Monday, January 15, 2018

SAINT KITTS & NEVIS: THE FOOD


Well, the new year is upon us, and January has proven to be a total jerk when it comes to weather. It’s been super cold and snowed, then it warmed up to almost 60 degrees, only to be followed by freezing rain, ice and more snow. Winter can go suck rotten eggs. But at least we’re cooking tropical food from Saint Kitts & Nevis today, so I can pretend that maybe it’s warm outside. I tried to go look, but the sun on the snow just about blinded me. 

Yeah, and pretty much like I thought: everyone has eaten this up, and I've only gotten on piece.
 Now, I’ve made several banana breads, but this Island Banana Bread seemed slightly different.  First I mixed 2 Tbsp of softened butter and 2 Tbsp of cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Then I added in 1 egg, 2 mashed up bananas, 1 tsp of vanilla extra, and 2 Tbsp of rum (it called for dark rum, but I can’t have dark liquor, so I’m using Captain Morgan’s white rum). I mixed everything together well. In a separate bowl, I mixed together 2 c of flour, 2 tsp of baking soda, 1/8 tsp of salt and ¼ of brown sugar. I left out the nuts (but if you wanted to, you can add in ¼ c of walnuts or pecans), but I did add in ¼ c of coconut flakes into the flour mix. At this point, I slowly added in my dry ingredients to my wet ingredients, stirring in between. Then I pre-heated my oven to 375ºF and laid a piece of parchment paper inside, cut so that the bottom and long sides were covered. Then I poured my batter into the loaf pan and baked it for 40 minutes, checking it at the 30 minute mark to make sure. While it was baking, I made the glaze. In a small saucepan, I mixed together 2 Tbsp of butter, 2 Tbsp of lime juice, 2 Tbsp of rum, ¼ c of brown sugar, and ¼ c of white sugar. I heated it until it started to boil. Then I added ¾ c of powdered sugar (a ¼ c at a time) until it became the consistency of honey. I pulled it off the heat and added in 2 Tbsp of coconut (I left out the nuts). When I took the bread out of the oven, I spooned the glaze over the top and let it sit up for 30 minutes. This was awesome. It was a little sweet with the glaze (I might cut the white sugar out of the glaze next time), but otherwise, it was delightful when it was warm.

This is one of the better fish recipes I've had.
Next I made the National Dish, which actually consists of four dishes. The first part is Stewed Saltfish. I used cod for this since when I tried to look this up, I basically found a bunch of references to Salted Cod. So, you know… But I thawed it out and salted both sides of it liberally. Then I heated some oil in a skillet, added in some green bell pepper, scallions, garlic, and a little onion powder, letting it cook together for about 5 minutes. Then I added in a can of diced tomatoes, letting it simmer for 2-3 more minutes. At this point, I added in my fish, a little butter, and a little bit of ground pepper. I covered it and let it simmer for about 5 minutes until the fish was flaky. I topped it with a little bit of scallions I had left over. I thought this was great! The saltiness of the fish was balanced by the scallions and tomatoes. I would definitely make this again. And it didn’t take that long to make, either – a great dish for a weeknight.

Although it was supposed to be plantains, the sweet potatoes were actually pretty good with this recipe.
The second part is Spicy Plantains. Normally, I don’t have much trouble finding plantains at all, but this weekend, I went to three different stores looking for them with no luck. So, considering this is a spicy dish, I substituted sweet potatoes instead of bananas. I peeled and cut three sweet potatoes and parboiled them until they were kind of soft but not to the point where you could easily break it apart. I drained the water and added in some ginger, a little onion, some salt, and a little cayenne pepper and stirred everything together. Then in a skillet, I heated some oil and fried them until they were golden brown. I really liked this, and it wasn’t nearly as spicy as I thought it was going to be. I mean, I only used ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper. I could definitely have added more, but then no one else in my family would’ve eaten it.

