The coming week is a great one for cooks and eaters alike. Tomorrow (Feb. 18) is Chinese New Year and the first day of the year of the Golden Pig. Tuesday is, of course, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival Tuesday, or Pancake Day. A day for revelry and feasting, originally to use up all the meat, fats and sugar before 40 days of Lenten fasting. Our somewhat planned menus are a weekend of pork dinners (Trini-style stewed pork tonight and Coffee-ancho rubbed pork tomorrow), King Cake, and big, fluffy American-style pancakes on Tuesday. We aren’t Chinese or practising Catholics but these days are a part of our American melting-pot culture. And, you know me, any excuse for a themed menu.
I wish my ability to whip up Trini food was a little more developed as I know my honey is missing all the fun in Port of Spain over the next few days. In that small way I might be able to alleviate a little of the longing for things from home. Holidays have a way of making us nostalgic. It is in fact their purpose, to commemorate, to honor, to remember those people and events important to who we are as culture today. They serve as mile posts for our personal development as well. They aren’t always happy. For every person with a warm memory of a handmade Valentine from a grade school crush and a harmonious family meal, there is a person with a painful memory of a drunken parent on Christmas day or an envious Easter morning with everyone else in new clothes. Most of my holiday memories are happy ones. I’ve been fortunate. I am also married to a man who respects my love of ritual and my need to make those rituals our own and therefore meaningful.
I hope my son looks back at his childhood holidays (those widely celebrate and those, perhaps oddly, honored by our small family) with fondness. I know there have been times when we didn’t have the money to do things in a big way but we have always tried to make it special. I think those things may mean more to an adult looking back than to a child immediately wishing for that big birthday or Christmas gift that wasn’t there.
Right now in our little corner of the world, snow is falling very softly outside and our house smells of cinnamon and nutmeg from the King Cake in the oven. Keifel is on his way home from work and we will make dinner together in our tiny kitchen, as he is the better “stewer.” We’ll sit at our small table, a family hand-me-down, and eat together. Not to be too cheesy, though I expect it is too late for that, but I think that is a celebration in itself. We have each other, this place, this food, this moment to be together.