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!

No comments:

Post a Comment