Pascaline Aoudou, is a nurse’s aid, a student of Health Administration, and a health trainer for moms-to-be. Originally from Cameroon, Africa, Pascaline has a passion for healthy traditional African cooking.  She joined Oldways as an A Taste of African Heritage instructor this summer, teaching two class series out of her home kitchen in Houston, TX.

This summer, Pascaline traveled across Jamaica on missionary work, where she helped in orphanages, built hospitals, and took care of the sick. She stayed in Montego Bay, Kingston, Ocho Rios, and Lacovia Tombstone, experiencing traditional foods and cuisines in each. We got to catch up with Pascaline, post-travels, to hear her impressions of the foods, the cuisines, and the culinary connections between Jamaica and her African homeland.

SARAH: Hello, Pascaline! Thanks so much for talking with us today and for being an ATAH teacher this year! First off, what brought you to Jamaica this summer?
PASCALINE: Hello Ms. Sarah, you are absolutely welcome, it’s my pleasure.  What brought me to Jamaica this summer is one of our student organizations at Texas Southern University. We decided to go on a mission trip for 10 days.

SARAH: Can you tell us a bit about buying food in Jamaica? What are the markets like?
PASCALINE: Well, for me it was very similar to our markets in Cameroon. The foods are mostly vegetables and whole grains; they are sold outside freshly from the farm. I was familiar with most of the food, which were mainly vegetables, whole grains, and natural medicines.

SARAH: How about dining in Jamaica? Did you eat at any locals’ homes or restaurants? What types of dishes were served? What foods were most common? Did you have a favorite dish?
PASCALINE: We mostly ate in local homes, where we sat around the table in a big circle with family and friends. In Jamaica, they actually take time to eat and have conversation while dining.  I only went to a restaurant once to get “Caribbean patties,” – Jamaican pastries made like savory turnovers, filled with spices and various fillings like chicken, lamb, vegetables, shrimp, lobster, fish, ackee, blended with veggies or cheese.

Whole Grains, vegetables, and fish were most common in the dishes served. I only had chicken once and it was in a Caribbean chicken patty.  Most dishes and meals I had were vegan, they rarely serve meat. This is similar to the diet in Cameroon. My favorite dish were the Caribbean patties, very tasty and full of nutrients.

SARAH: What kind of physical activity levels did you see in Jamaica?
PASCALINE: In Jamaica, most people walk from one place to another, the kids are always playing outside. They walk a lot and also a lot of bike riding.  

SARAH: What was your impression of the overall health climate in the town where you stayed and/or in the hospitals you visited? Were chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer prevalent where you were or in the patients?  Or were communicable diseases more prevalent?
PASCALINE: The overall health climate in the town where I stayed was great. At the hospitals I visited, I really didn’t hear anything about diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. Chronic disease were very rare. I don’t recall seeing signs of obesity. They have a great diet, so it very rare to see those chronic diseases.

I was a bit curious, and I did a random survey on nutrition there and I also chatted with them about nutrition. Most of the Jamaicans I spoke with only eat natural sweets (fruits, sugar cane, and honey) and dislike artificial sweets, such as soda, candy, etc. The majority of them also dislike any fried food or processed food. 

SARAH: Are there any major differences between American and Jamaican diets and lifestyles that you noticed?  
PASCALINE: The major differences between American and Jamaican diets and lifestyles that I noticed were – in Jamaica the population is mostly vegetarian, and doesn’t eat any processed food, dislikes artificial sugar, and walks a lot daily. Chronic disease is rare. And for some Americans, it’s contrary.  

SARAH: Will you bring insights from your trip to your future ATAH classes?
PASCALINE: I will definitely bring insights from my trip to my future ATAH classes. One of the reasons I did the random sample survey in the markets in Jamaica was for my future ATAH classes, along with the pictures. So that the students will also have a visual understanding.
SARAH: Thank you so much, Pascaline!
PASCALINE: You are welcome Ms. Sarah, Oldways is absolutely a great organization. Teach one, teach a million.

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