Thursday, August 30, 2007


By Natasha G. Samuels

Hands down, the very best oxtails I have ever tasted came from my mother’s kitchen.
Oxtail is the bony gelatinous meat part that is from the tail of a cow and not the tail of an Ox as most believe. It is quite popular in the Caribbean and is a traditional dish in the American South and China.

If the oxtails is coming from the hands of an inexperienced chef, pray that you wont be served a tasteless batch of bones that has been drenched in browning and finished off in a pressure cooker.

While the dish has certainly become popular in our local Caribbean restaurants, the dishes are obviously hurried and for those of us who are in the know, know that oxtails is not a hurry come up dish to prepare.

Because of the long prep time, it was a weekend dish in my child hood home. The long prep time started on Friday nights when my Mom would season the meat allowing the season to “soak” until Sunday morning when she got up, threw a Jimmy Swaggart record on the turntable and began the long process of cooking the meat.

The smell of the meat would nudge me out of my Sunday morning slumber and I would lie in bed listening to the clanging of the metal spoon scraping against the side of the dutch pot as my Mom turned the searing meat which sealed in the flavor of the dry seasoning.

I don’t remember her using browning to stain the meat or a pressure cooker to hurry the meat along. Instead, once the meat had reached its natural brown, she would add boiling water to the batch and allow it to boil the meat until it dried out to the point where the sizzling searing sound would ring through the kitchen. More water was boiled (she never used cold water or warm tap water) and the process was repeated for several hours until eventually the meat started to fall off the bones.

At this point, after tasting the gravy, she would adjust the dry seasoning and add in onion, garlic, scallion and spinner dumplings. My step father and I would wait in anticipation for the addition of the butter beans and string beans which signaled to us that the stew was ready.

We would then be invited to the table, our stomachs roaring loudly, almost in chorus, in anticipation of the meal. Stinginess with food is a sin in my family and as a result, our plates were heaped with oxtails and rice drenched in oxtail gravy. This was a meal eaten in silence and the only sounds that could be heard from the table along with the clinging of the silverware against the plate was the ravenous wolfing down of the oxtails followed by the sucking sounds as we tried to get every last drop of the meat and gravy from off of the bones.

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