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Friday Focus: Marina Delfos

I met Marina Delfos about two years ago when I started volunteering with Falmouth Heritage Renewal (FHR). To say that Marina is passionate about heritage would be an understatement. As founder of Jamaica Heritage Walks, she conducts walking tours of Falmouth’s historic district, the town’s Jewish cemetery, and introduces visitors to local foods.

Last February, at its annual preservation seminar, FHR presented a session on historic metalwork and Marina took us on a tour of the 200-year old Jewish cemetery, which has some fine examples of metalwork. Following the session, I asked Marina if I could interview her about the work she’s doing to help preserve the historic town.

Marina Delfos
Marina Delfos with a group of architects at Falmouth Jewish Cemetery

1. Tell us a little about yourself. For example, how long have you been leading the tour? Are you a native of Trelawny?

I started Falmouth Heritage Walks in February 2011 with a tour of the historic district of Falmouth.  Last year I expanded the tour to include a culinary walking tour – “Falmouth food tour” (a collaboration with Jamaica culinary tours) and a walking tour to the Jewish cemetery.

Officially I have been doing a tour of the Falmouth Jewish cemetery since December 2013.  I volunteered to take over the maintenance of the cemetery back in 2011 as there was really no one else to do it, and occasionally i would be asked to show persons around.

I was born in Kingston but I like to think that I am from Mandeville as that is where I spent most of my younger life.  I was drawn to Falmouth because of the history and with the master’s degree in heritage management that I obtained in London back in 2005, it was the perfect place to locate to.

2. Tell us about your family’s history in Jamaica. When did they arrive? What country did they come from? (I’m also interested in the Jewish story in Jamaica)

On my mother’s side, my grandfather’s (Vivian Mervyn Bromfield) family has been in Jamaica from the mid-1700s. He is descended from Andrew Bromfield and his coloured slave. These Bromfields originated from the border of England and Scotland.

My maternal grandmother was third generation Irish from Canada and met my grandfather in the mid-1930s when she came to Jamaica with her first husband, a Welshman suffering from tuberculosis. They had heard that the air of Malvern, St. Elizabeth was healing and stayed at my grandfather’s guesthouse near Malvern. Her husband died and somehow my grandfather got in the picture and she moved to Jamaica in 1939 with her two young sons. It was quite a thing to marry a “coloured” man in 1939. My grandfather was very successful in the apiary business at a young age and then went into the hardware business following in the footsteps of his uncle, Duncan Clacken.

My father is a Greek born in Alexandria, Egypt, and met my mother in London. They returned to Jamaica a couple of years after they got married, and he worked at Pan Am then the Jamaica Tourist Board, before leaving Jamaica in 1972 to go to Australia.

I am not sure if I have any Jewish connections but my father had family in Corfu, which had a very large Jewish population before World War II and sometimes I am told Bromfield is a Jewish name.

Grilled grave at Falmouth Jewish Cemetery
Examining the metal grill on a grave at Falmouth Jewish Cemetery

3. How old is the cemetery?

We estimate just over 200 years old.  The oldest readable grave is dated 1815 – Isaac Simon Esq.

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Use Annatto for Color and Flavor

Some months ago, I noticed a tree with weird-looking pods in the backyard. Curious, I asked my landlord. It’s annatto, she said. I’d heard about annatto – it’s the coloring agent that gives patties their distinctive yellowish-red color – but had never seen it.

Annatto is a native of Central and South America. I’m not sure how it came to Jamaica but as early as the 1700s, the British found it growing in abundance in one of the towns in the eastern parish of St. Mary and renamed the town Annotto Bay.

Annatto, called natto or natta locally, was grown commercially mainly in St. Mary and was popular with my grandmother’s and even my mother’s generation. They used it to add a rich and distinctive red color to foods from fish and fritters.

At some point, annatto lost favor to the more convenient artificial dyes that flooded the market. But with consumers becoming savvy and concerned about their foods, annatto seems to be getting a fresh look.

With no sodium, fat or starches you can probably see why annatto would be a better alternative to artificial dye. It is also good for stomachaches, heartburn, fever, diabetes, and burns. Some even use it as an insect repellant, and it’s been used in cosmetics.

