Caribbean Food: Why You Must Eat Your Dad’s Trees

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Caribbean food cinnamon. Pale, dusky brown, with a seductive spicy aroma and a sweet woody taste.

Its soft fragrance fills your nostrils caressing your throat with it’s complex ambrosial flavour. Next to nutmeg, this is probably the most frequently utilised caribbean food spice of my cooking-crazed family. Used in cakes, drinks, and savoury dishes, cinnamon evokes in me strong emotional memories of warmth, safety and celebration.

On my dad’s farm in Jamaica, he had a couple of ever-green cinnamon trees. He said they were ancient, almost antique. I remember, he didn’t touch the outer bark as this might cause the tree to become infected which would make it rot, even die! Instead, he only ever used the inner-bark. As it dries out, the sides of the bark curl inwards and are called ‘quills’. This is what you buy in your supermarket.

I remember, my first encounter with caribbean food cinnamon was as a four year old child. It was winter, dark and cold outside and I stumbled downstairs tousled and sleepy-eyed to watch my dad light the fire in the kitchen. Once it was crackling, hissing and spitting, he went to get ready for work. I sat close to the fire feeling safe and warm, watching the fire dance and skip, impatiently awaiting my breakfast.

After my mum had made my dad’s lunch, she began the preparations for our breakfast. Velvety cornmeal porridge with soft, fluffy, fried dumplings, or freshly baked bread and butter, was a favourite in the winter months. My dad claimed it would make our brains grow. The scoundrel could get away with such claims – I was only young and my dad was the font of all knowledge.

As my mum began cooking the porridge, I watched every movement avidly, eagerly anticipating the flavours filling my mouth. She took out an enormous pot and an old wooden spoon, followed by all the ingredients, and lay them down on our scuffed-up old wooden table.

She measured out a tiny handful of golden cornmeal into the pot. Then, filled the pot with what seemed like an ocean of water and placed it onto our beaten-up old stove. When she lit it, it made a loud whooshing noise and then hissed like a witch all the way through the cooking process. Mum began to stir the porridge and then added the magic ingredient – cinnamon. She stirred for what seemed like hours and went into a trance! Mum had a habit of thinking out loud whilst cooking; to a four year old she was chanting a magic spell.

I watched this spell-making in quiet fascination as the ‘brew’ transformed from an odourless, grey, watery mass into a majestic golden elixir. The smell of cinnamon in the porridge was divine. I devoured it.

Hallelujah for Caribbean Food.

Pic by oiseauxbleu

Pic by oiseauxbleu

CORNMEAL PORRIDGE
50g (2oz)  Cornmeal (I prefer coarse)
1/2 teaspoon  vanilla essence
approx 1 teaspoon of  finely grated cinnamon.
300ml (1/3 qt) water.
100ml (4fl oz) skimmed milk
Brown demerra sugar to taste

Small wooden spoon
small/medium pot

Put Cornmeal, milk and Water into a medium sized pot.
Place on cooker on a low heat and begin to stir.
After 5 minutes, add the cinnamon. Keep stirring.
After another 5 minutes, add the vanilla. Keep stirring.
Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring all the time to prevent lumps.

Your porridge is now ready for eating. Pour into a bowl, add sugar to taste.

Love, laughter and food for all!

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Comments

8 Responses to “Caribbean Food: Why You Must Eat Your Dad’s Trees”

  1. Kiva-Farmstead Lady on September 2nd, 2009 3:44 pm

    What lovely memories and yummy food! My hubby did a mission trip to Grenada and returned with lots of spices including cinnamon, sounds like this is a keeper for a chilly autumn morning, thanks for sharing.

  2. Laura on September 2nd, 2009 11:37 pm

    If you have any interest I strongly encourage you to submit this post to the Life & Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch–she is my co host and THE host this month (sept) of our Family Recipes event. This would be perfect. Great post!

    I am not sure HoneyB has announced the spet event yet, so here are some links describing:

    http://thespicedlife.blogspot.com/2009/08/family-recipes-dense-chocolate-loaf.html

    http://shelbymaelawstories.blogspot.com/2009/05/family-recipes-i.html

    -Laura

    Angeli says:
    Thank you for the complement Laura, I will certainly take a look.:)

  3. Lorraine on September 3rd, 2009 10:07 am

    This beautifully written and vividly detailed post brings us back to your childhood home in Jamaica–and makes us feel like welcome guests in your family kitchen.

    Thanks for sharing this–and the recipe. I will make your scrumptious porridge on the next cold morning.

    Angeli Says:

    Let me know how the porridge goes Lorraine. LOL, sorry to dissapoint you Lorraine but my childhood home was in Walthamstow, East London….

  4. Kavey on September 3rd, 2009 4:42 pm

    Charming post. Really enjoyed it.

    Angeli Says:

    Thanks Kavey – try it and see what you think:)

  5. Annieloed on September 5th, 2009 12:29 pm

    Great Post ! Could almost imagine tasting it. I love porridge – never had ‘cornmeal’ porridge, Is it easy to find?

    Angeli says:

    I find that it easy to come across in my local supermarket. It has a section for foods around the world. You may also know it as polenta. Let me know how you get on Ann:)

  6. Amari on September 14th, 2009 12:44 pm

    Charming post. Really enjoyed it.

    Angeli Says:

    Thanks Kavey – try it and see what you think:)…

  7. Jacqui on October 15th, 2009 2:58 am

    We traditionally use the dried Cinnamon leaves in Porridge, often instead of the bark .
    Have you ever had green Banana Porridge.
    Walthamstow? Cool! anywhere near Corbett Road?
    BTW am Jamaican and i still live here in Kingston.

    Keep up the good work

  8. Alexis on June 26th, 2010 2:35 pm

    Great Post ! Could almost imagine tasting it. I love porridge – never had ‘cornmeal’ porridge, Is it easy to find?

    Angeli says:

    I find that it easy to come across in my local supermarket. It has a section for foods around the world. You may also know it as polenta. Let me know how you get on Ann:)