To my regular readers, I start this week by offering a humble apology. I had "holiday brain" last week; we had just returned from Jamaica and I was still reminiscing about the sun, the sand and the rum punch so I completely forgot to send in my column. A week later, but still with great hope that you will share in my bliss, here are my thoughts on the benefit of a warm winter holiday... even if you have to imagine it.
We enjoyed ten incredible days in Jamaica, half of them in Negril and the other half in Montego Bay. I will admit, this was not our usual holiday involving the exploration of the culture and history and of course much local food. We had missed our vacation last year and this was a trip we planned to make for our honeymoon so we stuck to that plan (or lack of it) - to have an utterly relaxing, laid back holiday with no plans except to enjoy the moments as they came.
I took a book to read, and ended up only reading it on the plane. I took the camera, and my iPhone, so that I could post photos on Facebook for friends. That didn't happen until we got home. I took a journal to do some writing. Yah, well, we know how that turned out... but we met lots of wonderful people from all over and had beautiful walks on the beach and went scuba diving and snorkeling and watersliding. I didn't feel bad about missing any of my planned activities. I laughed and shared stories and toasted the good health of all my loved ones back home in the frozen North.
As it turned out, we still did get to try out local delicacies like curried goat and Jamaican patties. Martin chatted with the cooks about the finer points of jerk marinade versus jerk sauce, and just how to butcher a goat. Of course the rum punch quickly became a popular beverage, although we did try many other concoctions created by the expert bartenders at the beach bars. There were Hummingbirds, and Tangos, and Purple Rain and Yellow Birds... sometimes we just said, "We'll have what they're having" as an interesting mix of ingredients went into the blender. Our research wasn't documented, but it was detailed:)
We came home from this vacation still on cloud nine, holding onto that feeling of euphoria as best we could. We hosted friends for dinner on the weekend, giving them a rum punch as they walked through the door and making curried lamb (goats aren't as common here as they are in Jamaica). We have vowed to return next year and allow ourselves to escape into that bliss again. I highly recommend it.
I want to make a note for those who won't be heading south before our own heat returns, though. I have been thwarted in the past in efforts to break the winter doldrums, and so I want to share with you a few recipes that can help lift that funk and let you feel the warm blanket of euphoria surround you, if only for a few moments. I hope these suggestions will help you to survive the winter and encourage you to plan a holiday where you feel spoiled.
For dessert on Sunday, I created a variation on the old-fashioned Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It's a great comfort dessert, but you can add a Caribbean twist by putting coconut milk and shredded coconut in the batter. Serve it with warm rum caramel sauce and you can almost feel the sand between your toes!
Another place I have always wanted to visit is Morocco, and this recipe for Chicken with Cinnamon & Dates makes me think of the aromatic spices so common there. Can't you imagine eating this in a large desert tent, with the camels parked outside?
Years ago, after having to work instead of taking an impulsive trip to Mexico, I adapted this cookie recipe to ease my sorrows. Grab a travel magazine and make yourself a cup of tea. Curl up with a few Tropical Delight Cookies and wash your blues away.