Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beware Jamaicans Bearing Gifts

The hunt continues for the inner Bajan. In a week when I could have been mistaken for a man who had no where to run or to hide, I did neither and carried on with the things I thought right.

We have endured a week of really heavy rains, as a tropical depression hit Barbados. I think that people were glad to have a reason to blame something else for the sense of malaise that hangs in the air.

I focused on dealing with nature's bounties in another way. My yard has two mature guava trees--giving red fleshed guavas, and a younger tree--giving white fleshed guavas. For the past few weeks, I have collected bagfuls of the fruit. During the night I can hear them drop--bomp, bomp. During the day, I can hear them fall--bomp, bomp. The bird try to peck at some on the tree, but the tree--helped by rain and sun in great combination this year, is putting out fruit like it's out of fashion. Almost every person from the Caribbean that I know loves guavas; for Europeans it seems new, so I try to educate their palates. So what better to do that share the love. At the weekend, I carry a bag with me to the market and give fruit to friends I meet. During the week, plastic bags stuffed, sitting in my car, I toured around the island calling on friends to hand over the fruit: it was like Santa in August.

I was only a little interested in how they would be used, just needing to be sure that they were not wasted. But, I heard about plans for juice (I prefer smoothies); jellies (I made jam last year and it's too time consuming); cheese (I like to eat, but see it rarely); stewing (nice for the sweet tooth, and lasts for ages in the fridge); pie (a new one on me). None mentioned duff--that is a privilege in my home. Some have heard of my ham glaze made with guavas, which I 'created' last week. I know that those those who have had guava duff cannot get enough; those who have had the glaze, remain glazed.

In total, I think I have given away well over 100 pounds of guavas. I have received a few delicious mangoes. But I was not trading favours.

I also had to eat from the well of human kindness. I had met a few weeks ago a wonderful old Bajan lady, from Black Rock, who runs a simple little chattel house restaurant in Brittons Hill. I had sampled her lunches and they are really good, simple basic Bajan standards, she assures me (see Green Banana CouCou And Salt Fish). Last week, I went to sample her barbecued food, on a Friday evening. One word: fabulous. The evening lime was special, because one of her grand daughters had just got a scholarship to play field hockey in the USA, and was due to fly off this week. So, the barbecue in the street, turned into a celebration party, with Karaoke. It had been a long tiring day, and I could not hang much past 10pm, but by then some other good Bajan friends had arrived and were setting themselves up for a good night. I got my instructions from "Mamma" to come for soup on Tuesday.

Tuesday arrived, and I went for my soup. I had invited a friend to join me--my wife was fine dining, elsewhere; it had been his birthday on Monday, and I figured that he would like to touch his Bajan roots. He's into his 8th decade but looks about 45. He was soon glad to be there for other reasons. Mamma and her daughters commented that he looked like a cousin, and a quick call to the man concerned confirmed that. Well, we did not have pandemonium but they did have a lot of hugging and smiles. Mamma college-bound girl was just headed to the airport, so we all hugged her and wished her well in her play and her studies: I hope she can deal with the winter cold.

The soup arrived. For those who do not know these parts, we like soup with all the parts in it. Goat's head soup needs to have the head in it somewhere, for example. Usually, we only find traces of the real thing--an eye, an ear, a piece of tongue. Some like that; others loathe it.I'm mixed. Well, Mamma's soup was chicken-based. That was obvious from the leg I saw, but was confirmed by the feet that were poking out at me. My friend's wife, hesitated: "What's that?" she asked. "Steppers," he piped up, turning the foot in her plate. "I don't think I've ever eaten steppers," she added. Her face remained neutral as she tucked into the soup. Yam? Nice. Sweet potato? Very nice. Dumplings? Interesting; sweet; tough. Soup? Delicious. Steppers? No, thanks.

By the time we had reached that decision, the post-birthday boy and I had also waxed off our soup. We hankered for a beer. By that time too, another friend had joined us. She--a Bajan-Jamaican product--had just survived several days of intensive training in Jamaican culinary martial arts. She had demolished stew peas and rice with me last week--Ha ya! She had annihilated steamed snapper and boiled bananas the week before--Whoa Yoi! She told me that on Sunday night--not morning, mark you--she and her family had totally wasted ackee and salt fish--Take that! She looked at her soup. "Come on, sucker. Make my day," she murmured and down went the soup. But, the steppers remained, unfazed, and uneaten. "I can't deal with those. I'm good, but not that good." We called it a day on the food. She took herself back to work.

Mamma had other ideas and we were not going to leave until we'd had a drink on her, and she'd had one too. We are both obedient boys. We then headed to my house, so that birthday boy could get some guavas.

Mamma's birthday is today. She expects us to come for barbecue. She told us that on pain of death by steppers, we would be expected the following Friday night for THE birthday bash, sponsored by Stokes and Bynoe.

I have no idea how Mamma feels about Jamaicans. I think she's indifferent. I know that she enjoyed the guavas I gave her last week and she promised me some "mangers". I don't know how she feels about immigrants, either. I suspect that she might be selfish and like them more if they bought her food, and like them less if they set up shop next door. She has her corner and wants to hold it. But, those are not the stuff of our contact. We seem to get on. She's from an age that was very different. Her daughters have all been well educated, got good jobs, now all work part- or full-time making food and serving it. Worthy people, not a doubt.

I try to never step on toes. I do not want to die at the hands of a woman with steppers. I always do as Mamma says.


Dia&Kofi said...

you are in full, soaring flight! This is very good, tasty, filling writing.


Dennis Jones said...

I think it's compensation for some lousy Scrabble play. But, it's a good trade off sometimes. Thanks.

Monique said...

As a Jamaican living in Bim it is nice to know another yardie who loves life