By Nigel Spence
In the United States and more recently in Canada, February is celebrated as “Black History” month in remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora.
Additionally, Presidents’ Day, which is hosted on the third Monday in February is in recognition of the first US President’s birthday — George Washington.
Interestingly enough, records show he was born on February 22nd – same as my sister as well as my late grandmother, who like Washington, was president of her own “white” house at No. 12, as her home was affectionately referred to.
When she placed a meal in front of you, hungry or not she expected you to eat it all…that was the law.
Most times it wasn’t so hard to obey though, as she could cook up a mean chicken and rice dish, not to mention the best sweet potato pudding ever!
But all over the world, February is more commonly associated with Valentine’s Day, with its showy deliveries of flowers and chocolates as the usual exchange fare. I read that the first Valentine’s Day box of chocolates was introduced by Richard Cadbury in 1868.
What I remember vividly about Cadbury box chocolates was not about Valentine’s, however, but Christmas time, many years ago. Our family would buy several of these two-tiered boxes filled with a delicious assortment of chocolate truffles, wrapped in beautifully designed foil wrappers.
These were never for us but strictly as exchange gifts for family friends and neighbors. We were prohibited from going near the boxes in case we had any wild ideas about opening one.
Sadly, every year, I would watch as those chocolate tins disappeared only to be replaced with a box or tin of boring sugar cookies on the exchange. There was no justice here.
However, a few years later, I am not sure which of my sisters took up the case, deciding enough was enough. All I know is that was the year I was introduced to the art of re-gifting; making sure the giver did not receive the same tin or box of cookies gifted.
I am glad I did not have that job but in the end we miraculously ended up with a few tins of the decadent Cadbury treat for ourselves – Ye-ee-es! This little maneuver was so slick, I don’t think Dad or Mom ever caught on. My sincere apologies to any family friends or neighbors reading this article who may have been shafted…it wasn’t personal!
When we were growing up, I also remember February was the month in our house that we ate cake the most. Each year we celebrated five (5) birthdays in our family; both my grandparents, my Dad and two of my sisters. Apart from Christmas, this was one of the sweetest months for us (no pun intended). Yet, even as these celebrations have now decreased by two, the dates and happy times are forever etched in our minds.
Well, still holding true to my quest for health this year, instead of diving head first into a delectably, scrumptious dessert full of unwanted calories, I used my new found energy to whip up this masterful treat good for any time, any month and much like Cupid’s arrow – you’re sure to fall for this one. Enjoy!
Jamaican Vegan Chocolate Pudding
1 Cup Water
2 Cups Irish Moss Mixture (recipe follows)
3 pieces Gum Arabic
1/2 Cup Cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
3/4 Cup Sugar (or to taste)
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
Heat water in saucepan over medium heat with Irish moss mixture and gum Arabic. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until all ingredients have been dissolved and incorporated and mixture thickens – about 30 minutes.
Turn down to low heat and add cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla and coconut oil and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for another 10 minutes.
Remove from heat. Allow to cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours. The mixture will thicken more as it cools. Serve garnished with fresh fruit such as strawberries and bananas.
Irish Moss Mixture
2 oz Irish Moss (washed well to remove salt, sand and grit, then soaked for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours in cold water to re-constitute)
1 Cup Coconut Milk
3 large Ice Cubes (or about 1/4 Cup very cold Water)
Drain Irish Moss and discard soaking liquid. Irish Moss should be almost translucent, soft and pliable.
Put Irish Moss, Coconut Milk and ice cubes in blender and blend well until all the Irish moss pieces have been pulverized. Stop blending half way through and scrape down the sides and lid of blender of any remaining pieces of Irish Moss. The warmer the mixture gets, the thicker and more pasty it becomes, and will begin to stick to the sides of the blender, so try to keep it cool. Strain and reserve for use.