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Jackass Corn

I heard about jackass corn when I was younger but I don’t remember seeing let alone trying it. Lacking any context, I imagined it was a variety of corn – one that jackasses liked to eat. I know that’s pretty literal but what else could I think?

I hadn’t thought of or heard about jackass corn until sometime last year when my friend, Sandra, and I walked into 14 Parish Restaurant, a small take out spot in Hackensack, NJ. The typical assortment of sweets  – rock buns, gizzadas, grater cakes – sat on display in a glass case on the counter but there was one item I didn’t recognize. Curious, I asked what it was.

Jackass Corn

J

I chided the young cashier for not knowing and he went back to the kitchen to ask.

“It’s jackass corn,” he said when he returned, his face still wearing a puzzled look.

Jackass (or donkey) corn is a hard biscuit made of flour, water, coconut milk, and nutmeg. It is rolled flat, cut into rectangles and baked. According to the Dictionary of Jamaican English, it’s called jackass corn because when you eat it, it sounds like the sound a donkey makes when it’s eating corn.

Jackass Corn
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  2. 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  7. 3 tablespoons water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the coconut. Add the water and mix, forming a very stiff dough that will not crumble.
  2. Roll out the dough on a floured board to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the dough into small rectangles. Place the pieces onto a greased cookie sheet and prick each one with a fork. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate to cool.
Adapted from Lucinda's Authentic Jamaican Kitchen
Adapted from Lucinda's Authentic Jamaican Kitchen
InsideJourneys http://insidejourneys.com/
Jackass corn used to be a popular snack enjoyed by school children as well as adults. It fell out of favor perhaps because it’s likely seen as irrelevant, or unsophisticated next to prepared snacks like potato chips and Cheese Trix.

But one of the unforeseen and unintended impacts of migration is that Jamaicans, like other immigrant communities, cling to the traditions that keep them connected to home. One of the many food items they hold on to is jackass corn, which explains why it would be available for sale in a small restaurant in New Jersey.

As I expected, the owner said he sells mostly to people of a certain age. Since I’d never tried them, I handed over $2 for two biscuits which came wrapped tightly in plastic. My aunt couldn’t believe it when I told her what I had found.

I couldn’t bring myself to eat my treat right away and kept the jackass corn for almost a week before finally ripping off the plastic. I tried the first one.  It was slightly sweet, with a hint of nutmeg, crisp but not as hard as I expected. I made a cup of tea, fresh mint, and had the second one. You can also have jackass corn on its own as a snack.

How to join the #FoodieTuesday linkup –

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For more recipes, check out Lucinda Scala Quinn’s cookbook, Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen

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Knutsford Express Went Above and Beyond For Me

I was exhausted when I got home. We had spent a long and exhilarating day driving more than 200 miles to visit heritage sites in St. Catherine, Jamaica and all I could think of was crawling into bed and getting some sleep.

I was about to turn off the lights when I remembered that I still hadn’t booked my ticket on the Knutsford Express for my trip to Falmouth the next morning. I logged on quickly and was thrilled to see that a bus was leaving Montego Bay at 7:30 a.m. I could sleep a little longer, I thought, as I completed the purchase.

I was ready before my 7:15 pickup but as I closed the gate to my house, I panicked. The bus was leaving at 7:30, I should be at the station at 7:15. I called Eton, my taxi driver.

I’ll be right there, he said. I’m only a few minutes away.

Eton drove like a bat out of hell, collapsing the trip to less than 10 minutes. Thankfully, of seven traffic lights only one was red.

Knutsford Express

Andre Johnson

Walking up to the Knutsford Express counter at 7:25, I told the agent that I had a ticket for the 7:30 bus to Falmouth.

“There isn’t a 7:30 bus to Falmouth,” she said. “The bus left at 7:00 a.m. and there isn’t another one till 9.”

“But I have a ticket,” I protested.

She peered at her computer screen and said to no one in particular, “The computer messed up,” picked up a phone and walked away from the counter.

On any other day, the 9:00 would have been fine. But this was the first day of a three-day historic preservation seminar I helped Falmouth Heritage Renewal to organize. I couldn’t afford to be late.

I pulled out my phone and punched in Eton’s number.

“Yes, Miss,” he said.

By the time I put my phone back in my bag, the agent returned.

“The Negril driver will take you to Falmouth,” she said.

I was stunned. The least I expected was that they’d give me a complimentary ticket but to take me to Falmouth? Wow, that was going above and beyond.

Before I could cancel my taxi, a tall young man with an engaging smile approached.

“Are you the person going to Falmouth?”

He led the way to his bus, a regular 40- or 50-seater. I couldn’t believe my luck. Actually, this was more than luck. This was a gift straight from the gods. How else to explain a bus that materialized right when I needed it?

I took one of the seats directly behind the driver’s and we pulled out of the station.