I know I was a little heavy on the potatoes with this meal, but I see no problem with this.
Part three is Seasoned Breadfruit. Because of the weather, I wasn’t able to get to the international grocery store, so I had to substitute for this: I went with some tri-color petite potatoes for this (golden, red, and purple potatoes). In a pot, I melted some butter and then added some oil. Once the oil was heated, I threw in some diced onions and sautéed them for about 5 minutes. Then I added in the thyme, garlic, and diced red pepper and sautéed them for another minute. I added in my diced potatoes and some chicken broth along with a little salt and pepper and let it cook until the potatoes were soft.
These actually look like glazed doughnut holes, but that might just be the fat girl in me talking.
And finally, the last part is Coconut Dumplings, the one part I had all the ingredients for. In a small bowl, I mixed together some flour, salt, butter, coconut, and oil. I had to use my fingers to crumb the butter into the mixture. Using a little more than a ½ c of water, I made a thick dough and kneaded it for a couple of minutes. I formed balls about the size of golf balls and then dropped them in boiling water. I let them cook for about 10-15 minutes, draining them on paper towels. I kind of liked these – they went well in between bites of the saltiness of the fish. They were certainly a little chewy from being boiled, but coconut added a little texture and sweetness to it.

I liked this meal quite a lot. It'll make for some good leftovers tomorrow.
And as I come to the end of my first country of 2018, I realized I have to make the difficult decision of pausing on the blog. Again. I’m making some changes in my career path, and I need to finish up some courses in order to try to merge into digital and content marketing. Up until recently, it was just something I was casually learning, but now… there is more of an urgency behind it. I basically need to fast track this. But I’ll be back as soon as I can. It might be a month; it might be two. But I’ll keep posting articles and videos on the blog’s Facebook page, so check me out there. And I want to take a quick moment to give a shout out to a lady who was one of the Band Moms when I was in high school and the mother of one of my friends. She was the Queen of Sass and No Nonsense along with being a fan of this blog. She passed away this week and will be sorely missed.

Up next: Saint Lucia

Saturday, January 13, 2018

SAINT KITTS & NEVIS: MUSIC AND DANCE


Much of the music from Saint Kitts & Nevis has its origins from Africa mixed together with various types of Caribbean music along with some British, French, and American styles. Vocal music is an integral part of their musical traditions, with chanteys and other songs sung for a variety of occasions. A Tea Meeting is a type of performance found in Saint Kitts & Nevis (but also in the Virgin Islands and on Barbados). A chairman and vice-chairman will lead comedic songs and give speeches, often being heckled by the audience.
 
During the 1940s, iron bands started making its way into the islands. These bands consisted of musicians (typically guitars, saxophones, and trumpets) along with a percussion section using instruments made of things they found, like car rims and other metal scrap. This gave way to the steel pan bands of the 1950s and 1960s. Following a Trinidadian tradition, several of these bands from Trinidad were equally popular in Saint Kitts and Nevis. Some of the more popular steel pan bands include Roy Martin’s Wilberforce Steel Pan, Casablanca Steel Orchestra, and The Invaders.

By the 1960s, brass bands became known for its role in Carnival music. They not only use modern instruments that we know, but even a few of their own, like the baha (a blown metal pipe) and what they call the shack-shack (a tin can with beads in it – a most descriptive name). Not only is Carnival a festival filled with music, but there are several other music festivals held throughout the year like the St Kitts Music Festival and Culturama held on Nevis. The traditions around Christmas, especially those of parades, music, masqueraded dancers, and stilt walkers called Moko-Jumbies, are some of the best times to watch these iconic music and dance festivals.


Another musical style Saint Kitts & Nevis borrowed from Trinidad and Tobago is calypso music. This musical style was originally used as a means for the African slaves to communicate with one another about the oppression they were facing. Needless to say, it made its way across the Caribbean where many other countries adopted it and made it their own as well. During the 1950s, there used to be calypso competitions on St Kitts and on Nevis. Some calypso bands of note include Ellie Matt and King Starshield.


There are several musicians who share a heritage with Saint Kitts & Nevis, so I thought it would be fair to include them as well. Joan Armatrading is a folk singer who got her start during the mid-1970s. Her main style is folk music, with her playing the acoustic guitar and vocals. I like her style.


Another musician with ties to these islands is Corinne Bailey Rae. I have one of here albums, but I admit I only listened to it a few times when I got it years ago. I didn’t tag it for a long time, so I just realized a number of months ago that I had it in my iTunes. It was like finding a new album! I had forgotten how much I like her music. She mixes a little bit of folk, soul, blues, jazz, acoustic, and a little pop into her music. This is her Tiny Desk Concert she gave at NPR. You can tell she really enjoys what she does.


