Every October the coastal village of Bloody Bay comes alive as a few thousand people descended upon the Tobago Blue Food Festival to sample inventive dishes, drinks, and desserts, all made from the same main ingredient – dasheen.
The long drive and (usually) inclement weather never hindered the mass migration of certified foodies and curious neophytes. This year, however, presented such unprecedented hurdles in the form of border closures and gathering restrictions, that I had made my peace with the fact that there would be no Blue Food Festival in 2020.
Thankfully, the Tobago Festivals Commission Limited had other (much better) plans. They stepped up and showed out with a virtual experience that may forever change the way the festival is executed.
The event spanned the month of November and included everything from an extempo competition to a scavenger hunt. But the piece de resistance (in my humble opinion) was the Step by Step series, where some of the festival’s veteran cooks led tutorials on how to make their signature dasheen dishes. Needless to say, I tuned into all four episodes!
While the online experience can never replace the real deal, I appreciated this inventive approach, which allowed many Blue Food fans to treat themselves to some of their favourite dasheen dishes – right at home!
If you still need some convincing before you decide to tune in, here are 5 very real reasons why you absolutely need to watch the Tobago Blue Food Festival’s Step by Step series.
Learn to make your own wine!
Whether you’re a certified sommelier or a casual consumer, being able to make your own wine is a convenient skill to have. I love dasheen wine so I felt compelled to tune into episode 1 of the Blue Food Step by Step series where Stacey Herbert and Sherwyn McLeod did an excellent job of walking us through the vinification process. While I won’t be trying my hand at this anytime soon, following along took my tastebuds on a pleasant trip down memory lane to that last sip of Ah Taste of Tobago dasheen wine, which I bought at the festival last year. For those who are up to the challenge though (kudos to you), you can shop the full list of ingredients at Main Ridge Wines.
Step up your chips and dip game
As I step into 2021 I’ve got plans to spend more time in the kitchen and less money on take-out. In order to do that, I need to diversify my cooking portfolio. As such, I was 100% here for guidance on how to make dasheen chips and dip in episode 2 of the Blue Food Step by Step series with Garfield Nedd and Erwin Charles. Prior to this, I’d never tasted dasheen chips but now it’s going to become a staple in my kitchen repertoire. So easy to prepare and delicious to consume (yes, I gave it a go). Bonus: this episode also featured a robust dasheen punch on the side to wash it all down!
Put a Blue Food twist on your fave Indian Delicacies
Saheena? Yes please! Pholourie? Absolutely! Now imagine these with a dasheen twist and you’re definitely speaking my food language. Episode 3 of the Step by Step series was chocked full of incredible lessons but the highlight for me was Nicola Gray’s dasheen pholourie and saheena recipes. I’m no gourmand but I love Indian delicacies and this inventive take on traditional treats looked absolutely delicious. Not to diminish the other contributions made in this episode, I’m certain there are many out there who will appreciate the detailed directions on how to make dasheen flour. Plus, everyone can get on board with creating their own dasheen pepper sauce and anchar!
Satisfy your sweet tooth
Fact: I’ve been a fan of Yzanne Williams-Chance since my first Blue Food Festival many moons ago. If you’ve ever tasted her hand you’ll know why! Apart from being a great cook, however, she quite likely holds the most Blue Food Festival titles and is the author of the Taste of Tobago Blue Food Recipe Book. So when I saw she would be sharing some of her recipes for sweet Blue Food treats in the final episode of the Step by Step series, I couldn’t miss it. My top priority: dasheen and mango ice cream. It’s every bit as scrumptious as it sounds and something I’ll attempt in the near future. For the time being, I was content to watch it being made and revisit memories of dasheen ice cream cones of Blue Food’s past.
Take in Local Entertainment
Food is the heart of the Blue Food Festival, but music is undeniably its soul. Live entertainment is very much a part of the event’s DNA and the stage has always showcased Tobago’s biggest talents and rising stars. This year didn’t include a massive production, but the Step by Step series still provided a platform for local artists. Each episode featured different vocalists, namely Camelia Blake, Prince Unique, Aaron King and (my personal favourite), Dejon Saul, all backed by the venerable band, Caribbean in XS. So, if you were disappointed about missing this element of the Blue Food flavour, tuning in will allow you to tap into the festival’s musical vibes.
We may not have gotten the event we anticipated, but I appreciated the new twist on a golden oldie. Even when we’re back on track with (hopefully) a physical Tobago Blue Food Festival 2021, I see great value in this Step by Step series becoming a permanent element in the festival’s blueprint. So, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the Step by Step series. If you appreciate food and enjoying experimenting in the kitchen, you’re guaranteed to love it!
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