Friday, December 16, 2005

The Jamaican Culture - Jamaican Christmas Cake

Recipe for The Jamaican Christmas Cake

My dear wife has kindly consented to share a Christmas Cake recipe with you. This recipe is also used when making a Jamaican wedding cake. Enjoy!

The following recipe will make two 9" round cakes:


2 lbs. Raisins
1/2 lb. Prunes
1/2 lb. Dates
1 lb. Mixed Fruit
Red Wine to soak fruits
6 tablespoons Jamaican white rum

1/2 lb. Cherries - DO NOT SOAK with fruits named above. The unsoaked cherries will remain red and attractive to look at in the cake after baking. Add to mixture after soaked fruits have been added.

With the exception of 1/2 lb raisins, grind all fruits and soak in wine and white rum. Add the 1/2 lb. raisins that was not ground.

It is best to have your fruits soaking well in advance. Some Jamaicans will have this fruit mixture soaking sometimes, even for 1 year! But if you need it quickly, you can still get a nice cake the same day that it is soaked!

Chop up 1/2 lb. cherries but do not add to the fruit mixture. Add these cherries at time of baking.

N.B. My wife does not like using currants since sometimes there are seeds in them.

1 lb. Butter
3/4 lb. dark Sugar
10 Eggs
1 teaspoon Almond Essence
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Rose Water (Optional)
1 lb. Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 tablespoons Mixed Spice (NOT Allspice!)
2 tablespoons Cinnamon
Browning (Optional)


Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Line the sides and bottom of two 9" baking pans with a double layer of greaseproof paper and set aside.

  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

  • Add eggs 2 at the time creaming after each addition. After adding the eggs, you will have to move the butter, sugar and egg mixture to a larger bowl and prepare to manually do the balance of the recipe by hand.

  • Add vanilla and almond essence to the butter and sugar mixture.

  • If you use browning, pour a very small amount in mixture and stir. Note: Be very careful with browning! It makes your cake too dark!

  • Add baking powder, mixed spice and cinnamon to the flour.

  • Pour butter and egg mixture in a larger bowl.

  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture by folding it in.

  • Continuously add flour mixture to butter mixture.

  • Add soaked fruits to flour/egg mixture and thoroughly fold it in.

  • Add cut-up cherries to mixture. Leave a few cherries for decorating top of cake.

  • Pour mixture in the 2 lined 9" baking pans.

  • Bake in pre-heated oven until done. Use a knife to test for doneness, etc. The knife should come out clean.

  • Stick cakes all over with a toothpick. Sprinkle sherry over hot baked cakes.

  • Enjoy!
N.B. My wife does not use browning in her cakes, she depends on the very dark sugar, the spices and the red wine to give her the brown color.

The Jamaican Culture - A Jamaican Christmas

Christmas in Jamaica

I will always remember Christmas in Jamaica as a child. It was absolutely the happiest time of my life! I would be on holidays from school and, on several occasions, my parents would take me to Mandeville (the Capital of the Parish of Manchester) to do Christmas shopping.

Although I lived in St. Elizabeth, we did not do any shopping in Black River, which is the Capital of St. Elizabeth. This was because, in those days, Black River was a 'dead' town and Mandeville was much nearer to where we lived.

Because I was an 'only' child, I was kind of 'spoilt' by my parents and my Aunty Carol who lived with us. So, at Christmastime, I got much more toys and clothing than the average child would receive. My parents and Aunty Carol would buy me all kinds of 'goodies' for Christmas.

In those days, it was part of the Jamaican Culture for Jamaicans to wear 'Christmas hats' which were made from crepe paper and cartridge paper. These hats were in various shapes and sizes and were well decorated. The hats would each be adorned with the title of various popular songs and some of them would also have various phrases placed on them.

We would blow horns, light 'star light', fireworks, 'fire crackers' and 'thunder bolt'. The lighting of these items could be dangerous since they could cause fires.

The dogs certainly did not like Christmas since the noise from the fireworks, fire crackers and thunderbolt always frightened them! Jamaicans did not keep dogs in their houses but, during this time, like it or not dogs would try to find some way to get into the house. I use to be very sorry for these dogs!

The Jamaican stores would be filled with various items for Christmas and they would be well decorated.

The Jamaican sidewalks would be filled with people selling various Christmas items. This is normally illegal in Jamaica to be selling on the streets, but during Christmastime, people were allowed to sell on the sidewalks.

