T&T rich in culture and cuisine

The Por­tuguese have their gar­lic pork, the Venezue­lans their ja­mon, the Fil­ipinos brought their le­chon and T&T is rich­er cul­tur­al­ly and cui­sine-wise for it. Some peo­ple have been for­tu­nate to learn how to cook these eth­nic pork dish­es taught to them by im­mi­grant fam­i­lies.

One of Richard Lau’s child­hood friends is of Por­tuguese lin­eage, his dad Son­ny De Souza was in­stru­men­tal in pass­ing on this tra­di­tion since they were in St Mary’s Col­lege and is still main­tained to­day.

Last Thurs­day, Lau held a get-to­geth­er where he did gar­lic pork which has blos­somed in­to a gath­er­ing of fam­i­ly and friends spar­ing a mo­ment in their busy lives to re­con­nect. Piers Far­rell’s hob­by and pas­sion is bar­be­cu­ing, he has sev­er­al grills and a wood­en Cuban la ca­ja Chi­na bar­be­cue box to do home­made ham with lo­cal al­mond wood.

Para­phras­ing Bub­ba from For­rest Gump, pork is the fruit of the pig. You can bar­be­cue it, boil it, roast it, bake it, fry it.

Neigh­bours can smell what type of ham you have in the oven or the stove­top, as the redo­lent aro­ma of the spices and in­gre­di­ents on the ham waft through the neigh­bour­hood tan­ta­liz­ing the ol­fac­to­ry sens­es of res­i­dents.

Scrunter must be in his glee get­ting more than a piece of pork for Christ­mas.

The T&T Guardian spoke with ma­tri­arch Rose Mary Pin­herio-Perkins, as gar­lic pork or carne vin­ha d’al­hos has been part of the Pin­hheiro fam­i­ly Christ­mas tra­di­tion for gen­er­a­tions, per­son­al Chef Fin­bar “Bar­ry” Bartholomew who Pin­heiro-Perkins shared her fam­i­ly recipe with, which he tweaked over the years to come up with his own sig­na­ture gar­lic pork recipe, Fil­ipino Hon­orary Con­sul Gen­er­al to the Philip­pines in T&T Dr Marie Ad­vani about her coun­try’s fa­mous roast­ed suck­ling pig le­chon and oth­er dish­es and Venezue­lan Yese­nia Gon­za­lez about the de­li­cious food from her coun­try eat­en at Christ­mas.

Speak­ing at her St James home, Pin­herio-Perkins, 64, said, “Gar­lic pork is a Christ­mas tra­di­tion, my par­ents Al­bert and Phyl­lis Pin­heiro lived in Pic­ton Street, a lot of Por­tuguese set­tled there when they came.

“I was born on Wood­ford Street, my mom was not Por­tuguese, but she was raised and steeped in the cul­ture and gar­lic pork has al­ways been a part of our lives.

“There was a Christ­mas my mom and dad went to vis­it her broth­er in the US, we had a crash course in black cake, pastelle and gar­lic pork mak­ing and my notes were from then.

“At that time we had a cook called Jane who cut up the pork us­ing a cut­lass and a large knife, we went to mar­ket, learned how to buy pork, no blood in the meat, came home, prepped it right away

She said Jane then pound­ed gar­lic, pep­per and thyme in a mor­tar and pes­tle, she al­ways helped out, she and her sib­lings took their moth­er to the mar­ket.

Her “big job” at the time was to lay the ta­ble at Christ­mas morn­ing be­cause the gar­lic pork was not cooked day the day be­fore in her fam­i­ly in Trinidad, her sis­ter An­na Gomez chopped the onions and her el­dest broth­er Willie still helps out to­day.

Pin­herio-Perkins said the whole fam­i­ly sat down and ate to­geth­er when her moth­er got ill and her fa­ther died in 1985, the tra­di­tion was dif­fi­cult to con­tin­ue, but her moth­er start­ed to make the gar­lic pork.

She said the fam­i­ly reached a cru­cial point when tra­di­tion en­coun­tered mod­ern con­ve­nience such as the mar­ket is­sue, quan­ti­ty, grow­ing fam­i­ly, when the fam­i­ly went from buy­ing fresh pork in the mar­ket to frozen pork, her moth­er was aghast, the mor­tar and pes­tle gave way to the food proces­sor.

Pin­herio-Perkins said in those days many hous­es had out­side kitchens and the pork was fried in the yard in nor­mal fry­ing pans, now they use huge pots be­cause her broth­ers had enough of the burn­ing and oil splat­ters. of oil

She said when her moth­er got mom sick in 1981 and came to live with her in Wood­brook, they pa­pered the walls in the kitchen be­cause of the oil and grease then they switched to “crack­ers” or portable ring stoves and us­es a gal­vanised ta­ble top be­cause they would scorch a wood­en ta­ble.

Pri­or to this Pin­herio-Perkins nev­er had a recipe re­gard­ing quan­ti­ty and she be­gan writ­ing down mea­sure­ments and tweaked it.

She said it was tra­di­tion for the old­er male heads to drink gin while mak­ing the gar­lic pork and dur­ing eat­ing, now the younger men are in charge of buy­ing the pork, a whole pig.

Her son, Bri­an, would be fry­ing 110 pounds of gar­lic pork at 6 am on Christ­mas morn­ing, at first her moth­er didn’t steam the pork, it went from the brine to the fry­er be­cause in those days it was about pre­serv­ing the meat.

Pin­herio-Perkins said noth­ing was wast­ed, the gravy or sauce was sopped up with a hearty home­made fry which in turn was done with the oil and fat from the pork and the crumbs were in­cor­po­rat­ed in­to an omelette that made her mouth wa­ter.

