Thanks­giv­ing tra­di­tions across the African Di­as­pora

Thanks­giv­ing tra­di­tions across the African Di­as­pora

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By ISHEKA N. HAR­RI­SON ihar­ri­

MI­AMI – Black peo­ple are not a mono­lithic group. And nei­ther are their Thanks­giv­ing tra­di­tions. Many think of tra­di­tional Amer­i­can soul food when they think of a ‘Black Thanks­giv­ing Din­ner.’ You know, the typ­i­cal turkey. stuff­ing (or dress­ing as some call it), mac­a­roni and cheese, col­lard greens, ham, potato salad, corn bread, sweet potato pie, etc.

But South Florid­i­ans know bet­ter than to limit the culi­nary feasts cel­e­brated in our re­gion every Novem­ber. With blacks from such a wide va­ri­ety of cul­tures re­sid­ing here, there’s no limit to the

de­lec­ta­ble dishes one may find grac­ing our Thanks­giv­ing ta­bles. So in honor of the up­com­ing hol­i­day, we’ve spo­ken to sev­eral blacks who live in South Florida but hail from three of South Florida’s most pop­u­lar Caribbean back­grounds to find out what Thanks­giv­ing looks like in their homes and what they do to keep their menus tasty.

THE BAHAMIAN PER­SPEC­TIVE Va­nia Bredy – a wife, mother and busi­ness owner – was born in the Ba­hamas, but her fam­ily moved to Mi­ami when she was two-years-old. Her proud mother, Dorothy New­ton, held on to many Bahamian tra­di­tions and passed them down to her chil­dren.

“I grew up go­ing to the Ba­hamas every sum­mer, on Christ­mas hol­i­days and ev­ery­thing,” Bredy said. “I ac­tu­ally have a dual cit­i­zen­ship so I can go back and forth be­tween both coun­tries with­out a prob­lem.”

Bredy said while many Ba­hami­ans who live in South Florida will have items like turkey, ham, potato salad and sweet pota­toes on their menus, they will also al­ways add a Bahamian flair. She did, how­ever, say her ex­pe­ri­ence could vary from oth­ers. “It de­pends on whose house you’re in be­cause a lot of peo­ple may have had some in­flu­ence from be­ing in Amer­ica, but a true Bahamian Thanks­giv­ing is very dif­fer­ent. Yes you’re go­ing to have mac and cheese, but it’s Bahamian mac and cheese. You’re al­ways go­ing to get peas and rice, crab and rice and stuff like that. All the del­i­ca­cies that you would want from the Ba­hamas like fried conch, conch salad, conch frit­ter balls, snap­per, grouper, coleslaw and stuff like that are what we make. And you’ll en­joy sweets like fruit cake and benni cake,” Bredy said.

Bredy said while many Ba­hami­ans who now live in the US en­joy things like col­lard greens and chit­ter­lings, they rarely make those foods them­selves.

“You’re not go­ing to get your col­lard greens, chit­ter­lings, hog-mog and all that stuff. It is very un­com­mon. You get in­tro­duced to that when you come over here,” Bredy said. “I like them (col­lard greens) and my mother likes them, but we don’t re­ally cook them. We may get them from some­where else and add them to our plate.”

Bredy also said this is the time Ba­hami­ans start pre­par­ing for the rest of their fes­tive hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions.

“This is the time that we start pre­par­ing for Junkanoo and get­ting ready for Christ­mas so it breaks off into that tra­di­tion. Ev­ery­body starts get­ting out and mak­ing their cos­tumes. If you went to the Ba­hamas you would see peo­ple mak­ing the floats, all the dif­fer­ent Junkanoo Shacks and the whole nine yards,” Bredy said.

THE JA­MAICAN PER­SPEC­TIVE Rochelle Veal was born in Amer­ica, but raised by proud Ja­maican par­ents who were big on main­tain­ing their tra­di­tions. Grow­ing up she said her fam­ily al­ways had a large spread of de­li­cious Ja­maican dishes on Thanks­giv­ing.

“We al­ways did a big spread. We had curry goat, pep­per shrimp, jerk chicken, jerk turkey, like we never had reg­u­lar turkey it was al­ways jerk. We had es­cov­itch fish, cor­nish hen, cran­berry, mac­a­roni and cheese, ox­tails, rice and peas, Ja­maican pat­ties, quiche and stuff like that,” Veal said.