The Jamaican radio station (RJR and JBC) would be playing Christmas music and counting down to Christmas.

Our Christmas tree was always a real tree and this was decorated from the first week of Christmas. I always loved the smell!

Christmas Eve
In Jamaica, this day is also known as 'Grand Market' day. Parents would take their children shopping. This was an extremely special day for me. My parents and Aunty Carol would go to Mandeville to do some final Christmas shopping.

Giving at Christmas
My parents were always giving to the poor and Christmastime was very special! They always gave food and money to the poor in our community.

John Canoe
In Jamaica, Christmas was indeed very special for me. There was John Canoe - this is a band of people who dressed up in a variety of costumes and came out on the streets and danced. People would give them money for their performance. Some children were afraid of them but it was really a lot of fun!

Church on Christmas morning
Going to church on Christmas morning was a happy event for me. Christmas Carols would be sung and, after the service, some of the people from the church would visit homes and sing Christmas Carols.

Christmas Food
Yum! Yum! Yum! Jamaican food is certainly extremely delicious! Leading up to Christmas day, Jamaicans did a lot of preparation of food for Christmas. The following items were generally prepared ahead of Christmas day:

  • Christmas cake - This is certainly a part of the Jamaican Culture! It was made with various dried fruits soaked in wine and Jamaican white rum. You can see my wife's recipe in my next post. My wife is an excellent baker and she also decorates cakes. She has been baking and decorating for years. She now says that she has retired from baking!

  • Sorrel - This is a fruit that turns red at Christmas and is made into a drink. This fruit was grown by a lot of Jamaicans. Most Jamaicans love this drink. The sorrel leaves are picked from the pod, they are put in a large container, along with ginger and boiling water is poured on them. The mixture is then left to steep for about 2 days.

    The sorrel drink is then strained and sweetened with dark sugar. Cinnamon, red wine and some Jamaican rum are then added. This drink takes quite a bit of sugar to become sweetened.

  • Baked Ham – This is a staple on the Jamaican table at Christmas time. We use to cure our own pork leg at Christmastime. After the curing period was complete, the ham was boiled then put in the freezer until the day before Christmas. It was then taken out and baked at 350 degrees F. A meat thermometer was placed in the meatiest of the ham and it was allowed to bake until ‘Cured Pork’ was reached on the thermometer.

    We always used a thermometer when baking our ham since we wanted to ensure that it was properly cooked. After cooking the ham, the skin was taken off and the fat was 'cored' in squares. Pineapple juice and sugar were boiled (together) to make a glaze. This glaze was poured over the ham and it was returned to the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. It was then decorated with pineapple slices, cherries and cloves.

    NOTE: The skin of the pork was not thrown out, it was used as an added in the Jamaican Rice and Peas dish!

P.S..... Look out for my wife's Jamaican Christmas cake recipe in my next post!

'Til next time!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Jamaican Culture - I am a Jamaican

There are some people who seem to believe that I am not a Jamaican. Let me state the following:
  • I am a Jamaican - I was born in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, W.I.
  • My late Grandparents and Parents were Jamaicans.
  • My Parents were both Teachers in Jamaica.
  • I attended school in Jamaica; including high school (Munro College) and college (The College of Arts, Science and Technology - CAST).
  • My wife is a Jamaican. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.
  • I met my wife at college (CAST).
I am as Jamaican as one can be!

The Jamaican Culture is part of my heritage.

As Jamaicans would say: "Mi bawn a JA - Mi a Jamaican!"

Translated - this means: "I was born in Jamaica - I am a Jamaican!"

...."Til next time!"

Spur Tree Hill, Jamaica, W.I. - This is one of the main highways connecting the capital city (Kingston) to Negril (the main tourist attraction town).

The view from this hill is breathtaking!

This is a very steep and winding road which should be traversed with extreme caution.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Jamaican Culture - Our Dictionary

The Jamaican DictionaryThe 'Jamaican Dictionary' consists of words that have been made up by Jamaicans and used by them while conversing with each other.

Even the most intellectual Jamaicans will use the 'Jamaican Dictionary'.

Over the years, words have continuously been added to this 'Dictionary'.

The spelling of some of the words in the 'Jamaican Dictionary' will differ among Jamaicans since there is no real 'correct' spelling of these words! Jamaicans will spell them in whatever way they feel the spelling should be.

