Dec. 20, 2008 — Food was the cultural tie that binds and was showcased in Christiansted Saturday with an old-time traditional food fair in honor of the late legendary St. Croix pastry and candy cook Christophina "Miss Christo" Hansen.
Hansen's daughter Enid Ebbesen and granddaughter, Commissioner of Health Vivian Ebbesen-Fludd, joined Gov. John deJongh Jr. in cutting the ribbon to the market food fair and deJongh presented Ebbesen with a plaque honoring Hansen. Then the crowd lined up to buy cakes, tarts, candies, kallaloo, stew goat, rice and peas, macaroni, local drinks like sorrel, guavaberry, tamarind, peanut punch and more, while Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights crooned old-time favorites and mocko jumbies danced with the St. Croix Heritage Dancers.
Laverne E. Bates and her mother, Wilma Abramson, served up slice after slice of fresh-baked Vienna cake, with brightly colored lines of homemade jam between the fluffy layers of cake smothered in white icing.
The most popular item, they could barely cut the cakes fast enough. They had homemade black cake too.
"The black cake has minced fruit and raisins, soaked in rum, along with spices, nuts and raisins," Abramson explained, while loading two twists of homemade lozenge into a paper bag for a customer. Lozenge is a local, crisp stick of taffy, usually flavored with peppermint. She had fresh homemade guavaberry pies, coconut, lemon, pineapple, guava and guavaberry tarts, piles of lozenges, sugar cakes and dunderslaw; homemade peanut brittle disks, with peanuts encased in thick, hard layer of amber sugar and bottles of homemade guavaberry rum.
Bates bakes year round, making cakes for weddings, christenings and special events.
Arlene Penn, another vendor, had dunderslaw, butter cookies, cakes, and more as well.
"Everything we have here is from local tradition," Penn said.
Corinne Milligan and Andrea Carino had a full array of Caribbean and Crucian specialties, from stew goat to macaroni and cheese, filling up plate after steaming plate. Edwin Thomas was there with his prize winning pork kallaloo — and his delicious seafood kallaloo — spooning fist-sized dollops of yellow cornmeal fungi into huge cups then ladling the dark green savory kallaloo on top.
Half a dozen more vendors served up similar traditional fare as the crowed milled and wandered, looking over tents and tables of souvenirs, homemade jewelry, Obama tee shirts and local art.
"Miss Christo" Hansen, the day's honoree, was a great self-taught baker, candy maker, cook and crafts person.
"She was a true entrepreneur," Ebbesen-Fludd said during the opening ceremonies. "She is in our hearts. She raised her nine children to be talented, hard-working individuals. Food was her. The culture was her. Selling tarts and sweets was her specialty. She started baking Friday and was there at the market Saturday mornings. If she ran out of whatever you needed, she would make it for you to have the next day."
Miss Christo would always give away her last plate of food to some deserving soul, Ebbesen-Fludd said. Born on May 27, 1909, to Amelia Thomas Edwards and Joseph Hendricks, in Christiansted, she was the youngest of four children. She attended the public school system up to the sixth grade, then later enrolled in the Nurses Training Program at the Peter's Farm Hospital and began working there. Later, she met Ludvig E. "Spuggs" Hansen, and in time had nine children.
Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, Miss Christo required each of her children to sell a basket of bread before going to school. She supplied Alejo's Grocery on Company Street and Basilio's Grocery on Strand Street. Miss Christo made her own fillings, baking fresh, homemade guava, guavaberry, coconut, pineapple, mango, mamey, West Indian cherries, jojo, banana and tomato tarts
She always made sure no child or adult left her stand without something to eat even if they did not have any money. In 1952, she was the first applicant for the festival booth for the first Christmas Village on the Christiansted wharf, and she had a table at the food fair in Market Square now named the Christian "Shan" Hendricks Market.
Miss Christo, who died in 1984, lived by the motto, "Fresh is best, so arriving a little late to guarantee freshness is okay."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.