Curried Duck for Christmas

By Crista Mohammed

Crista Mohammed (1)

Many decades ago, Bishop Desmond Tutu described Trinidad and Tobago (where I am from), as a "rainbow nation"—a culturally diverse people.  While Trinidad and Tobago, like any group of people, has its own challenges with diversity, we have really made the most of it, for the most part.  It is a place where a Roman Catholic Church on one side of the street provides parking to the congregation of the Mosque, on the other side of the street. This happens just one street away from where I used to live. It is the kind of place that gives rise to strange religious admixtures like me—Muslim father, Hindu mother, Catholic schooling.

Here most everyone celebrates Christmas. Christmas time is a very happy, busy occasion for households—Afro-Trinidadians, Indo-Trinidadians, the Chinese community, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and all those in-between. There is frenzied cleaning, painting, and hoisting of compulsory new curtains.

Long ago, everyone ate what they grew: The Afro-Trinidadians reared pigs and there was bound to be a fatted pig or cured ham for the Christmas table.  In my Hindu maternal grandparents' home, where both pork and beef were not eaten, I grew up having curried duck. In Trinidad and Tobago, duck is a delicacy and there is only one way to prepare it - "make a good curry" (as we like to say).

My childhood Christmas mornings were marked by the smell of newly polished floors and a sizzling curry on the stove. As we awaited that curried duck for Christmas lunch, my Grandmother would share her own treats. For her it was not Christmas if she didn't have the traditional Christmas imports—mixed whole nuts, marshmallows and apples. For me it was not Christmas if I didn't get her fruitcake!

But returning to the curried duck... To open our appetites in advance of the curry, it wouldn't be Christmas if my grandmother didn't give us a shot of brandy, replete with "well it is Christmas, so just this once".

But times have changed. We now have imported hams and turkeys. It has become the new, convenient tradition to stick a turkey in the oven. But, I pine for that duck and probably always will every Christmas, mostly because it reminds me of a cherished time—a time made extraordinary by my grandparents, parents, siblings—Wade, born Christmas day, and Candace, and girl cousins.

Here’s a recipe that I quite like: . Maybe you might try curried duck for Christmas? Whatever is on your Christmas menu, do enjoy this blessed time of the year.


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