|Chayote (image from here) will forever be associated with Hilda in my mind. Awkwardly, I later learned that the Jamaican nickname for this mild, zucchini-tasting vegetable sounds remarkably similar to a Spanish slang word for a portion of the female anatomy.|
When we first visualized exploring the US East Coast, Bahamas and Caribbean by boat, I imagined lots of opportunities to explore exotic foods. And to be sure, that happened. Almost twenty years of friendship with my Jamaican friend Hilda began when I asked her, then a near-stranger, how to use an odd greenish vegetable I found in the supermarket.
|I have no idea what these are, or how to eat them. If their name doesn't translate to "porcupine fruit," well, it should!|
I'm as happy, no, happier, browsing a new grocery store than I am in a jewelry store. I'm just curious about how people from other cultures make their way in the world.
|Part of a pickup truck load of pineapples|
|Trinidad's version of the Saturday morning farmer's market|
Of course, you can't roam the Caribbean without thinking spices, and we were always on the lookout for the exotic -- especially those without too much extra heat. (You know you're in trouble when the haban~ero sauce is labelled "mild.") Yet one of the most intriguing things I found in my wanderings was also one of the plainest: salt and pepper. Mixed together in one jar.
|St Martin/St Maarten, I think. At least, it's labelled in Dutch on one side (zout & zwarte peper) and French on the other (sel & poivre noir). 80% salt mixed with 20% ground black pepper, in one shaker. Handy for picnics or the ultimate minimalist.|
As we've downsized and streamlined and minimalized and downsized some more, the topic of cooking ingredients in general -- and spices in particular -- took up a disproportionate amount of space in our minds and on our boat. We would invariably bring back a packet of something exotic to try and recreate an interesting flavor, only to be disappointed months later when what we did failed to match our memories. In fact most of our carefully-selected herbs and spices resembled jars of gray sawdust more than the bursts of flavor we were aiming for. That, we learned, was because heat and sunlight and humidity -- all things we have in abundance aboard -- are the enemies of freshness. We tried different kinds of jars and transitioned to blends instead of individual spices, reasoning that if we had less of each, we'd have a decent chance of using them up before they went bad, and save space at the same time. Our lockers are now full of blackened fish rub, curry blend, chili powder, Italian seasoning mix, sweet baking blend (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves) ... but we never thought of the very simplest and most basic combo. That, to me, is the ultimate benefit of travel -- to reexamine ordinary things you've always taken for granted.
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This concludes my "official" A to Z posts. The challenge was fun, and tiring, and, well ... challenging. I met some interesting new bloggers and had lots of fun following 5 other boat bloggers (listed in the lower right sidebar). I'll be back to posting roughly weekly, or whenever I have something cool to talk about, next week.
The Monkey's Fist has some truly outrageous grocery "finds" in other countries here. The Boat Galley lists some hints for storing spices here.