Annatto trees produce a cluster of pointy pods that are covered with long spikes. Each pod contains about 12-15 small, red seeds, which are hard and difficult to break. According to my landlord, the best way to use annatto is to fry the seeds or soak them in water. Once you get the color you want, remove them and use the oil or water to color and flavor your dish.

Commercially prepared annatto powder is available in specialty stores or in supermarkets that sell ethnic foods. Look for annatto or achiote in either power, paste or oil.

Lobster San Souci
Serves 8

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  1. 1 large carrot, chopped
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 1 bay leaf
  4. 10 whole black peppercorns
  5. 4 cups water
  6. 1 ½ cups clarified butter
  7. 1 scallion, minced
  8. 2 tsps. finely chopped lemongrass
  9. ½ tsp. annatto seeds
  10. ½ tsp. minced garlic
  11. 1 eggplant, thinly sliced into rounds
  12. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  13. 8 Caribbean rock lobster tails
  14. 1 cup whole kernel corn
  15. 1 Scotch bonnet or jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  16. ¼ cup grated coconut
  17. 1 cup heavy cream
  1. Place the carrot, onion, bay leaf, peppercorn and water in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Strain the stock, discard the vegetables and bay leaf, and reserve the stock in the same pot.
  2. In a medium skillet, add the clarified butter along with the scallion, lemongrass, annatto, thyme and garlic. Heat until hot. Remove from the heat.
  3. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the eggplant rounds with a half cup of the clarified butter mixture. Add the eggplant to the skillet in batches, and cook until tender. Remove from the skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cover to keep warm.
  4. Bring the reserved stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the lobster tails, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the meat is tender, 12-13 minutes. Remove the lobster from the stock and set aside.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter, and quickly sauté the corn and the hot pepper for about 1 minute. Add the grated coconut and the cream, and cook until the liquid has become quite thick, 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve the lobster tails with the remaining cup of butter on the side, along with the eggplant chips and the creamed corn.
Adapted from Food of Jamaica: Authentic Recipes from the Jewel of the Caribbean
Adapted from Food of Jamaica: Authentic Recipes from the Jewel of the Caribbean

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At the New York World’s Fair Festival

I wasn’t around to attend the dazzling New York World’s Fair that was held at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in 1964 so a week ago when I saw a poster announcing a festival on Sunday to celebrate its 50th anniversary, I knew exactly where I’d be.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park was the site of both the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs, which celebrated art, culture, technology, the Space Age, transportation and American ingenuity. (Space was clearly on the minds of the organizers as old photos of the Fair show several futuristic displays. One poster I saw claimed to have “seen the future.”)

Today, the park is more recognizable as the home of tennis in New York. Flushing Meadows (isn’t that just the best place name you’ve ever heard?) is also a popular weekend destination for Queens residents and on that sun drenched Sunday, the perfect place to be.

New York World's Fair

I was pretty excited as the Number 7 train pulled closer to Flushing Meadows and I could see the Unisphere, the 12-story high stainless steel replica of the globe, the symbol of the Fair, peeking out above the trees.

Following the directions I had gotten from Hopstop, I got off at the 111 Street Station and checked with the attendant to make sure I was at the closest entrance to the sprawling 1,255-acre park. Pointing, he told me follow 111 Street for five blocks and I’d see it. When I descended the stairs from the elevated station, I double-checked with two police officers at street level to make sure I was heading in the right direction.

As I walked towards the park, it struck me that I had seen more posters in subway stations in Manhattan than I’d seen at 111th Street. Except for police officers who were manning the intersections along the street, nothing else advertised the festival.

One Hundred and Eleventh Street skirts part of one end of the Park and it took about 15 minutes from the subway station to the Festival, which was sponsored by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

By the time I got there, a little after 1:30 p.m., the place was humming with people who were checking out the vintage car display, including a Mustang, which was at the World’s Fair. (Somehow, I didn’t get a photo of the Mustang. I’m not sure if this was the same one that the Ford Motor Company unveiled at the Fair.) The cars were all in mint condition as if each had just rolled off the showroom floor.

The star of the show was the Batmobile. It occupied its own space away from the vintage cars and was cordoned off by red coiled wire which was just as well because, I’m sure people would want to sit in it and have their photo taken. 

