Saturday, January 8, 2011

A New Look And A New Book

YES, you’re in the right place! After close to 4 years of blogging, I decided I needed a change. Actually, I decided that months ago, but it’s taken me a long time to actually push the button.

I hope you like the new look. If you do, thank Cynthia (A LOT), who was my designer, my computer guru, cheerleader and all-around great friend. She should have a second (actually third) career as a web designer. But if you hate it, blame me - the bad parts Cynthia probably tried to talk me out of. I really can’t thank her enough, but, boy, was I nervous to finally do it. Change is scary, especially when it involves all this pesky computer stuff.


And thanks to Em, who, no matter how dumb my questions were (and are), still pretends not to laugh and helps me with a lot of 21st century stuff that I have no idea about.


It’s very fitting that the first post on my new template is about…Cynthia and her new book, Tastes Like Home.


It’s pretty wonderful when you read something that is written with such a clear and distinct voice. That’s the way it is when you turn the pages of one of my favorite blogger’s brand new book. In Tastes Like Home, every page is like a sit-down with Cynthia...hearing her family stories or about her fascinating culinary heritage growing up in Guyana and later settling in Barbados. She lives in a part of the world which is a cultural and ethnic melting pot, and so, of course, her cooking is a gorgeous reflection of all she's experienced. I love her vivid memories of holiday meals, childhood snacks and market visits.

Her rich past combines with her cooking style today to create this collection of wonderful recipes, which Cynthia has subtitled My Caribbean Cookbook. It’s so interesting how food can reflect a specific time and place so accurately. The recipes that Cynthia grew up with represent an era when fewer ingredients were used and were mostly things at hand. The chicken was plucked and gutted as you watched. (Oy!) The vegetables that didn't come from the backyard came from the local market. Everything, of course, was cooked from scratch and certain occasions required certain dishes. Cynthia has many examples of this in her book.

We learn that the colonial history of the Caribbean region was critical to how the cuisine developed. Cynthia tells us that before fusion cuisine became so trendy, the Caribbean region had already been “cooking and eating a fused cuisine”. She mentions African, British, Chinese, Indian, French, Portuguese AND MANY OTHER influences that became the basis of Caribbean cuisine. Wow!

The first part of Tastes Like Home is a great read. Cynthia shares many family stories that naturally revolve around food. She starts with her first visit home after eight years away and going to the market. She was surrounded by the food of her youth and could barely bring herself to leave, so strong were the memories that were brought back by the smell and touch of certain vegetables.

Fast forward to Cynthia’s life in Barbados and the melting pot has grown larger. Sometimes it’s from trying to recreate the dishes from her Guyanese childhood with Barbadian ingredients. Other times, she uses techniques and foods that she’s discovered in her new home. It all comes together beautifully.

Cynthia writes about how things taste differently in different settings. She compares eating a black pudding in the solitude of her own home (in Barbados) to how it was eating it in a large group of family and friends in her mother’s house. There, she could savor it forever. Alone, 3 bites were enough to satisfy.

This book is very exotic for the American cook, with exciting sounding dishes like Choka; or the national dish of Barbados - Cou-Cou; Conkies (cookies); and drinks like Mauby, which sounds like a heartier version of root beer.

But when you get right down to it, many of the cooking methods are familiar. You may recognize some of your own favorite recipes in Cynthia’s. Cou-Cou is a version of polenta…or in Africa, they would call it Mealie Pap. Her Indian recipes have a definite Caribbean spin to them - her homemade curry paste includes basil or cilantro.

The best part of Tastes Like Home is that, just as with her blog of the same name and her newspaper column, as Cynthia shares her recipes, she’s also sharing a huge part of herself. I’m delighted to get to know both better.

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Here are two recipes from Tastes Like Home:

FLYING FISH (Posted with permission)

This is the other half of the Barbadian nation dish when served with Cou-cou. It is also made separately and served with root vegetables and ground provisions. The fish are called flying fish because they actually fly and skim the waters they lie in.

