In Trinidad and Tobago, Christmas is synonymous with pork. It is used in our pastelles, baked or roasted, soaked in brine to make garlic pork, and of course we can’t forget our Trini style ham. Yes, it is so popular that even Scrunter, our local Parang Soca King, had to sing about it.
*singing….Ah want ah piece ah pork, Ah want ah piece ah pork for meh Christmas…..*
But how did this tradition come about? I honestly do not know. It probably came from the European influence in the country, but as usual everything gets lost in time and is further integrated and synthesized into our Callaloo of a society. One thing though remains sure; when the Christmas season is here, look out for pork.
Pork: A Trini Christmas Tradition
With the Christmas season in full swing here in Trinidad and Tobago, I just had to document the pork story as it is. But before we reach there let’s take a trip back in time to when computers or even perhaps electricity were non existent and our ancestors used pitch oil (kerosene) lamps and flambeaux to light their houses……
Most people in the countryside or their neighbour had a pig pen to “mine” pigs for Christmas. This was either as a side business for the coming months or as a way to provide for your family in the season of plenty and Christmas cheer. Back then the pigs were fed scraps from the kitchen and everything else in between…. from left over food to scraps like green banana skins, grass, and pieces of discarded provision. As early as June/ July the animals would be reared and cared for until December; just in time for Christmas.
By then, the animals would have put on a considerable amount of weight and were ready to be slaughtered. For some this would have been a task depending on the amount of pigs to be slaughtered and would require assistance from neighbours and friends. So this was a time to socialise with your “compère” and your neighbours while the work was going on. And of course it was a time for sharing as well….
So it was 5lbs for tanty; a piece by de belly for she to make she pastelle, a piece for meh cousin because he does handle meh with ‘gouti, deer and lappe when he hunt; 25lbs by de front shoulder for Boysie down de road who have de shop, 10 pounds ah ribs for meh brother and 15lbs for Fong Sook who used to gi’ meh some stale bread an’ ting from de bakery, and de rest ah go share up with meh in laws and meh family. Oh, and ah have to save some blood to make black pudding……
A Family Occasion
Everyone in the village came together during Christmas time and really enjoyed themselves. The community was strengthened by this simple tradition and many others like it. And, it would pass on through the generations….
This has been the tradition for many hundreds of years here in Trinidad and Tobago and today it’s still being carried on in the countryside villages for a profit or, just as in the days gone by, to share with family and friends. It is with this spirit that I was led to do this post and of course I’m always up for a good lime lol!!
So off I went to the countryside by my aunt who had a few pigs to slaughter for Christmas. Experience is still the greatest teacher and I really had a memorable time watching my cousins and their friends slaughtering the pigs in the backyard that definitely throws back to our long tradition for Christmas.
So, here I was in the midst of all that was happening on this day. Armed with camera in hand, I was there to capture the action. As usual, there was lots of help and of course lots to eat. But we’ll get to that part later. First we have to work and that means we have a few pigs to kill.
How was the pig killed? First the pig would be strung up by its hind legs and the underside washed. To prevent much noise from the pig the mouth would also be tied with wire.
The butcher then uses the long knife to make an incision at the throat and then cut the arteries and finally the knife punctures the heart. The other way would be to tie the pig and hit it with a heavy object, like a piece of iron, on its skull. Somehow I prefer the first method. It’s quicker and less painful to the animal. Of course I am well aware of my vegetarian readers so I’m doing this in a very tasteful manner.
After the blood has drained and collected for the black pudding the pig is placed on a table and hot water poured on it and the hair scraped off. First using very sharp knives and cutlass (machete) then the final scraping using razor blades.
The pig is then strung up, gutted and cut in quarters. Some of the intestines saved for pudding later of course.
Then according to the orders the pork is cut up and weighed.
Now since there was so much work going on we had to eat something as well. And what would that be? You guessed it; stew pork and provision and cassava dumpling. It couldn’t get any better than this. 🙂
One plate of stew pork with yam, cassava, dasheen and cassava dumpling. Delicious!
The work lasted the whole day since there was a lot of work to do. The women had their job as well making black pudding which for me was the highlight of the evening. And I was ready with camera in hand to capture every second of this process…..
Coming up next ….. We makin’ black pudding trini style. Stay tuned!
Yeah, ah know real people waitin’ on dat one, so leh me get busy.
Ah gone 🙂