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Lifestyle chef’s healthy snacks take off in T&T

…with green popcorn, roasted lentils, turmeric and beet lemonade
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Abigail Bodington, lef), creator of ABI&U gourmet health products, showcases some of her items. At right is Danielle Dumas. PICTURE KERWYN PIERRE

Ever heard of spirulina? How about spirulina popcorn?

Spirulina is one of the oldest life forms on earth. It is a blue-green microalgae that is partly responsible for producing the oxygen in the planet’s atmosphere that billions of years ago allowed originating life forms to develop.

It is the world’s first superfood and one of the most nutrient-rich foods on earth, packing more protein than beef, chicken or soybeans. It’s also contains eight essential and ten non-essential amino acids, as well as high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), beta-carotene, linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, vitamin B12, iron, calcium, phosphorus, nucleic acids RNA & DNA, chlorophyll and phycocyanin, a pigment-protein complex found only in blue-green algae.

This superfood has been harnessed by well known local lifestyle chef Abigail “Abi” Bodington, who is using spirulina to create mouth watering, fluffy popcorn—air popped, of course.

Not only is this a popular snack but it’s one of Bodington’s many offerings for healthy eating—a movement that is quickly gaining momentum in T&T.

Bodington leads a healthy lifestyle through fitness to achieve the endurance she requires for running marathons. Her other passion is preparing tasty, nutritious meals.

While the spirulina is imported, Bodington uses fresh, local ingredients in her dishes.

Originally from Point Fortin, Bodington always had a love for the culinary world. She grew up always being outdoors, especially in the garden with her grandmother, planting and harvesting herbs and vegetables.

Seeing the hand-picked produce transformed into mouth watering dishes sparked Bodington’s fascination with cooking from an early age. Her renowned cooking skills, the result of those early experiences, were fine tuned through professional training locally and internationally.

A graduate of the Italian Culinary Academy of New York, Bodington’s distinctive cuisine landed her in the privileged profession of lifestyle chef, enabling her to travel to more 25 countries extensively. On her journeys, she explored cuisine from every location, visited local street markets and learnt about different food cultures, each country inspiring and fostering her unique style of cooking.

Recalling the start of her food adventures, Bodington said: “Ten years ago, I started working as a chef. I’ve travelled to Europe, France, Italy, to many Caribbean islands and everywhere I went I would see what food they ate a lot and try it out.

“In the Bahamas, for instance, they eat a lot of conch and salads. There is also fried food but I try a different version which is more on the grill or roasted side. Many of the dishes I also do include a lot of fish which is always fresh.”

The mother of one, who has now settled back in T&T although she still does some travelling, wants to share what she has experienced, such as transforming food in interesting and healthy ways.

She also to encourage consumption of local produce.

“Not everything has to be fried. We have an abundance of local foods and there’s so much we can do with it apart from using tonnes of oil. That’s my objective,” she explained.

That desire led to ABI&U—a collaboration between Bodington and U The Caribbean Health Digest, a local publication focused on creating awareness of health issues affecting T&T and the wider Caribbean.

Bodington’s recipes are published in the quarterly magazine which is also available online.

“Now that I’m back I’m pushing ABI&U more than what it was before. The response has been good so far.”

Sales didn’t immediately kick off given the Trinidadian palette but as awareness grew about fitness and nutrition, more people have started to purchase the items produced by Bodington.

“People would ask what is that green popcorn but when they tried it they liked it. It’s new and different and it’s a healthy alternative to all the butter.

“People are definitely more conscious about what they put into their bodies, including what they drink, than they were three years ago when I first started off. They are exercising more and eating healthier, using more greens for instance,” she said.

Bodington’s version of “spees”— fried and season split peas—is roasted lentils grains which are seasoned.

“Lentils are so good because it has a lot of protein, so I came up with a recipe and tried it. Being a vegan I would always have spirulina in my shakes at breakfast and I decided to try it in popcorn because it’s a good snack and a popular item,” she explained.

Snacks aren’t her only speciality. Bodington also makes a variety of juices and lemonade. In fact, her turmeric and beet lemonades are top sellers.

“It’s something that not otherwise available. It’s refreshing and turmeric has a host of benefits which a lot of people are into,” Bodington said.

She also offers her own spin on salads, one of which has an Asian flare incorporating rice noodles.

“I do kale salad with avocado using local ingredients,” she said.

What’s next for ABI&U? The business is currently based at Bodington’s Petit Valley home but she has grand plans, including having her products available in stores nationwide and eventually establishing her own restaurant.

“In the meantime, I want add to whatever that’s taking off. The juices for instance. If that’s taking off I will create other lines of juices. If people are not into the snacks too much I will hold back on that so I can determine what’s selling better,” she said.

For more information on her products and business, Bodington can be reached at [email protected]


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