ago was not planned by anyone in particular however it was based on local knowledge and available resources. Yes, brown sugar is better than white, fish is better fresh than frozen and purchased prepared foods are nothing but a bunch of ingredients that were not developed to be eaten but for other chemical experiments.
    Buy local, buy fresh and know the source of what you eat. It will more than likely improve your health, your quality of life and the future of our planet.

    Great subject!!!!

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