There’s a thing you should know about my friend Cassandra Khaw: she is mighty, and her words are mightier still.
I first met her through her words, so I know. Then I met her in person this year at New York Comic Con and, well, let’s just say that you do want to hang out with her, you absolutely want to get in a discussion about food with her, and you do not want to mess about with words in her presence. Plus, you really want to read her new novella from Tor.com publishing, Hammers on Bone.
There’s a line in this book that completely grabbed me and swept me up. You’ll know it when you see it.
Meantime, check out what Cassandra herself has to say in this latest Book Bite…
A gumshoe with a contract doesn’t have time to waste, but even an inhuman monster won’t say no to good Jamaican cooking. Ever since settling in South London, I’ve become obsessed with jerk, a style of cooking native to Jamaica. So obsessed, in fact, that it gets a nod in my Lovecraftian neo-noir novella HAMMERS ON BONE.
In the course of his investigations, protagonist John Persons finds himself stopping by an old haunt of his: a small Caribbean restaurant, partially transformed into a neighbourhood grocery. Bone-weary, rain-slick, fresh from a confrontation with a terrifying monstrosity, he asks for a typical meal: jerk chicken, steamed vegetables, rice and peas. (He devours a sack of festivals a few chapters later, because screw doughnuts.)
If you’ve spent any amount of time in Croydon, you’ll probably recognize the order. Jerk chicken is ubiquitous there, as is jerk pork, ackee and saltfish, and more. Because of the tautness of the narrative, which sees Persons stalking through London in pursuit of an abusive step-father who may also be, I didn’t really have a chance to show Croydon in all its multicultural glory. Which sucked because the borough doesn’t get half as much attention as it deserves. (Curse you, Central London.)
So, I did what I could: I gave Persons a fantastic last meal before I dropped him off in a spectacle of eldritch body horror. Anyway. This is the recipe I use for my own jerk marinade, which is nowhere near authentic. One day, though, I’ll get a charcoal grill and access to pimento wood, and then I’ll see if I can make something that won’t cause my neighbours to laugh.
Jerk Chicken Marinade
(adapted from Serious Eats)
- Some scotch bonnet peppers (I use about five. I’m also fanatically fond of spice.)
- Two and a half tablespoons of ground allspice.
- Two and a half tablespoons of nutmeg powder.
- A tablespoon of kicap manis.
- A tablespoon of salt.
- A pinch of lime juice.
- Three sprigs of fresh thyme.
- Eight stalks of scallion.
- A careful shaving of ginger.
- Three cloves of garlic.
- Black pepper to taste.
- Some oil.
- Blend everything in a food processor, or pound it with a pestle.
- Taste and savor; a marinade isn’t a science, it is a sorcery, developed through trial and error.
- When satisfied, store in an airtight container. Use in your roasts, your fried rice, your grilled meats.
Cassandra Khaw is the business developer for Singaporean micropublisher Ysbryd Games. When not otherwise writing press releases, she writes fiction of grotesque dimensions. Her short stories can be found in places like Uncanny, Clarkesworld, and Fireside. HAMMERS ON BONE is her first novella with Tor.com