paindecampagne

thoughts on food, culture, and community

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Friday Photo: Bok Choy Kimchi

What do you do when you’ve signed up for a CSA with Strites’ Orchard and are given a bok choy? Why, you make kimchi — spicy fermented cabbage, which my boyfriend explains as “Korean sauerkraut” — of course. Buy the spices at Asia Mall off of Paxton Street, Harrisburg; buy yourself a bok choy or cabbage, a few carrots, and a bunch of garlic; and follow David Chang’s recipe, found here. The result is a highly spicy, tangy, and gorgeously red-green crunchy salad, perfect for making this recipe for beer-battered tofu tacos with kimchi from CraftBeer.com.

Bok Choy Kimchi

Bok Choy Kimchi

The music, the vibe, the people: All about… Trinidad {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

This week’s post is by Annique Joseph, a Trini native from Claxton Bay. She grew up on the island and moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2010 with her two children to live with her mother. She currently works as a clerk in the Pennsylvania State and Finance building.

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When I learned about the Caribbean in school, no one really knew the difference between Trinidad and Tobago. What are the similarities and differences between the two islands? We are two different islands with the same government and currency, but we are definitely different places. People in Tobago have a bit of a different accent, a little bit more like the island of Grenada. Tobago is a bit more of a tourist attraction because they have the picturesque beaches and scenery, but we have all the petrol.

Speaking of accents, all Trinis speak English, but it’s not quite the same as what we speak in America. No, definitely not! If I’m at work, rambling on, and speaking in a normal Trinidad accent, no one understands me. They think I’m not even speaking English. I think one of the problems is that we speak a lot faster than Americans do. Another problem is the different words. “A lime” or “liming” means a social gathering, hanging out and talking, or just going to a club and dancing the night away. Basically, there are a lot of words that a Pennsylvanian wouldn’t understand.

Word order is sometimes different, too. Right. We would say, “The bottle have a yellow label” instead of “the bottle has a yellow label.” Or we say, “Rain fallin'” to say that rain is falling.

And you switch the word order, too. When I was in Trinidad, your mom would often say, “Where Peter is?” when asking for her brother instead of “Where is Peter?” Right! We also say, “What today is?” when asking about the date. But I think in Trinidad, we generally have a good way of speaking. When you are asking someone how they’re doing, they never say, “Fine, thank you.” We usually say, “Not too bad,” which is more true than all the time saying, “Fine.” It’s hard to pass ten to fifteen people at work every day and say, “How are you doing?” when no one really stops in to give you a real answer! All the same, the American way of greeting has kind of grown on me.

Another great part of Trinidad is the Carnival in February right before Lent. What’s that like? Oh, I’ll just have to take you there. Let me put it this way. It is the greatest show on the face of the earth. I think it’s extra ordinary, the music, the vibe, and all of the people, just coming together to dance and celebrate. There’s all the costumes, makeup, music, everything. It’s about relaxing and enjoying yourself — not lying on the beach relaxing, but just relaxing with people and having fun. It’s a fantastic experience that you need to have.

Emmancipation Day. August 1, 2010.

Emancipation Day. August 1, 2010.

There are Carnivals all over the world, so what’s different about your Carnival than, say, the one in Brazil? In Brazil I think the people get a lot more naked than we do while still being able to enjoy themselves, while in Trinidad, I believe there’s laws against that. The entire “Carnival season” has police on duty for 24-hour shifts. This ensures that people have fun but stay safe, although there can be interruptions at times.

How long is Carnival season? Well, Carnival basically starts from the day after Christmas. We call it “Boxing Day.” A fete [party] is also held on the said night, and then things kick off from there. After that, almost every weekend, if not every weekend, is a fete leading up to the two big days. And then the week before Carnival has a fete every night. The Friday before Carnival is called Fantastic Friday when the groovy soca and power soca competitions are held. And then on Sunday night is the calypso competition and the “king and queen of the bands” competition.

What’s the difference between soca and calypso? Soca is real upbeat and dancing music, although “groovy soca” is slower and “power soca” is faster. Both make one feel like jumping and prancing or simply grooving to the rhythm of the beat. And calypso is more of a melody with words about the government, politics, and sometimes things that are happening in the country.

How do the official days of Carnival go? The official days are Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. On Monday morning it starts, most of the time around sunrise. That’s called jouver’t, pronounced joo-vay. There are groups playing old mas and dressed up in traditional mas costumes, like the midnight robber or the blue devil. Then there’s the mocco jumbie — that’s people on stilts. Then there are the bands, all dressed up in different matching outfits, sometimes old, sometimes new. They do mud mas, which is when they throw cleaned and sometimes colored mud or paint on themselves — or on anyone else who looks too clean. So if you’re a spectator, please wear old clothes and be prepared to return home dirty! The bands in the parade, all differently owned, are judged for creativity and leave the streets around 11-12 o’clock noon to give way for the original mas players. There’s the masquerading of the bands on Tuesday as well when people come out in their costumes to play real mas. That’s when you sign up months in advance for a particular group and wear a costume made with a particular costume designer.

