Hawaiians used its sticky sap to trap birds whose feathers were used to make colourful cloaks. The termite- resistant wood was prized as timber for outrigger canoes by Pacific Islanders. When baked, the fruit of the breadfruit tree is reminiscent of freshly baked bread. From Belize to Malaysia to southern India to the Dominican Republic, breadfruit is a choice starch staple.
And, one can buy it at the Oakville freshmart too. About the size of a small bowling ball, the two pound breadfruit cost $5, which is a very cheap flight from Jamaica. I had heard rave reviews of the mysterious breadfruit years ago from a client of mine who was born in Trinidad. And then I read about it in The Embarrassment of Mangoes (Ann Vanderhoof’s Eat, Pray, Love-ish—but more engaging tale of finding life’s answers at the helm of a sailboat along the Atlantic to the British Virgin Islands). Vanderhoof deemed the breadfruit “bland but inoffensive” and mixed it with chopped onion, dill pickle relish and mayo. The other half she panfried with olive oil and swore she was eating home fries.
I googled breadfruit and began to wonder if I needed some kind of Breadfruit Degree to prepare the two pound, pebbly-skinned paperweight. Most of the recipes I pulled up insisted that the breadfruit be roasted over an open fire. And that I should wear gloves when cutting because of the sticky sap that no Goo Gone could ever remove.
I read on and learned that for years breadfruit was fed to hogs. Captain William Bligh thought the abundant, cost-effective Tahitian breadfruit would be the perfect staple for the slaves in 1793 Jamaica. The slaves rejected the blah-ness and the hogs called dibs. Although in 1793, it probably wasn’t served in the rich coconut milk and bacon soup recipe I discovered.
Opting against building a fire in my Toronto backyard on this -12 C night, I ramped up the oven to 400 and massaged olive oil into the skin of the breadfruit. Within minutes, after being rubbed and placed inside the oven, my entire place smelled like I was living inside a strawberry jam-filled powdered donut.
But, it didn’t taste anything like a donut. After an hour of roasting, I sliced and diced the breadfruit and ate more than half of it as I did so. I kept trying to taste the “freshly baked bread” element, but could only taste a relative of the potato. Who may have kissed a squash.
Ann Vanderfhoof was bang-on with her home-fries i.d. I sliced some celery and red pepper (as I didn’t have coconut milk or thawed bacon, or the work ethic to make a soup). I wished for sliced purple onions and rosemary and a big dollop of crème fraiche—that would have made the breadfruit a repeat recipe. Instead, it was an expensive potato that needed accessories to be appreciated, but, it had to be discovered.
As I was cutting into it, I was reminded of my first jackfruit experience in Uganda. I was thinking I could slice the prehistoric fruit up like a pineapple. Gawd, no, it had rules and regulations too. And that jackfruit sap stays with you and your fingertips for weeks. And don’t eat the heart, and only the flesh around the pits, and not the part close to the skin! In the end, the giant jackfruit yielded very little in the edible department, a big sloppy mess, but, satiated curiousity.
And that’s what it all evolves from. At the eclectically stocked convenience store on my street corner I recently spied aloe vera leaves as big as baseball bats for $2.50. I know that my friend Leslie raves about the Aloe drink for those on the go—and aloe is supposed to treat all that ails you from heartburn to herpes to sunburns. I actually considered buying a leaf and making juice. Simple enough—as long as you remove the yellow layer below the rind and the rind itself because that can cause severe cramping and diarrhea. Which a bowl of breadfruit probably helps. But, then I read about having to remove the latex residue with a watered-down vinegar solution and quickly scrapped my aloe vera juice production.
No, instead I decided Leslie and I will drink Dead Elephant beer from Railway City Brewing when we are together next. And I’ll check off what’s next on my 2011 To Eat & Drink list. There’s spaghetti squash (a carry-over from 2010), the waffle batter dipped bacon at The Starving Artist on Landsdowne, dark and malt-smacked Neustadt Springs Brewery 10-W-30, blue cheese truffles as big as golf balls at the About Cheese on Church, and the nomad favourite: Tibetan buttered tea.
Om Restaurant (1439 Queen Street West) serves up the tea that takes 15 minutes to steep. Then milk, butter and salt are added for a caloric punch. The tea is supposed to be “particularly warming” but, the salt overrides the sweet “and can catch the unfamiliar off guard.”
I’m on guard though. And ready to take on the Venezuelan cocoa tea (Herbal Infusions Tea, 404 Adelaide Street West). It is rumoured to have the flavour of coffee with the soothing properties of tea. And, it’s a natural mood enhancer and antidepressant. They also offer sugar made from beets to boot.
Other must-eats? Susur Lee’s new, much-whispered-about lounge on King is going to offer “cheeseburger spring rolls.” And I need to try a Bahn Mi Thai sub: pickled carrots, daikon radish, pate, mayo, headcheese, and sometimes ham. Yeah, horse barf on a bun.
What I’ve already determined though, is, even though it’s premature to announce–that the blue cheese and chocolate chip cookies at About Cheese take the 2011 prize for Last-Meal-on-Earth-Worthy Cookie.
Any other suggestions? I’ve done the tequila with lime dredged in cracked black pepper versus salt. I’ve had the maple & bacon cupcakes at For the Love of Cake (Liberty Village), sipped bacon-infused whiskey in Nashville, done garlic chocolate with lavender petals, had a $10 cup of coffee at Cafe Artigiano in Vancouver and even semi-enjoyed a deep-fried Mars bar.
I’m open to anything, obviously, but I’m over the grasshoppers and termites of 2009. And deep-fried guinea pig is so 2005.