Cornmeal Porridge コーンミール・ポリッジ


Speaking of the sustenance which fuels his creative genius, Robert salivated over the delightful treat his taste buds enjoyed when his mother cooked fried chicken with rice and peas for dinner. Like many working class families back in the 1970-80s, fresh meat was quite often more than not, pretty hard to finance and also at times hard to find. In those days, maybe because these were special treats, somehow they seem to have tasted a lot more flavourful. Robert recalls how the main reason why he loved fried chicken much more than any other chicken dishes was the fact that he would get an entire cut of chicken. It was not chopped up or cut into small pieces. At around this time Robert had gone back in time through a time portal. He began reminiscing on the texture and how it felt tearing through the succulent tender juicy flesh of the chicken which was fried in coconut oil which gave it that edge. That said however, there was one dish, the dish which is the one true portal or in the words of Plasma Physicists and String Theorists – the 6th Dimension which connects his Maroon heritage (Ashanti and Taino) with his gastronomic DNA was not fried chicken. It was a much simpler but more symbolic dish which spans the history of the Americas and Africa alike.

As the main source of protein, many families used canned meat and seafood as the main dish. Canned mackerel and sardines were primarily served for breakfast. Canned beef (affectionately called bully beef) was a very versatile staple which could be used for any of the three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The overindulgence in these tasty threats invariably had telling impacts on some people. Robert was one such person. Over time, he could no longer eat canned produce because of health concerns. They simply went against him. He was allergic to foods packed in tin cans. His mom would try her best to ensure there were meat dishes he could eat. This naturally was a huge challenge. 

Many of you may recall this popular line from one of Bob Marley’s songs – No Woman No Cry – … “Then we would cook cornmeal porridge, I say. Of which I’ll share with you.” Now all this talk about Fried chicken with rice and peas was just Robert teasing us. It is true that he loved his Fried chicken with rice and peas but the true plasma physics of food for him was hard core cornmeal porridge. Robert was a cornmeal porridge man through and through. Robert could never get enough and he could never grow tired of it. In fact two days without his cornmeal porridge was like an entire year without sunshine. 

Cornmeal porridge is a very popular Jamaican breakfast staple. I myself still remember waking up in the mornings to the tantalising scent of freshly cooked pot of cornmeal porridge permeating our sensory membrane and all the olfactory receptors in our every being. The magic of this very traditional meal was born out of the perfect marriage union of people the Ashanti and Taino who truly became “Out of Many, One.” One people, one shared staple – maize, one shared dish – one cornmeal porridge.

Cornmeal porridge is a dish which is like none other. It is truly a gift from the heavens. Packed in this one dish is a kaleidoscope of magical flavours. This potpourri of spices such as vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon which are so delicately well-balanced with each complimenting the other perfectly is the perfect start to many Jamaican’s day. It is the fuel that ignites the nation. It is perhaps one of the best kept secrets to the sporting legends have held dear to their hearts. It was also, a staple which Robert could never get enough of. He loved it so much, that his days were happiest when he was served cornmeal porridge morning, noon and night.

To get a true appreciation of the delightful culinary journey a well-prepared bowl of cornmeal porridge takes one’s taste buds on, just close your eyes for a moment and picture going past a cinnamon bun kiosk in a shopping mall with the diffuser pumping out that tantalising scent of freshly baked buns daring you to walk past and not grab one. Even if you are on a weight loss diet, it is irresistible. You must sink our teeth into one. Here in Japan, the same goes for the freshly baked melon bread vans and freshly roasted and brewed coffee. They have that evil power of mind control. The same is true of cornmeal porridge.

Jamaicans back then and now, believe breakfast is simply put – the most important meal of the day. After fasting during our sleep for eight hours each night, the right meal is required to break the fast and get us off on a healthy start to the day. A healthy heart – or should I say, a full tummy – is a healthy mind.

To help put things into their proper perspectives and to ensure you are not misguided that Jamaican breakfast is one dimensional, In Jamaica, there is a wide range of porridges which are eaten at breakfast. The list includes but is not limited to the following savoury porridges such as: banana, plantain, wheat, rice, oatmeal, peanut, and hominy corn to name a few. That said however, for Robert, cornmeal porridge is the perennial favourite with no close rivals. In Robert’s culinary world, all the other porridges and indeed – all other dishes vie for a distant second position.

