For the last two weeks, Thursday Life has made suggestions about how to prepare for the craziness of Christmas cooking so that you don't go crazy yourself! If you missed out, visit our website www.jamaicaobserver.com at the 'Food' section of November 22 and 29.
This week, we went out and interviewed shoppers about their favourite Christmas food and drink traditions, and even got a few recipes from some. There was Orthel Faulkner, a treatment coordinator for an orthodontist, who was buying her dried fruits so that she could start soaking them in Red Label Wine and J Wray & Nephew white rum. "They should have been soaking from summer," she noted, but didn't seem worried in the slightest. And why should she be? It's better late than never, and Christmas ought not be stressful, anyway. But perhaps she's not too concerned because one of her 'secret' ingredients in making her Christmas cake is to blend a few tins of Dole pineapple chunks, and stir that into the batter. Imagine how moist and tasty that would be! Orthel and her family do a pot luck every Christmas, and although she's not sure what she'll be asked to make this year, she always brings along her cake as well, because what would Christmas Day be like without traditional Christmas cake?
Expatriate Nivine Rouphael, who used to be a telecommunications engineer before starting a family in Kingston, says, "In Lebanon the cake is a Buche de Noel (basically a chocolate swiss roll). It is my favourite, because it reminds me of my childhood. It's delicious, and I particularly love all the decorations we put on it and what they represent." Nivine is an avid cook, and is no stranger to the local food stores in Kingston, particularly Pricesmart, Loshusan, Uncorked for cheeses, and Bin 26 for her wines (her favourite is red!). On Christmas Day she'll be stuffing her chicken with mince and rice, seasoned with Lebanese seven spices, which she buys from Abby and Jason Younis. They also have the most divine Baklava and other Lebanese pastries, which make unique Christmas gifts.
Another ardent culinary whizz is Nesta Haye, a coordinator at the Victim Support Unit, who won't simply stop at the ham. She informs us, "I like to know that there are several types of meat on the table and a wide variety of dishes. I bake a ham, roast a chicken, stew some oxtail, make a curry mutton, and roast a nice cut of beef. Of course, we have rice and gungo peas, sorrel drink, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, and much more. I do most of the cooking, but a couple family members bring a dish." With 20 people to cater for this year, Nesta appears unfazed. "Mentally I am prepared, but I don't start on the food itself until about a week before Christmas," she says with a smile. What's in her trolley today? "Oh just a few things for another party I am throwing," she notes casually.
Hennis Smith was equally calm about Christmas Day. "I help the family with the cooking. Well, more like I carve the ham on Christmas Day, and I oversee the sorrel drink, which we make with J Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum. Basically, I am the taster!" he chuckles. "Christmastime is for family, and we look forward to it very much." Smith's favourite tipple is red wine, which he says he'll be drinking throughout Christmas.
We couldn't have said it better. Christmas is indeed a time for loved ones, and a time for sharing. "Sharing is Caring" as any kindergarten kid will tell you, and what better time to express that than at Christmas?
Next week, we'll have more input from supermarket shoppers on their preferred Christmas traditions and recipes.