Ohhhhh have mercy, its island lunch time. Somewhere on the island, at this very moment, someone is have salfish souse, provisions and calaloo. Yes man, its a feast for a third world king I tell you.
I stood in the kitchen looking down at the bowl of seasoned fish. It was just yesterday I was sitting in the veranda watching some butterflies fluttering around the rose bushes when I heard the fish vender yelling, “Get yuh balahuuu buyers!!” I jumped up and ran to back of the house where Mommy Charles was washing clothes. “De fish lady outside Mamie.” I said. Mommy Charles went into her room and came back with two dollars. “Tell her to give yuh two dollars worth.” She said handing me two pale red crumpled dollar bills. I took them and ran off, out the front door, down the street. I was half way down the road when the jagged edges of the gravel covered rode bit into my feet. Damn I forgot to put on my slippers. I stopped and listened for the vender, she had not yelled in a few minutes. I heard the chatter of people on a side street to my right and turned in that direction. There she was, a bamboo basket perched on a red turban on her head. A group of people surrounded her, some holding dollar bills screaming what they wanted. I took off, hoping to get there before all the fish was gone. Before I got to her I started shouting, “Two dollars worth, two dollars worth!” I knew if Mommy Charles knew I was acting like that she would be less than please, but damn it I wanted some fish. The fisherwoman smiled as I ran in my skinny arms flailing over my head. She sat the basket down and turned to me. I looked into the basket expecting to see flying fish but instead I saw Jacks, one of my favorite. The woman dug into he basket with both hands and motioned for me to hold out the plastic back I hand in my hand. She dumped the fish in it and I was about to close the bag when she smiled and motioned with my head to keep it opened. She picked another handful and dumped it into the bag, the silver, black and gray fish sparkled in the sunlight. I gave her the two dollars and thanked her and turned and ran back to the house. Now to sit and watch Mommy Charles do her magic before she fried up the Jacks.
Yes mon, blaze up the coal put, get the coconut oil, get the seasoned fish from the fridge, its time for an early evening fish frying session. Ohhhh I bet they could smell it all the way down the street, but I tell you what, I am not sharing, oh hell no, all this fish is mine. Man, I could taste the onions, I could taste the celery, I could taste the garlic, I could taste the thyme, this fish was seasoned real good.
Boi, I fell like ah fish soup. Go to de garden and get some carrots, some figs, pepper. Also bring me some thyme, celery, and rosemary bush, I go cook dung de best fish soup ever. Which one yuh want, red snapper or flying fish eh? Never mind, I go chose. Now get dem ting and dem while I knead up the dough for the dumplings and dem. Oh and pick ah lime too. Yes me friend, I go cook dung some good waters wid nuff nuff ital. in dey. De whole village go want a taste yuh know, cause nobody could cook a fish soup like me, nobody.
Since its Saturday, your lazy day, what would top it off better than a really really splendid lunch. Hmmm, whatever will you eat. Like we say on the island, “Me no know you know” But hey that is why storyteller is here. Hmmm, How about sopme fish, ohhh yes, season overnight with onions, garlic, sweet peppers, hot peppers, thyme, celery, sage, a little rosemary, a touch of nutmeg. Oh yes, then you simmer it in a nice gravy. Yes man, this going taste real good I tell you. Hmm what you go have with it, oh yes, cook up[ some provisions, hows about some rice and peas, the peas, picked straight from your back yard. Me mouth watering already, yes man, I can smell that food all over the bloody village. Nuff, nuff, waters bubbling in the kitchen. Now, what can you drink, let me see. Oh yeah, what about some sugar cane juice, yes man, that going hit the spot for sure..
Ohhhh yes, ahhhhh, just the right taste to go with that fish. Now all is cooked, best place to eat, yes, in the back yard, under the plumb tree, with the thick leaves blocking the sun from burning you. Yes man, island living, the good old days. Soon come, soon come.
Ahh yes, Saturday, a great day to sit in the shade and watch the small fishing boats go by. A great day to just relax and watch the children playing cricket, splashing clear ocean water as they run. A great day to feel the hot sun that seeps through the leaves of the tree. Watch the fisherman put a fresh coat of bright coloured paint on his boat, his pride and joy. Watch his young son mend the fishing nets, preparing form the day when they can go out again. Watch the Rastamen walk by their black locks glistening in the sun. The lingering scent of ganja, the melody of they lingo. Ahhh yes, it is Saturday afternoon, beach time, do nothing, just watch the world go by.
Ohhh me lawd, look at dat plate ah food, nuff, nuff ital. in dey you know. Beets, plantains, yams, I tink I see dasheen, salfish souse, figs, dumplings. Oh me lawd, ne belly growling now. Wha yuh go drink wid it nah gul? Passion fruit juice, guava juice, wait, wait, maybe some soursoup juice. Wha you cawn mek up yuh mind. Ok, ok, I go stop talking to yuh, yuh making me hungry for so. No, no, no. leh me go, I going home to cook me own lunch. Out me wey.
On cold days like this, I channel the hot summer midday of the island. When I would sit on the beach and watch the goats prance around on the small island just off the beach. Fell the warm sun sting my skin, the cool sweat roll down my chest, watch it glitter in the yellow sun. And when I get too hot, I would run towards the ocean, plunge into the cool ocean, swim out to that island, follow colourful fish as they glide along just about the white side of the ocean’s bottom. Step out of the surf, watch the crabs scamper as I plop down and sit there, feeling the sun warm me up again. Ahhh yes, sometimes daydreams are made to warm me up.
Yes man, wake up and look out me window. The ocean is rolling in on the sand , white foam disappear as it rolls back out to sea. A mild warm wind shook the cocoanut tree cause dried cocoanuts to fall hitting the ground with a dull thud. I stepped onto the gold green grass, it is soft and already warm from the early morning sun. Walked down to the water and stood there for a second watching the school of colourful fish swim by.
Ohhh Yes, plantains and salfish souse. Breakfast of an island champion.