Roast Breadfruit Reasoning by Musufing
My name is Musufing and Leeds has been home for most of my life. For many years I worked within the field of community health awareness and education in the voluntary and statutory sectors. I also love spoken-word, theatre, writing, researching, radio presenting and podcasting, which are all vibrant strings on my bow. Oh and I’m an enthusiastic and passionate cook who is know in circles for my Jamaican gastronomic delicacies. I’ve also worked in the hospitality and catering industry.
Roast Breadfruit Reasoning is me bringing together all of these loves to create a new exciting project that has people, heritage and food at the centre.
My family are from Jamaica and I was fortunate to be raised by a mum whose culture, traditions and stories were and remain important to her. Returning from school in Leeds in the 70s and early 80s then going home was like existing in two worlds. Home was where there was beautiful Jamaican language and amazing food that I admit at the time I didn’t fully appreciate.
With each dish, our mum would recount her little girl, Jamaican country tales of grating coconut with our great-grandmother, wetting her feet in a local gully stream or roasting cashew nuts on an outside fire. With those stories came songs, fables and proverbs.
As second maybe third hand Jamaicans we were bathed in the wonderment of her life and experiences growing up, in stark contrast to our experiences growing up in Leeds.
The Breadfruit is a staple Jamaican and Caribbean food, also eaten in the South Pacific islands, the Philippines and New Guinea where the fruit originated. It is a starchy fruit that is usually eaten as a savoury with a bread-like texture when roasted. It is in the mulberry, jackfruit family of fruits and varies from beiong cantaloupe-sized to a small watermelon size.
Breadfruit was transported across the South Pacific islands and Tahiti to The Caribbean, beginning with (explorer/exploiter) Captain James Cook in 1769. He saw the potential of the breadfruit to be grown in the Caribbean climate and convinced King George III who authorised in essence a breadfruit voyage. Between 1787 and 1789 Captain William Bligh set out on his ill-fated voyage on the ship The Bounty, to collect breadfruit from Tahiti and take to The Caribbean. Well, if you recall, there was mutiny on the Bounty and all the breadfruit collected from Tahiti was thrown overboard.
Long story short, in 1793 William Bligh, who the mutineers didn’t kill, eventually fulfilled his mission to take breadfruit to the Caribbean islands. What pray tell was the English’s mission and reason to transport cargo’s of breadfruits to The Caribbean? Their mission was to feed tens of thousands of trafficked and enslaved African people, who worked the sugar planatations etc that built Britain. In the beginning, the enslaved people rejected the breadfruit outright!
Breadfruit which evidently became an accepted staple is roasted as it comes and at its best, on an outside wood or coal burning fire. Once cooked the charred fruit is peeled back to reveal the roasted, cooked inner flesh that has its own distinctive smell, flavour and bread-like flesh. Breadfruit sliced is eaten with fish, ackee (that’s another story for another day) saltfish and onions etc Boiled breadfruit is eaten with meat, fish, yam, green banana and so on. Jamaicans call breadfruit ‘breshe’ (I’ll find out why one of these days, hand-on-jaw-thinking emoji)
Now after that background explanation (phew) getting back to Roast Breadfruit Reasoning the project. I use roast breadfruit as my symbol of a heritage food with a history, it is also a childhood reference memory food with stories attached.
Everyone has a food or dish that represents their culture, heritage and history and everyone has delicious food stories, recipes and cooking methods handed down. Roast Breadfruit Reasoning brings people together to explore, celebrate and recognise food culture.
I am offering interactive workshops for community groups, organisations, schools or for corporate events. I have designed arts-based packages and education based with lively activities and interactive exercises for varied ages. Where possible and appropriate, small groups will cook ‘heritage’ dishes, as I call them.
For young people, this can be a way of retaining and understanding cultural heritage. For elders in the community this can be a tool of remembrance and recognition of their lives. I believe everyone can get something out of this project that I have put my foot in, as African American’s term food that is cooked to perfection (please ignore the English colloquialism for this use of idiom)
I have also created a website and a podcast for the project, and there are other branches of this breadfruit tree in development to share.
I would love to hear from you and if you feel that a slice of breadfruit reasoning could be run in your community group or organisation etc then let me know. I will be happy to answer any questions.