Among all the things I could want for my birthday today, some Jama-education for my foreign friends would be good. So I thought I’d share some mango time facts. A bit late, since the season has just about run its course but, better late than never! By the way, mango is the new chocolate whenever it’s in season and Jamaican mangoes are the best!
Mi nuh drink coffee tea, mango time Nuh care how nice it may be, mango time At the height of the mango crop When di fruit dem a ripe an drop Wash yu pot, tun dem dung, mango time! [a Jamaican folk song]
Mango time equals sticky fingers with bright yellow juices, stained clothes, and a bit of extra padding because, well, we eat them at almost every meal time :-).
We have several different varieties. I’ve tasted:
Blackie — typically green skinned and very small, some black spots, a little tangy especially when you get down to the seed.
Julie — large, multi-colored (yellow, red & green), sweet and creamy.
Hairy — typically small yellow-skinned, fairly sweet but the flesh of the mango is very ‘hairy,’ the fibres detach quite easily from the seed and get stuck in your teeth a lot.
East Indian — just as big as the Julie (often with more yellow than red, in my opinion!), hairy and very very juicy.
Still need to work these: Number 11, Bombay, Sweetie come brush mi etc. Here’s a good site to check out some mango facts.
Yes, I’ve tried mangoes while in the US. They don’t compare. Nothing compares to sun-ripened fruit, and Jamaican mangoes are one of the best examples. Almost every other backyard has a mango tree, and during mango season, we climb the trees, make picking poles (yes that’s the fancy name I just made up, we just call them sticks) from a long branch and wire wrapped like a hook around the end, and milk those trees to how di mango dem good!
I’ve also recently learned how to make mango butter (for hair and skin products) from the mango seed, so I’ll be trying that with the next mango I eat to see how that goes!
Till next time, I’ll be enjoying the last of the mangoes, and you,
Don’t you love that moment when you look at your seemingly disconnected array of pursuits, and a pattern begins to emerge?
I was recently thinking about my stack of all-over-the-place-ness, which I’ve expounded a bit about on this blog, and came to an interesting conclusion about where it seems my life is headed.
Let me explain:
I returned to Jamaica in May after working at Blue Hill in N.Y. and since then I’ve had several plans and expressions of interest to hire me fall through for some reason or another. So I’ve been either sitting at home or volunteering, thinking always how I can turn any of my pursuits into revenue streams. I decided to start an editing, proofreading and feedback business and start freelancing as a writer/ editor/ proofreader but for that I needed a website. And with a website, of course, you need to have an online presence: cue learning more about social media management and online community building. In learning more about social media, I came across Skillcrush – an online community where anyone can learn to code. Learning to code is on my bucket list and I didn’t have a reason not to learn, so I signed up for their free 10-day bootcamp and am working on learning HTML and CSS.
So, here I am, volunteering at Ujima Natural Farmers’ Market every other week, running around with kiddies at various day camps, trying to get clients for my business, maintaining an online presence and building a brand through social media, learning to code, reading tonnes of great articles about everything from social media management to apps that help you improve your productivity, and not getting paid for any of it.
I asked myself ‘what’s the point of all of it? What’s the connection? Why does it seem like I’m all of over the place?’
Then I realized that the most engaging moments I’ve had in recent memory have been helping others to tell their story and telling my own.
While at Kalamazoo College (K), I was a Writing Consultant and Career Associate, helping anyone who came through the door to communicate their stories, their ideas and the best of themselves. Additionally, a big part of the work I was doing around food at K was about facilitating an exchange of stories among local farmers, food system members & stakeholders, and the college community.
While at Blue Hill, my most engaging moments and the best part of my job was sharing the stories of the food & Stone Barns farmers with guests. Even coming home, I’ve been learning so much about our food system and attempting to find ways to share all these stories with other Jamaicans and the world.
I think I can say that I’m finding a pattern: maybe storytelling is my life’s work. (Wow, what a grandiose statement!) Whether I do that through the written word, food, social media or website development & design, it seems I’m bound to this one way or another. I’m loving that idea. 🙂
Both articles tell the story of ‘trafficked humans,’ who either legally sign up for work not knowing what they are getting into or who are stolen and forced to work in inhumane and debasing conditions. I say “what Jamaicans like to call” (and really it’s not just Jamaicans) because we’re not calling this global crisis what it really is: slave trade. Human beings forced to work, given little to eat, drink or survive, killed, beaten, violated in every way possible, and we want to put a pretty term on it? Really?
In the few months I’ve been home, I’ve realized that typically we, Jamaicans, don’t think about where our food really comes from. It isn’t a question that comes into our minds. Ask how was our chicken raised? That doesn’t really matter much. Ask if our vegetables were sprayed with pesticides? ‘So what if they are? We have to eat.’ We do read labels, mostly to see “Product of Jamaica.” And even when a product is Jamaican, we are, often times, less likely to buy it, maybe because we believe better products come from outside our island, maybe for other reasons.
We have mindsets that do not support buying our own food and we do not ask questions of our food system.
These two simple facts (in conjunction with others of course) have led to:
our ridiculous US$1 billion import bill
the flooding of our market with foreign food
increasing incidence of diet-related illnesses and diseases
erosion of our indigenous food culture
degradation of our agricultural sector
importation of foreign agricultural technologies not suited to our food system
lack of economic support for our farmers and fisherfolk
degradation of our soils
…the list goes on
We have stripped the dignity and nobility from our land and waters, and their stewards.
In doing so, we have supported the work of slave traders who strip basic human dignity, nobility and rights from the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world.
I guarantee you that several, maybe even most, of the ingredients on our supermarket shelves, in our shops and stores, at our corner wholesale, are somehow linked to slave labour. The palm oil in our chips, where does that come from? The fish in our cat food, where were they raised? And even closer to home, how do we raise our own meat and fish? How do we grow our fruits, vegetables and ground provisions?
So I felt inspired to share something I wrote when I came back home in May. Happy Friday! Spread some beauty this weekend. 🙂
It is a strangely distant homecoming –
Coconut trees, breadfruit leaves swaying
in a humid breeze,
Sun shining a dusty purple through
a West African haze,
And I in my bed, looking at it all.
I, used to running with turkeys,
used to collecting eggs and cleaning chicken shit
off my farm boots,
I, used to harvesting, seeding, weeding, serving,
in an award-winning, fine dining restaurant.
I must relearn to live me here
if only for one month –
To carry all the ways I’ve grown,
the guests I’ve served
the wines I’ve tasted
to present them all before myself
in this beloved, suddenly strange place,
senses wide open as old flavours mix with new
as fine and dingy silverware
dance between my fingers
as white tablecloths are stained
with chicken gravy – not Bordelaise or Holloran Pinot 2012 –
as I smile and listen to old new friends