So what role does cornmeal porridge play in the nutritional needs of Jamaican families? On some mornings, it is the only breakfast dish served hot with a cup of hot Jamaican black mint tea. True heaven. Many times it is an accompaniment to an egg sandwich. An egg sandwich is typically either fried or scrambled eggs with fried ripe plantain, tomato and lettuce with two slices of freshly baked hard dough bread which is often buttered. A more hearty option may be cornmeal porridge as an accompaniment to a meat dish such as liver, canned fish, bully beef, brown stewed chicken or a vegetable dish such as callaloo, cabbage, or ackee and saltfish with either boiled yam, bananas and dumplings or fried dumplings or festivals. All this is usually washed down with a steaming hot large mug or two of black mint tea.

Cornmeal porridge truly made his heart dance. When pressed, Robert let us in on a big secret. He was very discerning as far as his porridge goes. Everything had to be at the right proportion. Additionally, his porridge had to be lump-free. To achieve this, constant stirring or whisking was vitally important. He did not fancy his cornmeal porridge being thin and watery. It needed to be fairly thick. Last but by no means least, the cornmeal grains had to be cooked well until smooth. Even well after growing out of his tin allergy, for Robert, cornmeal porridge rules. 

While drifting down memory lane, Robert could literally get a good lungful whiff of the tantalizing scent of a combination of the Benjamin vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon breaking through the smooth surface tension of the steaming hot cornmeal porridge settled nicely and hugging the sides of the bowl in which it is served to punish his appetite. But no cornmeal porridge for Robert would be complete without the freshly squeezed and finely strained coconut milk. When all this was combined in the correct proportions, Robert was truly in heaven. He felt like a celestial being. Living in Russia and the other countries he had lived for at least a year, cornmeal was not always easy to find. This has resulted in Robert developing a liking for porridges such as peanuts with banana porridge.

Robert and I then got into a debate on the best way to cook cornmeal porridge to prevent lumping. Like me, when you get the chance to visit Jamaica, eat at a Jamaican restaurant, stay with a Jamaican friend or family, or cook it from the recipe he has graciously shared, try and have some cornmeal porridge. I believe my cornmeal porridge is smoother than Roberts.

When I get the chance to see Robert in person, I intend to settle the debate. I will convert him to my cornmeal porridge. Or maybe the truth be told, Robert is going to convert me. Based on his cornmeal porridge recipe’s audio instructions which he graciously shared for this article, I believe his porridge is hard to beat. He takes his cornmeal porridge preparation and cooking seriously. He knows the science behind the molecular structures and how to ensure zero lump formation. One thing is sure, when you think or speak about Jamaica, cornmeal porridge is a must. Oh, how I am salivating over my mother’s cornmeal porridge. I can’t wait to go back to Jamaica. Neither can you. Cornmeal porridge is a must try. So add it to your list of things to eat.

Author and Interviewer: Radcliffe Lennox
Translator: Shiho Owada
Editors: April Lennox and Emma Bell



 ボブ・マーリーの曲「ノー・ウーマン・ノー・クライ」のセリフを思い出す人は多いかもしれません。”コーンミール・ポリッジを作ってそれを君にも分けよう(Then we would cook cornmeal porridge, I say. Of which I’ll share with you.)” フライドチキンとライス&ピーズの話はロバートが私たちをからかっただけでした。彼がフライドチキンを愛していたのは事実です。しかし、彼にとっての食べ物の真のプラズマ物理学は、ハードコアのコーンミール・ポリッジでした。ロバートは、コーンミール・ポリッジが大好きな人でした。ロバートは決して十分と感じることはなかったし、決してそれに飽きることはできませんでした。実際にコーンミール・ポリッジを食べなかった2日間は、太陽の光のない1年のようなものでした。









 ロバートと私は、コーンミール・ポリッジを煮詰めて塊にならないようにするにはどうしたらいいかという議論になりました。私のように、ジャマイカを訪れる機会があったら、ジャマイカのレストランで食事をしたり、ジャマイカ人の友人や家族の家に泊まったり、彼が親切に教えてくれたレシピで料理をしたりして、コーンミール・ポリッジを食べてみてください。私のコーンミール・ポリッジはロバートのよりも滑らかだと思います。 ロバートに直接会う機会があれば議論に決着をつけるつもりです。



著者&インタビュアー:ラドクリフ レノックス
編集者: エイプリル レノックス、エマ ベル

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