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Vere’s vegetarian way

Monday, December 9, 2013
Vera Joseph’s cookbook Vere's Vegetarian Delights: A Vegetarian's Journey Through Caribbean Cuisine is available in bookstores. PHOTO: MARYANN AUGUSTE

As a young girl, Vere Joseph grew up in a small fishing village in Tobago with her Uncle Russell, a man who instilled in her an everlasting love for cooking.


“My uncle loved to cook,” the 70-year-old said, reflecting on her years with an uncle, Russell Caesar, who would use readily available ingredients from his backyard.


“He had a garden, lots of provisions and he was a fisherman too. So we got the best of the fresh products. As a young girl I would follow him around and he had a saying ‘when the pot says bub bub we eating,’” Joseph reminisced.


“Bub bub” meant when the pot was boiling, the food was ready. 


“He taught me to cook in a flash,” she laughed heartily.


That love continued to grow, and Joseph has poured her passion for cooking into her recently published vegetarian cook book called Vere’s Vegetarian Delights. 


It was a long time coming, she said. As an adult, she took on catering as a way to make money from her culinary skills.


“I turned it into a small business,” she recalled.


As she grew older and her Christianity became a more prominent part of her life, Joseph made a decision to become a vegetarian.


“I had loved meat. And my husband was a real meat-mouth.”


She said she wondered how food could still be as flavourful and satisfying without meat, and one of her close friends Angela Kerr asked her, “Why don’t you write a book about how to do that?”


Joseph toyed with the idea and did some research on vegetarian dishes for a while.


“I loved African foods, and I decided to do research. And then I compiled my recipes, as fast as I cooked something.”


But it was not until her husband died suddenly in 2008, she used the cook book as a distraction, spending months in the kitchen perfecting her vegetarian recipes.


“There I am alone, so I have to find things to take away the emptiness, the loneliness, the whatever,” Joseph said, smiling reservedly as she described what got her through that time in her life.


“After he died, I just sunk myself into something worthwhile.”


From start to end, the book took about three years to finally be compiled, printed and sold in book stores.


An emotional Joseph said when the first copy of the book arrived in her mailbox in June 2013, she could barely contain her excitement.


“I went outside when the book came. Girl, I got the package from FedEx. I held it. I ran inside. I called Angela...I’m jumping up in my house and she’s jumping up in her house,” she said animatedly, gesticulating with her hands as she described her strong reaction. 


“It was hilarious. And I was just so excited, you know all this time I still didn’t open the package to see the book yet.”


When asked if she believed meat lovers could be satisfied with vegetarian dishes from her cook book, her son-in-law Kirk Elliott, jumped in to answer the question.


“I love meat. And you sort of think: ‘What can I expect?’ But when I saw the dishes, I was blown away by how tasty they looked, it was the colours...So there was that visual delight, and then when I sampled a couple of the dishes, what really struck me was how flavourful they were. They were flavourful, they were savoury, to the point that I didn’t miss meat.


“That’s my experience from a meat-eater’s perspective,” Elliott said.


Elliott is from St Lucia, but came to Trinidad to take professional photographs of the dishes to illustrate in Joseph’s cook book.


All the ingredients necessary for the recipes can be found in the market.


“If it’s not in your back yard, you can get it in the market. And that’s what I wanted to do too, something that was local,” the D’Abadie resident said.


The book is available for $200 at Charran’s, RIK, Ishmael M Khan & Sons Book Sellers, and book shops in Piarco International Airport, or e-mail Joseph directly at [email protected].


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