I have listed below some of the words from the 'Dictionary' along with their meanings. I will list some more of these words in other posts from time to time.

Please enjoy learning the meaning of these words.... They are a part of 'The Jamaican Culture'!

Babylon:     Policeman
Bandooloo:     Swindle, con
Bangarang:     disturbance
Bashment:     Dance, party, session
Beast:     Policeman
Bly:     Chance
Boasie:     Conceited
Boops:     A man who supports a woman financially but receives nothing in return
Bootoo:     Insignificant person, dumb person
Buck Up:     Meet
Bun:     Cheating on your mate, Act of infidelity
Bredren:     Friend
Bwoy:     Young boy, To belittle someone, expression
Chacka Chacka:     Disorder
Cho:     Expression of impatience or disappointment
Craven:     Greedy (mostly with food)
Criss:     Looks good
Cyaan:     Cannot, Can't
Dawtah:     Girlfriend, Daughter, Woman
Deh:     There
Dem:     Them
Di:     The
Dis:     This
Don:     'King' of a territory
Dread:     It is bad
Duppy:     Ghost
Ease up:     Forgive, give them a chance
Faast:     fast, nosy
Fasty:     Rude
Fit:     Ripe (as in fruits)
Hard:     Good
Inna:     In the
Inna Di Morrows:     Tomorrow
Irie:     It is very good, greeting
Ites:     Greeting
Jah:     God
Jah Know:     The Lord knows
Jam Down:     Jamaica
Jook:     Stick
Ku:     Look
Ku Deh!:     Look there!
Large:     Respected
Lick:     Hit
Little More:     See you
Maas:     Mr.
Madda:     Mother
Mafia:     Criminal, Crooked
Manners:     Discipline
Mash:     Destroy, Step on
Massive:     Respected
Missis:     Used to speak to a woman instead of calling her name
More Time:     See You
Mus Mus:     A mouse
Nyagah:     Black person, Used to degrade someone
Picknie:     A child
Polytricks:     Politics
Ram:     Filled to capacity
Red Eye:     Envious
Rahtid:     Exclamation, Surprise
Rude Bwoy:     Tough guy
Samfi Man:     Trickster, Con man
Screw:     To be angry
Seen:     To understand, To agree
Seen?:     Do you understand?
Sidung:     Sit down
Sing Ting:     Something
Slackness:     Vulgar
Smaddy:     Somebody
So-So:     Weak, Not good
Stoosh:     High class
Su-Su:     Gossip
Topanoris:     A very important person
Trace:     Curse someone
Transport:     Vehicle
Oonoo:     All of you
Up Town: The upper class
Vex:     Get angry
Wah day:     Recently, The other day
Wah Mek?:     Why?
Wanga Gut:     Greedy, Always hungry
Weh:     Where
Wheels:     Vehicle
Wicked:     Bad, Evil, (Also used to mean 'Looking Good')
Winji:     Thin, small
Wutless:     Worthless, No good
Yah So:     Here
Yai:     Eye
Yank:     Pull away
Yard:     Home, homeland
Yeh:     Yes
Yi:     Eye
Youth:     A Young man
Zed:     The Alphabet letter 'Z'

As Jamaicans would say: “Until more time........”!

P.S.:   Remember.... If you are interested in learning about Cheap Computers, you can visit my Cheap Computers' Web site by clicking here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Jamaican Culture - Our People

The Blue Hole -World Famous Attraction- Jamaica, West IndiesJamaicans are a multi-racial group of people. They are mixed from several different cultures. Most of the people are from Africa and are descendants of slaves. They were brought to Jamaica from Africa by the Europeans.

Some of these slaves ran away and became known as 'Maroons'. The Maroons have traditions that they still adhere to. There are various groups; one of them being the Accompong Maroons.

Jamaicans are also descendants from a variety of nations such as Europe and Asia. They are truly a mixed cultural nation with a strong national heritage.

The people from these various nations came to Jamaica for different reasons. Some came by force, some to conquer, some to colonize, while some came for other reasons and stayed. This resulted in the most unusual racial and cultural mixture - The Jamaican people.

The African and Europeans (English, Irish, Scottish, Germans and Spanish) are the main types of dominance in the Jamaican people - the African being the most dominant. The Indians, Chinese, Syrians, Lebanese, Scottish and Jewish are also there.

The Jamaican food, arts and craft, religion, language and tradition are influenced by the different nations that make up their culture.