Mel B is probably better known for her role in Spice Girls. I was probably one of the only high school girls in the US who was not gaga over them when they were popular in the 1990s. I was more into Metallica and Smashing Pumpkins at the time (and still am). After Spice Girls stopped being spicy, she went out on her own. I think some of her songs are pretty catchy. This video, however, is weird with stripping in the middle of the street and kissing herself. But you be you, boo.

Up next: the food

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

SAINT KITTS & NEVIS: ART AND LITERATURE


Art traditions here are a combination of native Caribbean influences as well as African origins. Many of the motifs are centered around island life. As far as handicrafts go, you’ll find weaving (mainly as rug weaving) and making batiks (a way of dying cloth using wax to resist certain colors). Wood carvings and sculptures are also common as well as leather work.



Pottery serves more practical purposes with holding water and other objects as well as being used for cooking and storing food. You’ll find pottery pieces made out of red clay but sometimes people use colorful glazes on it, decorating it with local designs.




Paintings are also popular on Saint Kitts & Nevis. With such beautiful landscape and seascape, the scenery is an obvious source of themes. However, island life and local culture and folklore are also common themes for paintings. One cultural item that makes its way into their art is that of clowns. No, I’m not talking about Pennywise-like clowns, or even Ronald McDonald. They’re called Moko-Jumbies, inspired from West Africa; they’re essentially stilt walkers dressed up in clown garb. Some are just colorful, but some are downright creepy-looking giants. It's a colorful experience to say the least.




Although there is no shortage of writing talent in Saint Kitts & Nevis, there is also a clear lack of access to training and publishers. Most authors start out self-publishing their works, unless they are lucky enough to get picked up by a major publisher elsewhere. Literary works as we know it today didn’t truly get its start until the 20th century, although there certainly have been stories passed down through the generations.

Caryl Phillips
One of the most famous authors of note from the islands is Caryl Phillips. His plays, short stories, novels, and essays made international fame starting in the 1980s. His themes center around immigration and returning to your homeland.

 
Carol Ottley-Mitchell

Another author of note is Carol Ottley-Mitchell. She has written numerous children’s stories that range from infant books to young adult lit. Other authors from Saint Kitts & Nevis include Charles Wilkin, who writes about the national political atmosphere, and Jewel Amethyst, who is a romance author that falls in a multi-cultural subgenre.


I think literature holds a certain regard here. Some people have formed reading groups together, but it’s nothing formal or broadly organized. Theatre is also popular on both islands. A couple of theatre organizations are established here as well, but mostly of an amateur, community level.



Up next: music and dance

Sunday, January 7, 2018

SAINT KITTS & NEVIS: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


A few years ago, I was introduced to the musical Hamilton. I listened to the soundtrack many, many times in a row. For those who may not fully be aware of it, Hamilton is a hip-hop/sung musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda about the life of Alexander Hamilton. It’s widely known for its diverse cast. I have not yet seen it live, but hope I can one day. Anyway, the musical didn’t expressly say so, but in doing my own research, I found out that the Caribbean island that Alexander Hamilton was born and raised on was the island of Nevis (pronounced Nee-vis). 

 
Originally, the Kalinago Indians living on Saint Kitts called it Liamuiga (“fertile land”), and the island of Nevis was called Oualie (“land of beautiful waters”). Christopher Columbus was the first European to spot these islands, and while there’s some dispute over the exact names and name changes, Saint Kitts is named after a nickname for Christopher (like Christopher Columbus). Nevis got it name after a variation of the Spanish name Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows—sounds strange considering it’s in the tropics).



Saint Kitts & Nevis is located in the Caribbean and part of the Leeward Islands. It’s located west of Antigua and Barbuda, just northwest of the French islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe and southeast of the Dutch islands of Sint Eustatius, Saba, and south of the French island of St Barthélemy, the half French-half Dutch island of Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten, and the British island of Anguilla. The islands were created by volcanic activity; central peaks give way to numerous rivers that provide fresh water for the island. The islands have a tropical climate with a somewhat dry and cool season from January through April and a wet and rainy period from June through November.


