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Raising the bar: a toast to mums

Written by Jim Wrigley, beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

My dear mum in the United Kingdom got her cards, flowers, bubbles and chocolates on 14 March this year, whereas my Aussie mother-in-law will be expecting a call from us on 9 May, as will most mums in the world, including those in the Cayman Islands.

Following some barstool-based pontification on the reasons for the chronological disparity, it turns out that Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday as it is sometimes known in the U.K., has interesting and quite different origin stories.

In the United States, the story begins in the mid-1800s with Ann Jarvis, who on observing the prevalence of childhood disease and epidemics, created Mother’s Day Work Clubs for her local community to increase education and improve conditions for mothers, their children and the infirm. Her work continued through the American Civil War, providing care to soldiers and their families. She passed away on 9 May, 1905.

In 1908, her daughter Anna Jarvis went further than simply a memorial for the anniversary of her mother’s passing, and instead promoted the first official observance of Mother’s Day on 10 May. By 1914, the second Sunday of May officially became the national observance of Mother's Day in the United States.

The story is different in the U.K., where Mothering Sunday has roots that date back to medieval times. From the 8th century A.D., the fourth Sunday in Lent was Mothering Sunday, where people would travel back to their mother churches — in their hometowns where they were baptised — and therefore to their mothers for a break in Lenten fasting, and to spend time with family.

After this practice fell out of favour, it was the instigation of Anna Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in the U.S. that led Constance Penswick Smith to promote the revival of Mothering Sunday in the U.K. starting in 1913, which eventually resulted in the modern celebration and associated date.

You would have thought that more than a thousand years of special days for mums must have been worthy of a special drink, but apparently not. Although numerous concoctions are created for special occasions every year, there seems to be no specific beverage to celebrate mothers; but I have an idea.

Dubonnet is a French herbal wine-based aperitif with a touch of bitter quinine. Rarely seen outside of France, it was reportedly part of a daily tipple of a famous and well-loved mother — The Queen Mum.

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon liked to sip her Dubonnet mixed 2 parts with 1 part gin, over ice and with a slice of lemon. Apparently, she imbibed this daily at noon without fail.

The "Queen Mother," as the drink is often called, seems as good as any for a Mother's Day beverage — at least in places where you can find Dubonnet.

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This article appears in print in the May 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times

 

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Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo — which means the "fifth of May" in English — is a Mexican celebration held annually, primarily in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla — The Day of the Battle of Puebla.

Despite often being confused with Mexican Independence Day, which is actually the 16th of September, the date commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on 5 May, 1862. In that famous battle, 4,000 Mexicans defeated a much better-equipped French army of 8,000 soldiers that had not been defeated for almost 50 years.

Although Mexico eventually lost the war to France, the victory boosted the morale of both the Mexican army and the Mexican people in general as it helped establish a much-needed sense of national unity and patriotism.

Ironically, Cinco de Mayo is not a national holiday in Mexico, but in the United States, it has become a fiesta for which beer sales eclipse both the Super Bowl and St. Patrick’s Day.

Here in the Cayman Islands, it is celebrated with an air guitar tournament as well as with Mexican food and drink.

So what exactly should you be drinking and eating as you celebrate General Zaragoza’s underdog victory nearly 160 years ago?

Well, you can avoid the Tex-Mex favourites of Taco Bell and its brethren for a start. Puebla is renowned for its traditional Mexican cuisine, and if you were there on Cinco de Mayo, you would find delights such as mole poblano, a sauce served over meats made from chilli peppers, cacao and numerous other ingredients, with family recipes often secretively passed down from generation to generation.

Chalupas, a local street-food sibling of the tostadas, are also a great antijito, which means “little craving." They are thick, fried tortillas with salsa, meats, onion and cheese.

And to drink? Well, tequila will be evident at any Mexican party.

Tequila is made by law only in certain parts of Mexico from the blue agave plant, which can take up to 10 years to grow before it’s ready for harvesting, cooking, fermenting and then distilling into tequila.

Despite the trend in the U.S. for barrel-aged tequila like añejo or extra añejo, most aficionados tend to appreciate the agave flavours in the blanco (unaged or aged under two months) or reposado, which is aged less than a year.

When drinking 100% blue agave tequila — which is really a must — before you reach for the lime and salt, it’s important to know that tequila is meant to be sipped, not shot. The Battle of Puebla may have been won with many shots, but Cinco de Mayo is best celebrated without a single shot!

