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Trade your Snow Man for a Sand Man

Fri, 12/05/2014
Head to the Islands in the Caribbean

Everybody’s got their holiday traditions, and for many of us it includes travel. It could be a trip to join your family in your old home town. It might be an annual ski trip to Vail, Colorado. If you’ve read any of my past articles, you may have already guessed what mine might be. It is a pilgrimage to the Caribbean Islands to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve with other “yachties”.

There is a camaraderie that exists among sailors. Most of us are over 40 white collar professionals. And it must be said that sailors are laid-back people.  In all my years of partying with sailors in the Caribbean, I’ve never seen bad behavior, bad attitudes, or fighting anywhere.

The Caribbean blends the spirit of the holidays with the colorful display of its culture and African heritage.  Local bands, Mocko Jumbie dancers and a carnival atmosphere are everywhere… parties abound!

There is an annual, month-long Crucian Christmas Festival on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands that begins the first Saturday in December and ends the first Saturday of the New Year. Like traditional Caribbean carnivals, it features J'ouvert parties, the crowning of a Queen and King, calypso contests, parades, and a special festival village.

Foxy’s Tamarind Bar on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands is the most famous place to be for the biggest holiday celebration! Old Year’s Night is renowned, worldwide, for ringing in the New Year. The only way to get to the party is by boat. Be sure to get there early — or even "boat-pool" — because thousands of people crowd the island and moorings are at a premium.

I asked my good friend Bill Pinkney, the first African American to solo circumnavigate the world, and now lives and works in the Caribbean, what’s it like during the holidays in the Caribbean.  “First let me say that Foxy's at New Years is a ZOO. We went over on a catamaran (with friends not a charter) and could not get anywhere near the harbor, and we got there two days before New Year’s Eve! The coolest places for New Years would be the Bitter End Yacht Club, Culebra, Puerto Rico and maybe Leverick Bay. These places are off the beaten path for the "First timers".  Bill continued “I live in Puerto Rico. And anybody who knows me knows I love to salsa.   The best part of living here is hearing “Jingle Bells” set to a salsa beat. It will get you dancing and caroling”.

Food is what sustains our lives and has cultural, traditional, and healthful significance for our families. There are many things to learn about people from their food. Eating is also a big part of the holidays.  I asked Bill what his favorite holiday Caribbean dish is. “Well, that’s gotta be Pepperpot stew. It’s an old Caribbean tradition and people make it to share with the many well wishers that would come by.”

The essential ingredient in Pepperpot is cassareep sauce made from Cassava. It has chicken, beef, pork fish or whatever meats you want in it along with greens, squash, beans and peppers. Every island does it a little differently. But once the pot liquor is made, they just keep adding more meats to keep it going.

For a memorable holiday, swap your usual plans and head to the Caribbean!

Check out my website and blog to get my Pepperpot recipe and to sign-up for my next trip to the Caribbean.

Follow me next month when we learn more about travel and cooking in small spaces.

Marvelle Manga's picture