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Simple, Tasty Bully Beef (Corned Beef)

Last weekend, I had such a craving for bully beef and rice that I decided to make it for dinner. As I was chopping up the onions, scallions and tomato, I began thinking. Why is it called bully beef? Why is it red? How did it get to Jamaica? And why do we love it so much?

Bully beef is how we English speakers say beouf bouilli, which is French for boiled beef. It’s the brisket cut that is cooked in brine, shredded, and canned (think Spam) with a coat of gelatin or crystallized oil that melts when you cook the beef.

Bully beef was, until 2009, part of the rations that British soldiers received. I suspect the reason for its popularity in Jamaica and the Caribbean might be that the men who fought during the war brought it with them when they returned home. 

Bully beef and rice
Bully beef and rice

Bully beef is the name that was popular back in high school, when we made and sold bully beef sandwiches to raise money for our graduation. Corned beef is what almost everyone calls it now. But it’s not the same corned beef that’s a favorite of Irish and Jewish diners.

Once in a while we’d have bully beef for breakfast and sometimes, with white rice for dinner but it wasn’t a staple in our home. I can’t remember how my graduating class agreed to use it to raise money and considering how popular patties and coco bread were, I’m surprised we made money. But we didn’t have enough hands to sell those tasty little rolls that we stuffed with bully beef mashed with chopped onions, black pepper and mayonnaise.

Simple Bully Beef (Corned Beef)
Serves 4

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  1. 1 Can bully beef (look for corned beef)
  2. 1 medium onion (chopped)
  3. 1/2 small Scotch bonnet pepper (chopped, seeded)
  4. 1 small tomato (chopped)
  5. 1 sprig thyme
  6. ½ sweet pepper
  7. Dash black pepper
  8. 1 can mixed vegetables or 1 cup shredded cabbage (optional)
  1. Saute onions and Scotch bonnet until they become soft.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes, let cook.
  3. Open can of bully beef, stir it into the tomato, onion
  4. Add sweet pepper and other vegetables
  5. Season with thyme, and black pepper to taste
  6. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Serve with brown or white rice and your choice of vegetables.

I had another memorable bully beef meal when five of my aunts and uncles turned up in the same city at the same time. The next morning for breakfast, my uncle’s wife fried up green plantains, which she masked with a fork, and bully beef.

That breakfast took my aunts back to their youth and that all started chattering not only about breakfast, which was a hit, but also about their mother and the women in their community used to make the best cakes, the best sweets. It was the first time I was having green plantains and was delighted how well it complimented the slight saltiness of the bully beef. Weeks after I returned home, I ate nothing but plantain and bully beef.

Bully beef is like Ramen noodles – quick, tasty, filling and, at the time, inexpensive. It’s also very versatile. I ate a lot of it after I got my first apartment. I’d make bully beef with cabbage, green or ripe plantains, dumplings, green bananas, even pasta.

Much of the bully beef that is on the supermarket shelves comes from South America. About two years ago, a US Department of Agriculture recall took it off the market. 

When the ban was lifted, the price jumped from roughly $3-4 to almost $6 a can. (In Jamaica, you can buy smaller sized cans for about $2-3.) That’s when I swore off bully beef. It made better sense to buy a pound of fish or even chicken instead. Maybe that’s why last weekend the taste came back so strongly.

I found two pages dedicated to Rice and Bully Beef on Facebook. Between them, they have almost 2,000 likes. Who knew so many people liked this simple dish?


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Discover Dalaman

There’s plenty to love about Dalaman holidays. From the climate to the culture, from those glorious long, sandy beaches to its cheerful holiday resorts and well-equipped hotels, it’s certainly worth taking a bite out of this Turkish delight.

Mountain and Sea

Based on the aptly-named Turquoise Coast, Dalaman is a cracking holiday destination with a wide range of fantastic resorts on offer. If you’re after a lively stay with pubs and clubs at every turn, Marmaris could be right up your street. This energetic nightspot pulses with life and really comes alive once the sun goes down, with a long list of venues to keep you dancing ’til the early hours. The beach scene is suitably upbeat too, with plenty of local activities and watersports on offer for the more active types, and endless rows of sunbeds for those who want to kick back and take it easy.