Jim Wrigley is the beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

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This article appears in print in the April 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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Chef Massimo's Kitchen: Spring means asparagus

Throughout my childhood, springtime brought the opportunity to get out of the city and back into the woods, lakes and rivers in search of perfect fishing spots. Inevitably, this would mean a very long drive, followed by a very long walk through a forest to scout an area that I hadn’t yet discovered the previous fishing season.

Finding these special hidden places also brought the opportunity to forage from the spring vegetation that was rising out of the soil. My dad was well versed in what to eat — and what not to eat — from the woods. Eating berries and mushrooms from deep in the forest with my dad is one of my favourite childhood memories.

My preferred wild vegetable is asparagus as it is easy to find and collect. It takes very little to enhance its flavour, so the preparation is best kept simple. After washing and cutting the ends of the stalks, I boil, grill, roast, sauté or fry them, then finish the dish with olive oil, seasoning butter or a sauce.

We might not be able to find wild asparagus on Grand Cayman, but springtime brings bountiful cultivated asparagus to our shores, often at reduced prices.

Store-bought asparagus is versatile and can be prepared simply like wild asparagus, but it can also hold up to bolder ingredients such as garlic, mustard, red wine vinegar and olives.

Here is one of my favourite asparagus recipes:

CHILLED GREEN ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH CRAB AND AVOCADO SALAD

(Feeds four)

1 pound green asparagus, ends snapped or cut off and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for finishing the dish
10 fresh basil leaves
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
1.5 quarts water
½ pound baby spinach
1 sprig fresh tarragon (leaves only)
1 lemon, juiced
1 pound pasteurised crab meat
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 avocado, diced
1 lime, juiced
Smoked paprika

For the soup

  • In a medium pot, add olive oil, shallots and chopped asparagus — sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk and 1.5 quarts of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Take off heat and add spinach, basil and tarragon. Let cool a bit.
  • Pour soup into a blender in stages and blend until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, then place in refrigerator to chill.

For the salad

  • In a small bowl add crab meat, mayonnaise, granulated garlic, Tabasco sauce and lime juice and mix well.
  • Add diced avocado and fold in gently.

Arrange the dish

Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the crab and avocado salad on one side of the bowl. On the other side of the same bowl, pour the chilled avocado soup. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and drizzle with olive oil.

Massimo de Francesca is the executive chef at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

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This article appears in print in the April 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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Secrets of the spa: Benefits of organic skincare products

Did you know that even if your skincare product is labelled organic, it doesn’t mean that all the ingredients in the bottle are organic?

The United States Department of Agriculture regulates only food ingredients found in your skincare products. This means that essential oils and other non-food ingredients are not regulated. Products that contain at least 95% organic food ingredients can bear the USDA Organic logo. Products that contain 75%-94% organic ingredients can be labelled “made with organic ingredients,” but cannot display the logo.

The term "organic" refers to product ingredients grown without pesticides, chemicals or artificial fertilisers. However, "organic” doesn’t necessarily mean the product is cleaner or safer than other skincare products. To get the most benefit for your skin, take some time to read the label and research the company and their ingredient sourcing and production methods to find out exactly what you are investing in.

When reading the label on a skincare product, the following are three ingredients you should avoid:

  • Parabens — This is a preservative mostly found in sunscreens and moisturisers. Parabens aren’t good for our skin as they can cause free-radical damage, which contributes to premature ageing.
  • Sulfates — The most common sulfate found in personal care products is sodium laureth sulfate. This sulfate creates foam or lather in products like cleansers, shampoos and bubble bath. Unfortunately, they tend to strip natural oils, causing your skin to become dry.
  • Phthalates — Commonly used in cosmetics and fragrances, phthalates are linked to endocrine system disruption and have even been banned from skincare products in some countries.

Ingredients in your skincare products will ultimately seep into your bloodstream and some can harm your body. Most organic skincare products are not only better for your skin, they're also better for the environment. Chemicals from synthetic products make their way into our water systems and have the potential to harm animals and plants. The processes associated with manufacturing synthetic products can also put a great deal of stress on the environment.

Organic products are filled with familiar-sounding ingredients such as jojoba oil, avocado oil, shea butter, pomegranate extract, aloe vera, etc. These ingredients contain vitamins and compounds such as vitamin C, resveratrol and AHAs — alpha-hydroxy acids — all of which have benefits for the skin.

At The Spa at Seafire, we believe in nourishing our guests with organic skincare products, which not only benefits the user but also supports our environment.

Anneka Greenway is the manager at The Spa at Seafire at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

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This article appears in print in the April 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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Raising the bar: Floral flavours for Spring

Spring is sprung. Or at least, so those in more temperate climes advise me. I received my first daffodils in mid-February via the modern medium of WhatsApp, and thoughts of floral drinks “sprang” to mind.

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