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The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus

The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus

I thought it quite an achievement when I caught the once yearly flowering of the night-blooming cereus last year. I had experienced a phenomenon many flower lovers would probably give a vital body part to see.

Visiting a family friend over the weekend, I noticed several unopened buds on a cactus on the periphery of their property. How unusual, I thought to myself. You should get a photo. But I returned my attention to the people with whom I was speaking, people I hadn’t seen in a while.

During a lull in the evening’s activities, I looked over and saw that flowers had replaced the buds I had seen earlier. I didn’t have my camera so I grabbed my phone and practically dragged my cousin, an award-winning flower lover, over to where the night-blooming cactus was. She had seen it too and told me after that she planned to ask our family friend for a cutting.

The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus


(Jamaican women are passionate about their gardens and will willingly trade cuttings with friends and other flower lovers. So you’ll see the same flowers in the gardens of women who are friends.)

The flowers looked similar to the cereus I had seen last year. It was surprising to me then I remembered that the cereus is from the flowering cactus family.

Here’s a photo of the night-blooming cereus for comparison.

Night Blooming Cereus

Night-Blooming Cereus

While the night-blooming cereus lasts only one night, this genus of the night-blooming cactus lasts two. Both attract a special moth that causes them to pollinate.

As I write this I realize that one thing was different — the cactus didn’t have the subtle fragrance that accompanied the cereus. But it had rained, no poured, that evening so the rain could have washed away the scent.

Have you seen a night-blooming cactus?

This week, I’m linking this post to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox and  Travel Photo Monday. Be sure to check out the other photos that are posted there.

Mannish Water Soup, An Aphrodiasic?

Mannish water soup

Though it seems simple enough, I’ve never made mannish water soup. I’ve never even tried to. Perhaps because it’s one of those Jamaican dishes that is best to cook outdoors over a wooden fire – sweat pouring down the face, arms and back, smoke stinging the eyes.

Or, perhaps as the name suggests, it should be prepared by men, which it is. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of or seen a woman making mannish water soup. (Maybe with Jamaicans who live abroad, roles might have changed. Ditto the preparation. It’d be difficult to build a fire and cook outside.)

Considered an aphrodisiac, mannish water soup, is made from goat’s offal – the intestines, head, feet and testicles – which are scrupulously cleaned then washed (now, that I’ve seen women do), the head and feet roasted over an open fire then scraped to remove hair (I’ve seen boys no more than 10 do this part).

The meat is then cut into small pieces, mixed with green bananas, coco, yam, carrots, spinners (dumplings), seasoned with Scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, etc., and left to reduce to a delicious soup.

Mannish water soup gets its distinct flavor from the bananas with a light smoky taste from the goat.

Mannish water soup is served hot as an appetizer, in paper cups at large gatherings, like the weddings, parties. For less casual dining, like the event I attended this week, it is served in soup plates. You can even add white rum to kick the flavor up.

Admittedly, mannish water soup isn’t for everyone so I was surprised to see a recipe on the Food Network, even more surprised that it suggested that lamb could be substituted. Wonder what the purists would think.

So is mannish water soup an aphrodiasic? Well…it probably depends on how much you end up drinking.

Mannish Water Soup
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  1. 4 lb. goat’s head, tripe and feet (get butcher to cut in small pieces)
  2. 12 green bananas
  3. 1 lb. flour for spinners
  4. 3-4 hot peppers
  5. 1 lb. coco
  6. ½ lb. carrots
  7. ½ lb turnips
  8. 3 chochos
  9. 3 gallons water
  10. ½ lb scallion
  11. 4 sprigs thyme
  12. 2 lb. yam
  13. Salt to taste
  1. Chop meat into small pieces (if not already chopped)
  2. Wash and place in a 5-gallon container with 3 gallons of hot water.
  3. When the water returns to a boil, simmer until meat is cooked soft (about 2 ½ -3 hours).
  4. Peel green bananas and add all other ingredients, except for flour, i.e. vegetables, seasonings etc. cook uncovered for one hour more.
  5. Use flour to make spinners. Add to stock.
  6. Correct seasoning and remove hot peppers. Add more water if necessary.
  7. Serve hot.
Adapted from The Real Taste of Jamaica
Adapted from The Real Taste of Jamaica
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A Subtlety, Provocative Sugar Sculptures by Artist Kara Walker

A Subtlety, Kara Walker3

I suddenly remembered Kara Walker’s installation of sugar sculptures last weekend and rushed to the Domino Sugar Refining Plant in Brooklyn to catch it.

