A Southern Hoppin’ Irie Charm – A Black History Month Perspective

Well I’ll be darned. If it isn’t the month of February again. And that means Black History Month. So, what does that mean to you?  Well for me, it means a deeper connection to being a black man from another place living in this country. Always understanding that for me, I can’t take anything for granted, including the right to vote. Understanding all the things that was fought for so that I could be here to pursue dreams and ambitions. It’s an understanding that I should also be an ambassador of cross culture unification. As an emigrant here to the States I’ve had to adopt and adapt to a culture that is different from mine. learning what it means to be black in this country before, during and after slavery. It’s a pity a lot of that knowledge gets lost on most that live here. But there’s one thing that hasn’t gotten lost on me. The food culture of this country. Cooking has a way of reuniting food cultures and especially for those that have traveled many oceans wide, many beaten paths, many underground traditions. The journeys of slaves that passed before us. As a former architecture student and professional, I found many things intriguing, fascinating and often times perplexing because of all it’s complexities and discoverable layers. and comparably so, I find food to be the same.  As a chef it’s imperative that I explore cuisines of the world and the Southern traditions found here in United States is a joy to represent on a plate. Even the simplest dishes at times can render one speechless. As I continue to navigate the high and byways of southern dishes and cuisines – still trying to perfect that biscuit dough – I hope to expand my mind and keep my waistline small. I’ve experienced southern bites in a lot of different places, some of which have reintroduced me to dishes I had written off. I tried grits for the first time in 1990 and I thought it was utterly disgusting. Fast forward a decade and a half to a wedding in South Carolina and I met Miss Shrimp n’ Grits. Oh good lord, yes sir.  I done slapped my mammy you hear me. Chicken George couldn’t hold me back I tell ya. Her taste was seductive and devine. She lingered on my lips, languishing the roof of my mouth, titillated my palette and all the while I was begging for more like some whipped sucker in heat. Feed me Seymour. Ooops, I digressed. Should I not have said that?  Oh well, too late now. Don’t let me get started talking about some  country fried steak with sausage gravy, country ham with red eye gravy, Fried green tomatoes, Gumbo, smothered pork chops, Mac N cheese, seafood rice, dirty rice, Sweet potato souffle, fried okra, spoon breads, Collard Greens, Ham hocks, Chitterlings, crackling corn bread, flaky buttery biscuits, Pecan pie and of course you can’t forget the pig as Barbecue ribs drop on this plate and certainly the ubiquitous Fried Yard bird to name a few southern style dishes.

Hoppin' John

Hoppin’ John

As I continue to delve more between the delicious layers of Southern cuisine I’m more cognizant of the connection to my Caribbean roots and rice does that for me.  Rice with peas I say.  Pellau from Trinidad, Coconut rice & Peas from Jamaica, Congri from Cuba, are a few of the rice with peas dishes found in the The Caribbean. There are many types of rice varieties and the south surely has had their beauties that were planted on many a plantations by slaves in places such as Charleston, Georgetown, Savannah. “Long gone” are those Plantations with Black history burned and emblazoned on our hearts and minds hopefully never to be forgotten. Now, the majority of rice production is now done in Louisiana, Texas, California, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri. You can find a rice dish that exemplifies the essence of the cuisine of a culture in most places around the globe reflecting over 100 different varieties with long, medium and short grains. But I shall go to the south and place center plate Hoppin’ John. A rice dish made with Black eyed peas, Ham hocks or bacon, sausage, tomatoes, Collard Greens, onions, peppers, garlic and spices. This dish combines so many parts of what I believe reflects the heritage. The subtle nuances handed down from the slave ancestors through use of what was handed down all cooked in one pot. A dish filled with deep flavor, spicy if need be and one that can stretch the plates for hungry bellies. There are many variations as to the origin and the name but if southern traditions are followed, come the stroke of midnight on New Years, plates of

Ham Hocks with Black Eyed Peas

Ham Hocks with Black Eyed Peas

Cajun Sausage

Cajun Sausage

Celery, thyme, onions and garlic

Celery, thyme, onions and garlic

cut Collard Greens

cut Collard Greens

diced tomatoes

diced tomatoes

uncooked rice

uncooked rice

 

