In Trinidad, the sound of Christmas often comes with Spanish lyrics. The fun of going from house to house and waking people with the jovial sounds of parang music is the island’s traditional version of carolling. Before COVID-19, lively performances of the Spanish-style folk music — sometimes fused with soca and chutney — often serenaded passersby around the Arima, Lopinot, and Paramin districts in the weeks leading up to Christmas, with September designated Parang History Month — and the start of the annual parang season — by T&T’s National Parang Association. Live music performances may have taken a pause due to the ongoing pandemic, but the Drive-In Parang Theatre event planned for December 2021 will keep you safely in your bubble while you listen to some of the best paranderos. Visit facebook.com/npattofficialpage for the full line-up.
Best Barbados rums
For centuries, rum has been integral to Barbados’s heritage. The spirit’s unmatched legacy — from modest beginnings on the island to world acclaim — has led to countless international awards bestowed. At the new Barbados Rum Experience (running from 1 to 7 November), the island’s three main rum producers — Foursquare Distillery, St Nicholas Abbey, and Mount Gay Distilleries — offer exciting opportunities to sample the best fine aged liquors and learn about their cultural significance. Home-bound tipplers don’t have to feel left out — award-winning mixologist Shane McClean shares three special cocktail recipes for some coveted Barbados blends
Mount Gay Black Barrel
Matured in whisky casks, then further aged in charred bourbon barrels, Black Barrel features spicy notes like nutmeg, clove, and ginger, making you yearn for more after the first sip. It’s ideally paired with steak, lamb, pork, or fish, since the rum carries tannins, which assist in breaking down the proteins.
45 ml Mount Gay Black Barrel
1 dash of black pepper
30 ml pineapple juice
25 ml fresh lime juice
25 ml white sugar syrup
Combine in a mixing glass with one scoop of ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice into a rock glass. Garnish with a pineapple chunk.
A rich heritage and unique notes full of character and complexity are wonderfully combined in this twelve-year old rum — exemplary for anyone’s introduction to the spirit. It’s perfectly smooth, with aromas of toffee apple, cinnamon, and caramel. After dinner, this mouth-watering sipper can complement — or replace — your dessert.
Doorly’s Old Fashioned
45 ml Doorly’s 12
25 ml white sugar syrup
6 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash cinnamon
Combine ingredients in a rock glass, add a scoop of ice, and stir. Garnish with a cherry and orange segment.
St Nicholas Abbey White
Unlike most of the island’s other rums, the Abbey makes their white rum from sugarcane syrup instead of molasses or sugarcane juice. On the nose, it’s extremely earthy, with hints of citrus notes, almost like the varied fragrances of freshly cut sugarcane. The recommended cocktail is an aperitif, and can be paired with chicken, fish, or a fresh garden salad — or savoured on its own on a hot afternoon.
45 ml St Nicholas Abbey White
25 ml fresh grapefruit juice
1 tbsp granulated sugar
30 ml sparkling water
Combine ingredients in a wine glass, fill with ice, and stir. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.
For more information on the Barbados Rum Experience, go to visitbarbados.org
All About …
Observed this year on 4 November, Divali — the Hindu festival of light and renewal — honours Mother Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and purity, and the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. Celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and other Caribbean territories usually include visiting the homes of relatives to share in scrumptious meals and distributing sweets to friends and neighbours. You probably know the most popular treats, like kurma, barfi, and gulab jamun. But the repertoire of traditional Indian sweets is much larger. Have you tried any of these?
This Bengali dessert immerses delicate cottage cheese balls in a creamy milky syrup. It’s one of the healthiest sweets served for Divali, due to its low sugar and low sodium content. To prepare it, curdle milk flavoured with cardamom to form the cottage cheese balls, then boil them in syrup made from sugar, cream, saffron, and more milk. The balls will soak up the syrup, then you can chill them and garnish with pistachios. The end result resembles a soft dumpling that melts in your mouth.
