10 food must-haves in a Trini house on Christmas Day
Photo courtesy Eatahfood
Christmas is just days away and already most people’s kitchens are bearing the signs of this festive day. After all, what is Christmas without food especially our annual faves of ham, pastelles and sorrel? Loop’s Regional Lifestyle Editor Laura Dowrich-Phillips and Eatahfood’s Baidawi Assing tell us their picks for the must-haves on Christmas day and why.
Baidawi Assing, EAF
I have a special place in my heart for very tasty food in small packages and I enjoy the sweet and savoury flavours that a proper beef pastelle provides. I will eat other varieties but the quintessential pastelle is beef. This is a staple for Christmas, maybe being aware of its’ Spanish influences coupled with the sweet sounds of parang make it an inextricable part of my Trini Christmas experience.
My family doesn’t eat pork so growing up, turkey was the meat of choice for the Christmas meal. To this day if you give me an option between ham and turkey, turkey wins every single time. Maybe it’s the power of conditioning and habit, maybe I really do prefer the taste of turkey. Truth be told… I’m yet to have a Ham experience where I was like “wow this tastes amazing”. (#flameon)
This is all about the nostalgia… both my grandmothers used to bake up a storm when I was a child and although Black Cake and Sponge Cake were strong contenders in the dessert category, something about a slice of sweet bread was just absolute perfection. The blend of spices, the warmth, rich texture of the sweet bread with an ever so slightly burnt crust and of course, you having that with a cold slice of cheese. Very few foods can instantly transport me back to my childhood.
Ponche De Crème
I love Ponche De Crème, but it doesn’t love me. I can’t have milk… if I do, I will pay the price dearly but last weekend I was at the Trinidad and Tobago Goat and Sheep Society’s Annual Farmers’ lime and my friend Michael Norgriff made a Pump De Crème (Pumpkin Ponche De Crème) with Goat’s Milk. He assured me that there would be no side effects and I tried some of with much trepidation. After all, we were in Moruga and it was a long drive home. To my delight, nothing happened, I was totally fine. So maybe from here on out, Goat’s Milk Ponche De Crème or Pump De Crème might be my new flick.
I wish I had the words to describe how much I love pigeon peas… Fresh pigeon peas at that! The one chore I probably never had an issue doing as a child was shelling peas, the monotony didn’t faze me, the worms didn’t faze me. I knew the reward for such a task was a healthy serving of pigeon peas with my Christmas lunch. Cooked down with pumpkin and bay leaf in coconut milk and seasoned with garlic, onion and thyme. Hands down, fresh pigeon peas is my all-time favourite food. Not just for Christmas but any day, any time, any occasion. Give. Me. Pigeon. Peas.
Laura Dowrich-Phillips, Loop
Nothing says Christmas than the scent of ham wafting through the house days before the big day. As a child, I never felt like Christmas till the sweet scent of Ham seasoned with cloves filled every corner of the house and we could eat a few slices just to taste in advance.
Hands down my favourite beverage ever! I could drink sorrel all year but nothing says Christmas like a tall glass of sorrel with lots of ice. I prefer to make my sorrel fresh by boiling the petals with a few cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and a smidgen of ginger. Like the typical Trini I like my sorrel sweet and I especially enjoy mixing it with some bubbly on Christmas morning to make sorrel bellinis. Delish!
Freshly baked bread
The smell of Christmas morning for me is that of freshly baked bread. I grew up in a home where we made bread, from scratch, by hand, every Saturday but Christmas morning, my mother made the bread fancy with either raisins or flour plaits on top. Nothing beats freshly baked bread with ham for breakfast.
As we are talking about bread and ham, we can’t forget a very important condiment: chow chow. I had no clue for years what Chow Chow was and it is only as an adult I learned that it was pickled veggies. Great topping with your ham and even your pastelle.
Black cake or fruitcake could be a hit or miss for me. It really comes down to how it is made and there is very little consistency across the board when it comes to making this Christmas staple. I love my fruitcake rich and moist. The fruits must also be well disguised and there ought to be just enough rum to balance with the other ingredients not overpower them or drunken me. I know tradition dictates that you soak the fruits for months but my sister loves to wait till her cake is baked to douse it with rum and it tastes just perfect to me.