Thursday 5 December, 2019

To swizzle or not to swizzle: How do you like your callaloo?

The Trini swizzle stick as seen on

The Trini swizzle stick as seen on

When soca star Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez posted a photo of a Sunday meal she made for her family last Sunday, the seemingly innocent image created a stir.

The meal of stewed rabbit, pie and callaloo, while praised by some, was roundly criticised by others.

The main object of their ire? The callaloo.

Mrs Lyons-Alvarez clearly belongs to the group of us (yes this writer is in the club as well) who like their callaloo blended.

From the comments, it seems we are in the minority.

“Fay blending callaloo is for soup, next time stew it down with okras and coconut milk, but still great family meal,” wrote one commentator.

Some advised that she may have left the blender on too long.

The meal that started the debate

“I blend callaloo all the time. The trick is to turn it off as soon as you turn it on,” wrote one woman.

We asked some food experts their thoughts on the debate.

“One of the key elements in food is texture. Some people like to feel different things in their mouth. When you swizzle you don’t break down the callaloo so much and you could feel that leafy texture. Some people don’t like that so they blend,’” said food writer Franka Philips.

“I like mine blended because sometimes I eat it as a soup and I could add things to it like cheese and nuts but if you are eating it with food you don’t blend it as finely. There is no hard and fast way of cooking Callaloo. Customs evolve, it is real callaloo, it all depends on how you want to eat it and what you like to feel in your mouth.”

Quincy Ross, the founder of food site Chew Dat, said he is not hard and fast about how his callaloo is prepared.

“I does blend. It is more convenient. Put it in, give it two, three pulses on a Ninja and you can’t tell the difference. I could achieve the same texture with a swizzle stick. I use a pressure cooker for my callaloo, then you put it on a low fire, and take yuh time with the swizzle stick. You will get it smooth,” he said.

Robert Douglas, a food lover, is adamantly against blending.  

“It taste different and who am I to go against the will of my ancestors who take their time to craft a swizzle stick,” he told Loop.

“Blending changes the texture and you don’t get the taste of the coconut milk and the ingredients. That is blasphemy and just plain wrong. From the time I look at it and see it blended I say no thanks. Presentation is key.”

Callaloo is a dish that stems from West Africa and is a staple in many Caribbean islands, although the ingredients vary.

In Guyana, Jamaica and Belize, callaloo is typically made with the callaloo vegetable, whereas in Trinidad and Tobago callaloo is made from the dasheen bush with ochro, seasoning and hot pepper for taste. Some people add crab, pigtail, coconut milk and pumpkin to their mixtures.

The stew was traditionally mixed with a swizzle stick, which in T&T, is a long wooden utensil with a metal coil at the end.

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