May 092014


In Jersey, Liberation Day (Jèrriais: Jour d’la Libéthâtion) is celebrated each year on 9 May, to mark the end of the occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II. It is celebrated as Jersey’s national day. On 9 May 1945, HMS Beagle, which had set out from Plymouth, arrived in Jersey to accept the surrender of the occupying forces. Two naval officers, one of whom was Surgeon Lt Ronald McDonald, were met by the Harbour Master who escorted them to the Harbour Master’s Office where they together hoisted the Union Jack, before also raising it on the flagstaff of the Pomme D’Or Hotel. This has been re-enacted every year on Liberation Day since 1995. From 2003 to 2011 Harbour Master and Jerseyman Captain Howard Le Cornu performed this annually. His father John E. Le Cornu and uncle David M. Le Cornu had been in the crowds and had witnessed the occasion on 9 May 1945.

Since the 50th anniversary of Liberation in 1995, a pattern of official ceremonies has developed based in and around Liberation Square in Saint Helier where the events at the Harbour Master’s Office and Pomme D’Or Hotel occurred in 1945. Following a special sitting of the States of Jersey in the morning, States Members, clergy, the Bailiff of Jersey, the Lieutenant-Governor, Jurats, Crown Officers and other officials process from the Royal Square to Liberation Square accompanied by the Royal Mace and the Bailiff’s Seal. An open air ecumenical service takes place in Liberation Square followed by the singing of “Man Bieau P’tit Jèrri”/”Beautiful Jersey” (in Jèrriais and English) and a re-enactment of the raising of flags (including that at Fort Regent). A parade of vintage and military vehicles, bands and service organizations is reviewed by the official party. An official ceremony also takes place at the Crematorium where there is a memorial to victims and slave workers of various nationalities. Representatives of affected nationalities take part in the commemoration.


Jersey is part of the ancient Duchy of Normandy, and is ruled by the Duke of Normandy—a title held by the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, though unrelated to those duties as king or queen of the UK. The title goes back to the days of William the Conqueror who, as Duke of Normandy, conquered and united England in 1066 (one of those memorable dates if you happen to be English). It lies just off the coast of Normandy in the English Channel. Jersey is a self-governing parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, with its own financial, legal and judicial systems, and the power of self-determination.

The island of Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands. Although the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey are often referred to collectively as the Channel Islands, the “Channel Islands” are not a constitutional or political unit. Jersey has a separate relationship to the British Crown from the other Crown dependencies of Guernsey and the Isle of Man. It is not part of the United Kingdom, and has an international identity separate from that of the UK but the United Kingdom is constitutionally responsible for the defense of Jersey. Jersey is not fully part of the European Union but has a special relationship with it, notably being treated as within the European Community for the purposes of free trade in goods.


Jersey history is influenced by its strategic location between the northern coast of France and the southern coast of England. The island’s recorded history extends over a thousand years. La Cotte de St Brelade is a Palaeolithic site inhabited before rising sea levels transformed Jersey into an island. Jersey was a centre of Neolithic activity, as demonstrated by the concentration of dolmens. Evidence of Bronze Age and early Iron Age settlements can be found in many locations around the island. In June 2012 it was announced that two people with metal detectors had uncovered in Grouville what could be Europe’s largest hoard of Iron Age coins, which may be worth up to £10 M, after a search spanning 30 years. It was reported that the hoard weighed about three quarters of a metric ton and could contain up to 50,000 Roman and Celtic coins. This came after an earlier find of 60 Iron Age coins, in the same area, by the same people. Further archaeological evidence of Roman influence has been found, in particular the coastal headland site at Le Pinacle, Les Landes, where remains of a primitive structure are attributed to Gallo-Roman temple worship.


