This is a tribute to the Jamaican bobsled team. Who would think that residents of a tropical island with nothing resembling snow, ever, could make it to the Winter Olympics on a bobsled?
Just as incongruous, who would think of putting beer in ice cream? I don't even like beer.
But once I tasted Guinness Stout ice cream in Jamaica, I was sold. Maybe colonization wasn't all bad.
I was just out of college, and was enjoying the biggest perk of my otherwise nearly volunteer-waged job as a tropical health research assistant-- a chance to meet up with researchers from around the world in Jamaica. This was not the Jamaica that Americans know and love-- no beach, no umbrella drinks. (Although I did go to the Bob Marley museum.) No, alas, I was sent to work, and so I was in Kingston, home of the University of the West Indies. Kingston, the capital, is where most of the goings on happen in Jamaica, and is as "real" as the all-inclusive resorts are not. It was the first time I saw with my own eyes how tremendous a disparity existed between the middle class/rich and the poor (most people) in Jamaica. The research leader there was herself a British import, married to a local, and had been there for decades. Still, despite the Professor's years of living far from England, she was as proper as the Queen. Proper as she was, she admonished all of us visitors, but especially me, the youngest of the research team, to be careful where we went.
"Whatever you do, do not go out with the locals."
Of course, I wanted to explore, and I wanted to see what the "real" Jamaica was. Not a fool, either, I would never have gone out alone. I saw nothing wrong with going out in a group, with a colleague from Pakistan and another from Ghana, to hear music in a local club with one of the young employees from the hotel where we were all staying. There was nothing very memorable about the evening or the club, neither good nor bad. I don't recall the music. What I do remember is what happened when the Professor heard about our adventure the next morning.
"You stupid girl!" she said, as she slapped my hand. "You could have been killed."
She was probably right; Kingston's crime is well known. And I need not have ventured out as we had, against the rules, to see the real Jamaica. As part of the research team, we were brought in official government vehicles to the study sites, which were high up in the hills above Kingston. I still remember the schoolchildren we saw. They were so curious about all of us, looking like a UN delegation: the Briton, the Asian American, the Pakistani, and the Ghanaian. They touched my hair, and called me "Miss Whitey," which is hysterical if you've seen me. Definitely the only time I have been called that, before or since.
After she calmed down, and after I had proven my worth in the conference, the Professor decided that I needed to see another side of Jamaica. No, alas, still not the beaches. Of course, the real Jamaica she shared with me was the British influenced side. She took me to a lovely local restaurant built in plantation style to eat saltfish and ackee. Guinness stout ice cream was the dessert. I was surprised to find that I loved its caramel tone and nutty, molassesy flavor. Like the food of my husband's native Trinidad, also a former British colony in the Caribbean, this menu represented true fusion cuisine: local ingredients adapted into British style cooking, and British flavors integrated into local standards.
While the Jamaican bobsled team didn't qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, there's always the next Olympics. So, for the Jamaican bobsled team and all of the other intrepid athletes from tropical countries forging a path to the Winter Olympics, here's a pint of Guinness... ice cream.
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Guinness Stout Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart.
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Guinness stout
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons molasses
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a boil over medium heat, then take off heat.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the stout and molasses. Bring to a boil and turn off heat.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk in a few tablespoons of the hot cream mixture, then slowly whisk in another 1/4 cup of the cream. Add the remaining cream in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
4. Stir the beer mixture into the cream mixture. Cook the custard over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 6 to 8 minutes or until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.
5. Strain the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
6. Process the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
7. Serve and enjoy, with some reggae or dancehall playing to set the mood, and a paper umbrella, if you must.
Adapted from ''Sunday Suppers at Lucques, " in The Boston Globe, January 18, 2006 .
© Linda Shiue, 2010