Category Archives: Caribbean Culture

Plantains! : Banana’s Starchy Cousin

sweetplantains1A banana is a banana. It’s sweet, portable and healthy. Not much more. A plantain, on the other hand, is a shape-shifter, its usage changing with every gradation from green to yellow to black.

To the untrained eye a plantain could easily be mistaken for a banana. It looks and smells like a banana, but if you ever bite into a raw plantain you’ll know it’s not!

Sweet plantains are a staple food of the Caribbean West Indies.  They are a common thread that is deliciously shared amongst almost every Caribbean Island nation.

So, why are they so popular in Caribbean cuisine? Plantains are versatile and very abundant. They are always ready for cooking no matter what stage of ripeness and are used in all different dishes from appetizers to desserts. It is a versatile fruit that eats like a vegetable.  Plantains can be prepared fried, mashed, boiled, stewed, stuffed, poached, grilled, roasted or baked.

These jumbo cousins to the banana are good for you too. Plantains are low in fat and sodium with no cholesterol. They’re high in carbohydrates and are a great source of potassium, magnesium, fiber and vitamin C.

So, what do you do with them?caribbean-twice-fried-plantains-recipe-photo-420-FF0309LATINA05

*Unripe plantain—can be boiled and mashed with a little butter like potatoes; or slice them thin and fry them up for plantain chips, grate them and make are nice for incrusting pan fried fish.

*In between stage—Steam and eat with poached fish. Or try a Puerto Rican favorite and make some tostones: slice them thick, fry them, smash them and fry them again… yum!

*Sweet ripe plantains—Fry, or boil and mash.

*Over ripe—the sugars are concentrated and fruity tasting; great for desserts and caramelizing or as the key ingredient in a  fritter or pancake.

*Plantain Leaves. Plantain and banana leaves are used interchangeably. The leaves are used to wrap around poach, steamed or boiled foods.


Intrigued? Next time you are grocery shopping take another look at the giant tropical fruits, usually poised and waiting for purchase right next to their one-trick cousins. Because despite the fact the banana is a staple in most shopping carts, its starchy cousin is the family’s winner of the genetic lottery as far as the kitchen is concerned.

William Thornton, a.k.a. “Willy T”: The Man vs. the Myth

Dr. William Thornton (May 20, 1759 – March 28, 1828) was an British_American physician, inventor, painter and architect who designed the United States Capitol building. He also served as the first Architect of the Capitol and first Superintendent of the United States Patent Office. Born into a Quaker community on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands where he was heir to large sugar plantations, he was sent to England at age five to be educated. Once in England, there was never any question of his pursuing the fine arts professionally—he was to be trained for a useful life, according to the Quaker ways.
By the time he returned to the British Virgin Islands in 1786, Thornton was a gifted Practical Physician, accomplished Writer and very talented Architect. Once there, he came face to face with the source of his income—half interest in a sugar plantation and ownership of some 70 slaves, the possession of which had begun to trouble him. Late that same year he immigrated to the United States, in large part to pursue the cause of anti-slavery. During a visit to Tortola between 1790 and 1792, Thornton submitted plans to the design competitions for the U.S. Capitol Building. By April of 1793, his design was named winner. Thornton went on to design many now famous buildings in the Young Capitol.
Thornton was buried in Congressional Cemetary on Capitol Hill.

In life, William Thornton’s accomplishments were many. While he is probably most famous for being the designer of the U.S. Capitol building, among the local boaters of the British Virgin Islands he is known for something else altogether. Of course, just about anyone who has been to the British Virgin Islands has heard of the floating pirate bar called “The Willy T”. Many even know who the bar was named after… Few however, have heard the myth that ties the two together.
Many believe that the The Willy T is in fact haunted by the rebellious spirit of Dr. William Thornton himself.
For some, the irony of this might be too much to swallow— Why would William Thornton; a man of so many great accomplishment’s in his life, a man with a strict Quaker upbringing, a valuable member of society throughout his life, haunt (arguably) the most infamous watering hole in all of the Virgin Islands?
Believers will tell you that this is precisely why he has taken up residence. They will say that it is because of William Thornton’s staunch Quaker beliefs and strict adherence to a proper and honorable life, and that after his death in 1828, his rebellious soul returned to his native land of the Virgin Islands to let loose and leave the rules and regulations of his life behind.
Believers will tell you that to board the The Willy T, is to momentarily hand yourself over to Thornton and leave inhibition behind. They will tell you that even the most reserved are no match for the ghost of Willy T.
Some may argue that the Soul of William Thornton does not haunt the Willy T. They might argue that it is not Willy T’s spirit that holds some inexplicable power over the inhibitions of it’s guests but rather some other “unknown” spirit (no pun intended).
Some might say what they will. You will have to decide for yourself. Myself, I believe in the rebellious spirit. I believe in William Thornton.

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New Yorkers Head Back into Their Kitchens: Tips for Home Entertaining in Any Space

Tough times, pricey restaurants and the harsh temperatures of the coming winter are forcing many city dwellers back into the tiny kitchen of their already tiny apartments. For example, a Zagat survey reports that since the recession, 61% of New Yorkers are cooking more at home, while 56% have increased home entertaining. Keeping this in mind, an unlikely source has provided some unique and welcome advice on small-space entertaining.
Meet Rosemary Lindberg. Rosemary is the first mate and chef aboard The Pentesilea II. The 48-foot catamaran boasts four cabins, crew’s quarters and the world’s smallest kitchen. In running a profitable charter boat operation, Rosemary is constantly cooking and entertaining for as many as ten guests every night. Consistently operating in a 5 ½’ by 6 ½’ kitchen, with only 2’ of walking space, Rosemary has become an expert on limited space entertaining.
Here are some helpful and practical tips from Rosemary for planning your next dinner party:
Plan out your meal accordingly

Carefully plan out serving sizes for each guest: Try to gauge exactly how many guests you will have and how much they plan on eating. This will help keep you organized, and keep leftovers to a minimum.
Know what exactly you need to buy: Writing a list of every possible thing you could forget helps you stay organized and gets you ready for the prepping process.
Prepping kitchen & necessary foods ahead of time
Prep your kitchen first: When cooking in small kitchens it is best to keep your counter space clear. Keep knives & coffee maker off the surface or stowed away.
What are you preparing: Foods that have a longer sitting life (i.e. salad without dressing, cold dessert) should be made ahead of time and then stowed away.
If using anything frozen: All thawing should be done far in advance.
Starting your main courses: Do all chopping/cutting beforehand, and set aside ingredients in small bowls. Getting all the chopping out of the way ahead of time gives you more space for actual cooking.
If making a dessert: Make it before you start doing anything for the main meal. If it needs to be served hot, prep dessert then put it in oven while others are eating – ready to serve when the main course is finished.
Keep dishes and dish use to a minimum
Stick to one cutting board: When doing all of your chopping ahead of time, at the same time, sticking to one cutting board can greatly reduce kitchen clutter.
Reuse pots and pans when possible: Try to rinse out and reuse a pan after initial use. It will keep for a cleaner kitchen and give you more space with less clean up.
Keep silverware/plating to a minimum: You do not want to overcrowd your space with lots of plates and silverware. If making an appetizer/main course put things out on one big plate and offer napkins as small plates.
Make serving beverages a breeze
Make sure the bar is stocked: When entertaining guests, running out of alcohol is a no-no. Make sure to offer plenty of wine and beer, and if you can offer a special mixed drink.
Offering mixed drinks: If providing a cocktail, making a large or multiple pitchers before hand can ease stress level, keep guests happy & keep bar space clear.

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