Jersey was part of Neustria with the same Gallo-Frankish population as the continental mainland. Jersey, the whole Channel Islands and the Cotentin peninsula (probably with the Avranchin) came formerly under the control of the duke of Brittany during the Viking invasions, because the king of the Franks was unable to defend them, however they remained in the archbishopric of Rouen. Jersey was invaded by Vikings in the ninth century, and was eventually annexed to the future Duchy of Normandy, together with the other Channel Islands, Cotentin and Avranchin, by William Longsword, count of Rouen in 933 and it became one of the Norman Islands. When William’s descendant, William the Conqueror, conquered England in 1066, the Duchy of Normandy and the kingdom of England were governed under one monarch. The Dukes of Normandy owned considerable estates in the island, and Norman families living on their estates established many of the historical Norman-French Jersey family names. King John lost all his territories in mainland Normandy in 1204 to King Philip II Augustus, but retained possession of Jersey and the other Channel Islands. The islands have been internally self-governing since then.


Islanders traveled across the North Atlantic to participate in the Newfoundland fisheries in the late 16th century. In recognition for help given to him during his exile in Jersey in the 1640s, Charles II gave George Carteret, bailiff and governor, a large grant of land in the North American colonies in between the Hudson and Delaware rivers which he promptly named New Jersey. Although popularly known for industrial cities, organized crime, and highway congestion, much of New Jersey is agricultural and pastoral land (it’s called the Garden State), and is surprisingly reminiscent of Jersey in places — particularly in the north.


Following the withdrawal of defenses by the British government and German bombardment, Jersey was occupied by German troops between 1940 and 1945. The Channel Islands were the only British soil occupied by German troops in World War II. This period of occupation saw about 8,000 islanders evacuated, 1,200 islanders deported to camps in Germany and over 300 islanders being sentenced to the prison and concentration camps of mainland Europe. 20 died as a result. During this time the Germans constructed many fortifications using Soviet slave labor. The islanders endured near-starvation in the winter of 1944-45, after the Channel Islands had been cut off from German-occupied Europe by Allied forces advancing from the Normandy beachheads, avoided only by the arrival of the Red Cross supply ship Vega in December 1944.


The indigenous language of Jersey is Jèrriais, a dialect of the Norman language that once predominated in all Normandy. It has been in decline over the past century as English has increasingly become the language of education, commerce and administration. There are very few people now who speak Jèrriais as a first language and, owing to the age of the remaining speakers, their numbers decrease annually. Despite this, efforts are being made to keep the language alive.

Although Jèrriais is occasionally misleadingly described as a mixture of Norse and French, it would be more linguistically accurate to say that when the Norse-speaking Normans/Vikings conquered the territory that is now called Normandy they started speaking the langue d’oïl of their new subjects. The Norman language is therefore basically a Romance language with a certain amount of vocabulary of Norse origin, plus later loanwords from other languages. Jèrriais is only partially intelligible to speakers of standard (Parisian) French.

Seafood has traditionally been important to the cuisine of Jersey: mussels, oysters, lobster and crabs – especially spider crabs – ormers, and conger. Cream and butter, from the milk of world famous Jersey cows, are also major ingredients in cooking. Surprisingly, there is no indigenous tradition of cheese making, contrary to the custom of mainland Normandy, but some cheese is produced commercially. Ironically, Jersey fudge is very popular with tourists but is actually imported although it is made with milk from Jersey herds. Jersey Royal potatoes are the local variety of new potato, and the island is famous for its early crop of Chats (small potatoes) from the south-facing côtils (steeply sloping fields). They were originally grown using vraic (seaweed) as a natural fertilizer giving them their own individual taste. Now only a small portion of those grown in the island still use this method.


Apples historically were an important crop. Bourdélots are apple dumplings, but the most typical speciality is black butter (lé nièr beurre), a dark spicy spread prepared from apples, cider, and spices. Cider used to be an important export. After decline and near-disappearance in the late 20th century, apple production is being increased and promoted. Besides cider, apple brandy is produced. Other production of alcohol drinks includes wine, and in 2013 the first commercial vodkas made from Jersey Royal potatoes were marketed. Among other traditional dishes are cabbage loaf, Jersey wonders (les mèrvelles), fliottes, bean crock (les pais au fou), nettle (ortchie) soup, and vraic buns.

Today’s “recipe” is a video of the making of lé nièr beurre on the island. You really cannot make this at home; it is a classic terroir dish – you have to have Jersey apples and Jersey cider. The video also helps show how lé nièr beurre fits within the larger cultural context of life on Jersey.

