Immigrating


P1100355While his unexpected accent was what first drew my attention to the man who would become my husband, I rarely think of him as an “immigrant.”  But for the first time in our twenty years together, after our recent trip back to his village in Trinidad, that is how I’ve been thinking of him.  Back home, he was more relaxed, at ease… happier than I had seen him in a long time. We navigated the potholed roads and dirt paths of his village; he shared seed pods with our little girls, and showed them how they’d pop when exposed to water (“this was what Dada played with when he was a boy.”)  He and his brother laughed as they recalled the spontaneous combustion of petroleum in the field behind their house, leaking from the pumping jacks that seeped oil from their own backyard– of which they owned only the surface.  He happily explored the jungle of plants in the yard, which boasted an unimaginable bounty of tamarind, mangoes, bananas and papaya.  He laughed and joked as he asked after friends he hadn’t seen in decades, his memories of high school pranks as fresh as if they were yesterday.

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I was saddened by the ruins of the house he had grown up in, eaten away by time, the elements, and vandals; but he smiled as he pointed at the hand-painted exit sign over the door of the rum shop that adjoined his family’s general store.   (I didn’t know that he had poured rum as a teen.)  There were traces of discontent as he encountered some of the inefficiencies of island time– unnecessarily long waits in line, improbable excuses for promises not kept.  But despite it all, for the first time, he wondered aloud, what if he had stayed?

Our journey back to San Francisco included delays and mixups in Newark, followed by the shock of a high-speed drive on the freeway.  The warmth of the tropics dissipated too quickly.  Reality check.   “It was vacation,” I told him.  “You wouldn’t want to really live there and work.  You’d be frustrated by island time, island life.”  He was unconvinced.  “How do you know?” he asked.  Unlike his compatriot, V.S. Naipaul, who in his mind and his ascot is more English than the English, my husband is always proud of his heritage.

I can’t bring the Trinidad of my husband’s happy childhood memories to San Francisco, but I can do my best to recreate its flavors.  For New Year’s Eve, which itself is called by a different name in Trinidad, Old Year’s– I made him Black Eyed Peas.  This is a traditional dish eaten for good luck on Old Year’s in Trinidad.  In life, you win some, and you lose some.  And sometimes, you get to keep both.

Trinidadian Black Eyed Peas for Old Year’s and New Beginnings

black eyed peas

The “green seasoning” (herb blend) and the optional pig tail are what give this version of black eyed peas its Caribbean flavor. 

Serves: 8-12

Ingredients

1 lb dried black eyed peas, soaked in water for 8 hours, rinsed and drained

1 ham hock or ham bone (I used the latter, from our Christmas ham) or, if you want to be truly authentic, a pig tail*

1/2 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon Caribbean “green seasoning” (minced fresh thyme, chives, chadon beni (culantro), Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper)

8 cups water

1 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

canola oil

*Note: if you wish to make a vegan version, hold the pig parts and substitute a half teaspoon or more of pimenton (smoked paprika) for smokiness

Accompaniment: cooked rice (parboiled or Uncle Ben’s rice is most common in Trinidad)

Technique

1.  Pour a tablespoon of oil into a pan and cook diced onion over medium high heat until translucent.

2.  Add the ham bone and garlic and cook for a minute or so.

3.  Add drained pre-soaked beans, water, and all seasonings except salt and bring to a boil.

4.  Simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes or until desired tenderness.  Add salt and adjust other seasonings as desired, and simmer for another 5 minutes.

4.  Serve over rice.

This post is my contribution to #LetsLunch, a monthly virtual potluck on Twitter with participants from all around the world.  Please check back later for other posts on this month’s theme of “first times/new beginnings”.  I wish all of you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

 

Annabelle’s Brown Butter Creamed Greens at Glass of Fancy

Grace’s Matcha Green Tea Yogurt at Hapa Mama

Jill’s Heavenly Angel Cake at Eating My Words

Lucy’s Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies at A Cook and Her Books

Lisa’s Da Bombe Alaska at Monday Morning Cooking  Club

Nancie’s Vietnamese-style Chicken with Lemongrass at NancieMcDermott

Pat’s Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

Rashda’s Parathas at Hot Curries and Cold Beer 

Sonja’s Beetroot and Fetta Varenyky at Foodnutzz

Thank you so very much for coming by! If you enjoyed this, I’d love your comments and invite you to share this with your friends.  

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20 responses

  1. Pingback: Glass of Fancy » Blog Archive » Brown Butter Creamed Greens (Let’s Lunch!) - Fashion, fiction, and life in the city.

  2. What a lovely story Linda! Nostalgia often funnels our vision of the past through rose colored glasses. I can totally identify with your husbands emotions. I only recently learned about the significance of black-eyed peas at New Year’s, what I want to know is where do I find a pig tail?? :)

  3. We started our New Year off with black-eyed peas as well, for good luck. I believe that the Southern American tradition of black eyed peas for New Years flows from the same generous cultural well. I loved this recounting of your family’s visit to Trinidad, and how that opened storybooks of his memories for your children. We were so blessed to share this experience on first taking our children to Taiwan when they were small. There he remembered so many stories, events, traditions, that never came to light until he was back in his hometown with us. All the best to you and yours. Great to know about ‘green seasoning'; that’s new to me and sounds like a flavor boost to our plain Southern version.

    • Hi Nancie, as I learn more about Southern food, the more parallels I see with Caribbean creole food. I did not know about your Taiwanese connection! Do you cook Taiwanese food as well? (For all I know, you’ve already written a Taiwanese cookbook. If not, want to collaborate? :) ) I wish you a happy and prosperous new year!

  4. Pingback: Choose Love … and a Recipe for Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls « The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

  5. Linda, your writing is especially heartfelt and fine here. It’s good to see black eyed pea recipes coming from the islands, we love them here, too.

  6. I loved learning about your family’s heritage. My husband is the same in that he totally relaxes when he returns to his small home town. The black eye pea recipe looks delicious too!

  7. What an interesting story. I can feel how wistful he must be for Trinidad. Your kids are lucky to have family in so many places around the world.

  8. I love blackeyed peas; I’m intrigued by the “green seasoning” idea, I will have to try that. I’m not sure a pig’s tail is in the cards, though — charming, but hard to come by!

  9. Hi. I am a Trini living in New Hampshire. Today I decided to cook black-eyed peas, which i usually don’t do because I find them to be bland. I did a search for Caribbean black eyed peas, hoping somebody out there had a better way of making these than my mom.

    Lo and behold, I find your website, and found the addition of green seasoning to be a STROKE OF GENIUS!!!! I also used coconut oil instead of canola (you have to have coconut oil when you’re cooking Trini food).

    I will be making these again and again, and I will not be waiting till Old Year’s to do so :)

    • Hi, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. Is it as difficult as I imagine to get Trini food in New Hampshire? As a Trini-by-marriage, I am THRILLED by your compliment! Thanks also for the coconut oil suggestion– I will try that the next time. Enjoy and please come back for a visit.

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