The Toronto Caribbean Carnival is upon us which means Canada’s largest city takes on an ‘island vibe’. This 3-week festival features events, performances and workshops happening throughout the city and culminates in a show-stopping parade where scantily clad women and men wine and chip their way along Lakeshore Boulevard as their bedazzled and sweaty bodies glisten with the August sun and heat.
Formerly known as Caribana, the Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival (can you guess who the major sponsor is?) began in 1967 as a way to celebrate Caribbean culture in the adopted homeland of Caribbean immigrants. It has now become a festival that attracts a reported 1 million visitors every year.
Typical Caribbean cuisine is not what I would call vegetarian friendly. With ingredients like ox tail, goat and conch (slimy mollusk flesh) a typical menu can read like a list of zoo members. There are some ingredients, however, that a creative cook can turn into an irie Meatless Monday meal.
Sweet or savoury, wet or dry, coconut gives a sense of tropical indulgence to any meal. Try a curry with coconut milk or a cake with desiccated coconut. Or how about a tropical ice cream that uses coconut milk and coconut flakes?
- scotch bonnet
This is one of the hottest chiles around. Use sparingly to spice up any dish. For less heat, discard the seeds.
- jerk seasoning
A seasoning blend oft associated with Jamaica. Can be used as a dry rub or in a marinade. Recipes vary but consistent ingredients are allspice, thyme and pepper. How about some jerk tofu, tempeh or seitan?
A starchy banana that is often cooked. Consider it an alternative to a potato side dish e.g. plantain chips, mashed plantain.
A whole wheat Indian flat bread. This is one example of the multicultural influences on Caribbean cuisine. Fill with spiced chickpeas and potato for a complete and filling meal.
This refers to the edible leafy greens of taro root (called ‘dasheen‘ locally) or a Trinidad & Tobago stew. If you can’t find callaloo, use spinach instead.
- rice and peas
The classic protein combination! Experiment with whole grain rice and different kinds of peas.
One Love Vegetarian
Local eatery in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto.
On offer: rotis, meals, beverages and desserts.
Our recommendations: the corn soup (featured on the Food Network) and the whole wheat roti filled with seasoned Jamaican pumpkin.
Vegan In The Sun
I keep having chance encounters with this cookbook every time I attend a vegetarian event in Toronto. Maybe one day I will actually buy it.
Plum Bun Bakery
I have always loved a vegetable Jamaican patty and had to stop eating them when I learned lard is used in the dough. This bakery does various vegan versions that they sell at local Farmers’ markets during the summer. Apparently the TVP tastes just like the ground beef version.
Vegetarian Caribbean Recipes
A list of recipes from the Vegetarian Times magazine.
*For the record, ‘wine’ and ‘chip’ are being used here in the context of the dance moves they represent and not the food. *