By Nigel Spence
Have you ever stopped and taken stock of just how many National Food Holidays there are? Take for instance, in June alone, there are more than 50 listed food holidays celebrated either monthly, weekly or daily. Among them are National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, National Papaya Month, National Mango Month, National Hunger Awareness Month and National Dairy Month.
The actual assignment of National Food Holidays was once part of a U.S. President’s agenda, believe it or not. They would decide the date the holiday would fall on and then sign a joint House and Senate resolution into law to formally declare the particular food holiday.
I have been waiting for a “National Rum Month” to be created, but to no avail … so I made my own declaration (every month – ha!). I am happy to report that I have never missed a chance to celebrate it!
Other very popular Summer events held around the country and abroad are food festivals. In Denmark they celebrate the Jyllinge Eel Festival beginning the first weekend in June. During that time, all the restaurants in and around the town serve a meal of fried eels. This event was first implemented in 1968.
Here in New York City, the Famous Food Festival holds their annual “Taste The World” NYC on June 25th. This is an exciting one-day event where many food vendors of all nationalities get the chance to showcase their creativity and culinary skill to a direct audience of thousands, creating a melting pot of mouth-watering flavors and cuisine to be sampled.
This is a great way to step outside of the box and experience other cultures, without the added expense of airfare, if you are local. With Father’s Day just around the corner – June 18th – this would make for a great family outing.
Growing up in Jamaica, we did not experience many food festivals but Dad took us on many food outings there and abroad. Of course with the size of our family, anywhere we ate literally resembled a food festival.
Those outings were always so exciting! You never knew what to expect. One minute we were parked at the side of the road eating the most delicious and tender stew pork from a street vendor and the next minute dining in a formal setting of a local hotel restaurant experiencing German cuisine. I believe everyone in my family has been influenced by my father’s passion for scouting good food. I know I am.
Among his claim to fame are: “Chicken In A Bag” from a little shop on the East coast of Jamaica – the most delicious and seasoned fried chicken you could ever eat and the “Wakamba Special” – a special fried rice exclusive to the restaurant of the same name which did a whopping business in downtown Miami, back in the day. This was our standard dinner option whenever we vacationed in that city. The taste was so indelibly imprinted in my young mind that years later, long after the restaurant shut down, I had to find a way to savor the taste once more…what I did is a story all by itself, but suffice it to say my search paid off big time!
Following my Dad’s footsteps, I now go boldly where sometimes no man has ever gone before to discover new and exciting tastes in food and disciplines.
However, as a tribute to my Dad for Father’s Day and in combination with the National Food months mentioned above, I want to share with you today a special fruit punch blend originally concocted by my father. If you dislike the taste of fresh papaya as I did then, you will enjoy it this way, I promise. Even my sister who thought papaya smelled like cheesy feet could not get enough of this drink – another of Dad’s “claim to fame”.
Wishing my Dad a very wonderful and “Happy Father’s Day”. I give you “Pink Ice”!
2 cups fresh Papaya, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup Mango, peeled, and chopped
6 fresh whole Strawberries (substitute frozen or 1Tablespoon Strawberry syrup)
1/2 cup whole Milk (substitute Vanilla ice cream or Nut milk)
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
Add all ingredients except nutmeg to a blender filled halfway with crushed ice and blend until smooth and creamy.
Serve in a tall glasses and sprinkle the dash of nutmeg over the top.
Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for 3 years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cook offs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s The Today Show , Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavour.