Friday, December 30, 2011


This spiky, green, sweet and sour fruit grows in abundance in central America, Mexico, and Jamaica. It's family member, the cherimoya is one of my most favorite California fruits. The fruit has a creamy texture, reminiscent of bananas and coconut, and the flavor of tangy strawberry and pineapple. This has easily become one of my favorite ingredients, and meal accompaniments of Jamaica.

So the chef taught me how to make Soursop juice yesterday. 

Whole, ripe soursop is roughly peeled with a knife and placed in a bowl with a dash (1/4 cup or so) of water. Squeeze and massage the fruit with hands for a couple minutes.

Strain the fruit juice from the flesh and seeds into a seperate bowl. 
Grate fresh nutmeg into the fruit juice and whisk in 2 T sweet and condensed milk.

Soursop juice is a meal in it self. Thick and creamy, sweet and refreshing with that slight hint of nutmeg on the end.

I also have a scotch bonnet infused white rum sitting around on the shelf for the last week here, and the two of these together with a twist of lime make one hell of a fiery cocktail!

We will be serving them here for New Years while listening to this band playing live on the beach to bring in 2012 the Jamaican way.

Happy New Year!

x -A

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nutmeg Sins

Tales of a carnivorous yogi.....

I was told to leave my belongings tucked under the seat of the car before leaving.
"Girl! This is doooowntown Kingston! You can't be walking round this market as a whitey with a bag full of money. Even if it ain't full of money! People only think one thing when they see you, round here. Ya hear?"

I heard. And left my things in the car while the chef and I shopped for food.

The market of Kingston is not unlike other markets in rural parts of the world, that I have been to. Tattered blue tarps strung up to block out the hot sun. Piles of empty coconut shells in every corner. The smell of urine and fermenting fruit rising up from the dirt path. Dogs, kids, and piles of colorful fruits and vegetables on display.
 I find myself quite content in these markets. If it wasn't for the noticeably big, black, bra-less women in neon colored dresses, aprons tied snug under their bosoms, yelling at one another from across the aisles, then I could be anywhere in the world really- Cambodia, India, Greenland, or Morocco. It's all the same- people just doing what they need to do, with bare necessity, to sell goods and provide food to their community.

From the bright red hibiscus flowers (known as sorrel here in Jamaica), to whole Carribean nutmegs with their orange mace skin still dramatically wrapped around, and the constant smell of grilled chicken in the air, were all that reminded me that I am, in fact, in Jamaica.

A rasta'd man pushing a shopping cart full of garbage and goods stopped near me. I had been wandering down the aisles, while keeping close enough for the chef to keep his gaze on me.
"Where ya from, mon?"
He asked me with a large, stretched out smile. His rastas had been here awhile, I noticed, as they had begun to fuze and mat back together at the ends, while half of his hair was tucked up under a red, green and yellow stripped beanie on his head.
"Is it your first time in Jamaica, mon!?"
He un-tied a bright colored string bracelet from his cart.
"I will give you this for 100 jamaican dollars, mon." ($1.25US)
When I informed him of my not having money, he gave me the bracelet anyway.
"The green is for the jungle of Jamaica, the yellow for the sun, the red for the blood shed, and the black is for the skin of the people. Now you will never forget Jamaica, mon. Peace and love, sister."
Hit re-lit his joint and walked away. I felt as if I had just been given a blessing.

Our van was now full of our next week's worth of produce, all packed in their own cheap, black, plastic bags.
At the end of the day, having acquired much of our holiday provisions, we began our 3 hour journey home to the other side of the island. It was dusk, and the roads were busy with Friday night traffic. It was still hot and muggy in the car, so we stopped to get some cold Red Stripes beers for the journey home. The winding roads, framed by tropical jungle become increasingly narrow. The chef leans back to ask if I mind him lighting a joint -Welcome to Jamaica.
As it gets darker and darker, the locals begin to come out into the cool night along the roadside. Families play loud music outside their front doors, with full gangsta-style speaker setups, and fire up grills for throwing down some evening jerk chicken for hungry travelers in their cars. Smells of wood fire, cinnamon, scotch bonnet chilies, and that blessed nutmeg fill the night air. I hang my head out the window for a closer relationship with the cooking chicken legs and breasts....
Enough is enough!
We pull over at a jerk shack.

A quarter of jerk chicken, rice and peas (black eye peas) and festival (basically... a savory doughnut). I order without hesitation and wait my turn at the pickup window. A styrofoam container is filled to the brim with warm, spicy chicken, rice and festival. I sip a spicy Jamaican ginger beer from a plastic bottle while I wait.

As I dive quickly into this blissful aroma and tasty bits of tender chicken muscle, wrapped in spicy flavors only known to Jamaica, I am beyond happy. My plastic fork and knife are of the lowest grade of plastic, for a utencil sake, as they do more bending than piercing. Bits of rice fling off my plate and onto the laps of those around me, as I attempt to navigate my way in the dark, around this hot chicken leg. I quickly dispose of my not-so-handy utensils in the nearest overflowing bin, and move straight in with my hands. It's good. REAL GOOD!
I wipe the side of my mouth with the back of my hand and continue eating as if I have never eaten before. Drips of jerk spice splash onto my white tank top, and my sandals are glittered with rice. I stop for a moment and drop into where I am.