The kid­dies car­ni­val band­leader al­so makes hum­mus, cheese cake and peanut brit­tle around Christ­mas. 874

Per­son­al chef Fin­bar “Bar­ry” Bartholomew made 150lbs of gar­lic pork for a lime and as Christ­mas gifts for friends, it was not enough. When his friend Baidawi Ass­ing of Eatah­food made a video of him and Rose Mary Pin­herio-Perkins and the process of mak­ing gar­lic pork, the video went vi­ral with more than 50,000 hits and peo­ple are ask­ing him to make gar­lic pork for them.

When the Sun­day Guardian vis­it­ed him at his Mar­aval home, a friend stopped by to pick up a char sui ham he made and al­so want­ed a por­tion of gar­lic pork for his sons which they had last week.

Bartholomew said gar­lic pork had be­come re­al­ly pop­u­lar in the last ten years in T&T, prob­a­bly due to food­ie trends and cross-cul­ture food fu­sion.

The clas­si­cal­ly trained chef from New York’s In­sti­tute of Culi­nary Ed­u­ca­tion (ICE) who has cooked for sev­er­al movie and mu­sic stars such as Queen Lat­i­fah said on Christ­mas morn­ing the first thing he will eat is gar­lic pork.

He said the recipe for gar­lic pork was not re­strict­ed by mea­sure­ments, in the case of the Pin­herio fam­i­ly recipe, there were on­ly six in­gre­di­ents;

pork, gar­lic, hot Pep­per, Por­tuguese thyme, vine­gar and salt.

Bartholomew has since tweaked this fam­i­ly recipe to come up with a sig­na­ture dish that he can now call his own.

what Trinida­di­ans call Span­ish thyme or oregano is ac­tu­al­ly Por­tuguese thyme or Thy­mus Carnosus.

The leader/mu­si­cal di­rec­tor of Panazz Play­ers said he al­so makes for his friends and fam­i­ly jerk ham with an or­ange mar­malade rum glaze,

Bu­ca­ti­ni pas­ta pie, Pe­ru­vian Green Sauce Aji Verde, Co­co Pine Pep­per Sauce in three heat lev­els, pi­men­to, pep­per and scor­pi­on with 16 in­gre­di­ents

and a deca­dent Co­co Pine pecan rum cake.

To see more of Bartholomew’s sweet hand, go to Face­book un­der Chef Fin­bar or Bar­ry Fin­bar Bartholomew and cheffin­bar on In­sta­gram.

In an over­seas tele­phone in­ter­view with the Hon­orary Con­sul Gen­er­al to the Philip­pines in T&T Dr Marie Ad­vani said the le­chon, the Philip­pines’ icon­ic suck­ling pig whole-roast­ed over char­coals was hailed as the “best pork ever” by TV per­son­al­i­ty An­tho­ny Bour­dain, and was one of the most pop­u­lar Christ­mas foods.

She said the Net­work of Over­seas Fil­ipino Work­ers (OFWs) in T&T had their Christ­mas prayers and fel­low­ship in the af­ter­noon of De­cem­ber 8 and the Fil­ipino As­so­ci­a­tion was sched­uled to al­so have their Christ­mas par­ty on the same date.

Ad­vani said among the Fil­ipino dish­es served at the prayers were Bi­col Ex­press, hot and spicy pork cooked with chili pep­pers in co­conut milk and shrimp paste and pan­sit, a noo­dle dish and the sta­ple steamed white rice was al­ways part of the menu.

She said in the Philip­pines Christ­mas start­ed with Dawn mas from De­cem­ber 16, Mid­night Mas on De­cem­ber 24 and af­ter have a mid­night meal and re­called as a child Fil­ipinos al­ways hav­ing ja­mon (ham), que­so (cheese), roast­ed chest­nuts, grapes and ap­ples.

Ad­vani said the roast pig was one of the na­tion­al dish­es in­spired from the Chi­nese and Fil­ipinos had it all the time, at func­tions, wed­dings re­cep­tions,some fam­i­lies will ei­ther serve roast pork or ja­mon, a leg of ham.

She said a lot of Fil­ipino food was Span­ish in­spired such as mor­con, a beef roulade con­sist­ing of thin sheets of cooked eggs and mar­i­nat­ed beef lay­ered one on top of the oth­er, then wrapped and tied around car­rots, cel­ery, cheese, pork fat, and sausage and cooked in sea­soned toma­to sauce.

Ad­vani said there was al­so pael­la and bu­co young co­conut sal­ad, punch, leche flan, or bet­ter known as caramel cus­tard and Ke­so de Bo­la, the Fil­ipino ver­sion of Edam cheese coat­ed in a red paraf­fin wax.

She said here role at these prayer ses­sions was to give the Christ­mas mes­sage which were some­times held at her home.

Venezue­lan Yese­nia Gon­za­lez said her moth­er made tra­di­tion­al Venezue­lan Christ­mas foods such as hal­la­cas what Trinida­di­ans call pastelles, her moth­er though, ground the corn from scratch, peo­ple al­so used the ready-made “Pro­masa corn­meal brand from Venezuela.

She said noth­ing was wast­ed, ju­go de maiz (corn juice) was al­so made from the corn, Venezue­lans al­so drank fruit juices and punch­es.

Gon­za­lez said duck, roast pork, turkey and cheese cake were al­so favourites with Venezue­lans at Christ­mas.

She said the peo­ple were close, if some didn’t have a par­tic­u­lar in­gre­di­ent they will barter for it.

Gon­za­lez said there was al­so the Pan de Jamón, Venezue­lan bread filled up with ham, raisins, olives and ba­con, chick­en sal­ad and pernil (a leg of pork) and ponche cre­ma and many peo­ple wear new clothes for Christ­mas and New Year’s Eve.

Reporter: Charles Kong Soo

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