sábado, 26 de julio de 2014

La pana de pepita y el durián

Pana de pepita
A principios de mayo, la profesora Melissa Fuster, autora del blog Comida Studies, me invitó a ofrecer una charla sobre Eating Puerto Rico en el programa de Nutrición, Estudios Alimentarios y Salúd Pública de NYU. Al final,Dave Cook blogero de Eating in Translationme preguntó sobre el papel de las frutas "durian" (Durio Zibethinus) y "jack fruit"(Artocarpus heterophylus/integrifolia) en la alimentación y en la cocina puertorriqueña. Por más que rebusqué en mi memoria, no pude dar con la imagen de alguna de ellas, y menos alcanzar de pronto una traducción. Cook prometió que me aclararía enviándome dos posts de su blog en los que habla de ambas.
Entre asombro y verguenza, le dije -"Fantástico,  algo más para aprender"
De hecho, simpre me han preguntado por qué, en Puerto Rico en la Olla (Doce Calles,2006,) y en las revisiones que hice para Eating Puerto Rico: a History of Food, Culture and Identity (North Carolina University Press, 2013), no  le presté atención a las frutas ni a las bebidas. A falta de una razón apropiada, siempre he defendido esta ausencia contestado, en broma- que son mejores para comer y beber.
Cuando llegué a casa  tenía en mi correo los enlaces a los posts de Dave. Los copio, y de paso les copio mi respuesta.....   

Dear Prof. Ortíz:

It was a pleasure to meet you this afternoon. Thank you again for visiting the NYU neighborhood, and for your presentation; I look forward to spending time with your book.

For your amusement, following are two (typically brief) posts from my website, on two fruits that were mentioned during the discussion: jackfruit and durian. 

I'm fond of both, as you can see. Best wishes,

Hi Dave

 I read your posts enthusiastically. I found interesting the "fixed" position of both fruits in Asian markets in NYC, but as a rarity.
Regarding the jack fruit....Sure, it is well known in Puerto Rico. But I didn’t knew the name in English, that’s why a got confused. In Puerto Rico we call it pana de pepita. ("seed breadfruit" if I can make a free translation). 

When I was a child I used to spend hot and long summers in my mom`s grandmother’s home, a creole house right behind the cathedral Dulce Nombre de Jesús, in Humacao, a sugar cane town in the east coast of the Island. I remember eating them with abuela
Providencia on Sunday mornings after mass. Abuela Provi, as everybody called her in town, bought the nutty seeds, boiled in salt water and served in paper cone cups from carts standing beside the atrium. I was not to fond for them because , and  instead I asked Abuela for "granitos de arroz", a crunchy, salty-faty rice fritter topped with a dot of cheddar, also available street vendors after mass. If  "recao" (Eryingium foetidum), "ají dulce" (Capsicum chinense) and "cilantrillo (Coriandrum sativum) was not enough in abuela`s graden, then we walked to the market, biting jack fruit or granitos, to by all three, indispensable staples to prepare Puerto Rican "sofrito"- our somewhat vinegary-wild herb flavor principle Abuela made for the whole week to cook beans, beef stews and rices. 
Hirviendo panas de pepita en Villalba
Jack fruit is still eaten, boiled in salt water, as an occasional rustic fare. They have gained a symbol of rustic/scarce times, and is a rarity alongside the more familiar breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis). Both are in season between July and November. But people has abandoned pana de pepita, probably due to the somewhat long  boiling time it needs in opposition to breadfruit. In his extraordinary book Jamaican Food: History, Biology, Culture (West Indies University Press, 2008), historian and scholar Barry Higman finds that in Jamaica jack fruit is also unpopular, and Jamaican recipes are scarce. Higman attributes it to its strong and unpleasant stench. It could also be a reason for its secondary role in Puerto Rican food preferences.
 As for breadfruit, a food festival is held in Puerto Rico to honor the staple as a "saving grace" in old famines. It is held yearly between the end of August and the first days of September, in Mariana, a highland borough of Humacao. This speaks a lot about the importance of breadfruit vis a vis the less favored jack fruit in Puerto Rican food preferences.
Curiously enough, in Jamaica, Cuba and Dominican Republic breadfruit is still considered food for pigs. Higman advances a fascinating thesis about this, saying that probably slaves refused it after its arrival to St. Vincent and Jamaica in 1791, because of it "being promoted explicitly as a food for slaves and as one imposed by the masters". Higman concludes that "seen in this way, reluctance to accept the breadfruit at the expense of the long-established roots and fruits of the provision grounds was not simple conservatism (something common enough in the history of taste) but rather a vehicle o resistance to the will of the slave-owning class". Why it was on the contrary in Puerto Rico?
If we accept Higmans`s thesis, then the provision grounds in Puerto Rican sugar plantations were never a well established  slave-feeding practice in the administrative logic of plantations, and breadfruit grew wild up the hills, passing its appreciation to plots  of "agregados" and rural laborers plots. From here, possibly, it taste spread.  

Regarding the durian, and after going through my research notes, the only fact I can put up is that it was planted in UPR Agricultural Experiment Station in Mayaguez – in the west coast- from a seed brought from Java in the 1920`s.  But only one tree plants bloomed, and the researchers could harvest - surprisingly- only one fruit 22 years later! This was probably because of its self incompatibility to be easily cross pollinatedBrought to the Island in such a recent date – when breadfruit and jack fruit were already common landscape fruit trees, the fact leads me to think it possibly spread- if this was the case- in humid rain forest highlands, or in zones of difficult access, henceforth receiving not to much interest in small plots as cultivar, and so becoming a secondary or tertiary option as food. In fact I have never seen one in Island markets I have visited. 
Barry Higman does not mention durian in his book, although Jamaica had a long history of British colonialism, and for that reason more "close" to Äsian cultivars, as durian.

Thanks again  for your posts, and looking forward to keep in touch
Cruz Miguel

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