By Carlos Fuenmayor

In the Americas and all around the world, what we all have in common is that our great-grand parents made sure that those typical or classical Christmas dishes were passed on from generation to generation.

Case in point is the Hallaca, which is made throughout Central and South America and has many names such as Tamal, Hayaca, Tamale, Envulto, chachas, chalas and Humitas rellanas The list goes on and on.

Hallaca with chicken salad and picadillo

In Venezuela making hallacas is serious business. When I was child living in Venezuela I can remember seeing people having heated discussions about whose hallacas were the best.It’s very much a family affair, the process is a lengthy one and involves everyone, especially family members who reunite to make big batches to eat during ‘La Navidad’ .

The Families work like an assembly line. The grandmothers clean the plantain leaves, which the hallacas are wrapped within, the Moms make the guiso [stew and fillings] and masa [dough], the youngest stuff and wrap them; the eldest tie them and then they all cook and eat them.

Carlos rolls up the Pan de Jamon

Other interesting dishes that we make for Navidad are: Pan de Jamon [Ham bread] which is stuffed with smoked bacon, pancetta and raisins; Ensalada de Gallina [chicken salad], Torta Navideña [Christmas cake] and Ponche Crema [eggnog.]

Pan de Jamon

When talking about hallacas in Venezuela everyone will say “Las mejores hallacas son las de mi mamá” which translates to “my Mom makes the best hallacas”. Without Hallacas, Pan de Jamon, Torta Navideña and Ponche crema it would not be Navidad in Venezuela. Thinking of those good memories, I decided to present a cooking class to introduce my style of Venezuelan cooking to new generations of Toronto foodies, who are looking for something different for this Christmas. The class took place on November 19 at the Kingsway LCBO.I was very surprised by the great comments that I got from the guests at the class. They really enjoyed the food and the history that came along with it.

Carlos Fuemayor is a Cordon Bleu Chef and proprietor of Sabrosito foods.