Our Experiences Caribbean brand and vision for our Cooking Caribbean has been largely influenced by the life of our Grandmother - a country girl at heart, and our rock and source of strength. Her life stories, culinary skills and deep knowledge of herbs and spices remain with us, even though she has passed on…..
Born in 1906, Frances Emalie Dorsette was quite a pretty girl, and from a young age everyone referred to her as ‘Belle’. To us, she was ‘Mama Belle’
Montserratian by birth, she migrated with her mother An Berty and siblings Tay and Johnny to Dominica when she was 6 years old. Mama spent all her young life on the farm and knew only rural farm life – from the age of 14 on Glasgow Estate she was the maid, and the field laborer. Then she became the ‘Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer’, and indeed the estate owner’s right hand. She would use the hoe, cutlass (machete), and rifle, and everything else that had to be done, she did it. Her daughters recall stories of night hunting with her - an open flame flambeau providing light in one hand, and the estate rifle in the other. From sun rise to sun set she would be at work - dressed in creole ‘jupe’ and head tie she would be milking the cows and goats, fertilizing the vanilla beans, harvesting produce, weeding and tending the crops, and taking care of the estate house.
She never got a chance to go to school and was never formally educated, yet her English language was grammatically perfect. She was no ordinary person, was stylish and quite ambitious – somewhere in her 40’s she traded agricultural produce and did many journeys to the neighboring islands to sell produce from the estate. With the proceeds from this she was able to purchase a property and build her home in the suburbs.
Long days filled with hard work, and lack of opportunities taught Mama to be frugal with her time, energy and resources, and she made light work of everything and trusted in God completely.
Mama was an excellent cook, and used the fresh herbs and spices in everything she prepared. She lived simply and ate well, mainly fresh fruit, vegetables and other produce harvested from the kitchen garden. She also loved crabs and crayfish (from the nearby springs), and smoked and salted meat which she processed from the cows, goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens on the estate.
Whenever the opportunity provided she would show off her culinary skills to visitors to the Estate house. Without refrigeration there could be no left overs, and everything had to be prepared fresh each day. She was very well known for her chaudeau (warm eggnog), yard fowl stew, pigeon peas, and pork stew (which she flavored with bay leaves and other local spices). No wonder at 73 years old she was able to survive Hurricane David’s ferocious winds and torrential rainfall and navigate with cutlass in hand for almost 4 hours over fallen trees and broken branches while carrying her lifelong companion to safety 1 mile away!
Mama Belle left us at the age of 99 – a few months short of her 100th birthday.
By the time of her passing she had handed on most of her life’s principles, skills and secret recipes to us. Her lifestyle of living simply and natural lives on within us…..it is how we have come to enjoy the benefits of living healthy and feeling well.
These treasured secrets we pass on to you….