The Jamaican people are naturally kind, warm, amusing and friendly and they are well loved by people from other countries. They are fun-loving, extremely emotional and love to laugh. The majority of Jamaicans are always willing to assist in times of need.

The Jamaican Patois/Dialect is something to hear! Jamaicans are also known to make up their own words to suit whatever they might be speaking about. This is The Jamaican Culture!

You will learn about the Jamaican Patios/Dialect, Jamaican Proverbs and the Jamaican 'Dictionary' in my future posts. Just make sure that you are somewhere that you will really be able to laugh! Because... you will laugh!

Religion is extremely important to the Jamaican people. It is said that Jamaica has the most churches per square mile in the world. There are large congregations of Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Baptists and Jehovah's Witnesses. There are also the Rastafarian and other religions present in Jamaica.

Jamaicans are very highly partisan and politically polarized. The majority of Jamaicans are political fanatics. Never talk about politics with most Jamaicans unless you are talking good things about the politicians that they support!

Jamaicans are very talented and industrious and they are present in almost every country in the world. Show me a country without a Jamaican!

The Jamaican talent is well known worldwide especially in areas such as sports and music.

The Reggae music is a very strong part of our national culture. Our music has achieved international fame from singers like the late Bob Marley. Other singers such as Shaggy, Melody Makers, Shabba Ranks, Black Uhuru, Sly Dunbar and Robby Shakespeare have won Grammy Awards in the Reggae category.

There are so many other very talented Jamaican singers that are also well known internationally. One of my favorite singers is Beres Hammond. I just love Beres' music!

The Jamaican racial heritage has resulted in Jamaicans referring to each other as 'Miss Chin', 'Syrian', 'Coolie', 'Browning', 'Whitie' and 'Reds'. It's the Jamaican way of making fun of our very mixed racial heritage!

The Jamaican Culture.... The Jamaican People.... Truly... They are as their National Motto says: 'Out of Many, One People'.

The Blue Hole - Jamaica, West Indies:    The above picture shows a world famous attraction situated in the Parish of Portland, Jamaica, W.I. It is also known as the Blue Lagoon. You would have to see this place to believe how beautiful it is! This is where the film "Blue Lagoon" was made.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Jamaican Culture - Our Heritage

Holland Bamboo - Famous Tourist Attraction - Jamaica, W.I.The Jamaican Culture is one that is rich and its people are very friendly.

We have beautiful weather, sumptuous tasting food and our music is excellent!

Obtaining Self Government resulted in the Modern Jamaica and also gave rise to Jamaicans paying closer attention to their cultural heritage.

In 1879, The Institute of Jamaica, was established. It encompasses:

  • The National Gallery of Jamaica (consisting of the national art collection).
  • The African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica.
  • The National Library of Jamaica (consisting of one of the largest collections of West Indian collectibles in the world!).
  • The Youth cultural program.
  • A number of museums.

The Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts is the responsiblity of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture. This college consists of the Jamaica Schools of Art, Music, Dance and Drama and is the only such college known throughout the English speaking Caribbean.

The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission is responsible for all of the cultural activities throughout Jamaica. These activities include training, art competition and exhibitions and lead up to the annual Independence Celebrations.

Folk songs and dance are mostly performed during Jamaica's Independence Celebrations. Their songs, folklore (stories), dances, beliefs, religion, native food and their use of local herbs and 'bush' medicine conveys what the Jamaican Culture is all about.

Many of our Jamaican artists are internationally known. Some of them are the late Edna Manley, wife of one of our National Heroes, the Hon. Norman Washington Manley. She was also the mother of the late Michael Manley, one of the former Prime Ministers in the People's National Party (PNP) Government.

Other very well known artists are Cecil Baugh and Basil Watson. Basil Watson is known for his murals and portraits while Cecil Baugh is known for his work with ceramics and pottery.

Holland Bamboo -Jamaica, West Indies:     Situated in the Parish of St. Elizabeth and is the Parish that I was born! This is a very famous tourist attraction. Tourists come from all over the world to see this! It is the most photographed place in Jamaica.

The History of the Jamaican Culture

This beautiful Caribbean paradise was originally inhabited by the Arawak Indians.

Jamaica is a tropical country and lies 90 miles (150K) south of Cuba and 100 miles (160K) west of Haiti.

It is the largest English speaking West Indian island. The next largest is Trinidad.