This delicacy was first made in 1935 for the king of Mysuru (or Mysore) — a city in Karnataka state. Legend says the palace’s chief chef Kaksura Madappa prepared lunch for the king, but ran out of time while he brainstormed an unusual dessert. Madappa mixed generous amounts of ghee, sugar, and gram flour to a syrupy consistency and plated it. When the king was ready for his dessert, the syrup had partially solidified and resembled fudge — and the rest is history. Traditionally, mysore pak is served at weddings and special occasions in southern India.
Best known as the Indian version of ice cream, kulfi has a luxuriously dense texture, not whipped soft. Traditionally, the recipe is laborious, but you can use full cream and cornstarch to knock off some hours. Evaporate the milk, add sugar, cardamom, saffron, and chopped nuts, then cool. Place the mixture in a popsicle mould and freeze for about twelve hours. When set, drizzle with pistachios and serve.
Widely sold on the street in India but hardly made at home, kalakand has an ideal consistency somewhere between cake and fudge. It’s made via a reduction of milk and sugar, and can take hours of constant stirring. If you don’t have much time, condensed milk, homemade paneer, and cardamom will get you similar results in less than an hour. Top with pistachios.
You may have heard of gulab jamun, but do you know its cousin lyangcha, beloved in Bengal? Shaktigarh — the lyangcha capital — has thirty shops on both sides of Delhi Street, each claiming to serve the best variety. Prepared with paneer and cheese-like khowa, this cylindrical sweet is coated with sugar syrup and fried in ghee.
Virtual Christmas gifts
Getting presents is one of the most fun parts of Christmas — and buying them can be one of the most stressful. Imagine doing your Christmas shopping without spending time in crowded malls, long lines, traffic, or waiting for a parking space. With the tap of a finger, your Christmas cheer can be en route to happy recipients. And if you can’t be with them physically this season, a thoughtful present will surely lift spirits. Here are some virtual gift ideas to help spread the cheer
Calm and serenity make a huge difference to our countenance and overall well-being — even if it’s a short reprieve. Gift certificates for spa experiences and yoga sessions are a great way to help restore physical and mental balance. And virtual classes that let you exercise at home with Caribbean instructors have grown in popularity over the past two years. You can’t go wrong with the gift of a calmer mind and a healthier body.
A learning experience
Learning never gets old. And the range of online masterclasses available for almost every conceivable skill or discipline is breathtaking. What do your friends and loved ones enjoy the most? Cooking, gardening, interior design? Subjects like history or science? Or picking up a new language? They’ll be elated that you signed them up for something they’re extremely passionate about.
If you’ve got a literature lover on your list and can’t decide just what novel they’d like best, why not give them the gift of literary community? T&T’s Bocas Lit Fest — the largest literature festival in the Caribbean — recently launched a Friends of Bocas subscription programme, offering access to a rich archive of video and audio recordings featuring a decade’s worth of readings, discussions, and performances — plus access to a book network for discussing favourite titles, discounts on monthly Bocas workshops, and more. And your gift subscription will help the festival’s year-round programmes supporting Caribbean writers. Find out more at www.bocaslitfest.com/friends.
Do you know someone who’s excited about art, history, and culture? A gift membership at their favourite museum might include exclusive events, free entry into exhibitions, and even more benefits. Museum lovers in the Caribbean diaspora can explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, or the Tate in London, which all have membership programmes. You might get bumped up to best friend status, too.
Pass on the love
Charitable organisations welcome donations throughout the year — and especially at the end of a collectively challenging one. For your friend who has everything, the perfect gift that keeps on giving could be a donation to a good cause in their name. Make a difference this Christmas season by donating to reputable international non-profits like World Central Kitchen (which helps feed people affected by disasters around the world), or local charities like the Living Water Community in Trinidad and Tobago, Ocean Acres Animal Sanctuary in Barbados, or any other group helping make our communities and countries into better places.