Real Jamaican sweeties

March 21, 2016
File Coconut drops
FILE: Grater cake

I have a sweet tooth (and then some). I was raised by a loving grandmother who gave me a tablespoon of honey every morning with my cod liver oil and another with my weekly piece of aloe vera.

When she was in a good mood, while grating coconut, she'd put some of the flakes in a little bowl with some brown sugar or stick a piece of sugar head on a piece of the ungrated coconut for me as a special treat.

Later on, my aunts and uncles introduced me to gouging a large hole into a thick slice of hard dough bread and filling it with condensed milk. But my personal favourite remains grapefruit cut in half, de-seeded, and condensed milk added. It is only the grace of God that has kept me free from diabetes, and I pray it continues because I love sweet treats so much that I will eat a teaspoon of sugar if my craving gets out of control and there is nothing sweet around.

In recent times, I have been yearning for an old-time Jamaican hard candy that we country bumpkins used to get when our folks went to Kingston and returned with sweet treats bought from candy sellers who kept them in 'glass cases'. I cannot recall the name, but it was circular in shape with five or six segments, cream in colour, and decorated with red stripes.

We also got peppermint candy, Busta, and paradise plum. Busta, today, is nothing like the original. I particularly enjoyed the bit of coconut in each and it was very big, not the tiny excuses of today.

Paradise plums ranged in colour from pale yellow on one side to a pinkish red on the other, and they were dipped in granulated sugar to boot.

Ginger logs and coconut drops were in the mix, too. The latter are still around. I remember the first time I made some and placed them to set on banana leaves. If the recipe is inaccurate, you will get what we called "tight teeth".

If there are people in Jamaica who still remember the art of old-fashioned candy making, let me know at the email address below. We seem to hastily discard many aspects of our culture that were handed down by the elders. I am happy that I learnt to cook with wood fire. When my electric stove malfunctioned on Boxing Day, the wood fire rescued my rice and peas, curried goat and mannish water. My family has now requested that wood fire be the fuel at all such future gatherings.


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