The changing face of Christmas Fare
So another Christmas has gone by and as I said in a previous article, it was all about the preparation and lead-up, because the year has not totally gone as yet and we are already well into preparing for our next big event, New Year’s Eve.
In my moving around I could not help but become involved in the eating, drinking and festivities of the season and I must say, much of the fare was well prepared and of a very high standard. It was also very obvious that some Barbadians are quite aware of the food preparation rules which ensure the safety of all who would consume.
What was also very pleasing was the presence of quite a lot of Barbadian cuisine, both traditional and new. Also of particular interest were the flavours of these dishes which varied, sometimes drastically, as you moved from location to location; they were all tailored, or should I say influenced, by our parents and grandparents. This was made clear after many conversations with these home cooks, bearing evidence that our culinary culture is still alive and well, at least in our households across the island.
The traditional dishes served up were the usual high quality, both in texture and flavor. I had some excellent Jug Jug, biscuit stuffing and herb-baked chicken which stood out for me. There was also a really great Christmas cake at one gathering, which brought back fond memories of my Grandmother, as it was as moist and flavourful as the product she made years ago. Needless to say, this was the centre of conversation with almost everyone who attended this event.
One of the conversations that I found very interesting was whether or not the Christmas cake is really a cake, or if it is in fact a steamed pudding; that conversation made me go hmmnnn and got me thinking as to what is or where lies the difference between a cake and a pudding, as for years a Christmas cake is what we call it.
One of the arguments put forward was that it was not steamed and therefore could not be a pudding. Another was that it usually has much more fruit than flour, which changes the texture completely thus making it a pudding and not a cake. Another argument for the cake side was that it has all of the components that make up a cake and it is baked in the oven just like a cake, so therefore, it is a cake.
All I can say for now is after quite a few drinks, numerous other opinions and what became a rather loud, but friendly, culinary argument, it was not resolved at that sitting. I will reserve my opinion for a future column which will deal with cakes, pastries and baking in general.
I also had the opportunity to sample some non-traditional Christmas fare, such as ham made from lamb; fruit cake made with one hundred percent Bajan fruit, including local cherries, gooseberries and fat pork; as well as home-made sausages, made with a breadfruit and cassava base. There was also an interesting appetizer served at one of the events; it was a Christmas breakfast pizza, containing ham and egg, which I thought was very creative and a great idea even for after Christmas.
The lamb ham though . . . although tasting great, if you tell me ham, I, being a traditional cook, am looking for the texture and full flavor of a ham. While the flavour did have certain notes of a ham, the texture and appearance were quite different. So once I put my professional hat on, I thought, why are we calling this a ham? Why are we missing another opportunity to create something new and furthermore, marketing it as such? Because trust me, the flavor and texture on their own were fantastic; I really don’t think you needed to call it ham to get it sold. Smoked Bajan Blackbelly lamb would have been my suggestion for a name, but of course, there are lots of other and even more creative people who would come up with even more descriptive names. This product was an excellent idea, but to me, a new-item opportunity lost.
I also got the chance to savour some scotch bonnet ice-cream and cassava ice-cream, as well as a punch made from breadfruit that gave traditional eggnog a run for its money. There was also a Bajan Black-belly lamb and yam pie, which the cook got perfectly balanced, both in texture and flavor.
So, if you were paying attention, you would realize that the traditional ham, turkey and baked pork, took a back seat this season, as I was looking for what could be the newest trend in Barbadian cuisine. Our new generation of home cooks are taking the lead in helping with the continued evolution of our culinary culture and it is now up to our professional cooks to follow that lead and introduce our visitors to these new creations and to do their part in ensuring that we remain true to our culinary culture and all of the unique cooking techniques that were handed down to us by our most creative fore-parents.
As usual at Christmas, we tend to go overboard with the volume of food we cook and are often left with quite a few left-overs. I hope you followed the tips given last time about storing and paying strict attention to the time and temperature during cooking, serving and eventual storage of left-overs. Once these rules were followed, then your left-overs will be great for the preparation of secondary products. Today, I’ll give you two recipes that will utilize your left-over turkey in a salad and your chicken wrapped in a pancake.