A few years ago, Noni was all the rage. Everyone was buying and drinking the juice for its health benefits. When I returned to Jamaica on vacation during the heights of its popularity, a friend pointed it out to me — I had no idea that it grew wild here. Locally, it’s known as “Duppy Soursop.”
In Jamaica, a duppy is a ghost and since the Noni does look a little like a soursop, another tropical fruit, but in a weird and unusual way. It stands to reason that if it looks like a soursop, something people are familiar with but is weird or strange, it must belong to the other world, hence duppy soursop.
Noni is said to contain nutrients such Vitamins A and C, niacin, iron and potassium. Like in other countries where it’s grown, in Jamaica, the Noni fruit and its juice, leaves and root are used for a variety of ailments from diabetes to menstrual cramps.
This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!
One of my uncles in Florida always reminds us whenever we travel to Jamaica that we must leave the US behind. By that he means that we have to remember that many of the things that we’ve become used to – service and its efficient delivery, the availability of certain items, etc., will be irritably slow or sometimes non-existent.
But is it really possible to leave the person I’ve become behind?
We are the sum of our experiences. When I left Jamaica for Canada in the early 70s, I took with me all that I was then. I saw and experienced Canada through the prism of that person and it, in turn, shaped and prepared me for my pretty near seamless transition to life in the U.S.
Travel has also provided indelible experiences that I’ve added to my reservoir of knowledge. These too inform and dictate how I view the everyday, and the world.
The person who’s now returned to Jamaica is the same and different. I fall back on my Jamaican-ness but my foreign-ness sees the glaring contrasts, sees what’s missing or what can be done better, faster, more efficiently.
Like the day I went to get my phone. As soon as I walked into the store, an agent, who was on the phone sorting out an issue for a customer in line, mouthed that she’d be with me in a few minutes. I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting this level of attention. Clearly, she took her training in customer service to heart.
However, when I wanted to add minutes, or “top up” – pre-paid phones are very common in Jamaica – I was surprised by the antiquated method that was used. The agent pulled out a clipboard with a sheet of paper, asked me for the number, wrote it in one column, then the amount of minutes I was buying in another. (Sometimes, the customer is asked to write the number instead.)
When I handed her the money, it was just put in a drawer, the change returned to me. My number and amount of minutes I purchased were then keyed into a machine that looked like a small cash register. Immediately after, I received a text acknowledging the top up.
There must be a more efficient way to do this, I thought, as right away, I spotted several different ways in which mistakes could be made.
A few days later, I discovered how easily. I had purchased an international plan (1,000 minutes for about $15 – a steal!), and approximately $5 worth of local minutes. I was surprised, when during a local call, I got a message that I had only a minute left.
Where did my $5 go? I called the store but got nowhere so I went in person to sort it out. When I saw the clipboard for that day, my phone number and money were recorded but the confirmation number they would have received after the amount was keyed in was not there.
I’m glad I got the money credited but I shouldn’t have to spend my time chasing $5. I could have used it to do something else.
In the end, none of us can totally leave who we are behind. My hope is that a little of me will rub off, that my being here will be of benefit.
When I was growing up in Jamaica, certain foods were associated with certain religious holidays, days of the week, etc. For example, rice and peas were reserved for Sundays and special occasions, like weddings, parties, etc., rum cake at Christmas, and Easter bun for, you guessed it, Easter. Now, the Easter bun can be found in most grocery stores at any time during the year, rice and peas has become an everyday and rum cake can be bought at any time.
I didn’t always like Easter bun. learned to like it when I was away at university. And I started making it myself a few years ago. It’s not particularly difficult to make. I found two recipes that I liked in The Real Taste of Jamaica, by Enid Donaldson, and combined the ingredients I wanted in my bun.
So here’s my recipe for a popular favorite – our answer to the Hot Crossed Bun.
How to Make Easter Bun
3 cups flour
4 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. lime juice
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup cherries (you can also use mixed fruits)
1 cup Guinness stout
Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees
Over low heat, dissolve sugar, butter, spices in stout.
Mix flour and baking powder.
Beat egg and mix all the ingredients together
Pour into a greased loaf tin and bake for 1 hour.
Remove and allow to cool.
Easter bun’s usually accompanied by a processed cheese that’s close in taste to Chedder but use the cheese you like. It also works with American cheese. Some people substitute butter for cheese.
Hope you can try this out and let me know what you think.
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Sundays, for me, are usually lazy days. I putter, lounge, read, snooze and, of course, listen to music. What I listen to depends on my mood. Sometimes, it’s soothing jazz. Other times, it’s music that gets me on my feet – I just love to dance.
For this week’s Soulful Sundays post, I want to share the work of a musician who has become one of my favorites.
I was first introduced to reggae musician, Tarrus Riley a few years ago when I heard his anthem to women, She’s Royal. Then my friend, Sandra, and I attended his performance at the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach. We enjoyed it so much, we concluded we had to see him again. We did, in New York, a few months later and we weren’t disappointed. I even went back stage to get his autograph – something I never did when I was a teenager!
Outameni, the Jamaican lingo for Out of Many (as in Out of Many, One People – the Jamaican motto) is an interactive look back at Jamaica’s history from the time of the indigenous people, the Arawak or Taino, as they’re now called, through the present.
Our entertained us with mento dancing and storytelling while we waited for the tour to begin.
Each period is represented by its own display with guides in period dress narrating the story of that time.
