‘Mother’ of black pudding making to retire after 60 years
by Katherine Renton
The ‘mother’ of the making of black pudding (also known as blood pudding), who has been making the traditional dish for over 60 years, will retire next month at the age of 92.
Mira Cole, known popularly as ‘Faith’ or ‘Mother,’ spoke to SEARCHLIGHT at the house she rents for her business at North River Road, opposite the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (SJCK), about her life making black pudding, and her culinary secrets.
Cole herself still puts her hand to the dish, stuffing the mixture into the casings nearly as quickly as the young lady, Tsi Adams, who helps her.
However, her days of stuffing, mixing and boiling the pudding, which has farine and cattle blood as its main ingredients, are coming to an end, the elderly lady informing that her retirement is close at hand.
She said her granddaughter feels that she has worked enough and it is time for her to rest.
Cole is thankful for the living she has made from selling black pudding, revealing that she was able to build a house from her earnings.
“Thank God I ain’t waste me time,” she said.
Now, at the end of her black pudding days, she reminisces on the beginnings as a young girl growing up in Gomea with her father.
Faith said a lady from Sion Hill approached her to come to work with her, but her father was sceptical.
“You going town to break away,” she recalls her father saying.
“But I ain’t break way, I hold up me head,” she affirmed. She said the first thing she thought about when she began to work was getting her own house.
Not forgetting the knowledge gained from the woman who taught her, Faith explains, “Blend the chive, you blend the pepper and the thyme and ting, then you get the blood, you put it with the salt.” At this point she explained that she has a special container that she uses for the blood. She continues saying that she puts cassava farine (around 22 pounds) and the seasoning together with the blood and mixes it. Then the mixture swells, and it is scooped into funnels, with a stick being used to stuff it into the tripe. This is boiled in a pot of water, the temperature kept under a raging boil, so as not to burst the tripe.
After the tripe is boiled, it is sliced and fried just before being sold the next day.
Since she began learning to make the pudding, Cole says times have changed.
She laments that in earlier years she used to get a wider variety of natural seasonings for the pudding.
“You used to get sweet marjoram, thyme, …fine thyme, and the thick leaf one, all them we used to put in it…. That time when you buy a bundle of the sweet marjoram, was a big bundle… dollar and two dollars, but now people don’t plant all them thing,” she said.
She shares that when she gets shadobeni she adds it, and “you … get a little clove, you pound it and you put it in there and give a little flavor.”
More secrets poured out across the span of the interview, Cole noting, “You know when the farine crispy it make the pudding taste good, you know? But country own more whitey and softey and ting,” and that without pepper the pudding does not taste good.
The butcher Terry Gibson supplies her with cattle blood, she says, but times are changing with this too. “Terry now used to kill all four cattle, and three cattle, and now, he only killing maybe one or two; and three of we have to get [blood] from that.”
Dropping another piece of wisdom, she revealed that long ago, pig blood, which gives the pudding a red colour, was sometimes used.
Cole says she has passed on all of this knowledge to two people, “The girl who does help me, she know, and my granddaughter, she know how to make it, but she ain’t making it.”
With a short, meaningful explanation, Cole disclosed, “Dem dey young people.”
After being next door to the SJCK for decades, Faith has picked up a following of the institution’s former students. Breaking the news to these students, some of whose names she brings up regularly, that she will not be making the pudding anymore, has shocked them, she says.
Cole admitted that she too will be sorry when she calls it a day, not knowing what she will do on Fridays, that being the day she made the local delicacy for decades.