In resorts like Fethiye and Atakoy, you’ll find a slower pace of life with a more authentic Turkish vibe. And for knock-out beaches and cracking coastal scenery, Olu Deniz is the place to be. You’ve probably seen the photos of the beach at Olu Deniz – there’s a magnificent lagoon and a dazzling sweep of pale silky sand, which makes the perfect backdrop for your holiday snaps.

Olu Deniz
Olu Deniz

If you’ve got Dalaman holidays in mind this summer or next, you’ll find a wide range of holidays on offer here. Check out some of the package breaks on offer and search for late deals or early booking discounts to enjoy additional savings on your trip. After all, the more you save now, the more you’ll have to play with once you get there!

So whether you’re after a laidback break in stunning surroundings, or a non-stop clubbing holiday to remember, Dalaman is one Turkish delight that ticks all the right boxes.

Travel Memories: Sometimes, it’s the Characters You Meet

Most times, travel is about a destination. But what about the people and other characters we meet along the way? Sometimes, it’s all about them. Sometimes, they help us make lasting travel memories.

I had several ideas and a few half-written posts that I could have used for this week’s photo Thursday but I kept going back to this photo of a Rastaman I took on the beach in Negril. Then I found other photos of people I’d taken and a theme began to take shape.

Sometimes it's the Characters that Make Travel Memories
Negril Rastaman

It was his hair that caught my friend’s attention – she’d never seen locks as long as his. I was surprised how white his hair was since he didn’t seem to be that old. He stopped when I asked what he was selling and gave us an entire lesson on herbs and spices. I ended up buying turmeric, which now I can’t live without.

Sometimes, it's the Characters that Make Travel Memories
Accompong Man

I didn’t have time to speak with this man in Accompong. As soon as he saw my camera, he stopped, posed then walked away. If he’d stayed, I’d have to find a way to open the conversation without asking about the oversized glasses or the flashlight on his head.

Sometimes, it's the Characters that Make Travel Memories
Seaford Town Filipinas

Jamaica has been a magnet for people from all over the world but I’d never met anyone from the Philippines here before. On this excursion, I met not one but two Filipino women. One’s married to a Jamaican and has lived on the island for about 15 years. Her friend had arrived a few months before so she was showing her around. I was surprised to learn that there’s a “large” Filipino expat community in Jamaica.

Their stories about adjusting to life in Jamaica and their observances of us kept us laughing almost the ride back. Each time they saw something interesting, they’d asked the driver to stop so they could take photos. This stop was probably our fourth or fifth. When we got back into the bus, the driver said it’d have to be the last as he’d be late returning to our drop off point.

Sometimes, it's the Characters that Make Travel Memories
Dunn’s River Donkey

All but two of the photos I took of this flower-bedecked donkey and his owner came out blurry because I couldn’t stop laughing. I’ve seen donkeys similarly dressed up but this one just had us cracking up. When I stopped laughing, my friend would draw my attention to something else and we’d both be laughing all over again. We took photos with the donkey wearing these goofy straw hat the owner gave us but those were out of focus. Even the day after, we’d look at each other and burst out laughing about the donkey.

Donkeys are everywhere in the countryside. Farmers use them take them to their farms and produce to the market. In the old days, the donkey operated the machine that squeezed the juice from sugarcane. The donkey in these photos from Appleton demonstrates how it was done then waits to be fed and petted.

Sometimes, it's the Characters that Make Travel Memories
Chef for a minute at Little Ochie

Sometimes traveling alone as a woman has its perks. Like the day this guy decided to make me chef for a minute at Little Ochie. I’m still not sure why he did it. My guess is he saw me chatting with the owner. Whatever his reason, I learned one thing from that minute — I couldn’t be a cook in a large kitchen as I cannot take the heat!

Linking to Travel Photo Thursday and Travel Photo Mondays. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

Gizzada (Coconut Pastry)

I was out shopping with a friend a few weeks ago, when she stopped at a Jamaican restaurant in her neighborhood (more about that later) to pick up patties. A little take-away place, it had the standard Jamaican fare on the menu – rice and peas, curried chicken, brown stewed fish, etc.