First inhabited about 3000BC, the Arawak and Taino Indians moved into the area later. Christopher Columbus first sighted the islands in 1493, but in the early 1600s, the British settled in followed by the French. They agreed to divide the island between the two of them, and both went to bat at exploiting the island for its natural resources. That didn’t sit well with the natives living there and put up a resistance against their efforts to either enslave them or endure a forced relocation at the least. They continued a campaign started by the Spanish of systematically denying the natives humanity. Finally, the British and French (with Spanish support) said, “Skip this,” and just went on a killing spree. The Spanish handed all control over to the other two, who divided and claimed a bunch of islands in the area; the French eventually giving total control of St. Kitts over to the British. Because of the sugar trade, St. Kitts was one of Britain’s richest colonies. St. Kitts, Nevis, and Anguilla were all treated as three separate states of British colonies, and while in 1967 they all gained autonomy, only St. Kitts and Nevis gained independence in 1983. This makes it the newest country in the Americas (and the same age as my sister). Nevis actually tried to break away in 1998 but didn’t quite have the votes to make it happen. Not long after, it was ravaged by Hurricane Georges, the worst hurricane to hit the area in the 20th century. 


The capital Basseterre is located on the island of St. Kitts. Established in 1627, it’s one of the oldest cities in the Eastern Caribbean. The city is the financial and governmental center of the country. In fact, Basseterre has grown to be a financial hub for a lot of the Caribbean communities. It also hosted the 2007 World Cricket Cup, which was a big deal because it was the smallest country to hold a World Cup.


Historically, sugar was the primary economic driver. However, in 2005, their state-owned sugar factory closed down. Tourism is now the thing they depend on most and host a large music festival in efforts to attract more people. They also have a program where large business investors are granted citizenship, assuming they meet all the requirements and fulfill their end of the deal.


Because of their history with Britain and France, Christianity (mostly Anglican and Methodist) is the majority religion in St. Kitts & Nevis. There are a number of denominations represented, but there are also a smaller number of non-religious people and other religions found there as well.


In St. Kitts & Nevis, English is the official language. However, Saint Kitts Creole is the most widely spoken dialect in the country. Like some other Caribbean Creoles, this one is an English-based Creole with borrowings from various African languages and some from French.


Besides Alexander Hamilton, I was surprised to find a few other famous people with ties to St. Kitts & Nevis. I came across several as I was researching the islands who have either one or both parents from there. Mel B (from the Spice Girls) has a father from the islands. Corinne Bailey Rae’s father was also from St. Kitts. Both of Cicely Tyson’s parents came from Nevis. Louis Farrakhan’s mother was also born in the islands. Rupert Crosse was raised by his grandparents on the island of Nevis. And apparently, there are a ton of famous people from here who play cricket, if you follow cricket.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Worldly Rise Year End Stats 2017 Edition


I’ve done these for the past few years. I think of it as a way to measure my growth and how much I’ve covered. It’s a long project, so it’s nice to know where I’ve been around the world so far. We’re heading into the home stretch. Only two more years to go! Enjoy!


— In 2017, I started with Nauru and ended with Rwanda.

— At the end of 2017, I completed the 142nd country for this blog. I did go back and add in the three countries that are not part of the UN at the end, so this now makes me 72% finished with this project.

— Of all the countries I have completed so far,
39 (27.46%) have been in Africa
38 (26.76%) have been in Europe
17 (11.97%) have been in Asia
11 (7.75%) have been in the Middle East
10 (7.04%) have been in Oceania
9 (6.34%) have been in the Caribbean
9 (6.34%) have been in South America
7 (4.93%) have been in Central America
2 (1.41%) has been in North America
           
— Of the 142 countries I have completed so far, 349 languages are represented in some capacity, either as an official language or at some kind of national/regional/vernacular level. Here are the ones who hold some level of status in three or more countries.  
English: 47
French: 34
Arabic: 20
Spanish: 19
German: 13
Russian: 10
Croatian: 8
Romany/Romani: 8
Armenian: 7
Portuguese: 7
Ukrainian: 7
Albanian: 6
Serbian: 6
Bulgarian: 5
Greek: 5
Italian: 5
Swahili: 5
Garifuna: 4
Hungarian: 4
Turkish: 4
Azerbaijani: 3
Belarusian: 3
Berber (Tamazight): 3
Danish: 3
Fula: 3
Occitan: 3
Polish: 3
Romanian: 3
Rusyn: 3
Slovak: 3
Slovene/Slovenian: 3
Tatar: 3
Urdu: 3