It has an area of 11,424 square kilometres (4,411 square miles). Its length from east to west is approximately 243 kilometres (146 miles) and its greatest width is 80 kilometers (51 miles).

Christopher Columbus arrived in Jamaica in 1494 and Jamaica became a Spanish colony from 1509 to 1655.

Queen Isabella (the Spanish Queen) gave Jamaica to Christopher Columbus.

Jamaica was taken over by the British in 1655 and became a British colony for over 300 years.

Plantations were started and there were a number of slave rebellions over the years. The runaway slaves were known as Maroons.

Port Royal (a small city in the Island) became a 'home' for Buccaneers.

Port Royal was the main city in Jamaica and the House of Assembly met there.

In 1692, there was a major earthquake which destroyed Port Royal and thousands of people were killed.

In 1807, the slave trade was banned by Britain but slaves were not freed until 1838.

1944 saw the introduction of the Universal Adult Suffrage which gave 'the right for every adult man and woman to vote in an election
to choose the government of their country'

The late Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey (a Jamaican) was known as the champion of blacks worldwide. He formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Garvey is now one of our National Heroes.

Out of the formation of Trade Unions, political parties were created.

In 1959, Self Government was granted to the Island and, in 1962, Jamaica became an Independent Nation.

The two political leaders during Independence became National Heroes. They are the late Sir Alexander Bustamante then Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Hon. Norman Washington Manley then Leader of the People's National Party (PNP). These two National Heroes were cousins.

The Hon. Edward Seaga was once Prime Minister when the Jamaica Labour Party was the Government. He recently retired from the Jamaican politics after serving for 30 years as the JLP Leader.

The JLP and PNP are still the two major political parties today. The PNP is the present Government of Jamaica with the Hon. P.J. Patterson as Prime Minister.

UPDATE:  The Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller is now the Prime Minister of Jamaica and Hon. Bruce Golding is now the Leader of the Opposition.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Jamaican Culture

Hello and welcome to my blog - 'The Jamaican Culture'.

This blog was created to share information with anyone who would like to learn about the culture of this very beautiful island - Jamaica, W.I.

Visit us often to learn about the different aspects of Jamaica's history, its people, food, music and you will even be able to speak like a Jamaican!

Culture can be defined as how people behave and include their tradition, habits, beliefs and their food. It makes people from one culture behave differently from the people of another culture thereby making each culture unique.

The Jamaican culture is a unique one. It encompasses our Anthem and Pledge, our Religion, our National Awards, our National Heroes, our History, our National Symbols and our Food. My future blogs will post information on each of these items of our culture.

I am a Jamaican and I was born in the parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, West Indies. Both of my late parents were teachers.

Jamaicans who live in Kingston (the Capital of Jamaica) call anywhere outside of Kingston the 'country'. If you do not live in Kingston, you live in the 'country'.

I lived in Jamaica during the era of comedians such as Bim and Bam, Mass Ranny, Miss Lou and Charles Hyatt; music such as Ska, Folk, Calpyso, Rock Steady and Reggae.

I have enjoyed eating food such as ackee and saltfish, curried goat, cornmeal porridge, hominy porridge, fried sprat (a fish), steamed callaloo, gungo peas soup, red peas soup, fried johnny cakes, fried plantains, rice and peas, fricassee chicken, cornmeal dumplings, curried goat, turn cornmeal, pone, potato pudding and stew peas and rice.

I even saw John Canoe (also known as Jonkonnu) parades at Christmas time!

My hobbies are electronics (including building cheap computers), sports (soccer, wrestling and tennis) and cooking (especially Jamaican dishes!).

My wife (Joan) is an excellent baker of wedding cakes, birthday cakes and other desserts. While living in Jamaica, she was well known for her baking especially among her family members. She was called the 'family baker'. She has baked wedding and birthday cakes for most of her nieces, nephews and friends. And... as for her desserts!.... yum! yum! yum!

I own a Web site which has a step-by-step tutorial to build your own cheap computer using cheap computer parts. The URL is

In my future blogs, I will be writing quite a bit about the Jamaican Culture including its history and its people.

You will also learn about the Jamaican 'roots' such as our dialect, food and music.

If there is anything that you would like to know about the Jamaican Culture that you do not see in any of my future postings, please let me know and I will try to respond to the best of my knowledge.

I do hope that you will enjoy my posts and that there will be a lot of interaction between us.

See you soon.... "irie" ... "yeah man!"