 

 

 

Hoppin’ John will be consumed. and if there’s left overs the next day well, then you’ll be having Skippin’ Jenny. not lost in anyway is the folklore that comes with making this dish. A minimum of three peas on a fork would guarantee good luck. The more peas the more luck. A penny would be placed in the dish and if you found that penny your year would be filled with good luck. The addition of the greens signified money and additional good fortune could be had if the dish was eaten with freshly made cornbread. I made this dish recently for a program instituted by the Miami-Dade Library system, Swap and Chat to discuss southern food. The conversations between the guests has been intriguing. Nothing like having a conversation with someone born in Belgium from Martinique parents that lived in various southern states and now resides here in South Florida. Now how rich is that?  Very reminiscent of the travels done by many slaves bringing and taking with them culinary traditions and recipes of cuisines. a lot of those recipes are now the backbone of a lot Southern cuisines and dishes. This island boy has certainly been grateful and appreciative because the education has certainly broadened my palette, horizons and reportoire.  Yep, for certain it has made for a memorable Food on Fiyah!!! experience.

Hoppin’ John Recipe

Serves: 20

Prep and Cook time: 2  hours

Ingredients

1/2 cp                                   Cooking oil
1 ea.                                       large onion, chopped
1 ea.                                       medium green bell pepper, chopped
6 -8                                        garlic cloves, minced
4 ea                                        stalks celery, diced

2 – 16 oz. bag                      dried black-eyed peas

6 ea                                       medium to large smoked ham hocks

4 qts                                     cups water or chicken stock

2 – 14 oz.                             can diced tomato

4 cups                                   Andouille or other Cajun style sausage, 1/2″ diced

1/2 bch                                 fresh thyme

2 Tb.                                     dried oregano

4 ea.                                      bay leaves
1/2 cp                                   hot sauce (Tabasco works or favorite)
2 Tb                                      smoked paprika

2 Tb                                      Cajun Seasoning

2 Tb                                      Garlic Powder

2 Tb                                      salt

3 lbs                                     uncooked white rice

3 bch                                   green onions, chopped

Method:

  1. Add oil in large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium low heat.  When hot add the onion, bell peppers, celery and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add ham hocks and cook for another 3 -4 minutes then add water and peas and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour or until peas are cooked. Meat on ham hocks should be cooked as well
  3. Remove Ham hocks from pot, let cool. Cut meat from bones and dice. return meat and bones to the pot
  4. Add sausage tomatoes, herbs, hot sauce, bay leaf, spices, salt. Cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the rice to the pot. Stir well and cover. let come to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until liquid has been absorbed.
  6. Serve in bowls, sprinkle with chopped green onions

 

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Are you a sustainable consumer or just the GARBAGE dweller….???

Ok, I’ll not be hypocritical and say I don’t visit a few fast food chains every now and then. I’ll also say that I’m sometimes suspect of where most of the food comes. Face it, most of us are swift to ingest and devour with such unhesitant greediness without giving any pause as to where the food comes from. We must satisfy the whimsical growl of hunger pangs at the whiff of fat in the air.

Hydroponic Arugula beds

Hydroponic Arugula beds

But alas, I shall not be critical less my house be burnt to the ground and then I shall be forced to live on a sustainable farm. Wait, that might be quite a healthy move. I recently took a trip to a sustainable farm in Homestead, Florida. Albeit, I wasn’t there to just poke around in the dirt and smell dainty leaves. I was there to film some additional footage of a project I’m working on. We visited Teena’s Pride in South Florida, a place that chefs visit, a place that grows fresh tasting food, an environment that practices sustainable farming. What the hell is that you ask? Yes, I’m speaking to the non-foodie or uninformed foodies. Seems it’s quite easy to say something cool like certifiable organic and we go nuts and bow down to the health gods because we think we are righteously making our bodies healthy. Sustainable farming is not just a method to plant food or raise animals. It’s a way of life and a commitment to great quality foods. Sustainability in all aspects embodies that of the artisan. At Teena’s Pride that means: how the earth is treated, how the crops are planted,  how the crops are grown, how the crops are cared for, how the crops are harvested, how the crops a packaged, how the people are with the food, and definitely how Teena is with her staff. Sustainability has to do with the extra care that goes into making each product the best it can be. All the seedlings are planted by hand even in all the hydroponic beds as supervised by the farm manager and Teena. Yes, sustainable farmed products cost more but frown not until you have tasted a tomato picked freshly from the vine that had no pesticides or animal manure anywhere close to it. Try doing that on a regular farm. Yes, belly hot madness.

