Delicate and fine, the American Beauty Rose china service was surrounded by gleaming silver cutlery, platters and serving bowls passed down through family generations. All set on crisp, freshly ironed linen tablecloths, the dining room was ready for royalty.
I was 10 years old. A working class Caucasian kid on a mixed family street in an older suburb in Winnipeg. I say “mixed family street” meaning income as well as people: a grandma two doors down with visiting grandchildren; the construction company owner across the street; the Robinsons – obvious to me as an adult – a mixed racial family but no one talked about their African heritage then; and my mom at home, my dad working for the Hudson Bay.
We loved Christmas. Mom was a fantastic baker spending October and November preparing cookies, cakes and fudge. The large, unheated veranda became the deep freeze for her treats. Closer to Christmas she prepared gift boxes full of her home baked goodies. The postman, the metre reader, the paperboy – people in the neighbourhood received a small care package. The year I was 10 – ah, yes… a most memorable year. We had special guests at the Christmas Eve meal.
The special guests were a young couple from Jamaica. Our United Church organized a pairing of the new family with an established Canadian family. The idea was to give the newcomers a glimpse of Canadian tradition.
Black, black – oh my goodness. I had never been so close to people from so far away. From my Caucasian kid perspective, they might have come from Mars. Their lilting voices sharing their history, their desire for a new life.
Why Canada? Why Winterpeg? We bombarded them with questions. They were eager to share their culture while soaking up a new Canadian outlook.
Turkey, stuffing, roast root vegetables, cranberry sauce, Christmas cake and plum pudding. My mum, trained as a teacher, shone as her natural propensity to teach and share with her kids unfolded: the Christmas food, handmade treasures on the tree, the guests.
Something different graced a beautiful china plate. Baked bananas? Mom had spent time finding the correct recipe and lovingly preparing the dish. A bit of home for our guests and a new food and learning moment for my family.
That was so long ago, but stays with me in a vivid and lively manner.
My mom – opening my heart, my mind and taste buds to another culture, new people. If my tolerance, my quest for knowledge about people and culture began anywhere, it began in that living room, on that mixed neighbourhood street. It began with a mother encouraging her children to embrace new people, new cultures, new food and experience. Baked Bananas - a Jamaican treat on a cold, December eve.
Jamaican Baked Bananas
- Preheat oven to 350º degrees.
- Peel and slice:
4 to 6 bananas into ½ inch pieces.
- Arrange the pieces in a lightly buttered casserole.
- Then, in a medium sized sauce pan combine:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup orange juice
- Cook and stir above ingredients for one minute.
- Combine the orange juice mixture with:
2 tbsp cornstarch
another ½ cup orange juice
- Stir this hot mixture to dissolve cornstarch and cook until clear and thickened.
½ cup of raisins if you wish.
- Pour orange juice mixture over bananas and sprinkle with grated coconut.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.