Nov 062013


On this date in 1844 the Dominican Republic adopted its first constitution. The Dominican Republic is a Spanish-speaking nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that are shared by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba) with an estimated population of 10 million people, one million of which live in the capital city, Santo Domingo.

Taínos have inhabited what is now the Dominican Republic since the 7th century. Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492, and it became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country’s capital and Spain’s first capital in the New World. After three centuries of Spanish rule, with French and Haitian interludes, the country became independent in 1821. The ruler, José Núñez de Cáceres, intended that the Dominican Republic be part of the nation of Gran Colombia, but he was quickly removed by the Haitian government (in part because of slave revolts). Victorious in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, Dominicans experienced mostly internal strife, and also a brief return to Spanish rule, over the next 72 years. The United States occupation of 1916–1924, and a subsequent calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vásquez Lajara, were followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961. The civil war of 1965, the country’s last, was ended by a U.S.-led intervention, and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquín Balaguer, 1966–1978. Since then, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy, and has been led by Leonel Fernández for most of the time after 1996. Danilo Medina, Dominican Republic’s current president, succeeded Fernández in 2012, winning 51% of the electoral vote over his opponent ex-president Hipolito Mejia .

The Dominican Republic has the ninth largest economy in Latin America and the second largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region. Though long known for sugar production, the economy is now dominated by services. The country’s economic progress is exemplified by its advanced telecommunication system. Nevertheless, unemployment, government corruption, and inconsistent electric service remain major Dominican problems. The country also has marked income inequality. International migration affects the Dominican Republic greatly, as it receives and sends large flows of migrants. Haitian immigration and the integration of Dominicans of Haitian descent are major issues. A large Dominican diaspora exists, most of it in the United States. They aid national development because they send billions of dollars to their families, accounting for 10% of the Dominican GNP.

Dominican cuisine is a mix of Spanish, Taíno, and African. The typical cuisine is quite similar to what can be found in other Latin American countries, but many of the names of dishes are different. One breakfast dish consists of eggs and mangú (mashed, boiled plantain), a dish that the Dominican Republic shares with Cuba and Puerto Rico. For heartier versions, mangú is accompanied by deep-fried meat (Dominican salami, typically) and/or cheese. As in Spain and much of Latin America, lunch is generally the largest and most important meal of the day. Lunch usually consists of rice, meat (such as chicken, beef, pork, or fish), beans, and a side portion of salad. La Bandera (“The Flag”) is the most popular lunch dish; it consists of meat, red beans, and white rice. Sancocho is a stew often made with seven varieties of meat. Meals tend to favor meats and starches over dairy products and vegetables. Many dishes are made with sofrito, which is a mix of local herbs used as a wet rub for meats and sautéed to bring out all of a dish’s flavors. Throughout the south-central coast, bulgur, or whole wheat, is a main ingredient in quipes or tipili (bulgur salad).


La Bandera

La Bandera is not really a single dish; it has infinite varieties.  So I’ll give some general ideas.


The rice used is normally a long grain white rice. It is cooked until tender on the inside but dry, loose and not sticky – called arroz graneado. The ratio is usually 1 cup of rice to 1 ½ cups of water. To cook it, all you add to the water is salt and oil.  It is imperative in Dominican cuisine to let the rice slightly burn on the bottom and create a thin coat all around the pan. This outer coat of dry and crispy rice is called concon and it is scraped out of the pan and served at the table as a special favorite.


The beans most commonly used are red beans, but you can see variations using black and white beans as well, or pigeon peas. They are stewed in water, and other elements are included to add flavor and make the consistency thicker. Some of the other items added can be onions, cubanela peppers, celery, tomatoes, plantains, and squash. The seasonings of choice are salt, garlic, and oregano.


The most popular meat is chicken, but you can use other meats such as beef, pork, or goat. The meat must be stewed. The base of the stewed meat is tomatoes and onions. Do not use too much stock in addition. A trick used by Dominicans to give the stew meat a rich brown color is to cook some sugar in the bottom of the pan first until it is caramelized and golden then the meat is added to sear and take the brown color of the caramelized sugar. You should cook the meat until the sauce is thick and provides a coating, rather than watery.