eating fresh nosturshium leaves

eating fresh nasturtium leaves

tomato seedlings, planted by hand

tomato seedlings, planted by hand

heirloom tomatoes on the vines

heirloom tomatoes on the vines

Listen, this is not the first time I’ve been on a farm but it’s the first time I’ve been on a farm since becoming a chef. I grew up in a place where visiting various types of farms was the norm for me. As I got older though there was a marked change in the food and food quality probably because farmers were deluded into believing that you can’t get a great product unless you douse the hell out of it with fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and other ailing sides. Farmers got corrupted by the ease of bigger money because they could get bigger products and stuff that grew quicker and developed faster to bring it to market in record time. Do you know that it takes a chicken roughly 5 – 8 months to develop naturally? Here you can have that defeathered and plucked yard bird in less than 2 months, that would be 6 weeks y’all. Hail to the protein and genetic modifiers. I tasted a tomato, actually several tomatoes (Oh jesam, Tenna gonna send me a bill now) and I couldn’t stop eating the bloody things they were so good. Damn good I tell you. I was on the farm for over an hour listening to how things were done on Teena’s farm and devoured so much freshly picked leaves I felt like a goat feeding on fresh fodder from the pen. Hmmhm, I was a free range ram. I tasted things I hadn’t before and saw certain plants in their infancy. Chocolate and Pineapple mint are delicious. The leaves from that Nasturtium plant, oh my god somebody slap and call me Mariposa. Okay that’s a stretch. You on a diet and want some flavor while cutting the cheese from a salad? Blaze the Nasturtium I tell you. With her tangy, spicy and citrus notes, Pepper Jack may have a little competition I dare say.

nosturshium

nasturtium

I walked away from this visit thinking about my part as a chef in this crazy food chain. The way I am today as a person and as a chef is far different from when I grew up as a kid. When I went to the market with my mother as a child, I may not have known the vendors by name but I knew them by sight. Not sure if my mother knew their names either but she had developed a personal relationship with so many that often times she would leave me and the heavy bags with them. Yes, a personal relationship, that which most of us really have with the people who sell us our foods. Most chefs are really keying on that element when it comes to food purchases thus allowing them to bring you the best quality products possible. Chefs want to know how that pig was raised – fresh organic feed, mud holes, space to roam; that chicken – not ten to a cage;  that goat, know how that eggplant was grown; know the humanitarian aspects are of that farm – proper crop rotation, proper soil maintenance, even slaughter process must be  included. I may not be able to source products from vendors I know personally but I feel I must continue to be more vigilant  and aware of the products I use. Alas that may come with an increased price tag on your bill. But let me ask you this really quickly, what price are you willing to continue paying for some of the garbage we buy and eat? Make it a sustainable choice.

Yes, it does indeed have a chocolate note.

Yes, it does indeed have a chocolate note.

My bounty I escaped with

My bounty I escaped with

Oh where oh where can I get a really good Burger…Damn it!!!

Alas, I must confess, I have been a lazy slacker. Dusting off the cobwebs from my blog as I write this piece. Well, what’s on the mind you ask? Well food of course. Specifically about feeling let down after hearing sweet nothings being whispered into your ears. You know what i’m talking about because I’m certain you’ve heard them too..”We have the best pizza – soggy dough…The best Calzone – damn where’s the filling…The best jerk chicken – Really, must I call upon Moses, the Nigerian slayer…World famous ribs – now that one there is a tickler for laughter. Poor bastards have probably never even left the city much less cross statelines…The best Mofungo – ahhm, I really have something to say about that one. Next time though. And of course the ubiquitous best damn burger in the world. My biggest gripe is that if you use those claims you better bring the pain, make it rain, make our palettes go insane or just flush it down the drain.