I wasn’t very hungry but the pastries caught my attention, well one in particular: the gizzada, an open tart with a grated, spiced and sweetened coconut filling.

Pinch me round or gizzada

Also known as “pinch-me-round,” for the characteristic wavy look of the edges of the shell, the gizzada came to Jamaica from Portugal, where there’s a similar pastry, called guisada.

Portuguese Jews began arriving in Jamaica in 1530. They were fleeing religious persecution under the Inquisition, which ordered them to convert to Christianity. Jamaica became a refuge for Jews from Spain and Portugual, and by the mid to late 1880s, there were more than 2,000 Jews on the island. The gizzada is one of their contributions to Jamaican cuisine.

Gizzadas are pretty popular with Jamaicans. I remember eating them as a child, and there were always available at the cafeteria at school. They are also popular with Jamaicans abroad so I wasn’t surprised to see them at the restaurant.

I love gizzadas because of the combination of the textures and flavors – crunchy (shell) and soft (filling), the pungent taste of nutmeg and the spiciness vanilla, the sweetness of the filling against the plain tasting shell. Some recipes also use ginger.


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  1. 1 cup baking flour
  2. 1/4 tsp salt
  3. 1 1/4 oz. butter or margarine
  4. 1/4 cup ice water
  1. 1 small coconut, grated
  2. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  3. 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  4. 1/2 vanilla
  5. 1/2 tbsp water
  6. 1/2 tbsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Mix together flour and salt then cut in butter and shortening.
  2. Add ice water to form dough.
  3. Use fingers to blend mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Shape into a ball before wrapping in waxed paper and refrigerate for half an hour.
  5. Divide crust into 4 balls.
  6. Use a rolling pin to flatten balls into 3" circles of 1/4" thickness.
  7. Pinch edges to form a ridge to hold in coconut and sugar mixture.
  8. Put on greased cookie sheets and partly bake crust.
  1. Combine all ingredients except butter and cook over a low flame for about 20 minutes.
  2. Add butter then fill shells with coconut mixture and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
  3. Makes 4 gizzadas.


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Nov 10, 2013 – Linking up with Monika Fuchs’ foodie carnival at Travel World Online.

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On the Warren County Winery Train to Villa Milagro Vineyard

I was researching vineyards in the northeast online a few weeks ago and discovered the Warren County Winery Train, a steam locomotive that takes wine lovers to a vineyard in New Jersey. I was excited.

I’d taken diesel trains in Jamaica but a steam train was an entirely different thing. Just the mention of a steam train immediately transported me back to a time long before I was born.

I could hear the sound of the steam as it escaped the chug, chug of the engine. I saw women dressed in hats and gloves, men in suits followed by uniformed porters carrying trunk suitcases. I imagined myself there and more than anything, I wanted to be on that train.

I emailed some friends, proposed a day when we should go and booked tickets online. As the day drew closer, I was as excited as a child waiting for Christmas and prayed anxiously for good weather.

The Warren County Winery Train operates on weekends only from May to October by a volunteer crew. It is one of the trips that the Delaware River Road Excursions organizes each year. (They also do other themed excursions like the Easter Bunny Train, the Corn Maize Train, and the very popular Polar Express).

We woke up to a cool, overcast morning on the day of our excursion, loaded up the car and set off on the 90-minute ride to Phillipsburg. It was beautiful to see that the leaves on some of the trees that line the highway were already begun turning yellow, orange and red.

About an hour into the drive, the clouds suddenly gave way to brilliant sunshine as if someone had flipped a switch. It happened that quickly.

Phillipsburg is a quaint little town, which was pretty easy to find. The trouble came when we tried to find the train station. We drove right past the turn on to Elizabeth Street and ended up in Pennsylvania.

Thankfully, we had enough time so we doubled back and found it. We’d noticed signs as we pulled into town but missed the one directing us to the station. They could definitely be placed more prominently.

Winery Train
A few cars on the train

After days of daydreaming about the steam train, I was disappointed when it didn’t arrive. The conductor said there had a problem had developed so they had to take it out of service. We were sent on a regular (diesel, perhaps?) train.