She said soul food tra­di­tions like col­lard greens, can­died yams, corn bread, etc. were for­eign to her un­til she mar­ried her hus­band who is Amer­i­can. Like Bredy, she gets her col­lard greens from friends and fam­ily who can pre­pare the dish.

“When I got mar­ried to my hus­band, he in­tro­duced me to the yams and the col­lard greens and corn­bread, and I’m still try­ing to fig­ure all that out. I didn’t know about all that; it was dif­fer­ent” Veal said. “Sweet potato pie, we didn’t have all that; we had bun and cheese and fruit cake. The only pie we had was ap­ple pie and no­body re­ally ever ate it; it was just there. We had fried dumpling and bami; that was our bread.”

Veal also noted dif­fer­ences in the way com­mon foods are pre­pared based on where you come from.

“We make mac­a­roni and cheese with evap­o­rated milk and I don’t think a lot of peo­ple do that be­cause it’s like a sweet­ener so

it gives it a dif­fer­ent kick,” Veal said. “We had dress­ing. We started adding it, but my mom would cook it dif­fer­ent. She may add seafood or beef. We never had it just reg­u­lar.”

Now Veal and her hus­band Nathaniel have been mar­ried for 13 years and are the par­ents of three girls. She said she has learned to in­cor­po­rate Amer­i­can soul food tra­di­tions into her Thanks­giv­ing din­ners – but she still adds things like sal­mon and other items to the menu be­cause she is a pescatar­ian.

“Now my ta­ble has reg­u­lar turkey, ham, yel­low rice, sal­mon, corn­bread, baked beans, candy yams, fresh green beans with turkey, mac­a­roni and cheese, chicken, and rarely we may add beef. Last year I did a bour­bon bar­be­cue roasted chicken. I love cook­ing. It’s fun. I’m still learn­ing,” Veal said.


Now who doesn’t like Haitian food? It tastes so good a lo­cal rap­per named Serge made two songs about it. Wills Felin un­der­stands why.

Felin was born in Brook­lyn, New York to Haitian par­ents that main­tained many of their na­tive ways when it came to how they cooked and raised their chil­dren. He moved to South Florida in 1988.

Felin said in his fam­ily turkey is the main dish, but many dif­fer­ent Haitian-styled sides nor­mally ac­com­pany it.

“Turkey is def­i­nitely a sta­ple like ev­ery­body else, but it’s cooked in a dif­fer­ent type of Haitian sauce called ‘Sos’ and you may have a lot of dif­fer­ent side dishes,” Felin said. “One of them may be black rice, which is black mush­room rice called ‘Diri ak Djon Djon’ in Cre­ole. It may have shrimp in it some­times or you may have rice with black beans, rice with red beans, baked ham with pineap­ples, dev­iled eggs and beet salad; we al­ways have beet salad in there.”

Felin said they also have tra­di­tional dishes like mac­a­roni and cheese and potato salad, but, as ex­pected, they are pre­pared with a Haitian twist.

“We’ll have baked mac­a­roni and cheese, but it’ll be done Haitian style. There may be ham or onions in it or it may be plain. Haitian potato salad is more a of a mélange of ev­ery­thing. For ex­am­ple, there may be beets, corn, peas and some con­coc­tion of mayo in it,” Felin said. “We also have stuff­ing, but Haitians make it dif­fer­ently, with ground beef. My mom would make her stuff­ing from scratch.”

He said fa­vorites like griot (fried pork), lambi (conch), plan­tains that are sweet, fried (Ban­nan Peze) and boiled are usu­ally on the menu, plus some vari­a­tions for peo­ple with di­etary re­stric­tions.

“You might have fish for peo­ple that don’t eat turkey called “Pois­son Gross El” in Cre­ole. It’s a baked fish with some white sauce,” Felin said.

And what is a Haitian meal with­out the sig­na­ture spicy cab­bage and car­rots dish most South Florid­i­ans have come to know and love?

“You gotta have your pik­liz. They must be there,” Felin said af­ter shar­ing a hi­lar­i­ous story about see­ing a white man turn red for the first time af­ter he’d eaten some spicy Haitian food. “As we grew up Thanks­giv­ing be­came a fu­sion of what we liked and what we would eat and it’s funny be­cause peo­ple have dif­fer­ent senses so when you came to my house, you’d be like what the heck are they cook­ing, but when you tasted it, it was good.”


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