Okay, so recently I visited for the first time Le Tub in the Hollywood, Florida. Now I’m not reviewing, just recapping my afternoon experience. Okay, on with it then. My first impression, Le Tub is the Shangrilla of waterfront dives. Strategic placement of the red and blue commodes by the entrance, quirky but cool doesn’t hurt. Yep, they are just saying right away that we have no shame and have fun. Nope, I didn’t check to see if they were functional. It was a great afternoon out, sunny with a nice breeze. I took a seat under a green lush canopy from sea grape and rubber plant trees. There are lots of other funky plants and odd fixtures around. Wall sconces in the middle of tables, fun signs and even a few tables laid over bath tubs – Le Tub. Relaxing indeed.  Birds were swooping, preening, chirping and prancing across empty tables. This should be fun. Why am I at Le Tub you ask? Well, this unique spot got to be the reinvigorated bad ass when Oprah Winfrey visited and proclaimed the burgers at Le Tub were the best she’s ever had. So I’m here to rub a grub grub at Le Tub. From the artistically hand written menu, I order a plain burger medium no cheese with lettuce and tomato, a cup of chili, small fries and a Planter’s punch. Hey, I’m the boss damn it. Just to note, the only accompaniments for burgers are American or Swiss cheese so don’t go and asking for bacon, mushroom or Foi Gras. I get my drink and my chili and begin what is surely going to be the greatest afternoon of gastronomic and burgerdom proportions. Ummm!  Okay, the chilli wasn’t bad but a little different flavor than what I was expecting. The punginess of smoky cumin wasn’t whispering to me. No sweat, I reach for the red headed step child of condiments hated by most modern day chefs. Two squirts of ketchup and I was back in business. As I’m finishing the last bit of the Sirloin chilli, my Sirloin burger arrives…without the fries.  Ugghh!!! Let it go son. Right then. At this moment, my eyes light up like fireflies. Jumping Jehosephat, good frigging lord what a beast. All 13oz on a bun accompanied with a mammoth onion slice (too big if you ask me – #kissmenotlater), couple slices of really ripe tomatoes and green leaf lettuce. I am licking my chops at this behemoth. Ummm!!! Hold up, wait a minute. Y’all did hear me say I ordered a medium burger right?  So why is it I have a quckly forming raspberry bun? No bueno! I give a small benefit of doubt and cut my burger in two. A who go tell mi fi do dat to sclaaat!!! neahly mek man cuss two claaat tuh rhatid. I dont think I’ve ever had a burger that had five varying temperatures; well done on top, medium just beneath, mid rear next, then rear and mid-well on the bottom. Now that takes serious skills. Yep, I’m bothered…it has to go back. My server takes it back. What’s this, oh my fries have arrived. Now i’m really perturbed. As I sit there munching on the hot fries, I am reminding myself that I came here for THE BURGER and with love in my heart damn it, so I check my facebook, voicemail, twiddle my fingers, change my seat to get less sunshine. Even thinking whether or not one of these damn birds were going to crap on me or in my food. Now that would have really set it off for me. The burger is back, it’s medium and yes it’s the same cut burger I sent back. I’m eating but by this time I’m not really enjoying my burger. Pssssssssss, the steam has escaped. By far, this has been one of the biggest burger i’ve eaten. The best one? Ummm…not really. Where? I’ll have to think about that and get back to you. And where have you had your best burger?

At this point i’m feeling really bloated and i’m thinking that now I should have had that fish sandwich damn it. Now I have to take my rotundus rear for a walk. I guess bigger is not always better. Funny enough though, this burger would be perfect after a drunken rage. Well, not me of course seeing as I don’t drink like that…in public that is. Dive bar, alcohol, burger, well hot damn. This must be an off day for me. After the burger affair, I spent the rest of the afternoon just enjoying my South Florida vibes. Enjoying the freedom of an entrepreneur in the mid afternoon with sunny bright skies by the water front… I kick back in the swing by the dock and watch seagulls diving for bits of food thrown in the water and the water taxis and boats of varying sizes cruise by…Hey, watch out for the manatees.

Food on fiyah!!!

Haggis, my savory Scottish experience.