The first thing I asked was his name. Andre Johnson. Laughing, he added that both his names are common in Jamaica.

I told Andre my story and thanked him for agreeing to drive me to Falmouth. He said he had just come in from Negril and was about to leave when Keisha, the agent I spoke with, told him what happened. I felt even more grateful. The timing was pure serendipity.

I’ve been taking Knutsford Express to Kingston for at least five years and have always been impressed by their reliable and on-time service, friendly and efficient staff, comfortable and clean buses, even the chilled complimentary bottle of water they provide each passenger.

Now, thanks to Andre and Keisha, Knutsford’s stock has increased several fold in my book.

Andre, a 28 year old (he was impressed when I guess his age correctly) father of an adorable little girl and another child on the way, told me he’s been working with Knutsford Express for about nine months. Prior to joining the Knutsford team, he had also worked as a mechanic for a transport company.

Many of the Knutsford’s drivers, he added, are experienced auto mechanics so they know when something is wrong and can tell the company’s mechanics exactly what and where the problem is. Hearing that made me feel more confident in the company.

As we pulled into Falmouth, I asked Andre if I could take his photo for a post I planned to write about my Knutsford experience. He adjusted his tie and struck a pose.

I was smiling all day as I told almost everyone I met about my experience. Everyone was surprised at my good luck.

The next day, as I waited for my return trip to MoBay, I shared my story with Alexia, the Knutsford Express agent in Falmouth. She didn’t seem surprised by how Keisha had handled the situation, adding, “the error was ours.”

Fantastic, I though, Knutsford’s agents have the latitude to problem solve.

A lot of us, especially those Jamaicans who’ve lived elsewhere, are quick to bemoan the service we receive from many of the island’s companies. I can’t disagree: the majority of employees could use customer service training and be empowered to resolve issues as they arise.

And many local companies need to realize that bad service drives customers away. Clearly, Knutsford Express understands this and provides consistent, first-rate service. (The other company, in my experience, that also gets it is Flow.)

So I’m taking this opportunity to ‘big up’ Knutsford Express, Andre Johnson, Keisha, Alexia and the entire team for the service they provide. They really do take you from city to city in comfort and style.

The Counting House at Good Hope Plantation

Good Hope Great House, with its Counting House, came on my radar about 10 years ago when I was looking for a suitable venue for an event I was planning. Since then, I’ve visited Good Hope several times but for one reason or another, have never been able to see the interior of the Counting House. Finally, a few weeks ago, I got my chance. I was only disappointed because I didn’t get to spend the night there.

The king was in his counting house, counting out his money – Sing a Song of Sixpence

Good Hope Counting House

Good Hope Counting House

I don’t know about you but when I hear Counting House, a line from a certain English nursery rhyme comes to mind. The king in that nursery rhyme could well have been John Tharp, the owner of Good Hope Great House.

Tharp, a shrewd businessman, was the richest and largest landowner in Jamaica.

At the ripe old age of 23, he already owned Good Hope. He bought the estates that adjoined it and expanded his holdings to about 9,000 acres. Tharp also owned a plantation about 50 miles away in Water Works, Westmoreland. At his death, in 1804, his property was valued at over 4.5 million pounds.

Counting House, Good Hope

Backview of the Counting House

Apparently counting money in one’s home was believed to bring bad luck so Tharp had the Counting House built just steps from the main house. Remember, this was the 1700s. Jamaica had no paper money or banks until the 1800s. People like Tharp, had to be their own banks.

As I surveyed the room, I tried to imagine how it might have looked in Tharp’s day. Where did he have his vault?

Counting House, Good Hope Great House

Counting House

Counting House

John Tharp’s office

Was anyone else allowed in his Counting House? If only the walls could talk.

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travel Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

 

Cheeseberries and Wild Raspberries

I’ve been curious about cheeseberries since I saw them last summer at Holywell Recreational Park in Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains.

Cheeseberries look like orange raspberries and are about the same size but they are sweet, a bit like tangerine. They thrive in higher elevations so you’ll find them growing wild in the Blue Mountain area. As far as I’ve been able to find out, that’s where they’re mostly found.

Cheeseberries

Cheeseberries

Cheeseberries, as well as wild raspberries, are popular snacks with hikers who climb the Blue Mountains or hike any of the trails.

Wild raspberries

Wild raspberries

Cheeseberries and wild raspberries are not native to Jamaica. Interestingly, cheeseberries are listed as one of the world’s worst invasive alien species.

Wild raspberries plant

Wild raspberry plant

Would you try fruits that grow wild?

How to join the #FoodieTuesday linkup –

  • Add the link to your foodie post in the link tool at the bottom of this post
  • Leave a comment.
  • As a courtesy, please include a link back to this post.
  • Tweet, G+, Like, etc., using the hashtag #FoodieTuesday

 

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