**Long post alert**
Grab a smoothie and some popcorn.
I am making this post in light of a recent comment on one of my recipes. I have been meaning to highlight some of the fundamental topics in one post but simply didn't get around to doing so.
Let's have a heart to heart where hopefully this discussion should offer more clarity to what my mission is and my niche.
This post is for those who are interested in what my website has to offer and to also offer some advice to anyone especially who is Caribbean and may want to pursue blogging.
If you are new to Caribbean food then please check out this article right here.
The Expectations of being a Caribbean blogger
Being a Caribbean food blogger has it's up and downs, highs and lows. If you do a Google search, you will probably find only a handful of Island food bloggers which can be disheartening.
When I first started food blogger a few years, I was only aware of 5 Caribbean bloggers but now that figure has sky rocketed, we still aren't in the hundreds but we are growing which is the main thing.
One of the things about blogging, Caribbean or otherwise is learning to promote yourself in a way that you attract the right audience and that audience connects with you.
Niche is very important, again this covers having a connection with your target audience so there is mutual understanding.
When I first started food blogging I actually didn't have a niche in mind. I posted random recipes that myself and my immediate family enjoyed.
I didn't realise that there was a protocol to follow and that I was breaking every rule in the book.
I soon learnt if you want a strong following then you have to cater to your audience needs first and foremost. Once you establish what their needs are and meet them, the rest will follow!
This is something nearly every food blogger is guilty of doing at some point so don't feel bad if you're a blogger who is reading this and you have done so. It is merely a learning curve, one that is better to find out sooner rather than later.
Why my niche is gluten and dairy free
Well first of all let's talk about my overall website content. Okay, so it's your first time landing on my page.
You, skip the little blurb on the right side or just can't be bother to click and read through my "FAQ - about me" ..No need to feel guilty being comprehension lazy.
Anyway, so you are probably thinking, what's her website all about??
Drum roll please...........
My niche is gluten and dairy free where I take and recreate Caribbean recipes to cater to the aforementioned dietary requirements.
I like to add a creative spin by modernising traditional Caribbean recipes and make them healthy where possible (this is subjective to the individual).
I like other flavours too so not all of my recipes featured on my website will be Caribbean but always gluten and dairy free!!
There are not many Caribbean foodies who cater to those who are afflicted with gluten sensitivity/wheat allergy or lactose intolerant.
I think the word "gluten free" throws Caribbean people off my website because most don't truly understand what it is or whether they are afflicted by it.
Yes, I get it! If I say "wheat free" you're probably more comfortable with that so I'm going to throw that word in to clear up some of the confusion.
What being gluten free means to a Caribbean person?
First of all don't be intimated by the word "gluten free". Being gluten free in some respects can be interchangeable with being "wheat free". Both descriptions have the same end goal which is to omit all things containing gluten.
What is gluten and gluten/wheat foods?
Gluten is a protein that gives dough that elastic texture but it is becoming more apparent that people are struggling to digest it which leads to side effects. Grains such as barley, rye, wheat, semolina, spelt, kamut, bulgar and triticale all contain gluten.
I'm sure you are probably wondering where the problem lies since the Caribbean diet doesn't contain much gluten/wheat. Our main meals contain, root vegetables, poultry, seafood, pulse, seeds and beans.
While our desserts contains fruit, vegetables and milk . Yes, that is very true but........we consume a lot of flour!! Refined and wheat flour so the following foods may contain gluten/wheat.
- Bakes/dumpling/Johnny cakes/festival
- Pine tarts, Gizzarda
- Bread i.e patty, cutters,
These are just a few examples of Caribbean food that all contain gluten. More people are becoming aware of their sensitivity to gluten.
The dizziness, the bloating, diarrhoea and discomfort after eating. Not only that but refined flour is linked to other health issues such as diabetes, high pressure, heart disease and weight gain.
I won't go into too much detail about the health side effects from gluten because this post is just to make you aware of why you won't see recipes with cows milk, all purpose or spelt and other flour that contains wheat on my website.
Modernising Caribbean recipes - the good, the bad and the ugly!!
