Monday, November 15, 2010

Punkin, Punkin, Punkin Eater!

Living in a warm climate 12 months of the year sometimes gets me so confused. It is so warm I wake up thinking it is the month of July and not November. In the states many times you don't even have to look at a calendar to know what the month is because the stores have all their holiday wares in the aisles. So whether it be Valentines day or Halloween they have everything you need!

Here in Jamaica you have to look at the calendar, the stores aren't your brain. Whether you shop in February or November you find basically the same wares with the exception of Christmas. However even at Christmas time there is no comparison to the stores in the states.

On Thanksgiving day Renee has school and Den teaches at the college. Renee's weekly violin lesson still takes place on Thursday evening. In America it is a holiday, here it is just another day. That does take some getting used to! In Spain we celebrated the holiday with our food traditions but here it is difficult to purchase turkeys. When you do find a turkey it is very, very expensive.

Carving pumpkins is a favorite tradition of mine and the kids. Our first year here I searched high and low for normal, orange, round, easy to carve pumpkins. No luck! However, pumpkins are very common in Jamaica. As a matter of fact, our house has a pumpkin patch all year round!

Organic pumpkins are grown all over the island. In every grocery store and market you will find pieces of pumpkin, just the size you need to make soup, pumpkin rice with saltfish, or pumpkin fritters. YUM! Jamaicans will also boil pumpkin and eat it plain.

They can grow to be very large. Today I took pictures of the pumpkins growing in my patch. These look small compared to what you find for sale at the market.

I have used the organic Jamaican pumpkin to make my famous pumpkin roll, but it doesn't have the greatest flavor for that. But the pumpkins are fabulous for my pumpkin soup recipe. You may want to try it with the pumpkins you find this fall. The college students love this one!

Roast Pumpkin Soup
2 pounds pumpkin
Salt to taste
Black pepper
Coconut oil
2 ounces butter
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks scallions, diced
1 sprig thyme
1 scotch bonnet pepper (or an habanero pepper)
16 cups vegetable stock
4 ounces coconut cream ( I use heavy cream)
Dice pumpkin and place on tray. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and drizzle with coconut oil.
Place in 400 degree oven and roast 30 minutes.
In a large pot melt butter, sauté onions, scallion, garlic, and add the pumpkin, thyme, and scotch bonnet
Add vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes until everything is tender.
Remove the scotch bonnet.
Add the coconut cream, boil and season to taste.

Happy Fall and Happy Punkin' eating!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fast food isn't all bad!

You can learn alot about a culture by simply observing what the people eat. Part of identifying with another culture is eating what they eat and shopping where they shop. I am glad that our ministry here is in the Bible College because it gave us the opportunity right at the starting gate to do just that. Our first year here, we frequently ate lunch with the students. The kitchen is real close to the tables so I could observe what Miss Vivian was making and how she was doing it. Menus at the Bible college are made on a shoe string budget, some I like, some not so much!

Another time to observe and learn is when teams come to minister on the island. A Jamaican will be hired to cook and they succeed in tying some American dishes into the week. Spaghetti will be one of the meals and dishes that are common to us. While the teams are here, there will be at least one lunch of patties.

Patties are to Jamaica what hamburgers are to the American. They are wonderful! Renee can buy a patty for lunch at her school. We travel across the island alot and in almost every town you will find a Juicy Patty, a Mothers, a Tastee or an establishment that makes their own patties, not necessarily franchised across the country.

Patties are a half moon pastry crimped on the sides like a turnover, filled with meat. Of course the meat is flavored with scotch bonnets so the temperature is a tad spicy for a stomach like mine! But once I get accustomed to the heat, I hardly want to stop till I get near the end. They are so good! In the right season you can even get lobster patties. There are beef, chicken, veggie, shrimp, fish, soy and ackee patties.

Some say the patty took off here in Jamaica because of the British influence. Miners in the UK would take what they called "pasty" in their pail to the mines. The pasties would stay warm and could even be used for hand warmers! The filling in the British pasties would be steak, potatoes and onions. They were popular not just because they were stomach-filling, but also because they were easy to hold and eat.

Here in Jamaica a patty and a boxed juice is a common lunch. But you know what, I have seen them eat them for breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner. So I guess I would say they are an all day kind of food.

Another thing I have observed is you can see a poor "street" man and a business man in the same patty line. You will see school children and street vendors buying their lunch at the same place....the local patty place!

Tastee is the leading name in patty making. This company began in 1966 by a Chinese man no less! They make over 100,000 patties each day. The last time we flew back into Jamaica we sat beside the son of the founder of Tastee's. He works for the company and it was so educational to hear the story of this company. He was such a handsome, distinguished man. I was very impressed with the story, the work ethic and integrity he described the company to have and the drive of his father. We have a Tastee in Mandeville and I love going there. It is a reminder of the flight we took with the Tastee man!

Juicy Patty is another popular company for making patties. It was founded in 1980. We drive by their headquarters every Thursday on the way to Kingston for Renee's violin lesson. It is a very popular spot because driving from Mandeville to Kingston is a tough drive with few bathroom stops in between! But the Juicy Patty in Porus is the stopping place for gasoline, potty and "patty" break!

Some eat their patty without the best part in my opinion. The coco bread tops it off. The roll that you put the patty in is wonderful! It is warm, dense, and huge! Sometimes I buy the coco bread to make sandwiches at home or just to eat warm. The coco bread absorbs the grease or filling from the patty that falls out.

You know what! I'm to Patty land!