Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jamaican Fried Chicken: The Remix

The last time I was in Jamaica, I was surprised to see how prominent fried chicken had become on local menus. From Kingston to Christiana, people were eating fried chicken legs the way they once ate jerk chicken. Even my cousins had fried chicken on my grandmother’s birthday party menu. But I wasn’t disappointed. The flavors came together like some Jamaican remake of an American song. The chicken was grown on a nearby farm. After the slaughter, legs, thighs, breasts and wings sat in a seasoning bath of garlic, onion, scallion, scotch bonnet pepper, and thyme. They were then dipped in flour and thrown in the deep, bubbly Dutch pot. The village feast called hungry bellies near and far to partake of the Jah-merican throwdown. It seemed bodies were emerging from graves, the fried fragrance like the hearkening of Jesus’ second coming. My mother, a spongy cook, who can recall the ingredients and technique of most dishes, made some this evening, the same fried fragrance calling me from my hustle-and-bustle-make-that-money trance.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tomatoes are So Secretive

Tomatoes are so secretive. We often see them in supermarkets in heaping piles, uninspired by their ubiquity. But a beautifully cultivated tomato is like a clandestine lover that seduces torn baguettes, French country and hard dough breads. Add a twinkle of coarse salt and simplicity becomes an unexpected trip to La Rochelle. Drizzle your tomato with anchovy oil, and your palate becomes a boudoir of flavor ecstasy. A neighbor gave my mother a Ziploc bag of baby tomatoes and we ate them like tangerines. They were so sweet and juicy, and I’ve been eating them with everything. I ate them with Wheat Thins and Jamaican crackers. I mashed them in boiled Idaho potatoes with chopped scallion. I wrapped them with sliced chorizo. I left them on the table while I went to church and now they’re gone—sneaky, little devils.      

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Requiem Rosé: Miss You, Sistah Whitney

Yesterday as I pumped gas in my car, I watched a chorus of women sing “I have nothing if I don’t have you,” at the top of their lungs. As our sister, Whitney, strained through speakers beaten down by years of Miami bass, these bent-headed women sang with eyes closed and voices coiled around Sistah Whitney’s spirit. I joined them from the near distance, encouraging them to sing on in a call-response sort of way. It was church. We were singing Whitney through. It’s been interesting listening to different people’s reactions to Whitney’s transition. Some women weep. They sympathize. Other women dismiss Whitney as a crack head who had it coming. That pisses me off. Who are we to judge? If cameras snuck into our homes, what ugly rituals might they see? How quickly we forget how Whitney sang us through those passionate love affairs (“You Give Good Love”) and their endings (“I Will Always Love You”). Whitney helped me find my rhythm as one of the only little, black girls in my Catholic school. Her song would come on the radio and I would dance and feel free in my black girlness—Give me one moment in time when I’m racing with destiny. Then in that one moment in time, I will be free…The race is over, Sis. Be still. A drop of rosé for you, dear Rose of Zion.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Holy Ghost Chocolate

My grandmother is 103 years old. And she’s amazing. In the mornings, we sit on an elderly porch—her last living sibling and watch the morning fog as it encamps around us like ghosts joining us for a cup of Jamaican chocolate tea. Her fingers are more like rickety wands now, grasping that large mug with the words #1 Grandma fading like the words on my grandfather’s tomb which is just beneath us.  You haven’t had real hot chocolate until you’ve had this tea. The cacao is beaten in a mortar and heated with water, condensed milk, vanilla, nutmeg and allspice. The result is a creamy river of dark chocolate and sweet spice twirling around your palate. You can buy the knock-off cacao from local Caribbean markets. They usually come prepackaged with a dry cinnamon leaf and while they’re tastier than generic chocolate powder, it’s not the same. My cousin brought me some from Manchester last week and I could immediately smell the terroir—the deep, dark, red soil that surrounds the pimento and cacao trees. I can smell my granny sipping time like a true OG.