The second New York World’s Fair opened on April 22, 1964 and ran until October 18, 1964. It had as its theme, Peace Through Understanding. Opening exactly five months to the date President John Kennedy was assassinated, it was, I’m sure a huge morale booster. It resumed from April 21 to October 17, 1965. 

The Fair attracted more than 50 million people who visited pavilions showcasing the best from each state and several countries including Mexico, Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, Vatican City, Austria, Sweden and Spain.

At the Vatican Pavilion, they saw Michelangelo’s Pietà. Ford introduced the Mustang, Bell showed off its videophone and IBM gave demonstrations of what computers could do. Visitors also sampled foods, like Belgian waffles and shish kebabs, which were introduced at the Fair. There were rides for children, futuristic displays and sculptures commissioned especially for the Fair.

When I showed a co-worker some of my cell phone photos, her eyes lit up. “I’d never seen anything like it,” she gushed. “It was all space-agey and just out of this world fantastic. If you’ve been to Disney, you’ll have an idea of what the Fair was really like.”

Walt Disney had a huge impact on the Fair, designing several shows and introducing the song, It’s a Small World, in tribute to the world’s children.

The posters and the slogans that advertised the Fair spoke of a future of ground breaking technological innovations. In some instances, I’m thinking now of the videophone that Bell showed off, they were spot on. The technology was revolutionary for its time but it’s difficult not to compare it with what we have now.

Generally speaking, the festival felt flat to me. I realized later that a part of me was expecting it to capture the feeling of the Fair – the excitement, the sense of wonder I imagine people felt them. But honestly, it would have been impossible to do. An event as monumental as the New York World’s Fair can probably never be duplicated and now feels redundant – especially when we have Disney as a fixture in our lives.

New York World's Fair - Unisphere
The Unisphere

Other activities celebrating the anniversary of the 1964 New York World’s Fair will take place through October. Check out this link for details and photos from the Fair.

Linking up this week with Noel’s Travel Photo Mondays and Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday.

The Versatile and Tasty Plantain

The plantain is the tenth most important staple in the world and a very popular ingredient in the Jamaican diet. We fry it, boil it, bake it and make it into porridge, tarts and potato chips.

From the same family as the banana, the plantain looks very much like a large banana. Like the banana, both the green and yellow plantain are eaten. The yellow plantain is sweeter and softer than the green. Unlike the banana, though, we don’t usually eat them uncooked. A plantain has about 200 calories and is a very good source of vitamins and minerals.

I’d always preferred the ripe, slightly sweet plantains to the green ones until several years ago at a family gathering when one of my aunts made fried green plantains.

She cut three or four plantains diagonally about a quarter of an inch thick and fried them for a minute or two on each side. Once they turned reddish-brown, she lifted them from the pan, mashed them flat then returned them and fried them for another two minutes until they were crisp. When she finished, she served them with bully beef.

I couldn’t believe the taste – the mild saltiness of the bully beef was a delightful balance to the crispy, semi-sweet plantain – or that I’d previously ignored this delicious food. I couldn’t wait to return home to try it out and made plantains and bully beef every chance I got.

When I’m too tired or don’t feel like frying plantains – the yellow one is preferable – I bake them in the microwave, or oven (wrapped in foil) like I would a potato. I usually cut the tips off and score the skin lengthwise to allow it to expand as it cooks. For variety, you can also stuff the plantain with ground beef, for example, and bake it.

As you can see, plantains are quite versatile. Hope you pick some up the next time you’re in the supermarket.

Plantain Tart
Serves 6

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  1. 2 cups sifted flour
  2. 1/2 tsp salt
  3. 1 cup vegetable shortening
  4. 2-4 tbsp iced water
  1. 1 cup ripe plantain, peeled and cut up
  2. 1/4 cup sugar
  3. 1/4 cup water
  4. 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  5. 1 tbsp raisins (optional)
  6. 1 tbsp butter
  7. 1 tbsp vanilla
  8. Red food colouring (optional)
  9. To make filling
  10. Pre-heat oven to 450ºF
  11. In saucepan combine plantain, sugar, and water
  12. Cook over low heat until plantain is cooked
  13. Remove from heat and add nutmeg, vanilla, raisins and butter; you may add a little red food colouring if desired
  14. Allow filling to cool before filling tart
  15. To make pastry
  16. Combine flour and salt with shortening and cut with pastry blender until flaky.
  17. Add ice water to bond together; form in a ball, wrap and refrigerate.
  18. Roll out dough about 1/8 inch thick, on lightly floured board.
  19. Cut into 4 inch rounds or larger.
  20. Spoon cooled filling in the centre of each 4 inch round, fold over and seal with crimper or the prongs of fork.
  21. Place on a baking sheet.
  22. Brush tops with a little milk and prick top with the fork.
  23. Bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes. Pastry should be a delicate brown.

