This time we feature an interview with a ‘dominicana-por-adopción,’ Lindsay de Féliz. Originally from the UK, she has lived in the country for over ten years. She writes a popular blog about life in the Dominican Republic and has just published her first book, What About Your Saucepans? – a riveting account of her experiences in the country.
DC - Before you came here, did you have any preconceived ideas of what the food would be like?
LdF - Yes. I had travelled to most of the Caribbean islands before and expected there to be lots of rice, fish and fruit. But I expected the food to be spicy, like Bajan food in Barbados, or Cajun in St Lucia.
DC - What was your first impression of Dominican food? What was the biggest surprise? Was there anything you found particularly strange, or difficult to get used to?
LdF - My first impression wasn’t very positive. I was working as a diving instructor and had food delivered every day along with the rest of the staff in a styrofoam container. I thought it was boring, with little flavour, too much oil and way too much salt. The biggest surprise was the lack of spice and I found the lack of fresh vegetables hard to get used to.
DC - What are your favourite dishes?
LdF- I have lots of favourites now. What I like most of all is that everything is fresh. While I appreciated the convenience of pre packaged food in England, I much prefer preparing and eating fresh food, and although I miss some things when they are out of season I like the excitement of waiting for the first avocado or the first mango of the season.
My favourites to eat are mangú with eggs and salami and fried cheese, guineítos with onions and a smoked pork chop. I love my husband’s sancocho, and whole fresh fish. Chicken cooked on a charcoal fire, avocados with everything. I also love the batidas – morir soñando especially. Oh, and the street food, empanadas, freshly squeezed juices, yuca patties, pica pollo.
DC – What about your least favourite dishes?
DC – Is there anything you’re curious about that you haven't yet tried?
LdF - I’m curious about tripe - mondongo - but am not sure if I’ll ever be brave enough to taste it. Mind you I felt that way about goat, just because I had never had it before, and absolutely loved it from the first time I tasted it.
DC - Are there any typical dishes in the areas you lived that you can tell us
LdF - Pork and goat are typical here. Whole pigs are barbecued in a pit at Christmas or on special occasions and they are absolutely delicious. Also many places serve stewed goat which is incredibly tender and has a bit of a kick to it which is lovely for a change.
DC – Can you share any particular anecdote/memory of something to do with food, or food-related customs/etiquette?
LdF - I remember having done the washing and hung it on the line, I went outside to bring it in and it had all gone and in its place was a row of whole fish hanging on the line. My husband had bought them, covered them in salt and garlic and hung them on the line to bake in the sun before frying them. They tasted delicious.
DC - What do you miss most from your home country, England, foodwise?
Have you imported any traditions, or adapted them with local ingredients and what has the reaction been from your Dominican family members and friends?
LdF - I miss the convenience sometimes of having pre-packaged food in the freezer that I can just put in the microwave. And I miss lamb, nice joints of beef, Bisto the gravy powder, suet to make dumplings, fresh cream, blackberries. Some of the food I ate in England you can buy in the country, like mushrooms, but not where I live!
When not cooking Dominican food, I adapt my favourite food from England which was Indian and Thai food, and luckily my Dominican family and friends love it. All of the ingredients, apart from some of the spices, are available here, such as garlic, onions, chilli, lemongrass, ginger and as long as they have their rice they are happy.
I cook lentils with spices, onions, tomatoes and coriander instead of Dominican beans. I have also adapted some Dominican standards to give them a Moroccan or Turkish twist using chickpeas and aubergines, such as Moroccan goat stew where I use those plus tomatoes, chilli and a bottle of red wine. The Dominicans love my goat from Istanbul as they call it.
DC - How has Aunt Clara helped you in your journey?
LdF - Aunt Clara has been a great help as she has showed me how to cook Dominican food in a healthy and tasty way; that it does not have to be all oil and salt. For example her pollo guisado is delicious as well as being healthy. I cook one of her recipes at least once a month, and I also try new things such as this week I cooked the yuca balls with cheese which were delicious.
Lindsay de Feliz, 57, originally from the UK, has lived in the DR since 2002. She is married to a Dominican –Danilo Feliz – and has 2 stepsons. Lindsay works as writer, translator and marketing consultant and blogs at What About Your Saucepans. Her book about her experiences in the DR ‘What about your saucepans?’ came out February 2013, and is available from Amazon.
Photo provided by Lindsay.