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.
Anyway, The Melting Pot City was day as much as The Blue Grass City was night. It was The Coal Miner’s Daughter’s turn to face some culture shock. She was the only white person for blocks. Now let’s take into consideration that I was the first black person she had ever spoken to. Luckily for us, the people on our block thought she was Puerto Rican. She was tanned and had dark hair and eyes. That was fine with me because at the time, racial tensions were running a little high in the city. To my surprise, this great melting pot city was segmented into different ethnicities. I remember one night we got lost. Believe me, when you are new to the city, it’s no fun. The way we found out we were going in the wrong direction was when we saw a white kid walking down the street holding a boom box, his baseball hat backwards and his head bobbing awkwardly. We turned around right away and drove for a few blocks until we saw black faces.
Ahhh yes, a good spot, find three big stones, put them down, now to go find wood for de fire you know. all you remember de kerosene eh? Yeah man, we go do some serious cooking. Ok time to get the vegetable and dem, Breadfruit, green figs (bananas), some dashin, oh yes lets not forget some yams. Man, hurry up kneading de dough for de dumplings nah. Yeah man, this go taste real good. Ok so all the ingredients and dem ready, get de pot nah, put all the food in it and pour some coconut milk, oh yeah this go be real irie you know. Let the pot boil a little then all the crab, yeah man they real fresh, we just got them out of de sea you know. Now, time to sit back and smell the food cooking, ah yes this is the life I tell you, this is the life.
Still, unmoving, unrelenting to the wind. burn like the sun in the Sahara, sting like the wind in January, Scotching like the steam from a bubbling pot, frigid like a cold shower in the early morning, Strong, frail. Comforting unstable. unbreakable, fragile. Once a home, now an ornament in natures white forest.
Ahh yes, many ah mornings were spent, packing the coal pot with coals, and then the exciting part, pouring kerosene on the coals, I always manage to pour too mush and when I drop the match stick on it, woooooossssssshhhhh, I felt my eyebrows singe, I jumped back just as the fire dissipated right in front o me. Put the pot on the coals, then sit and enjoy the scent of the food cooking.