27 February 2011

27 February - Sexagesima; Dominican Republic Independence; Sancocho

Weather:  The weather on the last Sunday of the month indicates the weather for the next month.
Snow.  Would you believe it?  More snow.
This is Sexagesima Sunday, or the Sunday within sixty days of Easter.

It was also known as Exurge Sunday, from the Introit of the Mass, which is taken from lines 23-26 of Psalm 43:
Exurge, quare obdormis Domine? Exurge, et ne repellas in finem: quare faciem tuam avertis, oblivisceris tribulationem nostram? Adhaesit in terra venter noster: exurge, Domine, adjuva nos, et libera nos.

"Arise, why sleepest Thou, O Lord? Arise and cast us not off to the end.
Why turnest thou thy face away? and forgettest our want and our trouble?
For our soul is humbled down into the dust; our belly cleaveth to the earth.
Arise, O Lord.  Help us and redeem us for thy name's sake."

Today we recognize our separation from God and cry, "How long, O Lord?"  There is also more than a hint of "Are you listening, Lord?"  [Answer: Yes.]
Today is Independence Day in the Dominican Republic, celebrating their declaration of independence from Haitian rule and the capture of the Ozama Fortress in the capital of Santo Domingo.
Duarte, Mella, Sanchez, the Founding Fathers
The oath of La Trinitaria, the underground society that worked for the liberation of the Republic:

“In the name of the Holy, August and Indivisible Trinity of Omnipotent God: 
I swear and promise, by my honor and my conscience, in the hands of our President, Juan Pablo Duarte, to cooperate with my person, life and goods in the definitive separation from the Haitian government and to plant a free, sovereign and independent republic, free from all foreign domination, that will be called the Dominican Republic, and which will have its tri-colored flag in crimson and blue quarters traversed by a white cross.”

“In the meantime, we will be recognized as the Trinitarians, with the sacred expressions of God, Country and Freedom.  I promise this before God and the world.  If I do this, may God protect me, and if not, may He take it into account; and may my associates punish me for perjury and treachery if I betray them.”


There are two national dishes that you could serve today in honor of the Dominicans, one informal and one formal.  The informal dish is La Bandera Dominicana (the Dominican Flag), a glorious concoction of stewed meat, beans, white rice, and a salad, which is eaten by nearly everybody as the midday meal.  The recipe here at Colonial Zone (scroll down the page to find it) is easy and uses ingredients available at any supermarket.  You may need to start the stew mid-morning if you plan to serve it for lunch, remembering that you will need at least an hour.  If you don't use canned beans, remember also that beans take a while to cook until tender as well.

The formal dish is SANCOCHO, a delicious slow-cooked meal somewhere between a soup and a stew.  The recipe given here also has ingredients available at any supermarket.

Finely chop 1 large onion.  Peel, seed, and chop 1 large tomato.  Mince 2 garlic cloves.
Cut up 2 frying chickens into pieces, and sprinkle pieces with salt and generously with pepper.  Cut 1/2 pound of smoked ham into small (1-inch) cubes.

In a large kettle, saute onion in 1/4 cup of butter until translucent.  Add the tomato, chicken pieces, ham, garlic, 1 bay leaf and 3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano.  Pour in 2 cups of water.  Cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel 2 medium-sized potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch slices.  Peel 1/2 pound of winter squash and cut into 3/4-inch slices.  Peel 3 carrots and cut into 1/2-inch slices.  Chop fresh parsley to equal 3 tablespoons.

When meat has simmered for 30 minutes, add potatoes, squash, and carrots.  Cover the pot and simmer until chicken and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.  Taste the broth and adjust seasonings, if needed.  Add the parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serve in wide soup-bowls, placing a portion of each meat and vegetable in each bowl, covered with plenty of broth.  Each serving should be accompanied by an individual bowl of steamed white rice and a chilled plate of salad.

Now, that is for Americanized tastes.  However, please check out this easy-to-follow recipe, "Elida's Special" on the Visiting the Dominican Republic website for an authentic taste of this national dish.  It does call for ingredients not normally found in the local supermarket (unless you live in a Caribbean populated neighborhood) - yuca, naranja agria, yautia - but with a little effort, you can find everything and put together an authentic dish (and find out what yuca really tastes like).  The Smallest State has at least one Dominican market and an all-purpose Caribbean market within a 20-minute drive of my house - you can probably find one or two near you as well.

Buen provecho!