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The Red Telephone Booth

The red telephone booth was ubiquitous in the Jamaica I grew up in. You’d find them outside post offices in districts and towns across the island. There was one outside our post office too. It stood like a sentinel at the intersection of the two main roads that dissected our district, looking square at the Anglican Church on the opposite side. To its right were the parish council office, shops, a movie theater, gas station and the market that was active from Thursday to Saturday and where we Anglicans had our annual Maypole Dance.

The phone in the red telephone booth was our district’s only connection to the world where it had sent scores of its children – to the ‘Big War’ (World War II), to England, Canada, the United States and beyond.

Iconic Red Phone Booths

Red Telephone Booths, near Burlington Gardens, London

When the phone in the red telephone booth rang, anyone nearby would answer, ask the caller to call back at an agreed upon time then rush (or send someone else) to deliver the news to the family. (One of the good things about a small community is that everyone knows everyone.)

To make a call, you gave the operator the number and she (it was mostly young women) would place the call for you and tell you how much to deposit into the coin slot for the first 3 minutes. Public phones took only coins then so you had to have a pocketful in case you exceeded the time. If you were calling a private number, you would tell the operator to ‘reverse the charges,’ that is, have the person on the other end pay for the call.

Because it was illuminated, the red telephone booth attracted moths and young people – and some older folks too. During the rainy season, children (as many as possible) would cram themselves into the booth to wait out the rain. It was near the phone booth that my first boyfriend broke up with me on a Sunday afternoon after church. I was devastated and convinced that my world had ended.

Red telephone booths, London

My cousin in a telephone booth in London. Notice the homeless man?

I never thought much of the red phone booth beyond its use as a means of communication until I saw one in the Cotswolds that had been repurposed as a defibrillator. I wondered what had happened to the booth that had occupied such a prominent spot in our district and our lives.  

A little research on Google revealed that the red telephone booth was the creation of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect who also designed Waterloo Bridge. There were several versions over the years and even the red color, BS381C-B539, was defined. The design, or an adaptation, was exported to the colonies, which is how they got to Jamaica.

Repurposed red telephone booth, The Cotswolds

Repurposed red telephone booth, The Cotswolds

Our telephone booths had 4 large panes of thick, clear glass on each side that were framed by red strips. They were not soundproof so people nearby could hear your conversation if you were a loud talker and during the day, they got quite hot.  

I don’t know when the red telephone booth was removed (it was still there in the 1980s when I took a photo of it), but it sure occupies a special place in my memory.

 

Linking with Travel Photo Thursday and The Weekly Postcard.

Budget Travelers Sandbox
 
A Hole In My Shoe

Seeing Jamaica on Television

Jamaica had a fantastic few weeks on American television when two reality shows, The Real Housewives of Atlanta and The Bachelor, filmed some of their episodes there. Although neither show appeals to me, I swallowed my distaste and allowed the storyline to take a backseat to the view unfolding on my television screen. I ended up catching more of The Bachelor than of the Housewives. Here are some of the places they featured (not in oder):

YS Falls, St. Elizabeth

The show centers around a young man who’s trying to find a marriage bride. In the episodes that were filmed in Jamaica, the prospective groom travels with one of the two female finalists to YS Falls. Located on a 2,00-acre spread in southwestern Jamaica, YS Estate and Falls is a former sugarcane and logwood tree (a natural dye) farm and privately owned stud farm. YS has its own waterfall – seven, to be exact – that reach to 120 meters with several natural pools.  

Seeing Jamaica

YS Falls

The area surrounding the falls is lush and green. Visitors can swim, do canopy rides or just relax. There are also activities for children.

YS Falls, Jamaica

YS Falls, Jamaica

#TPThursday: Falling for YS Falls

Falling for YS Falls

Good Hope Great House

I saw only a part of the episode that was shot at Good Hope Great House. When I tuned in, the couple was standing outside the house. Although the grounds are beautiful, I think the interior is even more stunning.

Good Hope Great House

Good Hope Great House

A Photo Review of 2013

Good Hope

Counting House, Good Hope Great House

The Counting House

The Blue Lagoon

When they showed the couple at the Blue Lagoon, also called the Blue Hole, the popular local destination was unusually devoid of people but still recognizable. Located between the parishes of St. Ann and St. Mary, the Blue Lagoon, was not quite ready for international visitors when I visited a few years ago. It’s possible that the show could have rented it for filming. 

Blue Lagoon

It was great to see the Blue Lagoon on television. I was a little sad though as it’s one of those places that, given the choice, I’d keep for local use.

Blue Lagoon,

Do you ever go out of your way to watch a show that featured your country?

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday that Nancie of Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales, and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations

 

Budget Travelers Sandbox

Pepper Shrimp – The Taste of Middle Quarters in Hackensack NJ

I’ve been eating pepper shrimps (or ‘swimps,’ as some of us call it), since I was in high school and I can still remember my first time (it’s the same every time).

Biting into one of these Scotch-bonnet-infused on-the-go morsels, my tongue is instantly in flames, my eyes watering, heat passing from my throat and warming my stomach.

