Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tigers & Callaloo

Yoko Sugiura  

Nurse: Are you an organ donor?

Me: Um, well, I’m using my organs right now.
Nurse (Laughs): I mean in the event that something happens…
Me: Sure. But try not to kill me. It would be really inconvenient if I died right now.

I had major surgery this year. It was the scariest experience of my life. The surgical procedure was super-risky and major blood loss was highly probable. So was death. The surgeon, a fellow Jamaican-American, advised me to eat obscene amounts of callaloo as it was critical that my blood was iron-rich for the procedure. Callaloo is like a spinach-meets-collard greens vegetable. It’s a classic Jamaican dish that is usually served with boiled yellow and white yams, dasheen, fried dumplings, and ackee and salt fish. My father makes exquisite callaloo and when he heard what the doctor said, he planted callaloo gardens all around his house. In the weeks that preceded the surgery, he pulled, stripped and chopped his fears into edible pieces, seasoning the callaloo with yellow onions, scallion, salt and pepper. He served the callaloo with Jasmine rice that was perfumed with dried shrimp. He offered this dish to his only daughter with all his heart. The day before my procedure was super-intense. What if the doctor accidentally leaves a blunt inside of me? (My brother, a physician, says that many doctors smoke a little ganja). What if I lose my sense of smell and can’t recall the dreamy aromas in that 1997 Bertani Amarone? What if I lose the ability to weave words? I lied on my parents’ couch, the sun frozen between my legs as I chatted with God. I asked him to choose the nurses, the anesthesiologist, even the table I would lay on as they carved into me. I asked him to choose the surgical utensils and to give the surgeons exactness and wisdom with every incision.  That morning daddy and I prayed together. “You’re going to emerge from this like a tiger,” he said as he pulled callaloo from the earth.

Calaloo is very cheap and available at most West Indian or Caribbean supermarkets. If you don’t have these markets in your community or city, consult your nearest Jamaican who may actually be growing some.   


  1. Wow Dink, this is a great post. I truly enjoyed reading it and I'm glad you came out of your surgery like a fiery fresh tiger.

  2. That is an amazing way to present a dish!!

  3. My grandmother told me that callaloo is good for the blood. I am so happy that you emerged like a tiger after surgery. You are a great person who is so talented.