— As of December 31, 2017 at 4:30 p.m. EST, I have had a total of 528,970 pageviews (an increase of 145,356 from this time last year) and have been read by at least one person in 170 countries (an increase of 5 countries). I have posted 636 blog posts (an increase of 91 posts) since I started in February 2012 and now have 27 followers (I gained 5 more followers this year).

— Here are the top ten countries based on the number of pageviews (of all time):
            1. United States
            2. Russia
            3. Philippines
            5. Canada (number 5 last year)           
4. United Kingdom (number 4 last year)
            6. Germany
            7. France
            8. Ukraine
            9. Australia
            10. India

— If everything goes as planned for 2018 (which may or may not happen), I will start with Saint Kitts & Nevis and end with Switzerland. 

Have a happy new year!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

RWANDA: THE FOOD


Well, it’s getting closer to Christmas, and I’m almost done with my shopping. I’ve just got a couple of other things to grab, then I’ll be done. I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, but seeing other people happy with the things I got them makes me happy. But that also means this is my last meal of 2017, and my last R country, so we’ll start 2018 off with a whole new letter: S. Actually, the S countries will pretty much take up most of the year. 

This was so wonderful. And look how smooth it looks on top!
So, today I’m starting out with Rwandan Honey Bread. The first thing I did was proof my yeast by mixing my yeast into warm water for about 5 minutes or so. Typically, it should be pretty frothy, but mine didn’t really proof that well (I used it anyway). In a separate bowl, I mixed together an egg, ½ c of honey (I’m using a vanilla bean honey), 1 Tbsp of ground coriander, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp of ground cloves, and 1 ½ tsp of salt. Then I added in my yeast mixture, 1 c of lukewarm milk, 4 Tbsp of melted butter, stirring until everything is mixed well. Then I slowly added about 4 ½ c of flour until it became a soft ball of dough. Turning it out onto my floured pastry mat, I kneaded it for another 5 minutes, but trying not to use any extra flour as necessary, but it was so sticky that I had to. When it was finally ready, I melted 2 Tbsp of butter, I brushed the outside of it and then brushed the bowl with it a bit, covered the bowl and let it rise for about an hour. At the end of the first hour, I punched it down and kneaded for a minute or two. I decided to make this in my round silicon baking pan, so I sprayed the pan (not really sure if that’s necessary, but I did it anyway) and placed it in the pan, formed it with my hands to fit. I let it rest for another hour before putting it into a 300ºF oven for 55-60 minutes. The top should be lightly golden in color and kind of crusty. I thought this bread was wonderful, especially when it’s still warm. The inside was soft, and the flavors were blended quite nicely.

This right here was fabulous.
The main dish today is Rwandan Beef Stew. In a skillet, I browned my stew beef (that I cut into smaller pieces) along with the onions. Then I took my plantain pieces that I tossed in lemon juice and browned them with the meat and onions. I added 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil, a can of diced tomatoes, a little salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning (I just used a little bit of thyme, sage, nutmeg, marjoram, garlic powder). After pouring in enough water to cover everything, I let it cook on low heat for a little more than an hour, checking my water levels so it wouldn’t burn. Although I should’ve made some rice to put this on, I thought it was still good by itself. The plantains and the beef strangely enough meshed well together. I thought it was delicious.

Oh... my... I loved this so much.
To go along with that, I also made Isombe, or greens in peanut sauce. The recipe originally calls for cassava leaves, but I ended up using turnip greens instead (there must’ve been a run on collard greens—my store was completely out!). I chopped my greens up and boiled them in salted water until they were tender. I didn’t boil them for long, though. I was afraid they’d get to the point of being slimy. Then I added in my chopped green onions, diced eggplant, baby spinach, and green bell peppers and let it cook down for 10 more minutes. After this, I mixed a little vegetable oil and some peanut butter in a ramekin and stirred. I actually drained off a lot of the water from the pot, leaving just a little bit in the bottom. I poured the peanut mix into the pot with the greens, letting it simmer for another 10 minutes until the sauce thickened. I was a little worried how the turnip greens would taste with the peanut sauce, but it turned out quite well. It certainly smelled good. I really liked this.