I had also imagined a small train — they sell only 45 tickets — but when the train arrived I realized that the Winery Train is only one car of several. The other cars take riders for pumpkin picking, and panning for gemstones at the Ol’ Susquehana Mine. Despite my disappointment over the steam train, the vintage cars with antique suitcases that rest on racks above the seats made me think of the time when women wore pencil skirts and men suits and everyone smoked.

The Winery Train leaves Phillipsburg, NJ at 11:00 a.m. and takes a leisurely 20-minute ride along the Delaware River to the end of the line. From there, a yellow school bus makes the 15-minute trip to Villa Milagro, a vineyard that spreads over more than 100 in Finesville, NJ.  

Villa Milagro Vineyard

The location of the winery, in the Musconetcong Valley, where the Musconetcong River flows from the Delaware River, also offers spectacular views of four counties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Steve and Audrey Gambino are the proud owners of Villa Milagro, House of Miracles. A family-run operation, they produce about 12,000 cases of wines each year. They spent the first three years following their purchase of the vineyard turning it organic. They don’t use pesticides or herbicides and provide a sustainable habitat for native species of birds, animals and wildlife.

We spent about an hour at the vineyard learning about the different grapes they produce, hand harvesting, blending, aging, bottling, and even labeling. Audrey Gambino or Dr. Audrey, who led our tour, showed us how painstaking it is to apply labels to the bottles – they must be placed in the same position on each.

When it was time for the tasting, Dr. Audrey ushered us into the tasting room. We tasted six wines – from a light white to deep red. Each was paired with foods that blended superbly – a mild cheese to meatballs. I liked them all and found it difficult to pick a favorite.

The hour passed too quickly. Before we knew it, we were back on the bus and train heading for Phillipsburg.

Villa Milagro does tastings, cooking classes and offers a dinner with the vintners. They’re also open for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other events.

Ol’ Susquehanna Mine and Corn Maze

We stopped for an hour for lunch at the Ol’ Susquehanna Mine and Corn Maze on the way back.  We spread the foods we had brought – cheese, crackers, grapes, sandwiches, saltfish fritters, and salads – and opened a few bottles of the wines we’d purchased on a few of the picnic tables

After lunch, a few of my friends checked out the corn maze. There was also a bounce-about for the little ones.

Soon we heard the whistle and the rumbling of the train. We didn’t have time to pan for gemstones, like rose quartz, rubies, amethyst, emeralds, crystals and arrowheads.

The train stopped a second time so we could pick pumpkins. We returned to Phillipsburg around 4 pm.

Warren County Winery Train Particulars

Round trip tickets: $35

Departs 100 Elizabeth Street, Phillipsburg at 11:00 a.m. The wine train has a capacity of 45 seats. If those seats sell out, they’ll run another train at 12:30. The train picks returns around 2:00 p.m. The train operates from May to October only.

Villa Milagro is located at 33 Warren Glen Road in Finesville, NJ. The vineyard is open on weekends for tastings from 11am to 5 pm, daily from 9-6 for sales, and by appointment.

Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday, Oh, the Places I’ve Been. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

Crocodile Eggs Make Stamina Punch in Jamaica

Recently, an article in the local paper, the Daily Gleaner, caught my attention. According to the piece, men in the eastern parish of St. Thomas are drinking a stamina punch that’s made from crocodile eggs.

Several things went through my mind as I read the headline: why crocodile eggs, how do they harvest them, how did the craze start, and how long has it been going on?

I shook my head as I dug further into the article. Men, especially those who believe their value lies in their ability to multiply, will do anything if there’s even a hint that it will make them more potent.

It is explains the popularity of concoctions that are considered aphrodisiacs, like Irish Moss, a seaweed-based blend, the aptly titled, Mannish Water soup, made from goat offal (intestines, testicles, head, legs), and Cow Cod soup, which is made using bull’s testicles, and another punch that’s made from the eggs of the hawksbill turtle, another endangered species.

Having had the first three, with no effects, I’ve often wondered if it’s not just all in the head. But my stomach churned just thinking of a punch made from crocodile eggs.

