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