After waking up at 4:30 am this morning to practice yoga before the sun rises, reaffirming connection with myself and with the planet. I somehow end the day now by disregarding all consciousness towards my food sourcing, AND towards disposable waste management! Two things that I take pride in my everyday life as a yogi-chef.
So what is it that makes us switch off the bars of conscious consumption, and delicate ways towards the environment so quickly? Yes, I admit that my appetite is a force to be reckoned with, as I will do almost anything to feed the beast inside me that craves delicious food. And the "when in...!" mentality of traveling in new countries and wanting to integrate seamlessly with locals and their cuisine, is something that I believe strongly in. But regardless, I couldn't help but feeling at that moment, very satisfied and at the same time, very disappointed in myself.

So where is the line drawn for being a carnivorous yogi? I still don't know. But I woke up this morning with a gnarly chicken hangover. Sticking to juice and papaya today.... but I'll be back you beautiful jerk chicken, you.
I'll even succumb to humoring the locals as the white girl who shows up to a roadside chicken shack with her own set of bamboo fork and knife.

Merry Christmas from Jamaica....Yeh-mon!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Porto, Portugal

I boarded my 3 pm flight from Marrakech to Porto and said goodbye to the red soil of Morocco as I flew away to begin another journey.
A gypsy-soulmate-yogi that I met in India was galavanting around Portugal in his van. We decided to meet up.

I departed the plane and flew through Portuguese customs. It was raining. I was wearing Rainbow sandals (my favorite travel companion), jeans, a white tee shirt, Moroccan cashmere shawl, and a henna hand tattoo. My friend and I had not seen each other since India, last February, after we spent a 5-week intensive, teacher-training course together. A car horn sounded as a white and red van pulled up alongside the curb where I stood. Inside, a recognizable head of blonde rastas sat in the British driver's seat. It always amazes me how much a familiar hug can instantly make you feel at home again.

I boarded my new home for the week and we drove into the city. Being the true gypsy he is (much longer than I have been), his van is his home when it needs to be - a toothbrush surrounded by pencils and pens in the cup holder, a peacock feather and sexwax on the sill, stickers of Shiva and Ganesha on either window, a Tibetan Love & Kindness mantra taped to the dashboard (the one we were both given in our training. Mine is in my bag.) 
We found a parking spot next to the river in the Historical District of Porto. And stayed for 4 days....

India- February

 Flashback February 2011: I had been sleeping in a tiny hut in Gokarna for 2 weeks by myself before traveling north to Goa for my awaited 5 week training. I entered the retreat center, my linen pants glued to my legs with sweat from 10 hours on Indian public transit. Walking to my room, I passed the pool, and standing at the edge of the pool was a merman. We became instant friends and sidekicks. Pulling out meditation cushions from beneath one another during 5 am pranayama class, just to lighten up the mood. Pouring hot candle wax on each others feet during late night kirtan. Or just organizing heavily competitive synchronized swimming routines in-between asana classes. Anything to keep each other laughing and playing while climbing high on a spiritual journey. Mint tea each night while we chatted about what "enlightenment" tastes like..... and recounting all the longing flavors of a cold beer and juicy grilled red meat that we were very much missing.
We knew then that we are in fact soul mates. Not the "we are gonna run off and get married and live on an island, making beautiful yogi-babies" kinda soul mates. We are, in fact, the kind of soul mates that can and will make amazing things happen around us. And a pair of soul-full, soul mates that can understand one another, and only when necessary, use words.

Our reunion in Porto was a bit of a spiritual and alcohol bender, in fact. We did practice yoga alongside one another once again, in lonely Portuguese parks and beaches, bundled up from the winter winds - our breath count completely in-sync. As it was in India. The nights of Portugal were spent with hands wrapped around a glass of port wine, and grilled sardines to cure hangovers still lingering from the night before. We chatted about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. What it really means to live yogically, and "should we switch over to cava now? Or hit up a late night regae bar?..... one more round of sardines, please. Obrigado." By day four of sleeping in a van, down by the river, not showering and aching kidneys, I decided enough was enough.... so we drove away from our headaches and into the mountains.

Up in a tiny village near Guara, Portugal. Not far from the boarder of EspaƱa. We were guided by his teacher for 2 hours each day in a led asana and meditation, created by her, and derived from Sufi poems. Collecting chestnuts on their quinta property during the day, and making soups each night with potatoes and kale from the neighbors garden. With the hangovers far behind me now, I was now filled with inspiration for the power of soul and practice.

I left Portugal, my gypsy-man-friend, and my latest movable home for Spain on the 7th day.

Elephant rock above the quinta. Sign of wealth and luck. 

Weeks later and I am still brushing out the rastas that formed in my hair. The thought of port wine brings a smile to my face..... and an instant headache. And my practice each morning is re-vamped in a reminder to connect with the soul, through asana, and through memories of Portugal.