Diverse and indigenous cuisine brought by the many ethnic people to St. Maarten from all over the world piques our interest. To this end, we are on quest to find where it comes from, if it is used for celebrations, if it is exotic to some but normal food to others. Anything to do with keeping the body and soul nourished with what is produced from good old terra firma is what makes the world go round.
Valentine and women’s rights.
The years come and go, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, other celebrations and of course Valentine’s Day. Thing is this day – one of romance and love – started out, so the legend goes, with the love of a man for a woman who subsequently died for his efforts; more recently, this story captured the imagination of some soft-hearted person who started building on the story, this was taken up commercially and made into a day of romance between lovers of all ages. In recent times, school teachers and children make the day one where everyone in class may get a gentle poem or handmade gift – spread the love, so to speak.
Yes, how lovely is this idea! As children grow up, they in turn (hopefully) give an extra little bit of love to their spouses, children, parents and friends on Valentine’s Day – and so the love spreads – as it should.
But then we are in the now and awful things are coming to light about the lifestyle of some ethnic groups where love seems to be taboo, where straight women and those of alternative gender are down trodden and treated like the proverbial! Women in our communities give a big sigh and feel happy to live in a world where love is all around us, especially from the men towards the women.
And then things have suddenly changed and there are marches going on around the world, particularly big marches where woman – and quite a large number of supportive men – are marching for a world where “their rights” are equal to men’s rights (their salaries for instance); where a woman can be loved and adored by men without having any restrictions put in them; where she can have her own say about her life (that incudes her own body); and where there is peace.
These marches, one hears said by many of the younger generation, are ridiculous. Life is just fine, one hears said in some quarters. But there is a very real threat that, at a stroke of some man’s pen, all will not be as it is today where women have as many rights as they have. At a stroke of a pen, women could find themselves in similar positions as some ethnic groups hold their women in – interestingly, the very people who want to sign women’s rights away (especially about her choice of what to do with her body) oppose the ethnic group’s attitude to woman.
It doesn’t make sense really! There is a real reason that women (and a lot of men) are marching – as many realize life could change back to the dark times.
A 100 years ago or so (1870s) women could not own property, sign contracts, have their own money or file law suits. Until married, a girl/woman was her father’s property and once married, she became her husband’s property. If she ran from an abusive situation, she was searched for and returned as property to her husband. Woman could not vote; they were turned away if they tried.
Around 1878, citizenship and suffrage were granted to blacks but not to women – of any colour! Over the years, women marched, were arrested, beaten, jailed or even killed. The women who went before really struggled and made way for today’s women’s freedom. In the 1960s, women were fighting for the power to decide on whether they could use birth control if they so wished to! It was even “illegal” to discuss such a subject.
Eventually, the hard won battle for women (and in fact the LGBT community) gained some rights; this brings us to today; but those rights are fragile. Those rights, with a swipe of a pen, could be taken away.
So what has all this got to do with Valentine’s Day? Well, women, men and in fact everyone who is anyone with love in their hearts really want the same thing; they don’t want that very expensive commercially thought up gift – although that would not go remiss by any means – what they really want is something from the heart: love, peace, gentleness kindness, putting the loved one first, to enjoy a life of equality without the many restrictions “man” wants to meter to whatever gender they want to “control.”
Valentine’s Day is about an admirer sending a secret gift to someone, a lover spoiling his/her mate, a younger or older person being given the special something they deserve! The teachers at the schools may have it right: handmade cards with meaningful kind words on them, a great meal at home or out in a romantic setting, a handpicked bunch of lovely colourful leaves, oh yes, and those roses or other flowers of course – all would do very nicely, thank you. A bottle of fine wine, laughter, cuddles, thoughts, gestures and no demands (a box of chocolates and a rose should not guarantee a roll in the hay!), and the assurance that a woman’s place is besides her man – not way behind as he marches ahead as if she is only an object, a piece of property he owns.
Spread the love with some thoughtful tasty gifts made especially for the one you admire.
Heart Choccies on a stick
12 peppermint candy canes
200g white chocolate, chopped
Edible sprinkles / gold or silver non-pariels
6 ovenproof lolly sticks
Cellophane bags and ribbons
Heat oven 350° F
Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
Arrange candy canes on paper trays in a heart shape.
Put a lolly stick between each one where they meet at the bottom.
Put the trays in the oven and cook for 5 mins.
The candy canes should now be soft pinch together where they join at the top and the bottom very carefully. They will be extremely hot.
Melt chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
Spoon melted chocolate into the middle of the heart lollies. Make sure it touches all sides of the candy canes. Scatter with sprinkles.
Leave to cool completely.
When set, peel off the baking parchment, wrap in cellophane bags and tie with a ribbon.
300g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
200g salted butter, diced
120g golden caster sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp rosewater
Red or pink food colouring
Whizz flour and butter to fine crumbs in a food processor.
Add sugar and yolks, whizz to a smooth dough.
Remove one-third of the dough, add vanilla to what’s left and pulse to whizz in.
Wrap this dough in cling film and leave at room temperature.
Put reserved dough back in processor with rosewater and a drop of food colouring.
Pulse – adjust colouring if you want darker hearts.
Put dough in fridge – remove the 30 mins before you want to roll it out.
Roll out coloured dough between baking parchment.
Use a small 3-4cm heart cutter to stamp out hearts.
Repeat until the dough is used up.
Roll out vanilla dough and cut into rounds larger than the hearts, place on baking sheet.
Lightly brush milk or beaten egg white over biscuits.
Place one heart on top of each round.
Sprinkle light with granulated sugar.
Chill for 2 hours.
Heat oven to 350° F
Bake for 20 mins. Cool on wire racks.
Place some biscuits in a pretty Valentine box.
Dark chilli drops
200g 70% cocoa dark
Pinch hot chilli powder
Edible glitter – red / any colour
Salted pistachio drops
200g milk chocolate – Black & Greens with extra cocoa butter
Pinch flaky sea salt
25g pistachios chopped finely
200g white chocolate
Crystallized rose or violet petals
Dark chilli drops:
Break chocolate into chunks and melt in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
Line a few flat baking trays with baking parchment.
Once chocolate has melted, stir in chilli powder.
Use a teaspoon to drop “drops” of chocolate onto baking parchment.
Every 10 or 20 drops, scatter over a small amount of edible glitter before the chocolate sets.
Leave to set in a cool place; do not put in the fridge.
Salted pistachio drops:
Melt chocolate, prepare baking parchment as before.
Once chocolate has melted, stir in salt; make drops topping with chopped pistachios.
White chocolate drops:
Carefully melt chocolate and line baking tray as above.
Make drops and top each with a crystallized petal.