Of all salads, this one quickly rose to my Top 5 (assuming the mangoes are ripe).
This next recipe may not be wholly authentic, but it sounded good: spinach, avocado, and mango salad. The first thing I did was make the dressing, a kind of orange juice vinaigrette. In a glass soy sauce dispenser, I mixed together 1/3 c orange juice, 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 3 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp of chili powder, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ ground pepper and shook it to mix it all together. For the salad, I mixed together some baby spinach, chopped radicchio, sliced radishes, and diced mango. Then I added the dressing just before I served it and garnished it with diced avocado. First of all, the dressing was fire. I totally loved this and will make this dressing again. I’ve never used radicchio before, but it was pretty good. It’s like a small red and white cabbage. My mango wasn’t nearly as ripe as it should’ve been, but it was still good. Overall, I thought this salad was wonderful. It would be awesome to bring to a get together in the summer.  

Overall, I loved all of it. All. Of. It. It was fire for sure.
I thought this was a good meal. I was actually kind of surprised at how good it was. My son would hardly touch anything on his plate, but my daughter and I thought it was excellent. I know I’m going to have some good leftovers for lunch tomorrow. And this meal wraps it up for 2017. I’ll post my traditional end-of-year stats on the evening of 12/31, but then I’m taking another break. I was supposed to be cooking the next country on New Year’s Eve, but my kids missed my tradition of making Brazilian feijoada on NYE, and really, who can blame them? Feijoada is the perfect way to bring in the new year. Anyway, I can’t wait to see what new things I come across in 2018. And hopefully the world won’t burn away.  

Up next: Saint Kitts & Nevis

Saturday, December 16, 2017

RWANDA: MUSIC AND DANCE


The traditional music in Rwanda spans a number of origins. Of the traditions that resonate most with Rwandans is the ikinimba. This musical style is accompanied by a dance of the same name and centered around stories of ancient heroes and kings. 


Some of the common instruments utilized in ikinimba (and other musical styles) include the inanga (a lyre-like instrument, thought to be one of the first instruments invented in this area), ingoma (sometimes written as ngoma, a type of drum), umuduri (a bowed string instrument using a gourd as a resonator and has a rattle), and the ikembe (kind of like an mbira, or thumb piano).


Dance is often performed in tandem with music. In many areas across the country, amatoreru groups have been established to teach traditional music and dance to people in order to preserve their heritage and cultural arts. A few of the famous ones include Amasimbi n’amakombe, Irindiro, and the Ballet National Urukerereza. One dance that is popular is the intore dance, featuring dancers wearing head dresses with long grasses that make them look like they have blonde hair.


As far as modern music goes, there is quite a bit of regional influence coming in from neighboring countries as well as the Caribbean, Europe, and the US. Styles like zouk, reggae, R&B, hip-hop, and gospel has worked its way into Rwandan music as well. The first one I listened to is Jean-Paul Samputu. An award-winning musical artist, he creates a neo-traditional style of music.


Cecile Kayirebwa is another musician who brings traditional music to a modern era. You can really hear the vocal harmonic traditions in her music. Although she lives in Belgium, she’s probably one of the more well known musicians who brings Rwandan music to the international level.


Now one musician I came across (who I didn’t realize I’ve heard before on a Youssoupha album I have) is Corneille. He had a pretty tragic coming-of-age during the Genocide (a story likely repeated hundreds of thousands of times), but it’s pretty evident where he put his focus into. And it also doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes.
Mani Martin is a good example of some Afrobeat with other styles mixed in. I like this because it makes me happy. It’s just happy music. Like, if you listen to this, you can’t really feel all that bad.


I listened to Miss Jojo, an R&B musician. I think it has a little bit of a dancehall element to it at times and sometimes a little bit pop. It’s pretty catchy, especially if you’re looking for something to dance to.

Up next: the food