The Taino arrived in Jamaica around 650 A.D. from South America. They were said to be peaceful people who planted cassava, corn, sweet potato and got most of their food from the sea. When Columbus arrived in 1492, it was the Taino who greeted him. Unfortunately, within a few years of his arrival, the Tainos in Jamaca were exterminated. It is said that some killed themselves rather than be put to work by the Spanish, others died after coming into contact with European diseases for which they had no immunity.
Christopher Columbus and his merry band of sailors stumbled upon Jamaica on May 5, 1494 on his second voyage on behalf of the King of Spain. Thus began the period of Spanish settlements in Jamaica which lasted until the British took over in 1655.
The first Africans in Jamaica came as servants of Spanish settlers. These were freed when the British took over Jamaica in 1655. As sugar production exploded, Africans were again brought to the island, this time to work on the plantations.
Nearly 40,000 Indians were brought to Jamaica beginning in 1845 as indentured workers to work in the sugar cane industry after slavery was abolished. Many were repatriated but far many remained. Today, their descendants make up the second largest racial group in Jamaica.
The Chinese began coming to Jamaica in the 1845 to work on sugar cane plantations. Today, they make up the majority of the merchant class.
The Outameni Experience ends with Jamaica today, a vibrant country that approximately 2 million people – African, Indian, Chinese, Jewish, Lebanese, Scottish, German, Cuban, Haitian, American, Canadian and Latin American – call home.
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This dish has won me friends and lovers each time I serve it.
Every Jamaican I know either has an ackee tree out back or ackees in the freezer. And the ones “a foreign” have a can or two in the pantry and/or frozen ones they or someone brought back from Jamaica for them.
Ackee is a very popular and versatile dish. Serve on toasted bread for a tasty bruschetta or ackee and saltfish sandwich. Add a little curry to sauteed onions and peppers then mix in ackee for delicious curried ackee (no saltfish needed).
What’s ackee and saltfish, you ask? Well, it is Jamaica’s national dish. Ackee, a relative of the lychee, was brought to Jamaica from West Africa, probably on a slave ship. In 1962, it took pride of place next to the coat of arms, flag, lignum vitae, blue mahoe and humming bird as one of the symbols of the newly independent island nation.
Ackee and saltfish is made of two main ingredients: ackee and salted cod. As with most dishes, different people add their own twist. Here’s how I make it:
1lb boneless saltfish
2 dozen ackees or 2 cans
6 strips of bacon, cut up
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, seeded
2 stalks of scallion, chopped
1 sprig of thyme
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/4 cup of cooking oil (optional)
Note: Unripened ackees contain a toxic substance that is released when the pod is opened. If you’re using them, make sure they are completely opened, like these in this photo are.
Remove the ackees from their pods, discard the pinkish-red membrane and seed. Wash and put them to boil in a large pot with saltfish that has been washed to remove traces of salt crystals.
You can also cook the ackees separately in lightly salted water or use the water from the saltfish.
(There are different varieties of ackees. Some really soft ones, so called ‘butter’ ackees, take just a few minutes to cook. Others are firmer and take a bit a little longer. You want to make sure whichever one you use, you don’t over cook them or they will break apart.)
Canned ackees are already pre-cooked so if you’re using those, all you’ll need to do is wash the salt off the saltfish then put in a pot with enough water to cover and boil, or soak overnight to remove the salt then boil. Drain. Flake with a fork or your fingers.
Fry bacon strips, remove from saucepan. Saute onions in same oil until tender. Add strips of Scotch Bonnet pepper, chopped scallion (leave some for garnishing) and tomato. Then add flaked saltfish and stir. Add the ackees. Season with freshly ground black pepper and thyme. Stir carefully so as not to break the pods. Lower heat and let cook for about 5-7 minutes.
Plate, garnish with chopped scallions and serve as an appetizer or main course with avocado wedges, bammie, fried plantains, boiled green bananas or Johnny Cakes.
Treasure Beach is small community on Jamaica’s south western coast that prides itself with being friendly and very laid back.
A fishing community with six miles of beaches, rocky coastline and private coves, it is the perfect place to get away from it all and with not much activity besides swimming, snorkeling, bicycle rides, etc., you’ve got little choice than to relax and catch the vibe.
I’ve been going to Treasure Beach for several years now, most times to attend the international literary festival, Calabash, which brings scores of lovers of the word to this far off the beaten track place to listen to world class literature.
I’ve also been when the festival is not in session. Besides the people, here are a few of the other reasons I keep returning.
Fishing boats at Treasure Beach
Pool at Jakes
Cottage at Jakes
Plants grow everywhere
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town of Greenwood is a time capsule that has carefully preserved the legacy of its previous owners.
Part of an 84,000 acre plantation, Greenwood has an impressive pedigree. Built in 1790 by Richard Barrett, a custos of St James, Speaker of the Assembly and cousin of the British poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, it has been in continuous occupation since.
Greenwood boasts the original Barrett family library complete with leather-bound books dating to 1697, china and original furniture, some with the Barrett family crest.
What impressed me most about this house is that is has never been abandoned. It still has original furnishings and artifacts, a lot of which I had never seen before.
Bob and Anne Betton, its proud current owners and operators, opened Greenwood as a museum in 1976.
Greenwood Great House, 876-953-1077 is open every day from 9-6. Tours cost $14 for adults, $7 for children under 12.
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