December 2017

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One of my fondest memories growing up was the tradition of Christmas at Grandma's house.It probably started with my mother and her four siblings coming together at Grandma's house on Christmas day for a late lunch, and staying well past dinner time. Fast forward thirty-something years, and now it's grown into a four-generation get together (a zoo) with my parents, uncles and aunts and cousins with their better halves, a couple of children, and last but not least, my grandma at the centre.

These were the people who started my love affair with food and cooking.

The menu is usually a spectacularly diverse spread that would bewilder any spectator, but there was always method to the madness.

The first conundrum was to guarantee a meal to those who were abstaining from meat for some reason or another.

The second challenge was a question that had to be answered: What would X eat? X would be the individual on some new-fangled diet or who had some preference or aversion to any particular dish. Grandma always has the uncanny knack of keeping track of who eats what. The bottom line was that everyone would always have an option of something to eat, and then some. No one went hungry.

Brace yourself for a meal so inherently complex, that I can only attribute it to the wonderful culinary and cultural diversity that is quintessentially the soul of Trinidad and Tobago.

There's usually some sort of rice, macaroni pie, provision pie, red beans or peas, stewed chicken, pepper shrimp, curried duck, curried ex-layers or goat, dhalpuri and/or paratha roti, chunky vegetables, ham, turkey, potato salad, fresh salad and a thing or three more. You'd notice distinct themes here, but we never really stuck to one. In the truest Trinbagonian sense of douglarization, you might find a little of everything on one plate, or someone combining macaroni pie with red beans and curried goat, but judge ye not. To each their own.

After that culinary bombardment that would leave anyone stuffed like a sausage-filled teddy bear, there'd come a slew of dessert options; all homemade: sponge cake, black cake, flan, coconut ice cream. This is in addition to the snack table, covered with what I personally consider Christmas themed snacks: an assortment of cookies including the wildly popular fruit centres, nuts, channa, potato chips and other sweet and savoury treats to keep everyone busy putting things into their face for most of the day.

The drinks table would have something for everyone, but alcohol was never the focus of the day, it was more of a formality for guests than the family.

Amidst the exchange of gifts, the parang and soca music on my uncle's DJ setup, the running and screaming of adults and kids alike, there was never a shortage of love and laughter. And clearly, food.

(Noveck Gowandan)