Costumes can be expensive, right? Oh, definitely. One can be anywhere from 3000-8000 TT dollars (about $500-1250), according to the band leader or the designer.

Playing with a mas costume. August 2010.

Playing with a mas costume. August 2010.

What do you miss most about Trinidad? Carnival is when I really miss it. Other than that, I miss being outside. I miss it being warm all the time. I miss bare feet and not having to wear so many clothes. In Trinidad, you can go out and call on all the neighbors or just visit a friend, and nobody asks you why you didn’t bother to call first. You can just stop by. In Pennsylvania in the wintertime, you’re inside and you’re inside and that’s it. Also, in Trinidad, you can just go outside and find your own food — that is, if you have a sort of garden. You can dig for yams or pick the green figs from the tree or pick some dasheen bush to make a dish. Go pick some mint for tea or just to season a piece of meat. Mango season? Go outside and pick a mango off a tree. My idea of tea is picking leaves off the bush, putting them in a pot, boiling the life out of them, or letting it draw (sit there for awhile, as the old people would say) and adding milk and sugar if you choose to right before you drink. That’s a fair idea of tea.

Trini countryside. August 2010.

Trini countryside. August 2010.

In the US, most people like Jamaican food, culture, and music. What’s the difference between Trinis and Jamaicans? Trinis tend to be way laid back. “Trini time” means that you’re half an hour late to just about everything. We also have the greatest music here: soca, calypso. For me, the best kind of music is the steel pan. In the days of slavery, they had to make these songs up with rhythm and taste.

What about the difference between jerk seasoning in Trinidad and jerk seasoning in Jamaica? There’s a difference all right! People cook it differently.

There’s also a difference between Kentucky Fried Chicken in the U.S. and KFC in Trinidad. Yes. In Trinidad, KFC is spicier and more flavorful than it is in the U.S. But there’s kind of a competition. We either eat KFC or Royal Castle (which consist of the same type of food), but they both have their customers. I personally like Royal Castle’s pepper sauce, although Trini pepper sauce in general is too hot for most Americans.

Bread, rice and pepper sauce, and fried fish. August 2010.

Bread, rice, and fried fish. August 2010.

What’s it like, growing up in a place that’s surrounded by water? Well, I can’t swim, but that doesn’t matter because you’re not living in the water or anything. One can go to the beach all the time, but you can get tired of it. When people say, “Hey, I bet you’re always on the beach,” it’s like, “Been there, done that.”

Good point. Here’s another way to look at it. Does growing up on an island make people more or less likely to leave it? We get tired of it eventually. A lot of people travel for work, because $1 in the U.S. is worth $6 in Trinidad. It isn’t unusual for Trinis to get out, travel, work, and send money back home, just to build a big house, to buy a nice car, to buy a piece of land and/or take care of their family. But if it wasn’t because of work most Trinis would want to travel anyway too. We sometimes feel the need to want more out of life, just like everybody else, and there’s just too much of the world out there to see.

28 years abroad: All about…the Netherlands {a cultural project}

“All about…” is a series of culturally-driven posts by guest writers who have lived, worked, or studied in a culture different than that of central Pennsylvania. These essays are not comprehensive cultural guides; rather, their purpose is to expose misunderstandings, clarify stereotypes, and highlight the similarities between familiar and unfamiliar cultures.

This week’s post is written by my aunt Colleen Savelkouls, who was born in Pennsylvania and has resided in the Netherlands since 1984. Staying at Colleen’s house in the Netherlands has been the way I’ve slept off jetlag for every single trip I have taken to Europe since 2000. Still strong to her Pennsylvanian roots — and accustomed to welcoming family visitors of all ages — Colleen is a great reference for explaining Dutch culture to Americans and expressing what she loves about both countries.

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As an elementary school child growing up in central Pennsylvania, I still remember an older Dutch woman coming to talk about Holland. All I remember was her talking about wooden shoes and windmills. After all, isn’t that what most Americans think about when they try to picture Holland today — windmills, wooden shoes, and maybe tulips?

But having lived half my life in Pennsylvania and the other half in Holland, I know that there are many misconceptions that exist. First of all, Holland Dutch and Pennsylvania Dutch are not the same. The latter derives itself from the German immigrants who moved to Pennsylvania and introduced themselves with their “Deutsch” language. Second, most stories about Holland that exist in the U.S. are not necessarily about modern Holland, but the Holland that existed during or after World War II. This was the case with the older Dutch lady that I met as a child, who had left Holland to follow her love, an American soldier. Third, the country’s official name is the Netherlands. North and South Holland are actually provinces of the Netherlands from which ships used to sail with spices and Delft porcelain to sell around the world.