Eggs from crocodile used to make stamina punch
American Crocodile at Hope Zoo

Crocodiles have been around for more than 200 million years. They are farmed commercially in several countries for their meat, as well as their hide and underbelly, which are used to make shoes, belts, handbags, etc. The musk glands of some species are even used in perfumes.

While the meat, which is said to be low in fat and calories and high in protein, is eaten in parts of Australia, Asia, Africa and the U.S., I have no found proof that the eggs are nutritious.

Jamaica’s crocodile species, the American crocodile, is found in the mangroves along the island’s southern coast. An adult male can grow to up to 15 feet long and weigh about 800 pounds, the female about 10 feet and up to 400 pounds.

Crocodiles breed between March and August. Following that, the female produce between 20-70 eggs, which she buries and guards ferociously. The eggs can take up to three months to incubation.

Despite being covered under the island’s Wildlife Protection Act since 1971, Jamaica’s crocodile population is under threat due to encroachment on and destruction of their habitats, hunting and killing.

Under the Act, anyone caught capturing, harming or having any part of the creature, living or dead, in their possession can incur a fine of J$100,000 (US$1,000) and/or a prison term of up to two years.

Sadly, in the minds of these men, the fine and threat of prison, and the potential for loss of life should one of these massive and aggressive creatures attack, take a back seat to their virility. And the government appears impotent to enforce the law.


Rundown or Dip and Fall Back

Cooking is as much about skill as it is about passion. Either of these on their own can produce a satisfactory dish; bring them together and you have a delicious meal.

My first attempt at making Rundown, or Rundung in our Jamaican dialect, was for a dinner party I gave. I approached the making of this mildly complicated dish armed only with an inflated sense of confidence. I’m sure I thought to myself, how difficult can it be to?

While I scored on the passion, I bombed on the skill. Fortunately, for me, my guests thought my Rundown was a hit.

Rundown is grated or shredded coconut that is boiled until it reduces to a thick, custard-looking consistency. At that stage, onions, pepper, tomatoes, garlic, thyme are added and allowed to cook before adding the fish, typically salted mackerel, cod or shad. Lobster or shrimp work perfectly as well.

Rundown – I haven’t been able to find out why it’s called that – also goes by an even more interesting name, Dip and Fall Back. According to the National Library of Jamaica’s website, Rundown was served traditionally in a bowl that was placed in the middle of the table. Each person at the table would dip something starchy, like boiled green bananas or dumpling, into the bowl then fall back to allow someone else to dip.

Communal eating, which might have been holdover from slavery, was likely brought back into play during the war when foods and other items were rationed and Jamaicans had to create other ways to feed their families.

Another explanation is that you dip and allow your head to fall back so that the sauce doesn’t drip. Whatever the reason, Rundown or Dip and Fall Back is a Jamaican classic. There’s even song, Dip and Fall Back, celebrating the dish. Listen to a mento version by The Spinners, a group that’s new to me, and a lively folk version by the Cari-Folk singers.

My mistake on my first try was that I didn’t let the coconut reduce enough before I added the seasonings. I didn’t have annatto seeds either, for that yellowish-red color but it didn’t matter because the meal was delicious. (Annatto is the food coloring that gives Chedder and other cheeses their characteristic reddish-yellow color.) Honestly, there really is no way to fail with anything cooked in coconut since it gives foods such a rich flavor.

I never tried Rundown until several years later. That time, I got it halfway right but I was careful not to say it was Rundown.

A few weeks ago, when I was cooking with my aunt, I asked her to help me make it. She didn’t have salted mackerel so we used saltfish instead. Above is how it looked. For the record, it was delicious.