Haggis, my Savory Scotland

 

My whole premise of a professional foodie is based on two things: “When in Rome…” & Enjoy food in a way that makes you happy. So recently I was in Edinburgh, Scotland winding down on another leg of a European cruise. In the land of Scottish ham, Scottish Smoked Salmon, Whiskey, Single and double malt Scotch and the best Haggis no doubt. Haggis, what’s this you ask?  I’ll tell you. It’s a savory pudding that is made from the organs (heart, liver & lungs) of a sheep, minced with onions, oatmeal, spices, salt & suet and cooked (boiled) in the stomach from a sheep. when set, the Haggis can be sliced and seared and traditionally paired with good down home mashed potatoes and bloody good Dram or Scotch Whiskey. I wonder if the sheep I saw earlier in the morning munching on lush grass in the meadow on the way into town had anything to do with my Haggis this afternoon.  Umm, probably not but I’m sure a bleating field mate contributed an organ or two a while back to satisfy my curiosity. Having eaten all the aforementioned animal parts before, I didn’t have any trepidation of what this experience was going to be like. It’s just that I’ve never eaten Haggis before and of all places to be in to try it, I’m here in Scotland. So if you’re reading this blog – subscribe I ask you kindly – do you consider yourself a foodie? And if so if you haven’t yet already, would you try a bit of Haggis next chance you got? I had the appetizer portion, Haggis balls, breaded and deep-fried with mashed potatoes and whiskey sauce at The Crag & Tail restaurant right off the Royal Mile. Yep, I tried it and It’s quite good I must add and I’m not surprised I liked it. It was moist, flavorful, nicely seasoned and it had that ‘I want more factor’.  My only regret is that I didn’t have a bigger portion and a glass of Scotch Whiskey while I was feasting.. No, my beverage was beer. A locally brewed pale ale, Holyrood, name after the Palace here in Edinburgh. Built, destroyed and rebuilt over the years as war was waged on Scottish soil. Only a part of the original castle remains. The powers that be from the World Beer Association saw fit to name it “best of” in its class in 2010. I suppose if we didn’t have to scarf this meal down in order to rejoin our tour bus I might have had the hungry man’s size. Even given the short time that we had to eat I still managed to hold steadfast to both my concepts, I didn’t rush allowing myself to enjoy my Haggis and I had a locally brewed beer. Sorry folks, there was no Budweiser in this joint and I wouldn’t be looking for that either.  Remember now, “When in Rome”. For enjoy your next food experience, and tell a friend cause with Chef Irie, Food is on Fiyah Baby!!!

Be bold and daring – New tastes next time you travel!!!

So if you’re reading this blog – subscribe I ask you kindly – I have a question for you, do you consider yourself a foodie? My whole premise of a professional foodie is based on two things: “when in Rome…” & enjoy food in a way that makes you happy. So here’s my glaring critique on anyone who calls themselves a “foodie”.  Man, sounds like I’ve written that someplace before. Well, I guess it must really mean something to me then. I have recently been travelling through Europe enjoying the sites and local foods whenever I could. When given any opportunity to try something new I am always game, for the most part anyway. I may not have to like it but I’m sure going to give it a go. Some things may take a little coaxing,  just don’t ask me to kill anyone though. Unless of course it’s…umm, nah, let me not go there, politics has no place in this blog today, it might become too volatile an issue. I’ll stick to the matter of food.

I grew up in the islands eating Herring. Albeit in a can and cooked already, I ate herring. We ate that canned herring with tomato sauce and steamed rice like it was a gourmet dish. I can just hear the ‘Topanaris’ dem now – my uptownites from ‘Yard’ that claim dem don’t eat such things…in public J. Don’t hate, you know you thinking of getting some now. Oslo in Norway was our last stop before Scotland and I tried an offering of herring three ways. All pickled and none cooked served with shaved onions, sour cream & chives, flat bread snaps and rustic bread. There was: 1.) Herring marinated in sour cream, onions and spices, this I liked. 2.) Herring marinated in coriander and other spices, like this a little. 3.) Herring marinated in Aquavit (Swedish Liquor) my least favorite of the bunch. For me, I came away with the knowledge that I’m not a big fan of pickled herring, especially a whole small filet but I gained a new perspective when it came to presentation and cooking techniques and for me that was worth the experience.

