Monday, January 20, 2014

A Jamaican Food Journey

A Jamaican Food Journey
Kentucky Food Christmas in a suitcase
Of course, part of any trip is sampling the local cuisine.  This definitely was my plan for a trip to Jamaica at Christmas to visit my daughter Elizabeth.   She had been telling us about all the different and a bit unusual foods she had learned to eat and it was certainly my goal to try as many as possible.  But this journey turned out to be a dual food journey - not just for me to also bring Elizabeth as many of her favorite, traditional and sentimental foods as possible.  You see, Elizabeth is serving, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brownstown, St Ann’s Parish, Jamaica and this is her first Christmas away from home.   Elizabeth will tell you that Christmas and the Kentucky State Fair are her two favorite times of the year.  An interesting combination. 
We had been planning to go to Jamaica for Christmas ever since Elizabeth was stationed there, beginning in March of 2013.  By we, I mean Catherine and myself and possibly my sister and her husband.   As it turned out after numerous adjustments, the group was Catherine, Auntie Gail and myself.
I didn’t realize how much Elizabeth was missing home, until I sent her a photo of a wreath that I had hung on the second story of our log house, stone chimney.  I had purchased wreaths for both chimneys when Hobby Lobby had an 80% off sale on their Christmas decorations last winter.  Elizabeth had been living with me in the winter of 2013, after she completed her Master's degree at Virginia Tech and as she was waiting to leave for the Peace Corps and Jamaica.   Though she was supportive, I think inwardly she wondered if I would get this done.  I have been known to get things like this started and not get them finished.  So I sent her the picture to show her that, yes, I did get it done.
The conversation via Skype went like this:
“Did you get the photo of the wreath?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Oh it just makes me miss Christmas at home.”
OK, Momma mode revs up.  What could I do to bring Christmas to Elizabeth?  Why food of course!  While I had been planning to bring some things for Christmas, I was now in full food mode.   I was going to pack a Kentucky Food Christmas in a suitcase.
What would the menu include?   I had already planned to take the ingredients for Cheese Grits.  While not Elizabeth’s favorite, it is a family tradition.   We have had cheese grits for every Riley family Christmas gathering that I can remember.  And if you aren’t ahead of Catherine and her cousin Robert in the dinner line you might not get a serving.   I had also planned to take some cheese.  There are no dairies on the island of Jamaica.  So fresh milk, cheese and butter have to be imported and are pricy.
So what else did I need?  Country ham, a must, Grandmama’s chocolate chip cookies, of course, rice krispy treats, white chocolate cranberry cookies, and Texas Millionaires candy another tradition which is worthy as an entire post on its own.  Just to tantalize you, I will tell you that this can is homemade and rich, decadent caramel squares with an over abundance of pecans, dipped in chocolate.  Could I manage boiled custard?  As many of my homemade jams and preserves as I could get into my suitcase. Elizabeth had requested nuts, like almonds and cashews and chocolate chips, which were not reasonably available on the island.
Would I make it?   Next blog will tell.

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