What do these foods have in common–soup, cupcakes roti, cakes, sweetbread, pastries, bread, muffins, pizza, pies, patties, pelau, cookies, ice cream, lasagna, black cake, accra, phoulorie, punch and wine? Believe it or not, patrons at the recent food festival in Diego Martin found out that the foods can contain pigeon peas for a delightfully savory effect.
Diego Martin resonated with the rich indigenous sounds of string instruments, flutes, and drums on March 30 during the opening ceremony of the first Pigeon Peas Festival held in T&T.
The inaugural festival was all about pigeon peas and featured the launch of a commemorative cook book and CD sponsored by blink-bmobile. A release said the cookbook contains 78 pages of recipes incorporating pigeon peas to add an exciting and unique flavour to the dishes.
The many visitors to the event held at the St John's Church Parish Hall were able to sample and buy dishes made from the recipes in the book and many expressed their delight at the delicious dishes made with pigeon peas.
Vinood Radge Coomar, executive vice president, Residential Services and Delivery at blink-bmobile congratulated the Upper Cemetery Street residents on a successful first festival and said, "We are proud to be a sponsor of this innovative inaugural festival as it supports the entrepreneurial activities of the Diego Martin residents.
"We are committed to providing support to the growth of national projects which promote entrepreneurship and encourage the development of our youth. We wish continued success for this important project and look forward to next year's Pigeon Peas Festival."
Those in attendance were able to further immerse themselves in a world of pigeon peas as they listened to the songs on the commemorative CD at the festival. The first song is a special tribute to the festival and is appropriately titled Pigeon Peas.
The second is an indigenous song titled Chirapac by the Yuyaric Kayna Group, indigenous people of the Kechawa Tribe of Ecuador. Only 100 copies of the commemorative recipe book were printed and are available, along with the CD, from Upper Cemetery Street Residents Association (UCSRA) committee members.
A regular edition will soon be available in bookstores. Attendees were also treated to a special presentation of a Harvest Dance by the Yuyaric Kayna Group, as well as an oral presentation about pigeon peas in the form of spoken word by Ayana Joseph, a member of UCSRA which hosted the festival.
UCSRA chairman Myrtle Joseph explained this was part of a rich agricultural tradition among their ancestors. "Some people within the Upper Cemetery Street community still plant pigeon peas on the hills above Upper Cemetery Street.
"The festival today is the first part of a larger project that we call Sustainability Through Agriculture and Tourism. The objective of this festival is to use our tradition, our asset, and turn it into an economic activity that will generate employment and income to the Diego Martin residents."
Joseph noted that research has shown that there was no festival of this kind in T&T. "The objective of the festival was also to create awareness of the income earning potential of pigeon peas and encourage more of the Diego Martin residents to become involved in planting and selling pigeon peas and its products."
Joseph explained that the agricultural land used by the UCSRA residents stretches back to Chaguaramas. The second part of the project is to begin to prepare the land for the replanting of pigeon peas. The project also encompasses a reforestation project using fruit and different trees to restore the land and prevent further erosion and land slippage.
Lastly, the residents aim to repair the access road to the land. Joseph could not contain her joy at the success of the Pigeon Peas Festival and said "We put a lot of hard work into it and the turnout was excellent. We are so excited and elated. This is the first year and we know it will grow. Hopefully next year it will be even bigger." Joseph said.
Sterling Belgrove, executive director of the Rose Foundation delivered the feature address. The Rose Foundation provides support and services geared toward reducing the level of poverty by empowering community members to become self-reliant and strengthening the capacities of respective community groups and organisations.
The Rose Foundation provided the mentorship, technical support and training to the UCSRA to bring the idea of the Pigeon Peas Festival to fruition. Belgrove said, "We feel very exhilarated because we have been articulating that every single person in an economy can make a contribution. In every community we do five-year community development plan which will harness and leverage the traditions, cultures, values and heritage of the community. The Pigeon Peas Festival came out of the five-year plan for Diego Martin."
The recipe book includes a monograph to the pigeon pea written by Belgrove and outlines the original history and cross-cultural journey of the pigeon peas from the eastern part of India to Africa, the Caribbean and the rest of the world. It also includes economic data showing the importance of pigeon peas to an economic society and shows that T&T ranks among the top 20 pigeon peas producers in the world (FAOSTAT 2006).
Expressing his gratitude toward the blink-bmobile Foundation Belgrove said, "We really like to thank bmobile for stepping up and providing this very critical support. We were able to print the commemorative edition of the recipe book and the CDs because of their sponsorship."