Fruit is my life now. I have eaten more fruit in the 10 days I’ve been here than the sum total of my entire life. I don’t just eat the fruit anymore. I am the fruit. Unfortunately my digestive system isn’t quite on board yet. But we’ll get there. We’ve been together a long time and I know we’ll work things out. Luckily for me, we had a section in training last week wherein we learned all about what to look out for in the world of “loose stool” (go ahead and stop reading my blog now if you don’t care to hear more, we get real here). Luckily I’m actually doing pretty well. I have tried so many new fruits that I’m absolutely in love with. My favorite thus far is the “Sweet Sop”, which is basically just heaven in your mouth. It’s also mango season, so I’ve been eating my weight in mangoes. Add to those bananas, plantains, breadfruit, papaya, wax apple, pineapple, and many more. We also make juice out of many of these fruits, which has been lovely. Basically every tree on the island seems to have some sort of edible or medicinal part. In my back yard, my host mom collects the fruits I mentioned along with nutmeg, cocoa, bay leaves, cinnamon, almonds, and myriad other things.
She has also been teaching me how to prepare all kinds of Caribbean dishes. Cow heel and pumpkin soup (not my favorite), green fig and sol fish, breadfruit balls, bakes (my favorite), stewed chicken, fried rice with local veggies, turkey and red bean stew, and many more. We also do a “light dinner” every other night, which is usually toast with Nutella or a cheese sandwich on local bread. She made cocoa powder, which she crushed with a mortar and pestle and squished into a little log that looks like a turd. I grated up the turd looking cocoa and we made cocoa tea to have with our hot bakes (which are like little dense donuts). We also had “pocket pizza”, which we bought in Rodney Bay. It was like a calzone with coleslaw and ham filling… so not actually pizza. I’ll have to make them some real pizza at some point.
Last week we also went to the supermarket. It’s similar to the markets in the US, but you can definitely tell which products are imported. They are about 4 times more expensive than their local counterparts. No bell peppers or canned soup for me. It’s best to only buy produce that is in season. My host mother, Rosette, is teaching me how to shop on a budget. She knows the best places to get a good price on bulk raw materials like rice, flour, and sugar. Essentially she is teaching me how to be a frugal shopper, which I will need to be on my meager Peace Corps stipend.
We got a whole medical session in training on how to safely prepare our food. We have to have boiled or purified water here, as the delicate flora in our American tummies cannot cope with the tap water. Most of the locals purify their water as well. My host father apparently likes to live dangerously, so he drinks straight from the tap. I [bucket] shower in the pipe water, but I have yet to drink it. I’m trying to take as few risks as possible with my old pal, Digestive System. As far as food goes, PC suggests we go by the rule of thumb: Peel it, boil it, or toss it.
There has been about a million things happening, but I think I’ll try to write about them in themed posts like this one. I am still having a wonderful time, and I’m so happy I’ve been able to try all these wonderful new foods. I’ve committed myself to trying everything, even if I think I won’t like it. So far so good, with the exception of the cow heel. I’m proud of myself for even putting gelatinous boiled hoof in my mouth, so I’m even calling that one a win. If you’re reading my blog because you hope to find yourself here, I suggest coming with a completely open mind.