Category Archives: Trinidad

Flashback to Eid ul Fitr 2017 – strawberries & sawine

My posting has indeed been sparse this year, but I was going through my photos and voila – we have a post. Sister H ever so often has specials on imported strawberries, blueberries & cherries. This year, these played a major role in our Eid ul Fitr celebrations – part of the usual impromptu potluck buffet for the post-Eid salaat, part of the food gifts for various friends. I think BD baked a pineapple upside down cake or three, but memory is a little hazy on that part this year. Sawine (boiled and sweetened and spiced vermicelli pasta) is part of my Trinidadian heritage. Each year at Eid ul Fitr, my mother, whose culinary extents were limited by herself but whose flavours remain my favourite, cooked up and distributed pots of sawine to the neighbours on our street. Elaichi (cardamom), clove, raisins, sweetened milk (condensed milk), and the vermicelli. And at every Muslim home sawine was a given, and expected. Some added finely chopped nuts, some boiled with the fruits, some put out individual little bowls of the fruits & nuts so that you could garnish to your taste. My middle maternal uncle made the sawine in his house. My children expect it, and sporadically over the years, I have been prescient enough to obtain it and prepare it. Nowadays, you can purchase already parched sawine in the supermarkets in Trinidad. (Already parched (or is it patched?) sawine means that some ghee or butter or oil has been heated in a wide bottomed pot, the elaichi and sawine added and sauteed, then removed from the heat, allowed to cool, and bottled until ready to boil on Eid morning. Ah ha – it is toasted, or braised!) This year, I had to check with my Trini sources on what to add as my trusty Naparima Girls’ High School cookbook (the staple of Trini cooks:)) suggested cinnamon sticks – I did not remember that as an ingredient my mother added, and she either forgets or pretends to forget her recipes since she has happily given up cooking since my father passed away. And neither of us could get to her recipes – handwritten from her two extremely domesticated friends who wrote down the recipes for her when she moved to live independently of her parents – and which are kept in a clasp purse in one of the kitchen drawers.

So this year, Mum brought up a packet or two of already parched sawine, and I proceeded to prepare one on Eid morning. So BD, NoS, Youngest and I, partook of the sawine, and probably Aunty D. too. I added strawberries (now you see the link between Sister H’ specials and my post, don’t you?:). Enjoy. (I see that some cooks add grated ginger to the parching process as well – may try that – and we use a thicker (as if that were possible) vermicelli than the rice vermicelli or mung bean vermicelli. Some trivia – vermicelli is Italian for ‘little worms’, is thinner in diameter than spaghetti, is sometimes referred to as angel hair. Some cultures include sago in the sawine mix as well.

2017-06-28 07.06.51

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Ramadan – the red beans recipe

Following on from the last post, here’s the recipe for Trini style red beans –

red kidney beans (dark red preferably)

garlic (finely chopped or minced)

green seasoning (ha! got you there)

pumpkin (I have not yet gleaned the reason for this ingredient)

onion

tomatoes

hot pepper (scotchbonnet, or habanero or any other hot pepper)

(I might add coconut milk & spinach)

I am adding two links to two chefs whom I find invaluable when I’m looking for a Trini recipe:

http://www.simplytrinicooking.com/red-beans-and-rice/

http://caribbeanpot.com/tag/trinidad-red-bean-recipe/

Ramadan – Trini style red beans for iftar

Unfortunately no photo. But that may be intentional – I have sort of decided to refrain from snapping photos of food for a bit.

Last Saturday, we joined brothers and sisters at Masjid e Quba, in Barbados, to share in the breaking of the fast. A centipede or two also joined us! Masjid e Quba is set along the base of a hillside and amongst cultivated gardens of vegetables. There are few trees, if any, and the …. easterly seaborn breezes (I wanted to use zephyr but apparently that is a westerly wind) sweep across those fields (pastures would be a more Barbadian colloquialism albeit rooted in Her Majesty’s English) with pure majesty to perpetually cool the masjid. Well, the brothers’ section and the L shaped patio at any rate. We have adequate sisters’ space (almost equal to the brothers’) but the partitions are to be modified to give us more air:). At this time, we are less green but adequately compensated by whirling fans electric.

While in the past, we have sat at dustakhans (sheets of newsprint unfurled in long lengths and set on the floor) of the masjid to share in the breaking of bread, this Ramadan we have utilised tables set along that L shaped patio.

So, you remember the mixture of ethnicities and nationalities in my family. What type of menu emanates from that melting pot of persons? (I have a non-Muslim friend who was horrified that the menu was not ‘Indian’ and I had to laugh – Islam and Ramadan span across all races). I had a Muslim friend who was looking forward to Trini roti and red beans. And we had a brother and sister who were allergic to milk (I have not quite classified their allergy – evaporated milk and coconut milk but not mayonnaise or cheddar cheese). You see the dilemma.

