For our next dish this Black History Month is from Sai Murray.
Covid-19, lockdown, and the cancelling of Carnival have all taken away the sunshine this year. With the cold autumn nights drawing in, and the winter solstice firmly upon us, the disconnection from Afrikan-Caribbean climes, roots and routes is keenly felt.
Here in Chapeltown in Leeds, as in many sights of settled migration from the diaspora, there are several shops to turn to for vital provisions and foods from the motherland and especially in this month of Black History, there is also an abundance of culture to feast on, albeit largely online.
So as we brace for second wave, third tier, under (supposed) ‘first world’ governance, my thoughts turn to the dish that has sustained most throughout these socially distanced months – the compost cohobblopot.
The right to allotment access is enshrined in UK law and I was first able to take advantage of this when living in a back to back terrace deep in white working class West Leeds. We had no garden here, just a pavement and windowsill pot-plants, so this slice of mud and green became a much needed sanctuary to escape the grey. Over the years, and many skipped, free-cycled sheds and greenhouses later we have moved plots, and taken a large amount of reclaimed pallet and scaffold board constructions with us.
This spirit of make do and mend has been evident from all sides of my family – my grandad on my English mother’s side was a keen allotment-er and my Bajan grandfather was a skilled carpenter. After initial teenage questioning of why my parents would dedicate time to their plants rather than indulging my teenage consumer whims, I now also see the importance of passing on this heritage to our own children. Born in Yorkshire, they do already fully embrace the foraging thrift and the adage/ regionalist stereotype that people in the South of England put things into skips, whereas folk oop North take them out.
At this time of year, one of the most exciting activities for our children is the harvesting of carrots, from the bath. We now have four upcycled baths in our yard and have found carrots to be the most successful crop in this particular receptacle – deep enough for the roots to develop and high enough from the ground to avoid being bothered by the pesky carrot fly.
Though we may not have been entirely successful in ‘homeschooling’ through this lockdown period, the practical skills in helping dig, pick, sew, name, and identify our produce is important home education in itself. The love of digging hands into the soil is there. Getting them to regularly eat their five a day of everything we grow is another battle…
So yes, taking account of the season, of this aborted year, and of being mindful of what we have available in our immediate environment, the Compost Cohobblopot is a warming, nutritious and essential stew for all.
COHOBBLOPOT COMPOST RECIPE
- Vegetables (stalks, peels, roots, uneaten waste – roughly chopped)
- Fruits (seasonal is best, but all will feed back to the earth)
- Weeds (unwanted and persistent plants can be broken down in a hot pot)
- Paper (shredded or torn. Non-glossy and not heavily inked papers and cardboards best)
- Grass (if access to a lawn or straw, these cuttings break down well and bring the heat)
- Leaves (autumn leaves can be bagged up and added after time as nutritious leaf mould)
- Worms (these should naturally occur in the mix but tiger worms can be added if not)
- Urine (added to paper towels this can form an effective compost in itself)
- Meat (add sparingly, and ensure balanced by a larger mix of other ingredients. Takes longer to cook but even bones will eventually marinate well)
- Processed foods (as with meat, reduce the proportion of fatty & processed food waste to avoid attracting rats and mice)
- Bokashi (composting aids such as bokashi and sawdust can be added to aid digestion – essential if delving into next levelling composting such as humanure)
- Add all ingredients to the pot*.
- Cover and leave to marinate.
- Add more ingredients as and when available.
- Keep at the right heat and ensuring the mix is not too wet by adding more brown (paper, cardboard, leaves) and more green (grass cuttings, vegetables, fruit) if the mix is too dry.
- After several months, check the consistency of the brew at the base of the pot. A dark, almost black consistency, and crumbly texture will indicate the dish is ready.
- Serve mixed with other soil and added to new pots, beds and plots.
- Repeat. Reuse. Recycle.
* This recipe ideally suits a large pot but is equally adaptable for those in domestic situations where land and space are not accessible. Ingredients for a Cohobblopot Compost can still be saved and brewed for use on pot plants in the home or else donated to local community gardens and allotments. Land which we all have a right of stewardship to, and can claim our rights to.
** The mix here is all important. Cohobblopot is a Barbadian term originating from enslaved Afrikans to describe a cook up of a large number of ingredients in the same pot. In 1984 ‘Cohobblopot’ became an annual event at the Barbados Crop Over festival to showcase the wide range of local talent on the island. Commercial interests have inevitably intervened to skew this mix but, at it’s most nutritious, Cohobblopot is a rich cultural brew of performing arts (calypso, reggae, soca, folk, gospel, dance, steelpan, mas, comedy, poetry, street theatre) that honours and remembers tradition as well as connects the local with the international, the past and the present. I see this spirit of mixing very much in keeping with the Numbi family live shows, Scarf magazine, workshops and events which have always been rooted in Somali and wider Afrikan heritage, yet all contributions from the diaspora and local arenas are similarly welcomed to feed into and feed from the family pot.
Sai Murray will be presenting a remix of Virtual Migrants Continent Chop Chop at Dance the Guns Silence III: Healing Separation, Mobilising Desire on November 14th – an event honouring the power of collective resistance from the Ogoni 9 to present day struggles.
Films from the Numbi-Virtual Migrants collaboration Breathe! will be launched over the following week, from November 21st.