Rundown or Dip and Fall Back
Serves 4
A traditional Jamaican dish

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Prep Time
3 hr

Cook Time
20 min

Total Time
3 hr 20 min

Prep Time
3 hr

Cook Time
20 min

Total Time
3 hr 20 min

  1. 2 whole coconuts, grated or 2 cans coconut milk
  2. 1 clove garlic, chopped
  3. 2 -3 sprigs of thyme
  4. 6 cups water
  5. 3 stalks scallion, chopped
  6. 2 onions, chopped
  7. 2 lbs. pickled mackerel, saltfish or shad
  8. 3 tomatoes, chopped
  9. 1 hot pepper, Scotch bonnet, chopped and seeds removed
  10. 5-6 annatto seeds or a dash of turmeric (optional)
  1. Soak the mackerel or shad in water for at least 3 hours to remove excess salt. You can also bring it to boil 2 or three times, throwing off the water and letting it boil again. Remove as many bones as possible and set this aside.
  2. If you're using shrimp or lobster, clean and set aside.
  3. If you’re using grated coconut, add water and press the liquid through a sieve, cheesecloth or muslin bag. This is the coconut milk.
  4. Boil the coconut milk rapidly in a heavy frying pan until it is reduced to something resembling curdled custard oil.
  5. Stir in the annatto or turmeric then add onion, garlic, scallion, tomatoes, hot pepper and thyme. Lower the heat and simmer for ten minutes.
  6. Add the fish and stir.
  7. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat.
  1. This dish is traditionally served with boiled green bananas and dumplings. Sometimes the green bananas are cooked with it.
Adapted from National Library of Jamaica

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Jimmy Cliff, Rivers Crossed Tour

Musical acts that open for big name performers, to use a Rodney Dangerfield phrase, ‘don’t get no respect.’ That’s mainly because the audience is so anxious for the headliner to take the stage that they mostly ignore the opening act.

I wasn’t paying much attention to the opening act when [simpleazon-link asin=”B00864489G” locale=”us”]Rebirth[/simpleazon-link]’s Rivers Crossed Tour stopped at Howard Theater in the Nation’s Capital a few weekends ago. And even after local reggae music radio host and show MC, Tony Carr, introduced him, I wrote the performer’s name incorrectly. But [simpleazon-link asin=”B004B6MY94″ locale=”us”]Lost Between[/simpleazon-link], a 23-year old acoustic guitarist from Washington State, got my attention.

With a voice that sounded like cigarette smoke had induced its huskiness, Tucker sounded older than his years, especially on his plaintive rendition of [simpleazon-link asin=”B000PHX4VA” locale=”us”]The Police[/simpleazon-link]’s, Roxanne. Tucker performed several of his own songs, including the catchy, Cool Kids, before leaving the stage for the headliner.

Jimmy Cliff, Bongo Man a Come!

Tucker got our attention but the evening belonged to Jimmy Cliff. The reggae master came on stage chanting, Bongo Man a Come, his powerful tenor backed by the syncopated rhythms of the Nyabinghi drums. The enthusiastic crowd of fans young and old, inside the theater seemed to double in size as everyone rose to their feet to chant, to celebrate the Bongo Man, who had finally arrived.

Cliff, whose career spans almost 50 years, was on a cross-country tour to promote his latest album, Rebirth, which won the singer a Grammy award earlier this year. He has also been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of the iconic reggae film, [simpleazon-link asin=”B000BT9966″ locale=”us”]The Harder They Come (DVD + CD)[/simpleazon-link], which exposed him to a new audience and helped take reggae beyond Jamaica’s shores.

Starting with the early days, Cliff led the audience decade by decade through a musical career that included ska, rocksteady, and roots reggae, introducing each song with the back story most people probably didn’t know.

I had no idea, for example, that two different political groups had used his song, You Can Get it if You Really Want. Though he didn’t name names, it wasn’t difficult to find out that he was referring to the Sandinista National Liberation Front and the Conservative Party in Britain.

Cliff underscored his clear disregard for politics (his explanation of the meaning of politics, poli-many, tics-a blood sucking animal, brought thunderous applause) before performing his protest song, Vietnam, which he renamed, Afghanistan. 

Cliff got his start with Leslie Kong and acted as Kong’s unofficial A&R manager bringing in singers like Desmond Dekker, who recorded his first hit, Honor Your Father and Your Mother. When Dekker introduced Bob Marley, Cliff got him to cut his first songs, Judge Not and One Cup of Coffee, with Kong’s label, Beverley’s Records.

Of the film, The Harder They Come, Cliff said that producer Perry Henzell convinced him to take the starring role of Ivan by telling him that he was a better actor than a singer. Cliff’s performance was raw and energetic, and the film turned several of the songs, like Many Rivers to Cross, Sitting here in Limbo, and You Can Get it if You Really Want, which the singer wrote, into hits.

