The very last breadfruit, hidden in the tree – what with its giant, brilliant green leaves – went and got overripe. A breadfruit tree produces hundreds of fruit – we mainly use it like potato or like flour i.e. in pies – sometimes with tuna, boiled with butter and salt, as a satini, as little cakes cooked in oil, as chips with satini cotomili, as mash with sausages.
But because it was ripe, I had to make a pudding.
So, I peeled it, pulled out the middle stem, then mashed the gorgeous creamy yellow pulp with a fork, added flour (gluten-free in my case), some sugar (not too much because Ram has diabetes), soaked raisins, an egg yolk, some cinnamon, a bit of bicarb, and then folded in the egg-white beaten to a stiff foam, poured it into a greased bowl and baked it for an hour in the oven. The whole house was perfumed with the aroma.
Meanwhile, a man went past in a van, crying out: “Manioc! Manioc!”
So, it felt, just then, that there was a premonition, in the air, of food insecurity. Breadfruit and manioc. And memories of all the stories told by the poor, when I first came to Mauritius in the 1970s, of how well-fed they were during and after the War, when there was rationing. And all the glorious things that street merchants sold to school children, made from maize and manioc.
Of course there would be a feeling of food insecurity. We, the people, are not idiots.
Flights are more-or-less grounded.
Shipping is precarious. In a country like Mauritius where the elite is so obsequiously Francophile, it is worth mentioning, while talking of the vulnerability of shipping, that even the giant French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is precarious what with 668 poor sailors on board down with Coronavirus disease, causing this invincible hulk to have to hobble into harbour at Toulon, as testing continues on the full one-third of sailors on board not yet tested. Such is the reality of the suffering. Such is the reality of the vulnerability of modern-day shipping.
All this to say that Mauritius, far as its islands are from its sources of food staples, is vulnerable.
The people in the countries that “our” food comes from are not likely to let their food, as it gets scarce there, just get shipped away out of the ports. Governments will fall if they try that.
And the Mauritian Minister in charge of agriculture continues business-as-usual.
He comes on TV two days in a row. And he utters not one word of warning to the big land-owners as to what they must do with their land.
Not a word.
He berates all of us to run back to the land. We have not got any land. Those with the land don’t want to plant food crops.
Those who want to work on planting and preserving food haven’t got the land.
I challenge Maneesh Gobin to announce that a new para-statal body called “Planting on the Sugar Estate Land” is calling for applications for government field workers with security of employment, giving preference to those who have experience of and a love of, the land and see what happens.
All these lies about people “no longer wanting to work the land” will evaporate.
In LALIT we are sick of this mendacious propaganda.
Did the Government not use the European union compensation money to pay the sugar bosses to literally hound the labourers off the land? Offering them bits of land to build a house, to force them to accept? That is what it took to get people to stop working the fields.
And then all these propagandists come and say “people don’t want to work the land anymore”. The bosses don’t want permanent employees, that’s all.
People did not want to leave sugar estate labouring jobs, even though the bosses did not even have the decency to provide lavatories. Men and women had to just find a spot in the sugar cane fields, where they were unlikely to put their foot in it, to relieve themselves. The women had to hide from lascivious bosses just to have a pee. And still they would not leave until bribed with the most valuable thing in the world: land.
What people do not like, other than not being provided with a lavatory, or even drinking water in the hot sun, is working in seasonal jobs. This is the basic cruel assumption of the bosses and government. They think peoples’ families eat only in the season people have a job. Then they no longer eat, when they are laid off.
This is what must change. People want permanent jobs. People want essential jobs. This is the way forward.
See my mini-interview in Le Mauricien on-line (The newspaper is free during the lockdown):
for LALIT, a personal view.