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Crown and Anchor, Jamaica

I was leaving the Accompong Maroon Festival last year when I saw a man standing proudly before his game board. He seemed to be daring everyone to try their luck. I wasn’t sure which game it was then but the colours caught my eye. I was curious. I also wanted to see how this game was played. I wondered if I could beat the dealer. But I didn’t have time to try, my ride was waiting.

I’ve looked at the photo from time to time, trying to figure out which game it was but always came up blank. It didn’t look like any of the ones I was familiar with. Finally, I asked my neighbor. She emails me back – crown and anchor. Of course!

The Dealer

Crown and anchor is a dice game that’s been around since the 18th century. Apparently, it’s quite popular with British sailors who likely brought it to Jamaica though I’m not sure when. I’ve noticed that this and other games of chance are played at festivals and around holidays, like Christmas and New Year.

Crown and anchor is played with three six-sided dice, each having the following symbols – crown, anchor, spade, heart, diamond and club. The board also has the same symbols. A player bets on one or more symbols on the board then throws the three dice. The player wins if the symbol he bets on comes on one or more of the dice.

As with most games of chance, the crown and anchor banker has the edge but I’ll still be on the look out for an opportunity to try my hand. He can’t win all the time.

What game of chance would you play?


Linking up this week with Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to stop by and check out more photos and stories from around the world.

Matrimony: The Fruit Salad

I didn’t hide my turned up nose when, on a recent outing, my friend asked if I wanted to get some rice pudding. She had planned on serving some at a dinner she was having the next day. You’ll love this rice pudding, she said. I wasn’t that sure.

When it comes to desserts, fresh fruits usually do it for me. But when I sampled the pineapple rice pudding, it reminded me of a dessert from my childhood. Its name was just on the tip of my tongue. What I did remember was that it was orange pulp and juice flavored with condensed milk.

I mentioned it to my friend and described it to the others at the dinner but no one knew which dessert I was trying to remember. On the way home, the name, Matrimony, popped into my head so I did a search on Google as soon as I got home.

Matrimony is a combination of orange and grapefruit pulp, star apple, which is sweetened with condensed milk. We never made ours with star apple but one of these days, I’d love to try it. Besides, I’ve never seen star apples here — they don’t have a very long shelf life.

Matrimony got its name from the marriage of the thick, sticky sweetness of the condensed milk and the tartness of the grapefruit and orange juices — its perfect counterpoint. I guess it’s from that combination of flavors that the dessert got its name.

Matrimony, Ready to Serve-1
Matrimony – orange and grapefruit in condensed milk

I’ve had Matrimony on the brain for the last three weeks. Chatting with my cousin, I mentioned it to her. I don’t know it as Matrimony, she said, dismissively. It’s fruit salad. Talk about Matrimony led to us reminiscing about the elaborate Sunday meals we used to have that were typically accompanied by homemade desserts and fruit juices.

As I expected, I didn’t find star apples here but the oranges and grapefruits were enough. As soon as I finished chatting with my cousin, I set to work.

The most time-consuming part of making Matrimony is removing the pith. Once you finish that, all you have to do is fold in the condensed milk, stir and serve. It can be served chilled — perfect for those days that are especially warm. You can also garnish it with a little nutmeg. Here’s the recipe:

Matrimony: A Fruit Salad

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  1. 3 oranges
  2. 3 grapefruits
  3. Condensed milk to taste
  1. Peel oranges and grapefruits. Remove seeds, pith and pulp. Mix with condensed milk.
  2. Chill and serve.

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Memorial Plaques at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Falmouth

One of the first things you notice when you enter the Falmouth Parish Church of St. Peter the Apostle (St. Peter’s), is its colorful stained glass windows. The most eye-catching one sits over the altar and is flanked by the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.

