Workers of the World, Eat Right!

Heidi Swanson

I often suggest that hard-working people make soups and stews in bulk as a way to have healthy, sustainable and inexpensive food on hand throughout the week. I mean, once you prepare your stock, most soups don’t take that long to make. They are great for using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. And they freeze well. Of course, the problem is that a lot of hard working people don’t have the ability to warm up soups or stews on the job or the time to sit down at a table and enjoy them. Solution: portable foods.

Think tamales (Mexico), samosas (India), and patties (Jamaica). Most are hearty and compact. They have sustained people throughout history. And they are perfect for making in bulk, freezing, and grabbing before you leave for the day. In my attempt to revive the homemaking of portable foods, I have been doing some experimenting, using only fresh, seasonal and best-quality ingredients. My first success was Jamaican Veggie Patties. My love for this sustaining meal goes all the way back to Brooklyn.


From the time I moved there in 1997 until I moved to Oakland in 2005, veggie patties were one of my staples. I lived in Crown Heights my first year in New York, and there was a slammin’ Jamaican restaurant right down the block from my apartment. It was one of those hole-in-the-wall joints that always had a line extending to the sidewalk. When I moved to Clinton Hill, there was a Golden Crust Restaurant around the corner from my spot that always held it down (but not as good as the first place.) For many people, Jamaican patties are eaten as a snack, but when you’re living on a graduate school stipend of $15,000.00 a year in New York City, a $1.50 veggie patty moves quickly into the meal column. I still basically treat them as the center of a meal, usually eating them with a large green salad.

Using fresh ingredients will give you the tastiest product. But feel free to use frozen corn and peas if that is all that is on hand. So go ahead, check my soundtrack and suggested film to get you in the flow and try making these patties yourself. As an on-the-go-meal, these will be far more satisfying than anything you can pick up at a fast food place.  

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