Christmas: Our fourth season

In our article last week, we began discussing my take on the four Barbadian seasons. I listed them as Easter, Crop Over, Independence and Christmas. How I arrived at this was due to the changes in the structure of menus and food requirements influenced by these periods of the year.

We ended off with Independence and promised to talk a bit more about conkies and coconut Bread, as this is the season presently represented by these items. Before we do that, however, I would like to complete our seasons by explaining my reason for the fourth season, Christmas, which remains the strongest of all seasons.

Again, let me remind you that this is my interpretation based on years of planning menus for events and occasions and seeing a clear pattern and strengths of demand which each season brings. Christmas remains the busiest and most demanding of these seasons, as it seems to bring out a deeper feeling from the clients, as though something special and very magical is about to happen and therefore their events should match these sentiments with flavours, colours, aromas and flair.

It is interesting for the learned chefs, as the demands are greater, therefore forcing them to dig deep into their repertoire and fall back on their years of training to come up with creations which can satisfy their clients’ expectations, as here they are now faced with the challenge of blending the strongest of flavours as this season is well-known for those accompanying flavours.

So, we refer to things like ham, turkey, Jug-Jug, biscuit stuffing and dove peas in the savoury category; rich fruit cake with rum sauce, minced pies, also what we commonly call pudding , which is technically not a pudding but rather a highly flavoured cake and, rum-infused fruit salads in the dessert category; and, to make up our beverages, egg nog, sorrel, rum punch, corn and oil and other alcoholic blends, which would include the use of items such as coconut water.

Just imagine trying to create a menu with all of these explosive flavours, while at the same time considering balance of textures and colours on your display.  This is the challenge with which the chef is presented as he still has to make sure he does not evoke culinary fatigue within his customers. But such is the nature of this season and, therefore, the reason why I consider it the strongest of all of our seasons.

So there is my answer of our Barbadian and Caribbean equivalents to spring, summer, autumn and winter: easter, Crop Over, Independence and Christmas.  Don’t you see these as more fitting as our seasons and from which we can take a page out of the book of our North American friends who never miss an opportunity to commercialize any event, as these seasons are more fitting to what naturally transpires in our region?

Today, we will give you a recipe that is as popular as Conkie, Coconut Bread and Sugar Cake during these seasons, this being Cassava Pone.  You will find that the base of these are all coconut, cassava, potato or pumpkin and one might notice that these set the tone and profile for almost all of our desserts.

On closer examination, you will realize that the profile of our desserts were mostly started from a starchy base, as opposed to a fruity one, but throughout the years and as we grew to better understand cooking techniques, were sweetened and lightened with leavening agents, thus creating a change in textures in keeping with modern trends in cooking. This is, of course, in some instances, as both Conkie and Cassava Pone have managed to retain their characteristically dense texture

CASSAVA PONE

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs       Freshly-grated Cassava

8ozs        Butter or margarine

1 lb         Brown Sugar

1pt          Milk

1tsp        Mixed Spices

1/2 tsp   Salt

4ozs       Grated Coconut

3          Eggs

3tsp       Vanilla Essence

METHOD

1.     Mix dry ingredients together; add melted butter/ margarine

2.     Beat eggs and essence; mix well with dry ingredients

3.     Pour into a greased baking tin, fill half-way up; bake in oven at 300 F for about an hour or until toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean

Source: (Peter Edey is a Worldchefs Certified Executive Chef; a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation; a graduate of l’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer. Email: peter@dcbarbados.com)

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