On the side

A simple side salad is expected. Fried plantains are common as well.


Aug 052013



Today is Independence Day in Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso, also known by its short-form name, Burkina, is a landlocked country in West Africa. Its capital is Ouagadougou. Formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was renamed “Burkina Faso” on 4 August (eve of Independence Day) 1984 by then-President Thomas Sankara, using a word from each of the country’s two major native languages, Mòoré and Dioula.  “Burkina”, from Mòoré, may be translated as “people of integrity”, while “Faso” means “fatherland” in Dioula. “Burkino Faso” is thus meant to be understood as “Land of upright people” or “Land of honest people.” Inhabitants of Burkina Faso are known as Burkinabè

The territory of today’s Burkina Faso was peopled originally (some time between 14,000 and 5000 BCE), by hunter-gatherers in the northwestern part of the country, whose tools, such as scrapers, chisels and arrowheads, were discovered in 1973 by Simran Nijjar. Farming settlements  appeared between 3600 and 2600 BCE. On the basis of traces of the farmers’ structures, the settlements appear to have been permanent. The use of iron, ceramics and polished stone developed between 1500 and 1000 BCE, as did a preoccupation with spiritual matters, as shown by burial remains.

Relics of the Dogon people are found in Burkina Faso’s north and northwest regions. Some time between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Dogon left the area to settle in the cliffs of Bandiagara (now in Mali). Elsewhere, the remains of high walls are localized in the southwest of Burkina Faso (as well as in the Côte d’Ivoire), but the people who built them have not yet been identified. Loropeni is a pre-European stone ruin which has been linked to the gold trade. It has been declared as Burkina Faso’s first World Heritage site.

Dogon in Mali

Dogon in Mali

The central region of Burkina Faso included a number of Mossi kingdoms, the most powerful of which were those of Wagadogo (Ouagadougou) and Yatenga. These kingdoms emerged probably in the early sixteenth century from obscure origins veiled in legend featuring a heterogeneous set of warrior heroes.

Mossi town

Mossi town

After a decade of intense rivalry and competition between the British and the French, waged through treaty-making expeditions under military or civilian explorers, French colonial forces defeated the Mossi kingdom of Ouagadougou which became a French protectorate in 1896. The eastern region and the western region, where a standoff against the forces of the powerful ruler Samori Ture complicated the situation, came under French occupation in 1897. By 1898, the bulk of the territory corresponding to Burkina Faso today was nominally conquered; however, control of many parts remained uncertain.

The French and British convention of 14 June 1898 ended the scramble between the two colonial powers and drew the borders between the countries’ colonies. On the French side, a war of conquest against local communities and political powers continued for about five years. In 1904, the largely pacified territories of the Volta basin were integrated into the Upper Senegal and Niger colony of French West Africa as part of the reorganization of the French West African colonial empire. The colony had its capital in Bamako.

Draftees from the territory participated in the European fronts of World War I in the battalions of the Senegalese Rifles. Between 1915 and 1916, the districts in the western part of what is now Burkina Faso and the bordering eastern fringe of Mali became the stage of one of the most important armed oppositions to colonial government, known as the Volta-Bani War. The French government finally suppressed the movement, but only after suffering defeats and being forced to gather the largest expeditionary force of its colonial history up to that point. Armed opposition also wracked the Sahelian north when the Tuareg and allied groups of the Dori region ended their truce with the government.

French Upper Volta was established on 1 March 1919. This move was a result of French fears of the recurrence of armed uprising along with economic considerations, and to bolster its administration, the colonial government separated the present territory of Burkina Faso from Upper Senegal and Niger. The new colony was named Haute Volta and François Charles Alexis Édouard Hesling became its first governor. Hesling initiated an ambitious road-making program and promoted the growth of cotton for export. The cotton policy – based on coercion – failed, and revenue stagnated. The colony was later dismantled on 5 September 1932, being split up between Côte d’Ivoire, French Sudan, and Niger. Côte d’Ivoire received the largest share, which contained most of the population as well as the cities of Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.