Called A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby - an Homage to the Unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant, it left me a bit confused.

I knew the US didn’t grow sugarcane. What I didn’t know was that the Domino Sugar Refining Plant, which was built in 1856, was by 1870 processing 3 million pounds of sugar each day – more than half the sugar used in the U.S. – from sugar that was shipped there from around the world.

The plant, which is located on an 11-acre spread on the East River, and employed 4-5,000 people, ceased operation in 2004 and is now slated for demolition. Luxury residential units with spectacular waterfront views of Manhattan will sit in its place.

Walker, who is well known for her black cut-paper silhouettes, makes good use of the plant’s expansive space and 10-story high ceilings to construct the centerpiece of the exhibition: a massive 35-foot tall sphinx made from 4 tons of white sugar. Its face made me think of Aunt Jemima, its body a cat.

The other sculptures were of children – sugar-coated babies – toting straw baskets of the raw sweetener.

A Subtlety is thought provoking and smelly. The unmistakable aroma of carmelizing sugar, of cut sugar cane baking under a tropical sun took me back to my childhood on my family’s sugar cane farm. I left with more questions than answers. Several days later and I’m still processing the images I saw, the messages they conveyed to me.

A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby is on view weekends only until July 6 at the Domino Sugar Refining Plant, South 1st Street at Kent Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. It is free and open to the public. There was a line when we went on Sunday but it seemed to move quickly. Go early and take a hat to shade you from the sun.


Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday that Nancie organizes. Be sure to stop by to see other photos from locations around the world.

Sculptures From the 1964 New York World’s Fair

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

The sculpture below, Forms in Transit, was the first one I saw when I arrived at Flushing Meadow Park Corona Park for the 1964 New York World’s Fair festival a few weeks ago. I didn’t realize it was a sculpture until I began researching other sculptures I saw in the Park that day.

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

Forms in Transit

Festival organizers commissioned five sculptures that were to remain in the park after the Fair was over. Each representing space exploration, the main theme of the Fair. Here are the ones I saw.

Forms in Transit is quite large, 43 feet long, and made of aluminum and sheet metal. It looks like an aircraft but it embodies the concept of motion and change. Sculptor Theodore Roszak designed Forms in Transit.

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

“Freedom of the Human Spirit”

Freedom of the Human Spirit, designed by Marshall Fredericks, depicts a nude man and woman with wild swans soaring skyward.

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

“The Rocket Thrower”

Donald De Lue’s Rocket Thrower stands 43 feet high and depicts a chiseled man whose right hand is launching a small sphere into the sky that leaves an arching trail of flames behind. He throws a swirl of stars with his left hand that circle the rocket.

A man walked by as I aimed my camera at the sculpture and said I should take a look at the finger of his right hand. If you look closely, it seems he is giving the finger.

Sculptures at the 1964 New York World's Fair

The Unisphere

Designed by a landscape architect, Gilmore D. Clarke, for the New York World’s Fair, the Unisphere is, according to Wikipedia, the world’s largest global sculpture. It is 140 feet high, 120 feet in diameter and weighs 700,000 pounds, 900,000 if you include the base.

The Unisphere is massive and impressive, especially with the water jets turned on. It dominates the park and I ended up taking photos of it from several angles.

After I finished last week’s post, I found some photos that really capture the excitement of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Hope you’ll take a look here.

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday that Nancie organizes. Be sure to stop by to see other photos from locations around the world.