St Peters interior
Interior of St. Peter the Apostle

The first church in the parish of Trelawny and one of the oldest on the island, St. Peter’s was built in 1796 on land that the wealthy planter, Edward Barrett, donated. It was constructed from local limestone and bricks that were imported from Liverpool, England.

In addition to its original pulpit, baptismal font, and furnishings made of Jamaican mahogany, it was difficult to ignore the plaques lining the wall. Most date to the 1800s, and were mounted in memory of prominent people who were likely members of St. Peter’s.

Reading the inscriptions, I smiled at the qualities that were considered commendable back then – cheerfulness, sincerity, generosity, benevolence, piety, usefulness, integrity even a mild disposition – and at some of the phrases that sound so cumbersome and out-of-place now.

Here are a few the ones I found interesting:

Samuel Earnshaw

In Memory of Samuel Earnshaw Esquire, of Colchis Estate in this Parish. A man of unassuming manners and unimpeachable integrity who from a spirit delighting in acts of generosity and benevolence. Distributed the blessings of life bestowed upon by the Divine Power, with a cheerful and liberal hand.

He died at his residence on 19th of September 1824. Affectionately deplored by his afflicted Wife. Regretted by his numerous friends and not unlamented by those, who personally unacquainted with him, yet were sensible of reputed worth and sincerity.

Joseph Hodgson, Esq.
Joseph Hodgson, Esq.
John Marnoch

Sacred to the memory of The Honorable James Stewart, Custos Rotulorum and Representative in Assembly of this Parish, Judge of the Supreme Court and Major General of the Militia who departed this life on the 4th day of August 1828 aged 66 years.

He devoted his life to the public service of this his native country as a legislator. He was no less distinguished for his eloquence than for the wise policy of his measures. As a judge he adorned the seat of justice by the dignity of his character and the integrity of his decisions.

As chief magistrate of this parish, he endeared himself to its inhabitants not alone as the watchful guardian of the public peace

But as the beneficent promoter of their private interests and individual happiness and in testimony of the grateful feelings with which they revere his name they have erected this monument to his memory.

Mary Aitken
Mary Aitken

Linking up this week with Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to stop by and check out more photos and stories from around the world.

Soursop, The Sweet and Sour Fruit

I blame the names because despite not looking or tasting the same, it took a long time for me stop confusing soursop and sweetsop and I love them both.

While the sweetsop is about the size of an orange, the soursop is large – about 6-10 inches long — and can weigh up to 12 pounds. Both have names that end in ‘sop’ and green skin but that’s where the similarity ends. The soursop has small spikes covering its entire surface and its milky pulp tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a banana.

A native of the Caribbean, Central and South America where it is known as guanábana, the soursop is packed with several vitamins, including C and B6, thiamine, riboflavin, protein, carbohydrates and trace minerals.

Mixed with condensed milk or freshly squeezed lime juice, the pulp of the fruit can be made into delicious juices. The condensed milk makes it thick, like a smoothie, lime juice gives it a light consistency which is perfect especially on days when the temperature soars to 90 degrees and beyond. (When I’m in New York and get a taste for soursop juice, I mix pineapple juice with condensed milk.) Soursop also makes ice cream, sorbet and smoothies

The leaf, fruit, seeds and stem can be used to heal infections and there’s anecdotal evidence that a tea made from the leaves, stem or bark is an effective cancer fighter. Soursop is also credited with lowering blood pressure.

Soursop doesn’t travel well so the fruit is not usually exported. However, you can find the juice in supermarkets that sell ethnic foods.

Soursop Juice

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  1. 1 large soursop
  2. 1 can condensed milk (or, for a lighter drink, use the juice of 10-12 limes, to taste)
  3. 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  4. 1 tablespoon vanilla flavoring
  5. 3 cups of water
  6. ½ cup of ice
  1. Wash the fruit to remove dirt or foreign matter. Remove the skin by hand and place the fruit in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add water then squeeze the fruit to remove the seeds.
  3. Pour the fruit and water mixture into a blender with the ice and vanilla. Puree the mixture.
  4. Remove the pureed juice from the blender and sweeten to taste. Pour into a glass then sprinkle grated nutmeg and serve.

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