The decision to split the colony was reversed during the intense anti-colonial agitation that followed the end of World War II. On 4 September 1947 the colony was revived as a part of the French Union, with its previous boundaries. On 11 December 1958 it achieved self-government and became the Republic of Upper Volta. Full independence from France was granted on 5 August 1960.

burkina3  burkina1

If you take nothing else from this rather bald recitation of the facts, it should be abundantly evident that colonialism in all its forms was, and is, a great blight. What we should celebrate today, therefore, is the ability of the people of Burkina Faso to resist oppression without ceasing, and to emerge as a nation with a distinctive and compelling voice.

Literature in Burkina Faso is based on the oral tradition, which remains important. In 1934, during French occupation, Dim-Dolobsom Ouedraogo published his Maximes, pensées et devinettes mossi (Maxims, Thoughts and Riddles of the Mossi), a record of the oral history of the Mossi people. The oral tradition continued to have an influence on Burkinabè writers in the post-independence Burkina Faso of the 1960s, such as Nazi Boni and Roger Nikiema. The 1960s saw a growth in the number of playwrights being published.  Since the 1970s, literature has blossomed in Burkina Faso with many more writers being published, although few are known outside of Africa. Noted writers of recent times include novelist and journalist Norbert Zongo (The Parachute Drop), poet Angèle Bassolé-Ouédraogo (Avec tes mots), and Titinga Frédéric Pacéré (pictured), lawyer, writer, poet and griot (storyteller), author of over 60 published volumes and winner in 1982 of the 1982 Grand Prix Littéraire d’Afrique Noire for two of his works, Poèmes pour l’Angola (1982) and La Poésie des griots (1982). Since the 1980’s a significant number of women novelists and poets has emerged: Pierrette Sandra Kanzié, Bernadette Dao, Gaël Koné, Monique Ilboudo, Suzy Henrique Nikiéma, Sarah Bouyain and Adiza Sanoussi.


The theatre of Burkina Faso combines traditional Burkinabè performance with the colonial influences and post-colonial efforts to educate rural people to produce a distinctive national theatre. Traditional ritual ceremonies of the many ethnic groups in Burkina Faso have long involved dancing with masks. Western-style theatre became common during colonial times, heavily influenced by French theatre. With independence came a new style of theatre blending old and new, and aimed at educating and entertaining Burkina Faso’s rural people.

The cuisine of Burkina Faso, is similar to the cuisines in many parts of West Africa, and is based on the staples, sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, beans, yams and okra. Grilled meat is common, particularly mutton, goat, beef, chicken, and fish. Poulet bicyclette (bicycle chicken) is common throughout the region, named for chicken sellers who at one time carried enormous numbers of chickens to market on bicycles, but now use motorbikes.  Poulet bicyclette is a simple dish of chicken pieces marinated in lemon juice for 24 hours to tenderize them before grilling.


Here is another favorite of mine, riz gras (fat rice), which can be made with any meat.  Mutton is common, but I have never found it in the West. Lamb works as a substitute although it does not have the richness of mutton. Maggi seasoning is the common broth cube used in West Africa.  It can be found online, or you can substitute chicken bouillon cubes.

Riz Gras (Fat Rice)


1 ½ lb (750g) lamb cubed
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
½  cabbage, shredded
6 carrots, scraped and chopped
12 oz (350g) rice
1 Maggi chicken cube
2 tbsp tomato purée
salt and powdered garlic to taste
vegetable oil, for frying


Wash the rice well, drain in a colander and set aside.

Heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a large cooking pot over high heat.

Add the onions and lamb, and brown.

Add 4 cups (1 liter) of water, the Maggi cube, and the tomato purée. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, or until the meat is tender.

Check the amount of broth in the pot. Add or subtract liquid to make 3 cups (750 ml).

Add the tomato pieces, carrot, cabbage, and rice.  Bring back to the boil, and simmer covered for about 25 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.

Stir to distribute the ingredients and serve garnished with fresh onion rings.

Serves 6