Here are a few differences that I have compiled to explain modern Holland, as well as the trials of living an immigrant life.

Learning languages, learning cultures. One month after receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree in 1984, I followed love to Holland. I believed I could conquer the many cultural differences and was willing to try. I was accepted easily by the Dutch, as most people my age learn English at school. Languages abound in Holland: Dutch students begin learning English around 5th or 6th grade, and in high school, they study Dutch, English, and have at least two years of both French and German. (Students going to college often also study Latin and Greek, for a total of six languages at a time.)

However, for me to learn Dutch at age 22 proved to be more difficult than I had thought. While I am now fluent after 28 years of living in Holland, I still cannot write a letter without asking someone to check my spelling. I now have more compassion for immigrants than I once did, especially a husband and wife team who are trying to learn another language as adults. My Dutch husband can correct my writing, but, as it often does with family immigrants, it often lands on the children’s shoulders to translate. After learning Dutch, I was also surprised to find that my language skills would continue to disable me in a job. I have a university level of thinking on how to approach a job, but my language skills have decreased how I can work. I can think and speak myself into a management level, but especially at the beginning, I could not write at a management level. This was limiting and, at times, very frustrating.

Old windmill near Waspik, the Netherlands, 2010

Old windmill near Waspik, the Netherlands, June 2010

Low skies and cloudy days. The first years of living in Holland, I was always asked where I was from, what I missed most about the U.S., and what was the most difficult about living abroad. My first answer was obviously learning Dutch, but the second answer — what I missed — was the mountains. Holland is extremely flat. I also did not expect to be so affected by how far north in the hemisphere Holland is. Holland is as far north as Alaska’s most southern islands, meaning that you get short days in the winter and long days in the summer (in June the sun sets at 10 PM). Due to the Atlantic Ocean, Holland has a sea climate with rain and low clouds. All together, the winters are usually cloudy, rainy, and have only 7 to 8 hours of light! If we get snow, it usually melts fairly fast. In winters, I yearn for sunshine, although I am grateful that neither summers nor winters in Holland are extremely hot or extremely cold. I tease the Dutch that they only have spring and autumn instead of four seasons.

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Sunny view from the bell tower of Oude Kerk, Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

Breaking bread and drinking coffee — together. Another aspect that I had to get used to in Holland was the coffee breaks and the eating of so much bread. The average Dutch individual — blue-collar and white-collar — eat an open slice of bread or sandwich for breakfast, have a 15-minute coffee break coffee sometime between 9 and 10 AM, eat a sandwich for lunch, have 15 minutes for coffee or tea sometime between 3 and 4 PM, eat supper, and have coffee or tea again around 8 PM. In the beginning, I thought that, with so many breaks, I could never get any work done! Now, I have come to love this time. Visitors usually come to visit for coffee or tea instead of a meal; and they usually only accept one or two cookies when sweets are offered. Taking more is considered greedy. The Dutch also have the most delicious (and healthy) bread I have ever tasted, and the aroma of Dutch coffee is phenomenal! I am addicted! Coffee time is also a time to discuss how your day has gone and to plan the next few hours. This must be why Hollanders are known to be good managers!

In addition to bread, the Dutch export excellent cheese. Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

In addition to bread, the Dutch export excellent cheese. Central Market, Delft, the Netherlands, 2010

Windmills and wooden shoes?  I would assume that maybe only 1% of the Dutch still wear wooden shoes on a farm or around the house to keep their feet dry. In contrast, the Dutch are very fashion-minded and follow the latest styles. Amsterdam is getting world-wide recognition for designs and models. Also, while there are still some old wooden windmills existing, many are not in use. Instead, there are a few provinces, especially Flevoland, filled with modern 80-yard-high windmills. This tells you how windy it can get on some days! Don’t try to keep your hair neat!

Not exactly fashion-conscious, supporting the Dutch "football" team in the World Cup. Rotterdam, 2010

Not exactly fashion-conscious, supporting the Dutch “football” team in the World Cup. Rotterdam, 2010

All in all, I have come to love Holland. I would probably have culture shock if I permanently returned to the U.S. after 28 years abroad. In Holland, I don’t have to worry about the violence of guns, and I strongly recommend the Dutch multiple political party system instead of a two-party system that divides the nation. The news in Holland is more international, whereas in the U.S. the media seems to focus just on America’s own problems. There are truly good and bad things in every country, no matter where you live.

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