No dish is more symbolic of Caymanian culture and heritage than turtle stew.
Last month’s National Trust cooking class focused on our national dish, but pictures from the event triggered an online backlash from some corners.
Tonight, Cayman 27 asks the question: can we have our turtle and eat it too?
“Turtle and turtling have been going on for, since the 1700’s if not before, and it really forms an integral part of our cultural heritage,” said National Trust Executive Director Nadia Hardie.
She told Cayman 27 protecting Cayman’s cultural heritage is part of the National Trust’s mandate.
“We feel that we have to balance the needs of those who have been living here for centuries and centuries and centuries as well as conservation,” she said.
That can be a delicate balancing act.
Photos of the Trust’s turtle stew cooking class last month were met with backlash online from some who questioned how the National Trust could support the consumption of turtle meat.
“We understand that people have this ‘up in arms’ reaction when the National Trust is putting on this cooking class, but these series of cooking classes we are now doing, we are promoting Cayman style beef, traditional cassava cake, and turtle stew is part of this tradition, and especially around festive time,” said Ms. Hardie.
Turtle stew and celebrations go hand in hand.
Cayman Brac’s Simone Scott said the national dish was a central theme of heritage day at this year’s Brac Heritage Autumn Festival.
“That’s how turtle stew is now, it’s only for festivities and stuff like that, every once in a while maybe someone will go to the turtle farm and buy something for their own family, but otherwise it’s mostly for festivities and so forth,” said Ms. Scott.
“It’s not something that you’re finding on every street corner, and I think the important thing is we have, I believe actually it is a tradition that will phase itself out,” said Ms. Hardie.
Ms. Hardie said until that day comes, the National Trust will carry on with its dual mandate of protecting the history and biodiversity of the Cayman Islands.
“I know there will be people out there who are severe conservationists who will not get this,” she said. “But we have to work within the parameters that we find ourselves which is trying to balance our cultural tradition with conservation and we believe this is the way to do it.”
The National Trust said its popular turtle stew cooking class sourced farm reared meat from the Cayman Turtle Centre.
The Trust’s cooking class series continues Saturday morning (3 November) at the Mission House. This month’s featured dish is Cayman style beef.