It's why ethnic and mainstream stores make sure their December offerings include specialties from live eels to gravlax to Hanukkah gelt and casreep, a thick, black liquid used for making Guyanese pepperpot. Proprietors must have beets for Polish borscht, sorrel for a spicy Caribbean drink, matzo meal for latkes and salted cod for Brazilian bolinho de bacalhau.
The list of items that are a must for Christmas seems endless. It includes bami, a flat, round Jamaican bread made of cassava (yucca) that is soaked in milk or water and fried, snapper and boniato, a Caribbean sweet potato. The store also must stock ackee, a Jamaican fruit that is served with salted cod and cooked green bananas. There's also mauby, a tree bark the Guyanese use to make a bitter drink that is an acquired taste. Wilson said the store also carries solomon gundy, a fish paste she refers to as "Jamaican caviar," and the ingredients to make the dense black fruit cake enjoyed in many Caribbean countries at Christmastime.
Violetta Sielchan, of St. Petersburg teaches her daughter, Nastassja, 8, the secrets of preparing babka, a Polish bread traditionally made and served during the Christmas season.; Browned and fragrant, freshly baked babka will hold a festive spot; at the Sielchan family's holiday table.; Photo: PHOTO, WILLIAM DUNKLEY, (2)