the nunchi download
A TASTE OF HOME
BY MICHELLE WILLIAMS
February 14, 2023
My mother was the first of her siblings born here in the US. Her parents and their growing family emmigrated from Grenada, by way of Aruba, to the incredible enclave of diasporic Caribbean culture: Brooklyn, New York. An abundance of rich music, history, food from dozens of countries across the West Indies, right at their fingertips.
Fast-forward a few decades, and that connection to culture starts to look slightly different. We love to celebrate our generational strides in education, employment, and entrepreneurship, but that label of being our ancestors’ wildest dreams often comes at the price of moving away from these culture-rich communities.
The historical knowledge of our individual countries was condensed to the monolithic umbrella of the ‘West Indies’, with little to no representation in the American education system beyond the even broader label of ‘African Diaspora.’ The full-day prepared home cooked meals that were once a daily occurrence became specialty meals when we’re home for the holidays. Even the plethora of family recipes themselves have started to fade over generations (and I use the word ‘recipes’ loosely, knowing damn well that the only items in the kitchen that went unused were measuring tools).
It was that last piece that affected me most recently. We were hosting a nunchi launch party for our Made In New York collection, an homage to the cultures and communities that raised us. We wanted every piece of the event to tell part of that story, right down to the drink menu. There was one item I knew we needed to have - my late grandma’s famous rum punch. My mother, for weeks, tried to figure out who had the recipe. While we’ve had rum punch at various family functions over the years since my grandma’s passing, no one my mother spoke with wanted to be compared to hers. “Cousin Willian’s rum punch?! Oh no, no, mine is nowhere near as good as hers. Maybe ask (insert the next relative here).” This was the recurring response she got. So after speaking with over 10 different people, we decided to try and make it ourselves. I can confirm that while it was certainly tasty, it was, undoubtedly, nowhere near as good as hers.
That experience, and the realization that such a core piece of my upbringing would be forever lost, deeply affected me. But instead of thinking of the memories lost, it inspired me to embark on a newfound journey instead; connecting with elders to learn family recipes, and encouraging my friends to do the same.
My first endeavor (and one that is still in progress) is to learn the perfect recipe for my favorite drink: sorrel. If you think you’re unfamiliar with this tart/sweet hibiscus beverage, chances are that you’ve tried some iteration of it around the world…agua de Jamaica, jugo de Jamaica, or rosa de Jamaica in much of Latin America; bissap in Senegal; sobolo in Ghana; zobo in Nigeria; the list goes on.
The best part about sorrel is the unique twist each family member I’ve connected with puts on their ingredients and preparation methods. With or without orange peel, steep overnight or just a few hours, the variations are seemingly endless.
Each version linking to a different lineage in our family, country, culture.
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