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Foodie Tuesday: Grater Cake

Jamaica produces about 95 million coconuts each year – a large number of which is consumed locally. The mature fruit forms the basis for confectioneries such as grater cake, gizzada, and drops that are popular among Jamaicans. These coconut treats turn up in grocery shops, in the baskets of itinerant food sellers and on fancy tables.

Pink & White Grater Cake

Pink topping

A few weeks ago, I attended an event and was pleasantly surprised to see grater cakes among the sweets on the dessert table. Grater cakes are made primarily of sugar and grated or shredded coconut with a little almond essence. It’s relatively easy to make and perhaps because it’s mostly sugar, satisfies the sweet tooth.

Granny is
fried dumplin’ an’ run-dung,
coconut drops an’ grater cake,
fresh ground coffee smell in the mornin’
when we wake.
– From the poem, Granny is, by Valerie Bloom

In the old days, we made grater cake with wet sugar, which is raw or unrefined sugar, also called Muscovado sugar. Wet sugar isn’t as popular as it used to be so now we use granulated (white) sugar.

 

How to Make Grater Cake

Ingredients

3 cups dried or shredded coconut
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon almond essence
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red food colouring (optional)

Directions

Peel off the outer layer (brown portion) of the dried coconut, wash, grate and set aside.
Combine grated coconut, granulated sugar and water in a pot and put to boil. Reduce to medium flame, mix in the almond essence and the salt. Stir constantly until mixture thickens.
Remove a 1/3 of the mixture and add a small amount of red food colouring to give a delicate pink colour.
Scrape remaining coconut mixture into a greased casserole dish and spread evenly.
Spread the pink coloured coconut evenly over the white mixture.
Set aside for 25-30 minutes or until sufficiently cooled.
Cut into squares and serve.

Recipe from gracefoods.com

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The Tambourine in Jamaican Culture

The tambourine or timbrel is an important musical instrument in Revival churches in Jamaica. It is also featured in mento, Kumina and Pocomania music.

According to Wikipedia, the tambourine originated in Greece, Rome, Mesopotamia, the Middle East and India.

Tambourine in Jamaican Music

Tambourine

The Tainos, Jamaica’s original people, called it the maguey, and used it in celebrations for their ancestors.

There are several references to the tambourine in Jamaican popular culture. In the Anancy story, Tiger Sheep-Skin Suit, Brer (Brother) Tiger plays the tambourine.  Anancy (or Anansi), a spider and a trickster who outsmarts everyone, came to Jamaica from Ghana’s Ashanti people.

Another reference comes in 1837, when Isaac Belisario (1794-1849), a Jamaican artist of Jewish descent, published several paintings on street life, which included costumed dancers and singers who sang to the music of fife, triangle and tambourine.

The tambourine comes in different shapes. The most popular resembles a small drum with several metal disks placed at intervals in the side. To use it, the player shakes the instrument with one hand then strikes it with the other.

Prince Harry Playing the Tambourine in Jamaica

Last year, when Prince Harry was on his official visit to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, he played the tambourine with British vocalist Gary Barlow who was also on the island recording music for an album commemorating the Jubilee.

Foodie Tuesday: Saltfish, from Poor Man’s Food to National Dish

Saltfish is so popular in Jamaica, it’s one of the two main ingredients in ackee and saltfish, our national dish. We eat it fried, roasted, baked, or in stews and at any meal of the day.

Saltfish

uncooked fish

Salt or codfish came to Jamaica by way of Canada – Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, to be exact. Back then, planters were looking for food to feed the large population of enslaved Africans who worked on their plantations. It was for the same goal that they imported breadfruit from the South Pacific. Saltfish, as codfish is called locally, was traded for rum and molasses and shipped back to the island.

when saltfish could shingle house…

The first time I heard the expression, when saltfish could shingle house, I couldn’t understand what my mother was walking about. Why would anyone use saltfish to shingle their house? Years before saltfish was so inexpensive and commonplace, people thought jokingly that it could be use for everything, including as shingles for their houses.

Saltfish, flaked

Flaked fish

Not so now as saltfish runs from $5 – 7 a pound. It is more expensive than meat and some other types of fish. To make it attractive, supermarkets sell it in pieces weighing about a half of a pound. You can buy even smaller amount in grocery shops.

Today, approximately 80% of the saltfish, usually hake or pollack, imported into Jamaica comes from Norway. Saltfish maintains its popularity, in part, because of its long shelf life. It also doesn’t require refrigeration. However, it is no longer inexpensive or looked down on as food for poor or lower class people. A staple of our diet, saltfish is on the menu of households in all strata of Jamaican society, and appears in a variety of dishes including ackee and saltfish, or cooked up with tomatoes, calalloo, cabbage, okra, butter beans, or found in fritters.

Chopped ingredients for Saltfish

Chopped tomato, scallion, onion, thyme

Saltfish & tomatoes

Tomatoes

 

How to Make Saltfish and Tomatoes

Ingredients

1/2 pound saltfish
1 large tomato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks of scallion, chopped
1 sprig thyme
Black pepper, to taste
2-3 strips of Scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
Oil for frying

Directions

Soak saltfish in water overnight or bring to boil. Drain and add more fresh water and boil again to remove salt.
Chop onions, scallion and tomato; cut 2-3 strips from Scotch bonnet pepper and set aside.
Drain and add cold water.
Using your fingers or a fork, flake the fish and remove any bones.
In a medium skillet, add oil and allow to get hot. Saute chopped onions and scallions until transparent. Add pepper, then add tomatoes. Stir frequently until tomato flavors the oil.
Stir in the flaked fish. If there isn’t enough oil in the pan, add a little water.
Add black pepper and stir until the ingredients are fully mixed.
Lower the flame and let cook for 5 minutes.
Garnish with scallion or green peppers (sweet) and serve.
This can be paired with rice or ground provisions and can be eaten at any meal.

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A Colorful Stilt Walker

I was waiting at the airport to pick up a friend when I saw this stilt walker.  With his colorful costume and height — he looked about 10 feet tall — he was impossible to miss in the crowd of people who, like me, had gathered at the arrival entrance of the airport.

Stilt walker, Montego Bay Airport

Colorful man

I’ve seen this particular stilt walker, or someone else wearing a similar costume, in Montego Bay several times since then. They seem to be part of the entertainment for cruise ship passengers.

According to Wikipedia, stilt walking has been traced as far back to 6th century Greece. Stilt walkers have been seen in countries such as France, Spain, Mali and have been used in a variety of situations from farming and jousting. It’s hard to imagine walking on stilts much less walking and jousting, a 600 year old tradition in Namur, Belgium!

Stilts can be hand-held, strapped on, or made with springs that allow the stilt walker to run, jump, and perform other activities. Stilt walkers are popular forms of entertainment, especially at circuses and festivals.

Hilton house

Hilton house

While I don’t remember stilt walkers being part of Jamaica’s cultural history or repertoire, I do remember that at one time, houses, like the one I grew up in, were elevated. Having a house built off the ground allows air to circulate freely and keep it cool. It also helps to keep out insects and other unwanted pests, and protects the house if there is flooding.

July 27th is National Walk on Stilts Day, an unofficial holiday.

 

Sept. 16th – Linking up this week with Travel Photo Mondays, which Noel of Travel Photo Discovery organizes.