I involuntarily pull in air, slapping my tongue against my lips and the roof of my mouth, to try to cool it. That doesn’t work; nothing does. Now, even my lips are on fire.

I take a few seconds then, my mouth still reeling, I bite into another shrimp – head and all – continue the delicious torture, which, by now, is causing my nose to run.

Pepper Shrimps, crawfish really, typically come from the Black River, the longest in parish of St. Elizabeth, one of the longest in the island.

The shrimps are cooked in a mixture of Scotch bonnet and spices and sold in little paper or plastic bags of about 6 or so by roadside vendors in Middle Quarters, Jamaica’s “Shrimp Country.”

The shrimps are small, no more than an inch or an inch and half so we eat head and all. Some people peel them skin off, other people (I’m one) don’t.

Most visitors to Jamaica stay on the northwest for the spectacular beaches. But those who make it to the south coast usually discover an entirely different side the island, one that is rustic as well as charming.

Here, small cook shops abound and vendors sell typical Jamaican fare, using fresh ingredients grown locally in St. Elizabeth, the island’s “Bread Basket.”

On my way to visit a friend in New Jersey few weeks ago, I stopped at Mac West Indian Restaurant in Hackensack to get some escoveitch fish. While waiting, I noticed they had peppered shrimps and asked the server to add a couple packets to my bill.

I was surprised to see pepper shrimp on the menu at any of the restaurants I frequent. Seeing them brought back memories of some pepper shrimps I bought in the Bronx in the 80s.

I remember Michael driving us back to Manhattan where we were staying and the two of us eating shrimp after shrimp, our mouths ablaze because Ting, the carbonated grapefruit soft drink that someone at the restaurant had recommended, didn’t calm the fire in our mouths. (Apparently, milk is better but I hate milk.)

Michael was swearing like a sailor while I laughed and called him a wimp for not being able to handle “a little pepper.” I still smile at the memory.

Though they weren’t crawfish, the pepper shrimp I bought in Hackensack took me back to Middle Quarters. I could almost feel the sun on my face as I bit into my first one.

Pepper Shrimp
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups water
  2. 1/2 cup chopped scallion
  3. 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  4. 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  5. 3 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, halved and seeded
  6. 2 tablespoons salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 10 whole allspice
  9. 1 lb large shrimp
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a 4-quart heavy pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
  2. Stir in shrimp, making sure they are just covered by liquid, and remove pot from heat. Cool shrimp in liquid to room temperature, uncovered, about 1 hour. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a plate or bowl and drizzle some of cooking liquid on top.
InsideJourneys http://insidejourneys.com/

Jamaican Coco Bread

It’s been years since I ate a coco bread, that soft, sweet, usually warm, folded-over bread that is the perfect folder for the flaky, spicy and usually hot, patty.

Perhaps it might seem redundant to marry a patty, a meat pie, with a puffy, buttery coco bread (one inventive student at my high school called the combination a coco-pat) but it works, somehow.

It’s like biting through layers of dough and finding a sweet spot — the spicy meat filling — the coco bread absorbing the heat that builds in the patties as they bake and tempering its spiciness.

The coco bread and patty combo is a filling, inexpensive on-the-go meal that is popular with everyone, from students to working people.

And because of its price, ubiquitous in Jamaica. Every fast food outlet and food shop sells it. The same is true here in the New York area. In fact, it is even sold online at amazon.com. Despite its popularity, no one I asked could explain why it’s called a coco bread since it’s not made from coconut or cocoa.

But coco bread shouldn’t be confined only to a meat filling. It’s delicious with cheese and, I would add, stews, even soup. And with its buttery flavor, it can even be eaten as is.

Yesterday, the distinctive fresh-baked smell of the coco bread tickled my nose and brought back such delightful memories, I stopped and bought one on the way to work. With a cold blast of winter air here in New York yesterday, instead of a patty, it made me feel for soup. Biting into its warm deliciousness took me momentarily back to the sun.

Jamaican Coco Bread
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Ingredients
  1. 2 packages yeast
  2. 1 teaspoon sugar
  3. 1/4 cup warm water
  4. 3/4 cup warm milk
  5. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  6. 1 egg, lightly beaten
  7. 3 cups flour
  8. 1/2 cup butter melted
Instructions
  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in water then stir in milk, salt and egg.
  2. Add 1/2 of the flour and stir, continue to add flour until you have a dough that can be turned out of the bowl.
  3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth but firm.
  4. Oil a clean bowl and turn the dough in it until coated.
  5. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise for 1 hour
  6. Cut into 10 portions and roll each piece into a 6-inch diameter circle.
  7. Brush with melted butter then fold in half.
  8. Brush with more butter and fold in half again.
  9. Set breads on a oiled baking sheet and let them rise until they double in size.
  10. Preheat oven to 425 F set a pan of hot water on the lowest oven rack.
  11. Bake for about 12- 15 minutes or until golden brown (on upper rack, set to middle).
InsideJourneys http://insidejourneys.com/

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