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Friday, December 11, 2009

Hallacas, Pan de Jamon, Turron Alicante, y Ron

We had a Venezuelan Christmas last night, via Miami. Hallacas are a variation on tamales. Instead of being wrapped in corn husks, they are wrapped in banana leaves, and instead of being steamed, they are boiled. The banana leaves impart a distinctive flavor to the harina maiz, and while they are cooking you know that you are about to have them--the smell is also quite distinctive. The filling of the Hallaca is delicious--

it is a mixture of pork, beef, and chicken, mixed with green olives, raisins, and spices--the mixture of vinegar, salt, and sweet is reminiscent of a Christmas tradition of my youth, Mince Pie. These themes are echoed in the pan jamon, which is a rolled bread, with ham, olives, and raisins, in pretty much equal parts. I love the celebration of holidays with distinctive food--it matters not whether I celebrate that holiday or not. The idea that you make foods once a year, but every year, is a tradition that I participate in enthusiastically. It is a way to be connected with the changes of the year across a lifetime--offering bot comforti and familiarity.

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