Sharing some Holiday Bits

Tastes Like Home

Hi Everyone, Think of this week’s column as one of those dishes you prepare with scraps of ham left over from the holidays. You can make a delicious meal with just the left over bits. You could make soup, fried rice, chowmein and fry up some vegetables with bits of chopped ham. In the same way, I am hoping to create a column from my bits.

This past Christmas I did not make or eat Garlic Pork or Christmas cake.

Neither did I make or drink any sorrel, ginger beer or punch de crème. All season, including Old Year’s Night, I did not make or eat a plate of Cook-Up Rice. The only “Christmas food” I made was Pepperpot and baked ham. My problem with eating at Christmas is that my senses quickly become saturated with all the smells and tastes associated with the holidays.

20130112tastelikehomeAt the peril of never being invited out again, I find myself in a predicament when eating out at family and friends because it’s the same food I have at home. I enjoy opting for the array of side dishes which are always more exciting and interesting, because, you know, the meats are the same (at least they are prepared the same way). However, I have to be careful because my failure to not take any meat could be construed as something being “wrong” or worse yet, offending my hosts by not part-taking in the full feast they slaved over. I know, because I’ve been there over and over and over.

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Included in many of the Christmas greetings I get at the holidays are notes where people say things like: “I can just imagine the feast you are cooking up! I bet you are creating new dishes for the holidays.”

If only they knew the truth. I am very traditional when it comes to holiday foods. If I am not spending it with my family, I try to make at least one dish that reminds me of home. And I almost never create new dishes for the holidays. I never have the time or the interest. There’s always too much going on around the holidays for me to start experimenting.

The other thing about cooking over the holidays, at least for me, is that I never want to make a lot of things because it then becomes a busman’s holiday. All year long, apart from cooking for myself, I also have to be cooking for my columns and other articles. By the time the holidays come around, I do not want to go anywhere near the stove!

There is nothing like a plate of curry and rice to cleanse my palette from all the holiday foods. This year it was goat curry. That was followed by a vegan meal of okra dhal and rice. Not to be confused with dhal and rice and fried okra. This was red lentil dhal cooked thick and pulpy with lots of whole okra added to the dhal about 8 – 10 minutes before it is done cooking.

Okra Dhal Photo by Cynthia Nelson
Okra Dhal Photo by Cynthia Nelson

As I sat back, filled and satisfied, I thought of how fortunate we in the Caribbean are, whereby, on a daily basis, we can draw from multiple cuisines to drum up a meal. How exciting is that!

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While there was Pepperpot and Ham, it was the boil and fry cassava, sweet potatoes and plantains that made breakfast a real treat in the mornings.

Speaking of Pepperpot, this year was the first time I had my Pepperpot with Anise-seed bread, oh my, what a combination. I made some big, tender rolls instead of shaping the dough like loaves. The Anise-seed rolls worked well to make ham cutters (sandwiches) too. The spice was a natural accompaniment to the cloves and cinnamon found in the Pepperpot and ham.

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And finally, I have not had a glass of Sherry all season long. Harvey’s Bristol Cream is a staple for the holidays and I did not have a bottle in my house. Still don’t. There is every other kind of liquor – aged scotch, whisky, rum, liqueurs etc, but not a bottle of Sherry!

I think my “rationale” for not buying the Sherry was that there were so many other things in the house that I did not need the Sherry. How wrong can one person be?

So how was your holiday?

Cynthia
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