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Southern Living Magazine Features Jamaican-Born Texas Restaurant Owner’s Christmas Traditions

Southern Living Magazine Features Jamaican-Born Texas Restaurant Owners Christmas Traditions - Chef Nicola Blaque

In celebration of the holiday season, Southern Living magazine featured Texas restaurant owner and chef Nicola Blaque, who was born in Jamaica. The Christmas season brings back her memories of holiday celebrations and family traditions on the island. Blaque, a United States Army veteran, lived in Jamaica until she was five years old, and she remembers her mother preparing for celebrations days in advance, making her traditional rum cake and sorrel punch. Later in her childhood, Christmas was celebrated wherever her step-father, who was in the US Air Force, was stationed. Although the family’s location might be in New Hampshire, Texas, or Hawaii, Blaque’s mother made sure their Caribbean traditions continued. Her aunts and grandparents would send boxes filled with Jamaican spices and other ingredients so her mother could always prepare an authentic island feast.

Traditional Christmas meals in Jamaica include dishes like braised oxtail, fried plantains, ackee and saltfish, sweet potato pudding, and the classic rum cake. Jamaican rum cake is like a fruitcake made of dried fruits, citrus peel, nutmeg and cinnamon, and a dose of Jamaican rum.

During the decade of Blaque’s service in the US army, she cooked holiday meals in the barracks and shared them with her fellow soldiers. After leaving the service, she went to culinary school and opened two successful Caribbean restaurants in San Antonio, where she now lives with her husband Cornelius Massey, her two children, and a stepson. The Jerk Shack, her flagship eatery, was soon recognized throughout the US for its authentic jerk chicken, which is served by the pound like Texas barbeque. Her restaurant Mi Roti features make-your-own wraps and bowls that are inspired by street foods of the Caribbean.

Now the holiday schedule means that Blaque and her family remain in Texas, but she still celebrates Christmas in a familiar way by inviting anyone who needs a place to go to share the dishes of her childhood and her heritage. She and her husband host soldiers and others who may be alone in San Antonio for the holidays, just as her mother did. However, Texas has made its mark on her cuisine, and the menu includes barbequed ribs along with the jerk chicken and steamed fish. While this may not be standard Christmas fare, “good food is good food,” Blaque believes, and in Texas, “every get-together deserves ribs, right?”

Read the feature on Southern Living.

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Staff Writer