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.
Ohhh what oh what could Mommy Charles be planning for lunch. This island boi was real hungry. I heard her in the kitchen, the pots clanging, the knives, pot spoon and bowls hitting the kitchen counter as she prepare. Oh man the excitement. You would think as much as I love to eat I would a least have some meat on my bones, but noooo, I was a real skinny kid who would be swept away in a strong wind. Yes man, food was my addiction, especially when Mommy Charles cooked. Sitting in my room, listening to her every move was just as exciting as sitting at the table wolfing down whatever she cooked. What was more exciting is when she called me to the kitchen to help, here I was only eight years old helping mommy Charles create a culinary masterpiece. I see rice, seasoned chicken, cucumbers, Lettuce, tomatoes, I know, I know exactly what was brewing. A good old Pelau, oh yes, rice cooked with chicken and browned to a golden colour. Pepper, all kinds of seasoning and the vegetable as a side dish. Oh man, the best Saturday eating.
Some Sundays, Mommie Charles just kept the feast simple. Ahhh yes, simple but still a delight to the taste buds. Something easy like this plate of stew chicken, yes, all the season in there, pepper, chives, thyme, onions, garlic, a dash of salt, tomatoes added, green peppers. Yes I tell you. Boiled green figs (bananas) and plantains. Ahhhh yes, then all that was left to do is fix a plate, take it to the veranda, go back into the living room and turn on the radio, find some nice soft music, head back outside. Now the trick to give the provisions a final zesty taste is to sprinkle the gravy from the chicken on it. Ohhhh the party that is going on in your mouth. Only Mommy Charles can make the simplest meal fit for a boy.
Ohhh what can an island boy have for lunch. Hmmm, Maybe some stewed chicken with rice and peas, or maybe some fried fish with provisions, noooo, hmmmm, what will he ever eat. Wait a second, wait just one second, I have an idea, how about some curried shrimp. Ohhh yes, with all kinds of vegetable added, some pepper, ohhh man, that would just hit the spot. Hmmm, I know, I know, he can go to the back yard, pick some passion fruit,
and make a pitcher of Passion fruit juice. Yes man, this boy really know how to eat.
Well, well, well, what would have been for Sunday lunch when I was a kid. I heard Mommy Charles in the kitchen, she was humming again. I wanted to get up and go see what she was doing but instead, I stayed in my room and sniffed the air. Wait a second, wait a bloody second, is that seasoned chicken, hmmm, I do believe so. Looks like there is more hot pepper in it than usual. Hmmm, smells like there is a little curry in there too. Man this is going to be great as usually. I wonder what next she doing. I heard the pot clanking, the spoon hitting the kitchen counter. Then I heard a cracking sound, I thought, hmm what could that be? After the second crack, I knew exactly what it was, corn. Man, I was intrigued now, what was Mommy Charles up to. I heard the crumple of a brown paper bag opening, the quiet thud of flour falling into a pan. Ohhh could that be the beginnings of dumpling. A few seconds later I know I was right as I heard the pan scrape across the counter as she kneaded the flour. Then I heard the chopping of tomatoes and the bubbling of water in the pot. Still I tried to figure out what she was cooking. The scent floated from the kitchen throughout the house and into my room. The quiet Sunday was interrupted by my stomach rumbling. I got up walked through the drawing room and peeped into the kitchen, Mommy Charles was not in there. I looked at the pot, steam and aroma bellowed out of it. I looked around making sure I was alone, after all I was too young to mess with a hot pot. I tip toed into the kitchen, stood looking down at the pot on the coal pot. Without thinking I picked up the cover, ohhh what I saw was so enticing, it was a chicken soup, one of my favorite meals. Ohhh yes, there was corn, dumplings, chicken, dashin, and some tanyas floating in there, and of course I could smell the butter. And the smell was so intoxication I almost fell over like the village drunk. I was so engrossed with the food I did not pay attention to my burning finger. I screamed and dropped the pot cover. Immediately Mommy Charles said. “Andy, you not interfering with the pot of food are you?” “No mamie.” I said dancing around and waving my hand in the air. I found a kitchen towel, picked up the hot cover and recovered the pot. That scent made me forget my burning fingers. I walked back towards my room, stopped to snag a banana from the dining room table, after all, that damn cooking made me hungry. Thus was the magic of Mommy Charles cooking.
So I can cook up some food. But damn it, the rain was pounding on the galvanize roof, the wind was whipping the coconut branches, Stray dogs lay under the banana tree using the big leaves as shelter. Man I wanted to cook on the bloody coal pot, not the stove. So I brought the coal pot into the kitchen, fill it with coals, pour a little kerosene on it and blazed it up. Peeled the green bananas and plantains, washed the sweet potatoes, yams, tanyas, got out the avocados. Now all the provisions were ready for cooking. Then its time to wash out the salt fish I had soaking, get some onions, garlic, tomatoes and seasoning, put the frying pan on the coal pot, poured some coconut oil in there and fry up the salt fish, oh man, that scent mixed in with the smoke that bellowed out of the kitchen. Now my belly rumbling, the rain was real heavy outside now, there was something about rain and smoke I liked. When the salt fish was done, it was time to boil the provisions. Only one drink will go with this meal, a nice, tall, cold glass of guava juice,
ahhh yes. And when all is prepared, I sat in the veranda, watching the rain fall, eating the food made for a tropical king.
Ohhh its like culinary heaven, Pasta with tropical spices, all the vegetables possible and chicken, lightly peppers, stewed in a taste exploding sauce. If you close your eyes, you can almost see the colours you are tasting. Then later, you sit at your window, look out at the ocean littered with small boats and enjoy:
Yes, yes yes, a slice of Pumpkin pudding. Ohh the cinnamon, ohhh the nutmeg, ohh the taste of natural sugar cane sugar straight from the cane fields right behind your house. Oh one can only daydream of such a life.
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.
Ohh yes, carrots, with provisions, lots of seasoning and off course a dash of pepper. Let it simmer down before adding the dumplings and the green bananas. Ohhh yes, on a day like today, i can sit at my window, watch the rain bounce off the road, hear the wind howl through the buildings and eat my lobster stew.
Somewhere on the island, as rain pours down on the galvanized roof, and the drops create music on the windows and the chickens stand under the mango tree trying to get shelter, and kids are running up and down the mud path jumping into puddles, their laughter echoing through the village. Coming out of the neighbor’s kitchen is the most intoxicating smell of a lobster stew. Ahhh yes, I can almost taste it, the chives, the thyme, the pepper, and yes the fresh lobster. If heaven was food, this would be it.