As we take a stroll down the busy streets of Calidonia here in downtown Panama City, I cannot help but remember how it was at one time in our country’s history when the Westindian presence more strongly flavored our National Character. Especially during Christmas, you can sense and appreciate the contribution our English and French speaking Antillean ancestors have left for us all to enjoy.
There is music, especially Reggae and salsa music, and all of its different expressions in the air. You can find scores of vendors, even piratas along the main drag selling there offerings of CD’s and DVD’s and I have spied many a Bob Marley album amongst their collections. If you’re lucky, you can find a couple of guys who go around selling the old time Panamanian Calypsonians and get a CD for $1 or $2.
Along with the Reggaetoneros you can also pick up many Westindian descendants speaking their brand of Panamnian patois, Wari-Wari, as they refere to it here and also the language of the Kuna Indians who now spek their native tongue freely. These are the things that make my heart glad to be in Panama particularly during this holiday season.
Food vendors in Calidonia, especially near the little market and in the multifamiliares offer one of Panama’s favorites, Souse, that pickled pig feet dish that is a year round must for things to feel just like home. But the Westindian Bun, which originally started out as Easter Hot Cross Bun, has become an absolutely crucial part of the Christmas and New Year table and, alongside the Rosca, it is probably the fastest selling item in all the bakeries of Panama. For this year’s Christmas recipe I’ve selected a basic Bun recipe and, of course, it is more generic in nature as you must add your own ingredients to make it your own personal expression.
Merry Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year from all of us at the Silver People Chronicle!
Christmas Bun or “Bon” -Panamanian Westindian Style
*Note: In baking yeast bread or rolls of this type, temperature is everything; warmth is crucial in rising your bread dough.
Ingredients for 6 healthy sized buns:
2 ounces of dry yeast ½ lb or more chopped glazed or dried fruit
1½ tspn salt
8 lbs flour ½ lb raisins
1 sugar cake (dulce raspadura); you can substitute molasses
½ pound of shortening
2 ounces vanilla 2 tspns cinnamon
Dissolve the yeast in a cup of slightly warmed water and in separate bowl dissolve the raspadura and blend it in with the dissolved yeast. Within a few seconds the yeast and sugar mixture will begin to froth up; add the vanilla and a pound of flour and blend well. Allow this “sponge” of flour and yeast to set for 20 minutes in a slightly warmed oven out of the way of drafts. Add the rest of the blended flour, salt, cinnamon and shortening, kneading with your hands. Fold in the fruits and blend well. Divide this large mass of dough into six pieces, roll into balls and place in greased molds. Allow to rise in warm, draftless area until about double in size. Place a bit of worked regular white flour dough in the shape of a cross on top of each bun. If you like a shiny top, brush with diluted egg white. Bake in 350º oven for about 20-30 minutes. Serve with a slice of yellow or white cheese, preferably queso prensado. Enjoy!