Cliff’s penchant for musical experimentation might have made him difficult to package and probably because of that, blockbuster success, like that of a Bob Marley, for example, eluded him. And songs, like Let Your Yeah Be Yeah, that he recorded first became hits for other groups.

Cliff ended his first set, which lasted over an hour, with The Harder They Come but cheers from his adoring fans brought him back to the stage with I Can See Clearly Now, from the movie, Cool Runnings, and You Can Get it if You Really Want. Reggae Nights and Johnny You Too Bad ended the show.

At 65, Cliff performed with the energy and enthusiasm of someone younger. It was my time seeing him in person, and I was not disappointed.

Photo of Jimmy Cliff from Wikimedia.

Pig Roast at G’s BBQ

I’d been hearing about pig roasts for months following my return to Jamaica in 2011 and wanted to go to one. I even went to a fund-raising event because I heard that they would have a pig roast. As luck would have it though, the year I went, the organization did not do the roast. I was disappointed. 

The practice of roasting a whole pig, usually a young pig between two and six weeks old, or suckling, has been around for centuries. Pig roasts are popular in several countries for large gatherings such as weddings and parties. The pigs are typically slow roasted on a spit over a wood fire, but a large oven can work as well.

Just when I’d given up on ever going to one, the pig roast gods smiled. My sister D, alerted me that G’s BBQ on Constant Spring Road in Kingston had announced one.

It was hard to keep my excitement in check as I counted down the days to the roast. When it finally arrived, our party of seven was among the first to take our reserved seats at the restaurant.

Pig Roast at G's BBQ
Roasted pig with green papaya slaw, mac and goat cheese and pickled red onions

As soon as the roasted pig arrived, Chef Gari began carving it then served us table by table. Several mouth-watering sides and sauces accompanied Chef Gari’s Whole Smoked Crackling Roast Pig, including Green Papaya Slaw, Pickled Red Onions, Hard Dough Rolls with Honey Butter, Smoked Sweet Potato, Mac & Goat Cheese, BBQ Onions, and Tangy Tamarind Glaze, Coconut and Lemon grass Sauce and Mango Scotch Bonnet Sauce.

I had the green papaya slaw, hard dough rolls with honey butter, and mac and goat cheese. Succulent on the inside, crispy on the outside, the pork harmonized perfectly with the medley of flavors. The orange-looking strips that look like fries are the papaya slaw.

Chef Gari is well-known around Kingston for his barbecue but his Whole Smoked Crackling Roast Pig had me going back for seconds, despite the promise I made to myself not to pig out.

G’s BBQ still does pig roasts, so if you’re in Kingston, be sure to check them out.

The Marketplace
67 Constant Spring Road
Kingston 10
Mondays-Saturdays, 12 noon to 10:30 p.m.

Here’s a recipe for Jerk-Roasted Suckling Pig from one of my favorite cookbooks, Jerk Barbecue from Jamaica by Helen Willinsky.

Jerk-Roasted Suckling Pig
Serves 12

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  1. 1 suckling pig, dressed and well cleaned
  2. Vegetable oil for coating
  3. Salt and freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling
For the Jerk Paste
  1. 4 onions, finely chopped
  2. 2 cups finely chopped scallions
  3. 4 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
  4. 1/4 cup salt
  5. 2 tablespoons ground Jamaican pimento (allspice)
  6. 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  7. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  8. 4 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeded
  9. 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  10. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  11. 4-6 cloves garlic
For the Stuffing
  1. 2 or 3 white potatoes, cooked and mashed
  2. 2 or 3 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
  3. 2-3 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350'F or 180' C.
  2. In a food processor, puree all the paste ingredients to make a paste.
  3. Rub the inside of the pig with the paste, reserving approximately one tablespoon to mix with the stuffing.
  4. Rub the outside of the pig with oil, salt and pepper.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, sweet potatoes, butter and remaining one tablespoon jerk paste.
  6. Stir until well blended.
  7. Loosely pack the stuffing inside the pig and close the opening with skewers, or sew together with kitchen twine.
  8. Draw the legs back and tie with twine.
  9. Stuff the mouth with a piece of aluminum foil to keep it open as it roasts.
  10. Place the pig on a rack in a large roasting pan.
  11. Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours (15 minutes per pound) or until done. An instant read thermometer inserted in the thigh will register 165'F and the juices will run clear when you pierce the thigh with a fork or the tip of a knife.
  12. Remove the pig from the oven and place on a heated platter.
  13. Remove the foil from the mouth and replace it with an apple.
  14. Let the pig rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before carving.
Adapted from Jerk Barbecue from Jamaica
Adapted from Jerk Barbecue from Jamaica