One of the most daring things you can do as a Caribbean foodie is to modernise a traditional recipe. Many Caribbean people are VERY unforgiving about making changes to old school recipes.
My changes are purely from a place of good health or helping others to make more informed dietary choices.
- Making porridge with almond milk or coconut milk for a lactose free option.
- Cooking plantain in the oven instead of deep fat frying it.
- Using ground almonds to make a coconut cake instead of all purpose or spelt
It definitely takes a lot of courage to make these sort of changes which you showcase in cyberspace for all to see.
When I tapped into my niche I knew straight away I would receive mixed comments so I am prepared for it. This is the reason why I made this post in the first place to offer more clarity, in one space.
The modifications you will see on the website
- Cooking oil - I like to use coconut oil or olive oil for 90% of my recipes. Yes I well aware that Caribbean people DON'T use coconut oil to cook with. I use it because it has a high smoke point.
- Only organic soy (when used)No MSG, packet soups - I prefer to use coconut aminos which is an estrogen free alternative to soy(a). However I have more recently slowly introducted organic soy(a) to my lifestyle. Most of my seasoning and stock that is found on the website is homemade.
- Pink salt - It's unrefined, contains 85 trace minerals and a more safer alternative to white table salt
- No deep fat frying - I don't DEEP fat fry anything, I try to use as little oil as possible or use an alternative i.e the oven. Of course some recipes will require shallow frying i.e fritters but it helps to use the right oil and do so in moderation.
- Gluten free flour or almond meal - I make some of your favourite dishes using flour that doesn't contain gluten. Yes, it's an alien concept to some and can be offensive to those who refuse to evolve. This includes using tapioca starch (a clean starch) instead of cornstarch! I have also successfully created my own gluten free flour blend.
- No dairy - I'm also not afraid to use almond milk or any other plant based milk that doesn't contain lactose and will get the same results. You should try it sometime!!
- Rum flavour/essence - I don't drink, it's just a personal decision. Yes I have tasted alcohol but I choose not to drink so please respect my wishes. Instead my recipes contain rum flavouring or extract that is free from alcohol. It still works!! However, you are more than welcome to use alcohol in YOUR recipes.
- Modern appliances - Part of modifying recipes means using new age appliances. Don't be alarmed by me making rice and peas in an instant pot or fried chicken in an air fryer or even slow cooking oxtail. Yes I own several kitchen appliances that I use for Caribbean recipes - air fryer, slow cooker, instant pot. I still embrace my dutch pot and by using the aforementioned doesn't mean I don't know how to cook.
- Measuring cups/scales - I couldn't offer true accuracy without owning these. No more cooking by taste unless it's for myself or family but not for the blog. It's my brand and my brand is a business that I take seriously.
- Changing/altering recipe names - This one you probably won't understand unless you are a food blogger yourself. Sometimes you might find a recipe such as "Jamaican curry beef" is written as "beef curry". This is more to do with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) more so than blogger etiquette. Us foodies have to be very mindful of how we title our posts, if most people search through Google for "Jamaican beef curry" we have to conform to Google standards to gain visitors. My way around this is to write a brief explanation within the post so people aware of what the name of the dish is (confusing, I know).
Handling feedback/criticism as a modernised Caribbean Foodie
With all of the above mentioned not EVERYONE is going to be receptive to your plight. There's only so many times you can answer the same question or even justify yourself before you simply have to ignore comments.
It does get monotonous when someone says "we don't use coconut oil in Cuban food" "Jamaicans don't use almond meal" "Trinidadians fry their bakes".
Your culinary skills will be criticised when you put yourself out on a public domain and you cannot please everyone, that's perfectly okay as long as people are respectful or constructive I honestly don't mind having feedback.
Besides, most people have their preferences regardless of the island as to how something should be cooked anyway.
However, for every negative comment there's a TON of love and support plus you get to showcase your culinary skills on the worldwide web.
Blogging is hard work regardless of your niche, we have to put so much time, energy and make A LOT of sacrifices but you can eventually turn your blog into a lucrative business and become a household brand so just keep that in mind.
I think I have covered EVERYTHING I need to in this post.....hopefully there will be more mutual understanding of what my niche is about and why I make adaptations to Caribbean recipes.