Saturday, April 30, 2016

Blogging from A to Z: Z is for Zout and Zwarte Peper ("salt and black pepper," in Dutch)

During the month of April last year, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge - one alphabet-themed post per day (except Sundays).  I had such a good time with it that I'm doing it again this year.  I'm loosely organized on the theme of downsizing, minimalism, and small-home living that I've learned in 14 years of living on a small boat.  I'm starting with A is for Anchoring Out, Anger-ing Out, and ending with Z is for Zout and Zwarte Peper (Dutch for salt and black pepper). Click on the A to Z logo on the lower left sidebar for links to many other bloggers participating in the challenge.

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.

= = = = =

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.




19 comments:

  1. Would you believe I still have some herbs and spices from our time in New Zealand . . . and they're still good? That was 9 years ago (okay, maybe they're not still good after all; I really wouldn't know -- cooking isn't one of my strong suit).

    It's been a lot of fun following you during the A to Z. Like you, I need a day or two off from blogging but I'll check back later in the week to see what's new.

    Cheers, Stephanie

    http://www.svcambria.com/2016/04/z-is-for-zooming-ahead-whats-next.html

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    1. LOL! But maybe, you don't have the heat and sunshine that affects us so much. I've enjoyed following your blog too, and will be continuing to follow.

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    1. I entered the wrong comment so had to try again. Spices. I look in my spice cabinet at home and realize I will have to seriously cut down the number I have when we move aboard. So many spices. I think the spice blends idea is a good one. Perhaps I will begin creating some myself.

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    2. Its weird dealing with so many changes at once, you focus on the big stuff and the little things, like what to do with too many spices, just don't get noticed. I put my backup spices in a big lock-n-lock bin on a shelf away from the galley until I worked out what I really needed. The more exotic cuisines you explore, though, the more spices you accumulate!

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  3. I am with you sailing sista.....love shopping for different foods.

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    1. You got it! Luckily we have few allergies, so if we do pick up something weird, it could be unpleasant but not dangerous.

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  4. I have enjoyed your blog and will see what is next:)

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    1. Thanx! I've enjoyed following you, too.

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  5. Awesome, awesome series!! What a great final post. I like how you combine one of the highlights of cruising (discovering new foods) with the minimalistic salt/pepper combo. So glad to have had you along for a second year in a row. Keen to go for a third ;-)

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    1. Zooming Zodiacs, Nancy! I really enjoyed your linked posts solving mysteries from A to Z. And now, I hope to follow you as you go back to your regularly scheduled quirkiness. So glad that the A to Z also led us to meet IRL!

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  6. Congratulations on completing the challenge!
    @ScarlettBraden from
    Frankly Scarlett

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    1. Thanx Scarlett, and you as well. I loved dropping in to meet your characters, and all their different voices!

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  7. When I saw earlier in April that your post was zout en peper, I refrained myself from asking whether you had a Dutch background. Instead, I decided to be patient and wait until the Z post arrived. Glad I did! :-)

    By the way, that funky spiky fruit is called rambutan. I initially discovered it in SE Asia, but saw it in the South Pacific as well. Very tasty! Similar to lychee.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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    1. Leisbet! How fun! No, not Dutch (that I know of), my family are true mutts, a broad mix of European with a drop of North Africa. Several Dutch friends, but the only words I know other than zout en zwarte peper are thank you, delicious, boat, and beer! There's a theme here...

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  8. Congrats on A to Z finish. You sailed through with the wind at your back. You were a fun find. I shall be back. I like that salt pepper combo.

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    1. And you as well, Joanne! I loved your linked poems and will be looking forward to seeing what you write next.

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  9. I was in the store just this weekend and saw a combined salt and pepper shaker. It blew my poor little mind! Why are we carting around salt and pepper separately? Oh the humanity. I'm really glad to have found your blog through the A-Z! Cheers, Lucy

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    1. No way! Cool! It was fun AtoZ-ing with you and I'm looking forward to continuing to follow your adventures.

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