So, dinner yielded:

  • Dates
  • Pholorie & cocktail aloo pies with tamarind chutney
  • Water
  • homemade Chai
  • Pleasant surprises of watermelon, strawberries & sweet cherries

Post-maghrib, we had:

  • the ubiquitous macaroni pie
  • potato salad using mayonnaise & apple cider vinegar (elicited from a you tube video on recipes over the weekend)
  • chicken pelau without coconut milk
  • red beans Trini style (with some red stalk spinach thrown in)
  • grilled fish
  • orange cranberry cake (store bought by BH who dislikes store bought cake)
  • mint cheesecake brownies (this was delicious and made by BD but totally offset me by its fully chocolate appearance – I expected swirls)
  • homemade sorrel
  • homemade ginger beer
  • home mixed mauby

This really sounds like a lot, but really, portion sizes were reasonable, variety was good, and there were enough leftovers to share.

 

 

 

Trini reflections on a birthday – be-Fog-ged

The prettily decorated cupcake & server tell their own story. Especially in conjunction with the title of this post. And if I were silent, each of you would create your own story from your own inferences, selective knowledge, and personal views. So many times we colour our silences or our utterances because of knowledge we peculiarly hold. But just as many times, those colours can be filtered or shaded when that knowledge meets the light of reality.

Yes, the cake was served on my birthday. It’s a chocolate chiffon cupcake with homemade whipped cream, fresh strawberries & blackberries & chocolate drizzle. Compliments of BakerDaughter. So yes, my birthday was the occasion, but not the occasion. Be-fog-ged yet? Let us de-mist – the anniversary of my birth date was the time on which the cupcakes were served, but my birthday was not the reason for the cupcakes.

In Trinidad & Guyana, indentured servants/labourers were the replacement labour source for the sugarcane plantations, upon the abolition of slavery in the 1800s. 143,000+ indentured labourers went to Trinidad, almost 209,000 went to Guyana. These emanated from British India. The Fatel Razak which landed in Trinidad in 1838 is reputed to have brought the second set of Muslims to the Caribbean. Indentured labourers also went from other colonies.

It is reported that the ratio of males to females were 3:1 and in some cases 2:1.Despite the labour intensive days on the plantations and the many rules restricting religious and cultural practices, those practices (perhaps modified) survived. It is believed that both Hindu and Muslim labourers attended their respective religious ‘schooling’ on evenings after a day in the field. From one article I’ve read (and I cannot speak to its validity as a source),  those Muslims who congregated to observe their Eid prayers at the Palmiste Estate were flogged for offering their first Eid prayers in Trinidad. On another occasion, defenceless Muslim immigrants attempting to carry out a peaceful observance of a religious occasion  were shot by a platoon of armed policemen. Another source confirms the flogging but provides conflicting information – that Muslim religious practices were controlled and the building of mosques and the Friday congregational prayer discouraged – that Islamic community life was not transported, and the ‘Indian’-originated Muslims in Trinidad were called ‘madingas’ – in recognition of those African Muslims of the Madingo tribe. While used in a derogatory manner, the coining of that phrase by non-Muslims unknowingly reflects the recognition of racial equality amongst Muslims. This second source also states that Muslims succeeded in maintaining their religious practices by practising the fundamentals of Islam and gathering on various occasions. It is these gatherings that the author of the second source describes as an amalgamation of Hindu cultural practices with Islamic traditions.

A third author (Suresh Pillai) states: “Out of the recesses of their minds and memories they pieced together their religious and social practices and philosophies and recreated the institutions that sustain a civilization.” Pillai says: “Koran sheriff was the source of inspiration for Muslims. .There were Muslim scholars who could recite entire Koran sheriff from memory. The story of one Hajji Rukhnudeen of La Plaisance estate in Trinidad was inspiring , for he taught entire Koran to his fellow Muslims from memory under the moon light.” I had to search for the meaning of the term ‘Qur’an shareef’ as I think ‘Koran sheriff’ (a colloquialism perhaps attributable to Indo-Trinidian Muslims) was meant to be. It means the Honourable Qur’an. 

So, for the past 2+ centuries, Qur’an recitation in social gatherings has been occasioned. In Barbados, despite the number of memorisers of the Qur’an, it is not as prevalent, but that may be due to the paucity in comparative numbers. Some persons frown upon it as being innovative.

So, you wonder what any of this has to do with ‘fog’ and my birthday. (And let us accept without contradiction at this time, that the ‘celebration’ of birthdays is frowned upon in Islam because of the rationale that we ought not to be celebrating the nearing of certain death and the uncertain hereafter. It can however, be a time of reflection for us, as can any other random day. What have we done with the object of attaining one of those levels of heaven and how can we improve?)

Each of us has ‘comfort food’ – food for the soul. Each of us also has ‘comfort’ practices. My comfort practice was to invite some close friends to gather in my home to recite the Qur’an and to have lunch with us. Not everyone accepted the invitation. The fog, it appears, may have been in ascribing to me intentions that may not have been mine. A celebration of a birthday instead of a giving of thanks and sharing. An occasion not occasioned by my birthday.

My thanks to those who attended (and ate some Trini-style food). And to those whose efforts assisted in the easy-going camaraderie and fellowship. And that includes my ‘fogged’ friend.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fog/

 

Mellie and Mandela

On practically every school outing during my early years, we visited the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens in Port of Spain. This summer, I was able to revisit with BH, children, Nieces and YoungerBrother in tow. Pictured here are the Emperor Valley Zoo’s latest acquisition, 7 year old Mellie and Mandela (so much for originality). And again, we praise Allah swt:

“And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” (Qur’an, 6:38)”

Zoo Collage1