Thursday, March 29, 2012

Farewell, Trinidad

One last time, I sit in front of my view of the emerald hills of Cascade. Our little family is preparing to move to Panama, and the packing boxes that surround me foretell a change. We've said goodbye to friends, colleagues, our local fruit stand, Maracas Bay, bake 'n shark, soca, calypso, and the steel pan, and look ahead at a new adventure.

The best way I know how to say farewell to my island home is to pay tribute to one of its recipes, which has brought me so much pleasure. Corn soup. I told myself that before leaving Trinidad, I had to learn how to make this soup so that I could replicate it when the craving for it hits, which is usually on a melancholy and comfort-food seeking Sunday evening. Even though it won't be at the street food stalls of the Savannah, I will enjoy corn soup in my Panamanian home and think of the rhythms and Caribbean beats of my Trinbagonian home of three-and-a-half years.
Pimento peppers
Mayah, our lovely housekeeper, taught me how to make corn soup. She's of Indian decent, and it was interesting to speak with her about what she thought the origins of corn soup were. She said she thought that, like much Trinbagonian food, it was inspired by Indian food. A major ingredient in corn soup is dal, or yellow split peas, which are a staple Indian food. I've also had corn soup in Trinidad that contains pig tail, which shows that non-Hindu Trinidadians, like those of African decent, also created their variations of corn soup. See this previous blog entry about origins, and alterations, of Trinidadian food.
ingredients for corn soup
There are many variations of corn soup, and Trinidadian families make their version according to taste. This is Mayah's version.

Corn Soup

yellow split peas
pimento peppers (mild chili peppers photographed above)
canned cream style corn
corn-on-the-cob (not sweet corn)

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Rinse yellow split peas, and add them to the pot. Add  minced garlic and boil the peas until soft (at least 45 minutes). Cut pumpkin into cubes and add to the pot. Add minced pimento peppers and season to taste.

Once ingredients are soft, use a hand blender to puree them. This will create a soft texture without completely liquifying the soup. After blending, add canned cream style corn and pieces of corn-on-the-cob. 

Corn soup usually contains "dumplings" made of flour and water. This is not my favorite part of the dish because I don't believe it offers any added taste value nor is it very nutritious. 
maya's delicious corn soup
Trinidad offers plenty of comfort food options that we learned to know and love. Panamanian cuisine is much like the kinds of things we eat in Cartagena. For example, deep fried red snapper served with patacones (fried green plantains) and lulo juice (more on this to come) are a staple, and I know I can be very happy in a place like that.