Caribbean, the Real Deal Page 2
“Yeess, madam. I gots sum plahnten.” On a shelf sat a stalk of plantain.
“Wha you want?” she asked.
“Well, I’d like some to eat today, some for tomorrow, and I’d like some green ones for later.” With nothing else available, plantain would have to be our mainstay.
She pulled out a rough-looking cutlass and whacked off a large clump of the sweet vegetable. Then she said, “I cook some today. I greil dem on me George Formin Greil and dey vaira sweet. Mmmm. You jus cut dem up de middle and put dem to cook.”
I thanked her, put the plantain in my basket, and wandered around the store. In the back corner sat two worn white freezers. On the side of the upright was a sign explaining the contents: “Inside the white box are: pork chop, chicken legs, and specials.”
As I paid, noticing her “Mr. Credit Is Dead” sign, I had to wonder. Why, in her world of so little, would she have a George Foreman grill? Bet it’s great for grillin’ goat.
Anguilla’s Ivar the Diver amazed us years ago when, at the age of 60, he rowed to the middle of Road Bay to free-dive 60 feet for conch. His funky 12-foot, two-bow wooden boat slowly settled into the water with the weight of the giant mollusks. When it was full, he rowed the catch to shore, where he performed the arduous task of removing the meat from the shell by pounding a perfectly placed hole near the top. The meat went to a restaurant and the shell was added to a mountain of them beside his house.
Recently Ivar was rowing up to his beach; I was doing the same nearby. I hurriedly hauled my boat ashore so I could give him a hand. “I ben watchin you,” he said.
“You row dat bote as good as any mon.”
“Thank you,“ I said. “It’s good exercise.”
“Ben rowin me whole life,” he said. “I’m 74. Dem motors is no good for ya. Rowin make ya strong.” Judging by his Jack LaLane physique, it was true.
He collected parrotfish from the bilge of his boat and placed them in a bucket. I followed him to his house, where he covered the fish with fresh water and began to scale his catch. The fish didn’t look like they had much meat, and I wondered aloud about how he would cook them. “Firs, ya gots to get de oil hot. Vera hot. Dat importand. When de oil hot, ya put da fish in. It cook fasd when da oil hot.”
Before I left I asked, “Ivar, what do you think about all the changes on Anguilla?” I was referring to the onslaught of high-end hotels and rising costs.
“It no problem.” he said nonchalantly. “I don see no change.” From his little spot at the end of the beach, in his world of hard work, there’d been none.
As I walked away he shouted, “Keep rowin!”
I was minding my own business in Bequia’s Honeybun Bakery, sipping fresh juice, when a zany-looking local fellow entered, pointed at me, and announced, “I NEED A WHITE WOMAN!!!”
Oh, great, I thought. How’m I gonna get out of this one?
He launched into an explanation I wanted to avoid. He needed two ladies, acting as tourists, to join him for the upcoming calypso contest. His stage name was Jay Gould and he was after the title of King.
It was either curiosity or the hangover I was nursing (remember, this happened in the land of rum) that caused me to acquiesce. “Sure,” I said. “I can do that, but what do I wear?”