Monday, December 29, 2008

Holidays in Hopkins, Belize Style

The Holidays in Hopkins center around the same things as Holidays most places: Re-uniting family and friends, celebrating with music and, of course, the all-important center of attention, FOOD.

To me, I like to use what the land around me produces locally, intertwining fresh local ingredients with customs and traditions that bring back the comforting memories of Christmases past. It is a culinary segue of past, present and future that creates a timeline for our own personal histories. This is especially evident in my many Belizean friends, Garifuna, Mayan, Spanish and Creole, all cling to the dishes that they were raised on, and all have been exposed to and are beginning to embrace and intertwine the traditions of European and hence American holiday traditions. Indeed, after watching the on site smoking of Ham and Turkey for the last 3 years during the holidays as I Incorporated the dishes expected by many of the traveling tourists that are our mainstay, asked me to smoke them some of the same for their Christmas dinner. The aroma of the full smoker Christmas Eve on the beach here have now been stored in my olfactory file for another comforting smell of, for now the present, but of course, is already advancing to the realm of history. I can certainly hope that now these same smells, will be passed on to the children of the parents for whom I smoked the Christmas dinners, there is comfort in that thought. A minute spec of culinary history in a developing nation, but culinary history none the less.
Papaya for everyone!
Machine, otherwise known as Emory Gonzalez, wearer of the perpetual smile and all around good guy poses with the papaya tree the day before it fell over, laden with fruit. In the picture you can see where it was propped up by the all useful "Y" stick, but, alas the fruit's weight proved too great and the tree fell over. Most of the fruit was ripened over time, but you cannot reproduce the sweetness and texture of a just picked papaya at its height of ripeness. Happily, 3 trees still remain and my crop of spaghetti squash is now climbing the wall along with 2 surviving Tuscan Cantaloupes, the seeds of which I brought down on my return from Alaska in September. With allot of water, I think I should have some fruit from those two in 2-4 weeks.
Angela continues to bake through the mornings as her desserts have proven to be the talk of the village and people stop by often looking for "that couple from Alaska" having been sent by the various locals and expat's who might have been asked the re-curring question that many culinary disappointed tourists ask just anyone: "Doesn't anybody have any good desserts around here?"
" Her desserts aint yo mama's coconut buns!'" I heard Kendra, my assistant in the kitchen telling a customer one day.
True enough, try Banana Rum and Italian Cream Torte, Mango Creme Brulee and Chocolate Double Diablo for just a few of her creations. She sometimes goes into a semi-trance when pondering desserts...." So anyway," I continued in what I assumed to be a riveting conversation with my wife, "Jim ended up not catching any.......Hey, are you even listening to me?"
Her nose was deep into a Chocolatier magazine and I was sure she hadn't heard a word I said about whatever it was I was talking about. Belizeans were now ordering fancy desserts to have as a grand finale to their holiday meals, creating new traditions to add to their rich cultural heritage.
And so it goes, smoked Belizean Ham with mashed plantains, Smoked turkey with Creole potatoes. Christmas Tamales with pumpkin pie for dessert. Cultural intermingling and fusion cooking are what keeps the passion of cooking alive, for me anyway.
That's all for now, the lobster boat is pulling up to the dock with his fresh catch from the cayes so from Alaska to Belize....Happy Holidays.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

VEry nice,,,,,,,,

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