A version of this post has appeared in JamaicanEats.

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Naked Buskers in Times Square

Times Square is the heaviest populated tourist area in the world. It draws approximately 39 million visitors annually. Most come to gawk at the giant billboards and the neon and LED-lighted ads, but a lot more come to take their photos with one of the naked buskers who roam the area. 

Times Square near rush hour on last Friday was a slow-moving sea of people who clogged the sidewalk making locals rushing to catch buses and subways do detours into the street just to get round them. That’s the Times Square I was prepared for. I wasn’t expecting to see so many street performers but I should have known. The unusually balmy October afternoon drew almost everyone outdoors.

I spotted Elmo, the giant Statue of Liberty, the Transformer Robot, and several naked buskers. Everyone knows about the Naked Cowboy, the granddaddy of the naked buskers who strolls around Times Square entertaining visitors and locals in his cowboy hat, cowboy boots, tidy whities, and his guitar placed strategically so that it gives the impression that he’s nude.

The Naked Cowboy also has his naked cowgirls, though I didn’t see any. Who I did see, and dubious pleasure of meeting, was $andy Kane, the Naked Cowgirl.

Kane, a former stripper, who looks more like someone’s great-grandmother than a naked busker, has played the Naked Cowgirl for about 6 years. She parades around Times Square, her red cowboy hat covering flowing pink hair, the bottom half of black bikini, pasties affixed to her sagging breasts, garter belts, and flats. A gold-studded bra that looks like it supported someone far more buxom, hangs from her guitar. I don’t remember hearing her actually play.

Kane offered to pose but I told her I only had $1 left. She did anyway. When I downloaded the photo, I noticed she’d given the finger, two actually. But it wasn’t personal, that’s part of Kane’s act, probably from her stripper days.

The Naked Indian and The Naked Cowboy share a moment
The Naked Indian and The Naked Cowboy share a moment

I must have picked the right place (Broadway and 45th Street) to sit as I saw not just one, but two Naked Cowboys. I also saw the Naked Indian, Adam David. David, who’s been operating as the Naked Indian for a little more than a year, recently settled a dispute with the Naked Cowboy over the name. Robert John Burck, aka the Naked Cowboy, holds a trademark and each cowboy pays a franchise fee.

Women were gladly lining up to have their photos taken with the Naked Indian and the Naked Cowboy, and get a chance to squeeze each of their buns. No, I took no photos of that silly spectacle.

The most popular character on Friday was the Showgirl. Men followed her every provocative pose. For $5, you get to take a photo with her. I’ve forgotten now what she said her name is – but when I think of her, I think Jade. If you look closely, you’ll notice that her costume’s painted on. Two guys were with her, one collected the money – she’s got no pockets – and another stood close by, I guess as a bodyguard.

When I told my friends about the female naked buskers I’d seen in Times Square, they wanted to know how they were allowed to perform nearly nude.  According to a New York law, full nudity in public is legal if it’s part of a performance or play.

Street performers are also protected under the First Amendment. They are free to stroll Times Square and to work for tips from $2 to $5 taking photos but they’re not allowed to demand money, sell merchandise or block traffic.

Buskers, naked and clothed, can take home $50-70 a day, others like the Naked Cowboy who’s considered the #1 tourist attraction in New York City, can take home much more.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, Times Square, which is 1% of New York City’s total land size, generates 11% of the city’s economic output and 10% of the jobs. Since 2007, economic growth in this iconic area that lies between Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretches from 42nd to 47th Street, outpaced the city’s by 13% during the same period.