Sue Sandle has been among the people raising money for local charities for years, and one of the ways is through a carefully compiled local cookbook.
She has recently sold 58 copies of a local St Lucian cookbook to cruisers in Rodney Bay, St Lucia. In 1977, a group of ladies native to the island of St Lucia, called ‘Helping Hands’, decided that they wanted to raise money for children, and they pooled all their recipes and produced the first St Lucia Cookbook. So where does Sue Sandle fit into all of this? Well, in 1992, she completed her first ARC Rally, and subsequently did all of the ARCs on a variety of boats until 1999 when her boat, Clara, came over. In fact, Jimmy Cornell, the founder of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers gave Sue a free ARC passage on the 1999 ARC as she had done it so many times before!
When Sue first arrived in St Lucia, she recalls ‘there weren’t any supermarkets here, there weren’t any shops, and there were people at the side of the road, just selling local fruit and vegetables, which I had no idea how to cook. So I bought my copy of the cookbook, and there it is’, she says, showing me a dog-eared copy, ‘And it’s a 3rd edition… of the original, and of course the 3rd edition went out of print. A friend of mine [Jackie Field] on the island decided she wanted to help our charity, and she got my cookbook reprinted at her own expense in St Lucia. ‘So it’s the original recipes, the only thing that Jackie did was just reorder so it reads better. But we left in all of the really old recipes. And this is now the 4th edition we’re on.’
The only difference, Sue tells me, is that now, ‘Parasol’, an old charity that doesn’t really function any more, isn’t involved, and half of the proceeds now go to ‘Amy’s Gift to St Lucia’. This charity is also supported by World Cruising Club sailors, who this year kindly donated £5,000 to the charity. The ‘Amy’ refers to Amy Winehouse, and when Amy died in 2011, her father announced that they had decided to set up a foundation in her memory to help disadvantaged young people through music to deal with drug addiction. When Sue heard this, she wanted to put an application in to the foundation for funding because she was working with Dunnottar School and the Boys Training Centre, and she knew that music therapy was needed in those places. Amy Winehouse spent a lot of time in St Lucia in Cotton Bay whilst in rehab, so setting up Amy’s Gift to St Lucia seemed like a logical step forward for Sue and the people at Dunnottar and the Boys Training Centre.
Having been successful in their application, during their first year of 2014, Amy’s Gift were then able to fund all of the musical instruments at Dunnottar School and the Boys Training Centre, and paid for a music teacher for the year. They did such a great job that year, that the Foundation gave Amy’s Gift another grant the following year, and this has happened every year since, but they still need to fundraise to keep the charity going. This takes the form of concerts, cookbook sales, ARC participant donations, lunches, workshops, yoga and more.
So onto the cookbook! It is not standardised with the metric system, but has a page with conversions for weights and measures, Caribbean term with explanations, alternatives that could be substituted for Caribbean ingredients and descriptions of all of the local fruits and vegetables. Following that, there are all the recipes you can imagine, using breadfruit, callaloo, christophene, dasheen, eggplant (aubergine), paw paw (papaya), plantains, green banana, pumpkin, sweet potato, squash, yams to name but a few. The book also contains helpful hints on tropical living which gives advice on how avocados ripen, how to peel green bananas, using christophene (either peel it underwater or with gloves on) et cetera.
The Lucian avocados are about the size of a honeydew melon, and one of Sue’s favourite recipes is the Gazpacho Stuffed Avocado. She says the vegetables are key to Lucian cooking, as that is where the cuisine is different and exciting. ‘Green Bananas in a Butter and Onion sauce is very good’, she says, ‘your green bananas are being used as a vegetable… breadfruit keeps really well on boats; Captain Cook sailed across the Pacific and fed his crew on breadfruit’ (however, they may have staged a mutiny as breadfruit was all they were ever fed - clearly they needed the cookbook!).
Sue has been living on her boat in the Caribbean from November to March for the last 23 years, and cruises between the islands, plays golf, and is involved in a lot of charity work.
Having bought my copy of the St Lucia cookbook, I can confirm that it is an interesting read, and Sue’s passion for the recipes within has inspired me to kickstart my foray into Caribbean Cooking!