When it comes to traditional recipes, purists may scorn substitutions or innovations. But for vegan cook and TikToker Alyssa Switzer that’s part of the fun.
Switzer started eating a more plant-based diet in 2014, but she still wanted to maintain the Caribbean flavours that speak to her heart and her taste buds.
“That’s what I grew up on,” she told the Star.
Her feed @PlantifulAlyssa is filled with seconds-long tutorials of vegan dishes so colourful it may scramble your phone pixels. And much of it has a Caribbean flair.
She’s found vegan substitutes for meat-based staples, such as a meatless oxtail using jackfruit. And she pulls classic Caribbean foods like ackee and callaloo outside of what is traditional to make tacos, dips and galettes.
“You kind of get forced to be creative,” Switzer told the Star.
The canvas for some of her most innovative creations: breadfruit. It’s a starchy fruit that is typically roasted and sliced in the Caribbean and is part of the national dish of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the island Switzer’s mom is from.
She subbed diced breadfruit for potatoes, taking advantage of its starchy consistency, and made an island-inspired breadfruit salad in one TikTok video.
In another, she turned thin slices into taco shells and stuffed them with ackee.
And the recipe she’s most proud of is her creamy breadfruit split pea soup, seasoned with coconut cream, thyme, allspice and scotch bonnet.
But when she shares vegan alternatives for things like oxtail, saltfish and fritters, she’s been met with both praise and ire in the comments.
“It’s so traditional to eat traditional West Indian foods without altering in any way,” Switzer said “If people hear like, oh, vegan oxtail, (they say) what are you talking about?”
But the raised eyebrows make her want to show these plant-based takes even more.
“There’s so much varieties of fruits and vegetables you can eat, and they’re cultural and they’re good,” she said. “You don’t have to be stuck in a certain way or a certain mindset on how to eat.”