Yield: 12

Ingredients

12 flying fish (see Cynthia’s Tips at end of recipe)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons oil

1 cup sliced onions (1/4 inch thickness)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup diced tomatoes

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Hot pepper to taste, minced

2 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions (white & green part)

Equipment

1 frying pan with cover

1 large spoon

Directions

Pat fish dry and season lightly with salt and black pepper; set aside.

Heat oil in pan.

Add garlic, tomatoes, thyme and hot pepper and sauté for 1’2 minutes; add another sprinkling salt.

Pour boiling water to pan, reduce heat to medium and let cook uncovered until the liquid has reduced by half (approximately 6-8 minutes).

Check and adjust seasoning.

Add flying fish to sauce, cover and let cook for 5-7 minutes.

Remove for heat and stir in green onions.

Serve with Cou-cou.

This dish can also be eaten with rice, bread or boiled ground provisions.

Cynthia’s Tips

Any white fish can work with this recipe.

Roll flying fish and secure in place with a toothpick. Remove toothpick before serving.

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PEANUT PUNCH (Posted with permission)

Packed with protein and calcium this drink is a favourite among many. I particularly enjoy having mine with a freshly baked Chinese Cake. In terms of taste, think of peanut-flavoured crème liqueur.

Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients

2/3 cup of chunky or smooth peanut butter

3 cups whole milk, cold

4 tablespoons sugar

A pinch ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

(extra to garnish if you like)

Equipment

1 blender

1 glass jug

Directions

Add all the ingredients, milk, first, into blender and whiz for 1 minute until smooth

Serve over ice or as is or pour into a jug and chill some more then serve

Cynthia’s Tips

For an adult peanut punch, spike with Baileys or other crème liqueurs. These are added to the ingredients before blending.

Skim milk can also be used but for the real creamy goodness use whole milk.

11 comments:

Emily said...

I LOVE the new look! Whoo hoo! Good job, ladies. I really, really like it.

I'm so happy for Cynthia! This seems like a great cookbook. I'm going to go check it out right now.

Amy said...

Oooh, I like it!

Cynthia said...

I LOVE the new look! And I am honored that you'd choose to write a review of my book as your first post!

And Sue, there are no words to express my gratitude for your unconditional love and support. You have been there for ke through the ups and downs. I know that I can continue to depend on you. I.Love.You.

Java Joggers said...

Beautiful new design, Sue! Very nice... Cynthia, congratulations on your new book. I'm going to try the flying fish recipe one night next week :)

doggybloggy said...

love the look and I love Cynthia.....

Sue said...

Thanks Em. Cynthia IS the greatest.

Thanks Amy,
I'm going to ignore H saying it's like looking into headlights...

Cyn,
You deserve all the wonderful things coming your way. I know the book will be a great success.

JJ,
Thank you! I love the NAME of the recipe, as much as the recipe itself. And please tell me where you're going to catch some flying fish around here.

DB,
I really appreciate it. Thank you. And there ain't no one else like Cynthia!

Vanda Calmeyer said...

Happy New Year! Love the new look. Cynthia's book sounds very interesting, will have to see if I can get it here. How is your finger?

Tracy said...

I really like the new look! Great job. I could use someone with more skills than I have to help with my blog design.

Sue said...

Happy New Year Vanda!

Thanks to the stitches (which I now think are a good idea for any really bad cut), my finger is almost healed.

You'll love Cynthia's book.

Thanks, Tracy,
Hey, I have a friend with great computer skills and she's one heck of a Caribbean cook, as well.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Looks great. Good for you. Don't feel bad if you think you were technically challenged. I change the template on my blog occasionally, but have yet to figure out how to do those nicely-organized pages.

Thanks for the great book review too!

moonsword said...

The new look is fantastic! Great way to start 2011...all the best to you!