Lame Veritable, every child’s nightmare

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In Pre-K, all of the children were terrified of a fruit we found on the playground and called “tata boulette.” Our worse nightmare was to accidentally step on one, which had become rotten and turned brown after falling from the tree. It stayed stuck to our shoes and had a very, very foul odor.

The victim of a tata boulette always rushed to scrub their feet on the ground hoping that their misfortune would go unnoticed. If not, the rest of the children were quick to tease. The official chant back then was “ewww you stepped on a tata boulette;” one that quickly spread to the entire playground as everyone chimed in while running away from the poor victim.

What we didn’t know back then was that the tata boulette that was so repulsive to us was actually a fruit, or a vivre alimentaire, as we say here in Haiti, known in our local cuisine as “lame veritable,” “lame” or simply “veritab.”

Lame veritable comes from the arbre veritable, which real name is actually arbre à pain (breadfruit), not to be confused with the other fruit we call arbre à pain or labapin here in Haiti. The lame, which stays green when it’s ripe, is eaten boiled, pressed just like our plantains or fried “accordéon.”

The accordéon is easy to make. The fruit is cut in lengthy thin slices that are fried in hot oil after being dipped in some salted water. We mostly eat it with other fried foods. In my family we used to eat with fresh goat blood fricassé, which I will describe in another article.

In the South, the typical preparation is the tomtom – similar to mashed potatoes – which is served with okra. Tradition has it that the tomtom can only be swallowed without chewing too much to avoid the sliminess of the okra.

Today, we also enjoy veritab as a puree, a porridge, gratinée, croquettes (codfish balls), a cake and even as a juice.

My personal favorite is the pressed version because it is not as crunchy as the accordeon though that version is the most popular. The veritab is cut into chunks, just like our bananes pesees, fried once until they have a golden crispy coating, pressed, then fried a second time. They come out crispy on the outside but still remain chewy on the inside.

Who would have thought that one day I would be so fond of the tata boulette which had made me miserable as a young child? I definitely would have been the last one to believe it back then.

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