Who? Jacqueline Greaves and her husband Antonio Monda
Where? In the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Town & Country: The Persistence of Tradition:
The Neverending Banquet by Lauren Mechling
Some holiday parties can be as stiff as eggnog peaks, but then there's Jacqueline Greaves and Antonio Monda's twist on yuletide tradition. Held in the couple's Upper West Side apartment, the get-togethers are packed with Manhattan's cultural elite and more Jamaican and Italian-inflected food that those guests know what to do with. Fifteeen years after the Mondas hosted their first holiday blow-out, the event remains something of an underground phenomenon...
Jacquie, a food writer, and Antonio, a writer, professor of film at New York University, and artistic director of the Rome Film Festival and the literary festival Le Conversazioni, have lived in New York for most of their adult lives, but their party is as much a celebration of their cultural heritages as it is about any holiday. Antonio was born outside Rome; Jacquie in Kingston, Jamaica.
The more... Jacqueline and her sister Dawn left Jamaica in 1970 for New York, USA, and are the daughters of Peggy Greaves (daughter of Joslyn and Winifred Leo-Rhynie) and Eric Greaves. Both Baptist ministers.
In the early years we were living in Queens, NY... and only after I returned from Italy in 1994 did I move to Manhattan.
I studied Spanish Literature at Barnard College (one of the Seven Sisters colleges and now part of Columbia University)... then did an MA degree in Spanish at NYU in Madrid. That was followed by an MA programme in International Affairs at the School of International Affairs at Columbia University.
I spent a year and a half in Spain and returned to NY in 1983... I was introduced to my husband by a mutual Italian friend in 1985. He was briefly in NYC to do a documentary for RAI Italian television.
Food was something that I naturally picked up... My grandmother Winifred was an excellent cook, as were all of her sisters. As their father was Chinese, that was a cuisine that was a major part of our tradition. She threw great dinner parties. After moving to NY I didn't really like the idea of cooking and pretty much left that to my mother and sister who are both wonderful cooks as well, and fabulous at making and decorating cakes. I didn't become interested in cooking until I lived in Spain and spent a lot of time with friends in the Basque region, the town of Guernica, where I learned a lot about the traditions. I love Spanish food and it is still my favourite cuisine. When I got married in 1991 and moved to Italy after a few weeks I needed more variety in the food. I love to eat food from around the world, and I especially love strong flavours and textures in my food. There was nothing but Italian really back then. Rome wasn't like Paris with good Asian food or other cuisines. My mother and my sister sent me recipes, especially Jamaican and Chinese, and I started cooking for my Italian family and friends. It was super-difficult to find the ingredients. My mother would mail me care packages of Jamaican and Chinese spices and sauces to Rome. Funnily enough, she still sends me Jamaican spices (Florida to NY). My cooking style was and continues to be one of adaptation in which I try to recreate flavour memories with the materials and products that are available to me. When we returned to NY in 1994 our home became a hub for the Italians visiting or living in NYC. Then we gradually entered into the American literary/intellectual circles and we began inviting people to our home. From these dinners and lunches that we still do twice a month (we used to do every Sunday) pausing only from March 2020 to May 2021 because of COVID. Our invitations were sought-after, and people would actually call and ask to be invited. Then we became famous for our Christmas parties, and once we had 150 people at one party. I cook a four-course meal, from appetisers to desserts. It varies between Italian and Jamaican with some international recipes. I like to balance it out to where it is Italy meets Jamaica.
On the horizon... Well, now I am writing about food for two magazines. That started last year. One is For The Culture Food Magazine, that is owned and published by Klancy Miller. I couldn't believe she asked me to write in a magazine that had contributions from or featured some of the top black women in the food industry on an international level. What I love is that she asks me to write about things totally outside of my scope; like in the first edition last year, I wrote about an Ethiopian restaurant in Rome. That was amazing as I learned something about my adopted country that I hadn't known, and it was fabulous to suddenly realise that things had changed in Italy. There were indeed other cuisines available and I found that terribly exciting. Then I was asked to contribute to an online Italian magazine Linkiesta, the food section Gastronomika. It too is fun. I get to muse about food but not necessarily beginning with the food as a physical necessity but the meaning of food as a tool of survival, what it symbolises. I hope to write more for both of these magazines. Food and culture are important to me. It is the last thing really that identifies our cultures and traditions as the world becomes more and more a global nonentity. Our history – migration, immigration, marriages, slavery, colonialism, and every political and economic upheaval – can be studied through the movement of recipes, ingredients. The history of food should be requisite in schools, and I guarantee the students won't be bored and will have learned so much more than in their regular history classes.
Then I am working on a cookbook, in which I talk about my recipes and how they developed, and the art of entertaining at home. I am also hoping to write enough articles that I can have them published in a collection. Finally, I am writing a novel and of course food will have a big part in it. Let's hope one or all get to see the light of day. We'll see, but I continue to give parties and entertain, travel and eat. These are all of my favourite things.