The very first time I had Escargot and frogs legs was on my first trip to Paris, France several years ago. This, Four years into becoming a chef. A very memorable New Years that was indeed. I would like to think that my bravery at the time gave me a passport to get a tour of the chef’s kitchen and meet the man that delighted all our palettes that night.

Another “Roman” tradition of mine whether I’m abroad or eating in a restaurant anywhere in or out of town is to meld my palette with a beer from that cuisine’s region. Needless to say, BitBurger (German), Carlsberg (Norway), Heineken (Amsterdam), 1664 (France) and others have been the source of hoppy delight during my trip so far.

So I have another question for you. Have you had the chance to travel abroad? And are you still a considering yourself a foodie at this juncture? Given that bit if information, after spending your well earned cash on plane tickets and hotel lodgings the solution to your food quandary is to poney up to TGI Fridays, KFC, McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks and Burger King? We should all just revoke your Foodie licenses right this very minute. What, not interested in expanding your culinary boundaries when you leave your country’s borders? Have you no shame? Yeah I know the US dollar sucks against the Euro if you are in Europe so spend wisely, cheap(er) cafes. If you have gone that far to get a passport and you are actually using it, leave the old life and embrace new ones, if only for the duration of your trip. If nothing else you will have had something to write home about, good or bad. Make the best of your next trip. Try something new for Christ’s sake whether abroad or back home wherever that may be. Invite me out some time J. Always remember though, Food is on Fiyah Baby!!!

Feasting on Christmas memories – Xmas gone mad part 2

I will not be denied.

Hello there, yes it is now boxing day, the day after Christmas (yes, I wrote this two days ago, leave mi alone nuh, cho) and I will now commence the part Deux as promised. Okay, so that is not quite what I wrote the first time before I accidentally deleted my blog but I will recapture what I wrote becuase I liked what I wrote, damn it !! As best I can that is, bloody ass computers. alright, enough of that. Yes it is Boxing day and when I was growing up for me that meant a day at the movies. Oh please, put on new clothes that came in the barrel my sister sent down. Me push gawn a town to see the triple or quad martial arts (kickers) bill at either Carib, Odeon or State theaters. But alas, I can’t really expand too much on that because the only food I would talk about it is that putrid tasting popcorn they had back then along with the gas infusing soda water. Mi hear seh dem a style now, all have imported flavored water, cooyah, sclaaatt!!

In my last blog we were looking forward to having Christmas dinner at my house. Well, let’s get on with it already.  Now that the table is now cleared, time for some cousin to cousin catch up and maybe get some nibbles from the kitchen, see what mama can let off. Maybe a little fry up chicken neck, gizzard or something. I must try tief off a piece of cake, from the bottom of course silly..pardon me, professional at work here..and of course at sometime during the day I will try and lend a helping hand. My cousins and granny are here but I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the family. Christmas is a family treat for me seeing as it was only me, papa and mama in the house. I’m excited to see my Uncles (R.I.P. gentlemen) because dis boy is getting a little pocket change. Hey, I’m just keeping it real man, always hustling bro. I will also see the rest of my cousins and any other family friend that may stop by. Knowing my mama, even some of the estate workers will be fed today, beats some dry bread and D & G soda. mama used to sell dat pon payday but that is another blog coming soon at an Irie Spice blog page near you.

Dinner time..oh hell yes, we have to fast forward this ting ya man, for the Xmas food memories dem wreaking havoc on my craven belly…well former craven belly that is, for you know that as a yute I could put it away. Dinner is almost ready but in the mean time, let me give you a run down on what the feast will be like. Did I mention that it is now 4.30, just four or so hours after breakfast? Mama got skilz – please, pay no never mind to my Ebonics. I now understood though that everything was not all done within that frame time for she knew how to plan and prioritize, both important tools in any kitchen I dare say.  Wicked carrot juice made with lime juice, brown sugar and rum; Sour Sop (Guanabana) juice made with condensed milk, nutmeg and need I dare say it, rum of course. And you wonder where I get my love for my favorite brown liquor. Sorry, that Baccardi white stuff just won’t do. Can’t have Chrismas without the jewel of Xmas beverages. Yes man there MUST be Ginger Sorrel (refreshing beverage made from the fruity flowers of the Hibiscuss plant) drink on the ready, nice and cold mi seh. Just not the same without it. So those are the libations, now for the really gooood stuff…in no particular order that is.

