One of the hardest times for me to be an American is Christmas. My family still lives in Trinidad and it is very rare for me to be able to get home for the holidays. This is such a shame because there is nothing in the world like a Trini Christmas. I have tried to recreate it, but holidays island style are not authentic unless you are actually in the islands. Here is a little taste of what Christmas is like in Trinidad.
Sitting on the sofa listening to the sweet sounds of parang and sipping on some homemade ponche de creme makes my heart ache for home. There is nothing better than a Trini Christmas. We might lack snow, but we make up for that in festivities, food, and fun. Even Santa makes it a point to get some quality time in the islands for the holidays.
One of my favorite things about the holidays in Trinidad is the food. There is so much variety and so many different kinds of foods that it is hard to make a list of favorites, but I will try to list a few. I can’t have a Christmas without pastelles. It is one of the only times in my life that I willingly consume raisins. Pastelles are made differently in every household. Growing up my mom put raisins and olives in the meat filling. They are a tamale-like food that is formed in a banana leaf and boiled. I’ve tried to replicate them in foil. It’s not the same, but works in a pinch.
My second willing consumption of raisins also happens during a Trini Christmas. Every year (even when away) I manage to get my grubby little paws on some Trinidadian fruitcake. No other fruitcake in the world can compare. Even the most staunch fruitcake-hater out there will devour a slice of Trini fruitcake with absolute zeal. Kenin has hated fruitcake all his life until he had a piece of it in Trinidad. There is so much dark rum in there that we fondly call it Black Cake.
Christmas in Trinidad really brings the people together. No matter what race or religion you belong to, you can still celebrate with a piece of ham and some chow chow while listening to the parang soca and watching the dances of the season. Grab a glass of ponche de creme or sorrel and a slab of fruitcake and head over to listen to some steel bands or see Santa at one of the many malls. Celebrate the holidays with your family and friends and have a pastelle on me! Have a very Merry Trini Christmas!
If the mood strikes, here is one of my favorite recipes for Punch De Creme:
- 6 eggs
- 4 cups evaporated milk
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups light rum or 1 cup puncheon
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 teaspoon angostura bitters
- In a medium stainless steel bowl beat eggs with sugar, place into a double boiler, and over simmering water cook eggs until thick and sugar has dissolved. Do not heat the eggs directly to prevent scrambling.
- Remove the mixture from the heat.
- Add condensed milk, evaporated milk and alcohol. Combine the mixture well.
- Add lime zest, angostura bitters and nutmeg stirring continuously.
- Serve over ice