Holiday Foods can Connect us to our Cultures, Homes and Families

The holidays are upon us and it will be nice to put all the disasters of this year behind us.  There are many more problems to overcome but at least the country is taking tiny steps forward even though, to many, it does not feel like it. There will be many who will go hungry this holiday season because of lack of jobs.  This is a year for those who have more to share with others less fortunate.

Now is as good a time as any to start thinking about the food that will give us comfort in the coming weeks.  In every culture a special dish can be found that ties one to a particular day or event on the macro and micro.  Food is used as a way to symbolize change and progress; food binds us to our past; food grounds us in our present and even can prepare us for our future; food connects us to our families  homes and cultures.

Food and culture are intrinsic to who we are as human beings.  People often migrate bringing their recipes with them.  They even change their diets for various reasons.  A dish that might require certain ingredients, in its place of origin, can be adjusted to suit a new environment or even a change in diet due to illness, allergies etc.

In Barbados, my place of birth, November is a special month.  It is the month when the country and people celebrate their independence from Britain.  This November 30th, 2011 will mark 45 years free of colonialism. The Festivals are already getting started. 

Food is a big part of the celebration. There will be plenty of it to go around as families and friends come together for the holiday.  The special Independence Day dish called ‘Conkies’ is a big part of the country’s culinary history, and will be part of the fare on every Barbadian/Bajan table.  The Conkie is a dish made from cornmeal, spices, baking powder, raisins, coconut and other ingredients.  The ingredients are mixed together and placed on singed banana leaves and then steamed. The finished product is moist, delicious and fragrant from the spices. 

Today, I am a resident of New England and can’t always get all the ingredients needed for my favorite Barbadian/Bajan foods.  Nowadays, I use wax paper to steam my Conkies when I can’t purchase banana leaves.  I am allergic to coconut and using that special ingredient is no longer possible.  Nevertheless, my taste buds refuse to let any November go by without luring me down the supermarket aisles in anticipation of the finished treat.

This November will be no different from the others.  I can feel the cravings even as I pen this page. 

Related Article:  What are Conkies?

Cheryl Gittens-Jones lives in the USA. She a stay-at-home mom, poet, writer and novice photographer who has an opinion about everything. Cheryl visted Senegal, West Africa,on a research trip the 1990s. There, she came face to face with the horrible legacy of slavery at the Door of No Return on Goree Island. Her writing is centered on the plight of the 'other', and thematically holds to the relationships between exile, displacement and identity.
Cheryl Gittens-Jones
Cheryl Gittens-Jones

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