Rice with coconut milk and Gungo (Gandules) peas, salad with shredded carrot, tomatoes and whatever else mama want to throw in with a quick vinaigrette of lime juice, sugar, vinegar and oil served on the side. One big roast chicken, free range of course – what di hell we did know bout free range back then. We would just ketch di little ras and chop off im head. Dip him in some hot water and pluck off feathers – you better recognize. Nice well done roast beef wid all kind a sinting stuff up in it…yes it was well done. Rare meat at Jamaicam table!! but u musi waan get your cook card revoked and get fling out a kitchen. Curried goat, some oxtails, potato salad with; green peas, onion and eggs. Man, I could eat a whole bowl of that just by itself right now in the wee hours ya right now. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that killer home cured ham that was scored, laced with pineapple and implaled with tiny cloves. I mention the ham because this leg came from the pens in the back of the house. Yes bless you Jerry, weeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!  We had fun times wathcing you grow from a piglet to squirly beast with almost human like personality, but Christmas was coming and I needed new school clothes, did you not see mi big toe a pop out a mi boot?…Sell him, a pound a pork please!!! Lawd gesam pees, Can’t wait fo New Year fi Nyam di ham bone Gungo peas soup, you fenne. Boss soup is coming y’all, nutin can’t touch this. Yes my Haitian bredrins, I will not infringe on your rights to have Soup Joumou. Rounding out the usual suspects would be some green beans and mac & cheese – don’t hate I say. Oh yeah, I can’t forget the fry snapper fish, I told you Christmas was the one time of the year we do it up big. Whatever your means were, even if you are knocking two cans of bullybeef with some rice & butter and two piece a slice salad. That would be tomatoes for you wana be yardies or non islanders. Chalk it up to island pride. Well, it sounds like everyting deh pon di table. I guess we need to dig in after Papa say grace. I need to mention that from the chicken, Papa always got the breast, man a house buisness. Mama would take some bony part like the back or wing for herself and everything else for our guests. For me, I had to have a chicken leg. What! but after you never waan see me screw and wrinch up mi face. I remember one Christmas while eating dinner I had my chicken leg hanging over the side of the table and the dog jumped up and snatched it and bolted out the door..Hear mi man, I run him down and grabbed it from his tiefing mouth. I believe that damn dog did lose him mental faculty for a brief moment. Don’t worry for I did straighten him out. I shat him a bax and proceeded to just wash off the leg to blousecup. PETA, get the hell off a mi ass.

So dishes are being passed, spoons are serving, forks are clanging on plates, chatter fills the room. I am happy. I am happy because my family is here, my house is filled with familiar genes and DNA. We will dine and later have dessert, for the Christams cake and more sorrel must be unveiled. Lawd gosh, a hope mama nuh look under the bottom a di cake..I guess this would be a good time to mention that I created some new memories this Christmas in 2010. I took a way long overdue trip to go see my Aunt and Uncle on the west coast of Florida in North Port. The fact that it was surprise was fantastic but even more of a blessing for me was that I hadn’t seen my aunt in over 20 years and my uncle her husband in over 35years..Wow is right. I won’t bother get into the why, let’s just say I own that. After hugs and long looks to see what I now looked like, Aunty made me breakfast of fried bacon, eggs, toast, sliced avocado and coffee. Dinner was at friend;s house that evening and my dear peoples was a thowdown. Yes, yu know weh a come, sclaaattt!!! The next morning she made me Ackee and saltfish with fried bacon in it and fried dumplings, toast and sliced avocado with coffee on the side. Yep, I feel a little De Ja Vu tugging on my sleeves. To top off the day there was roast beef with gravy and rice with coconut milk and Gungo peas, steamed broccoli and juice for dinner. At this moment I must take a deep sigh, ahhhhh!!!!

I am happy. I am happy I took the trip for this was indeed a merry Christmas. My Christmas food memories have certainly gone mad. Interesting to see what a Chef Irie Christmas menu would look like…ummmm!!!!