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Ground provisions


Thankfully, people are no longer so rude about either Grenadians or ground provisions. But 10 years ago, you couldn’t go to a posh restaurant and find cassava, yam and dasheen on the menu—that was for the working-class establishments to cook.

Didn’t we all jump for joy last August when our Jamaican cousins swept the board in the main events on the track during the Beijing Olympics? Like everyone else in the world, I was blown away by the record-breaking feats (and of course, the showmanship) of Usain Bolt, the utter dominance of Veronica Campbell in the 200m and the annihilation of the field by the fantastic trio led by Shelly Ann Fraser in the women’s 100m.

In the run-up to the games, there was a lot written about the long tradition of Jamaican sprinting and the effective training structure that seems to churn out champions. Some writers suggested this success was genetically hardwired and pointed to the Jamaican roots of Briton Linford Christie and Canadian Donovan Bailey as proof of their theory. Then of course, there were the cynics who simply felt it was down to some well-targeted performance enhancement.

In the end the information came from the horse’s mouth as Shelly Ann Fraser, the 100m champion, made the revelation in a post-race interview with the BBC. It went something like this:

BBC: “So, Shelly Ann, Jamaica has just had a clean sweep, the top three…”

Fraser: “Yeah, man, is yam, banana and dumplin’ dat mek top three!”

Mr BBC Interviewer was clearly stunned—probably because he didn’t understand a word of what Fraser had said—and I was on the ground rolling around laughing.

I was struck by the sheer West Indian-ness of her comment and suddenly felt like I was part of a select group of people who were in on a private joke.

It was probably the yam’s most high-profile moment, and in the weeks that followed, my inbox was bombarded with spoof e-mails about the international doping agencies wanting to put yam, bananas and other ground provisions on the list of banned substances.

Yams and other ground provisions haven’t always been lauded as superfoods. In fact as the poor relations of the vegetable family, they’ve been snubbed by many of our own people who regard them as “poor people’s food.” They were even slated in one of VS Naipaul’s novels, A Way in the World, where the author’s quarrelsome aunt described Grenadians as “people with gross tastes, eaters of ground provisions, poor and ignorant.”

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