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Memories of mamma’s sweet han’

Food not only satisfies hunger or brings comfort, in our subconscious it is linked to people, places and experiences.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day The Catholic News got a few people to share recollections of their mother’s cooking. Though their mothers are gone, there is joy in their food memories, and they still savour the dishes.


A special ingredient

Simone Delochan, CN Associate Editor talks enthusiastically about her mother Dulcie’s cooking. Cooking soup on a Saturday was and remains tradition for some households and she recalled the tasty split peas soup she made. There were many dishes of fond memory. Simone said: “I remember especially after I got married and whenever she knew I was coming across [the family home was San Fernando] she would make my two favourite meals on a Saturday; it would be simple: white rice, patchoi and stew pork. She was a real boss cook! Or alternatively, just red beans, rice, and stewed chicken. I have yet to make a stewed chicken the way that my mother did.”

She is yet to figure out what the “special ingredient” was in her mother’s stew and has never been able to recreate that particular taste nor has anyone else. She also made an excellent traditional Black Cake; one of Simone’s older sisters carries on that tradition every year from their mom’s original recipe.


Simple and Satisfying

Mary Pitman, CN Advertising Officer said the Saturday menu was always soup or “something like, rice and pumpkin or rice and cabbage with fish… Soup would consist of sometimes fish broth, sometimes beef bone soup.” Mary said beef bone is hard to come by today and wonders where her mother, Etta found it in the market. “Talk about a well flavoured soup!” she said.

On Sundays the meal was macaroni pie with either red beans, pigeon peas or callaloo and meat. “Whatever baked kind of meat, that was when you getting meat in big pieces in my house like a leg, thigh, breast, a whole wing, cause we grew up poor so during the week when she cooking those meats it was cut small but on a Sunday you got a big piece.”

She added: “And every Sunday as poor as we were there was always a dessert. My mother would bake cake, sometimes you get sugar cake, she would make tamarind ball, she would make a custard. We had an ice cream freezer she got from Gold Bond stamps…and everybody would take a turn churning. When we doing ice cream on a Sunday, it used to be excitement.” The sponge cake could be in different flavours such as lemon or marble.

Etta’s food was more than what was consumed. “She would always make us feel so loved and would go out of her way, way beyond. It is only when I grow up, I realise how poor we were, but mommy would be able to do all these things. God bless her!”


‘Corn’ fish and bake

Retired teacher and performer Felix ‘The Pierrot’ Edinborough remembers and still longs for his mother Irene’s coconut bake. What went with the bake was as tasty!

He says his family went to Mayaro to spend time with relatives and while there, fresh fish was available for meals. “When they catch plenty fish, it didn’t have freezers in those days to freeze the fish, so she used to ‘corn’ them. She used to corn the fish and hang it out to dry”.

He explained that this meant cleaning the fish, usually Cavalli, salting it and hanging the fish out on a line to dry for a few days. “In those days people were not going around stealing things,” he said with a chuckle.

The dried fish would be prepared like a buljol to go with the bake, which he said was prepared outside. An iron pot contained the bake and on top was a sheet with wood burning so there was fire “on top and below” to cook it.

Another way to prepare the fish was to fry it a little which was also “finger licking”.

His mother was very “adept” at making callaloo which was on the menu every Sunday. Edinborough said: “We were also able to get wild meat every now and then, not everybody could cook wild meat, how to season it, but having grown up in the country she was able to do the proper seasoning of the wild meat and how to cook it”.


Aunty Betty’s renowned sweetbread

Richard McFarlane said his mother Violet came from a family of “really good cooks” in Tobago and her family loved her cooking.

He recalled her pigeon peas soup which was prepared “practically every Saturday. It is something I looked forward to; I think she made one of the best soups I have ever had”.

His mother, who died in February was known in Tobago for her sweetbread. McFarlane said, “She had a very special recipe that was quite different to anybody else’s, and it was an incredibly good, nice tasting sweetbread that just about everybody treasured and loved”.

A few years ago, she shared her recipe with her grandchildren including his daughter and the family hopes they can recreate the sweetbread. Violet lived in Carnbee, but he said her reputation went beyond as “people from all over Tobago” were able to partake and enjoy her sweetbread.

McFarlane, a Lay Minister at St Joseph’s RC Scarborough and in charge of St Anthony’s Mason Hall, said his mother contributed her “culinary skills” and sweetbread to the Society of St Vincent de Paul fundraisers. She was a parishioner of Scarborough RC and “in the latter years” Our Lady of Lourdes RC, Patience Hill.