Monday, August 3, 2009

eating the past

yesterday we went to visit family friends of David from Jamaica. Ian was the person who was kind enough to look at an apartment for us in Toronto, and Aunty Mary was close friends with David's grandparents. We both had a very lovely time visiting them and got to see a little bit of Markham as well. Supper was a fairly traditional Jamaican supper--yam, chicken, rice and peas (red kidney beans), and ackee & salt fish. The last item is Jamaica's national dish.

Ackee is a strange looking giant pink fruit of which all but the yellow flesh is poisonous. It looks like scrambled eggs, has a creamy texture, and very mild but distinctive taste. We had it with curried salted cod & onions, in a dish topped with hardboiled egg chunks. I've been warned numerous times about how it is an acquired taste, not particularly delicious, etc... But I am happy to say that I survived and actually took second helpings of it much to everyone's pleasure. It was actually pretty delicious, aside from the super saltyness, and once I mixed it with my rice and peas I could sail right in. Now I'm not saying that I'd willingly order it on a menu or anything, but at least I'll be able to make it through meals with Jamaican friends and family without looking like an ass. I'm also already looking forward to inflicting it on my children!

My mind was of course wandering down trails of our "distinctive ethnic foods" from childhood that become a part of our family in their way. When I was young and grandma had the motivation it would be a dish of homemade perogies with onions and bacon brought to a family supper. Easter was always full of traditional dishes, and even now I faithfully ensure that we have farmer's sausage and cottage cheese perogies (I've yet to find wareniki, which is what I'd rather have) at least once during Easter. Grandma's snacks were always a plate of cheese, crackers, dill pickles, and kolbassa or ukrainian sausage. And the strangest things from the Mennonites--plumi moos (fruit soup), wareniki with stewed plums inside... And every year mum and I call each other to brag when we're baking obstkuchen/platz, a delicious fresh fruit cake. With traditional religion, and the traditions that accompany it, fallen by the wayside it is food that keeps our history alive.

And now, back to Toronto. It's a holiday today, and I don't have to work, so we are going to the distillery district later for the arts & crafts fair. Then, if the store is open, I may go and pick up our engagement photos. So it should be a good afternoon.

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