What food, coding, kiddies, proofreading & social media have in common

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. 🙂

‘Till next time,

Walk good.

Homecoming Poetry

Shannon Algiere (beautiful superwoman awesomeness that you should stalk on IG) shared this gorgeousness from the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture:

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,

and dine

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

as I laugh at everything just the same.

Patty & Coco Bread with Big Small Moments

At the beginning of June, I was in the process of readjusting to life at home: finding new things to eat on a daily basis, new products for my hair and skin, new ways of getting around. In short, I was familiarizing myself with a new, old way of living. It would be a slight understatement to say I was finding my adjustment difficult (my previous post made that pretty clear). Yet, routines are made and broken every day when we choose to push through frustration and annoyance and discover something new, find a better way.

I have been finding my own better way in very small, seemingly insignificant moments, and I hadn’t realized it until I was *dun dun dun* eating a patty :-).

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For those who are Jamaican, you know the distinct and unique pleasure of a well-crafted patty and warm, well-buttered coco bread. Patty and coco bread (please note, it’s not good to have one without the other) is everyday food, “a delicacy for all Jamaicans,” as my brother says. A hot flaky meat, seafood or vegetable pie – curried chicken is my favourite – surrounded by poofy, sweet butteriness. Heaven :-).

I sat in my mother’s car savouring every bite, reflecting on this delicious privilege of being Jamaican, and I realized something. In many cases, our challenges are not as difficult as they seem to be. Our emotions and associated mindsets complicate our challenges and we end up feeling overwhelmed, incapable, and miserable. However, the age-old advice applies: breathe, and for the believers out there, trust where and how Your Daddy is leading you. Some new advice of my own to my future self: eat a patty and coco bread while you’re at it. 🙂

As to my current ambitions and exploits, I no longer want to be a chef! I know that may be shocking considering my previous determination to work on the line. However, after Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I’ve realized that restaurant culture is not for me. I may change my mind at a later date – sooner rather than later maybe – but for now that’s where it stands. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with where we are as a nation in terms of our food system, and where we are aiming to go. I am making different connections across the island and trying to find out where my talents, abilities, and passions would best fit as we navigate our way forward. Shout out to the Ujima Natural Farmers’ Market and the Source Farm Foundation & Eco-Village! Some great people doing great work that I’m becoming more involved in.

Till next time, walk good!

from Blue Hill at Stone Barns, N.Y. to St. Catherine, Jamaica

Absurd to think that two weeks ago I sat curled between raised beds of rainbow chard, turnip rabe and carrots. I was harvesting those carrots, Mokum carrots; it seems a lifetime ago. The soil damp and rich, crumbling and falling between my fingers, giving up those babies quite contentedly. Quality control – I taste one, two, three, it’s easy to eat them. That, I remember. I harvest two hundred because, well, I’m a volunteer on a farm – in a greenhouse to be precise. This farm shares the property with a fine dining restaurant, and this restaurant needs baby Mokum carrots to serve up (with a bit of dressing) on a fence.

Image courtesy of thisguysfoodblog.com
Image courtesy of thisguysfoodblog.com

I once heard the vegetables served on the fence compared to heads on stakes – apparently a reminder of the vicious nature of agriculture.

We eat, eat, eat voraciously, insatiably, consumers we’re called after all.

Anyway, I harvest two hundred carrots, making sure their verdant tops are together in the same direction in a large green bin. Weigh them, place them in the cooler, record the weight and grab another green bin. Back to the soil, my favorite part of the entire job. She smells of life and plenty and beauty.

Today I am without her. Today is the first time in seven months I am not on a farm. I am home, encased in concrete walls and heat and humidity. Jamaican sunshine reigns outside, though it shines through a dirty purple haze made of Saharan dust. Jamaican breeze makes the coconut trees wave in my neighbour’s backyard. I am happy to be home and I am sad missing the soil. As I said, it is absurd that I was so many miles away just two weeks ago. This farm was in Pocantico Hills, NY 10591, exactly one thousand six hundred and six miles from my home.

Baked French Toast around Kalamazoo for Spring Break

It’s 20140320_223841finally beginning to warm up (compared to 0 degrees) in Kalamazoo, and I’ve been thankful, especially because a friend who I haven’t seen in years came to visit me this past week. She spent a week here, and we lived like kings and paupers when it came to food. Besides the typical reasons for a staycation being enjoyable, food and good company are reason enough for each other.

We visited Fandango and had some of their delicious tapas selections. The Artichoke & Spinach Dip was amazing – not overly cheesy with enough spinach and artichoke so you can try to justify the dish by claiming you’re eating healthily (we did anyway!). Similarly, their Bacon Date Wraps were the most perfectly-balanced, salty and sweet bite-sized delights. I could’ve just kept ordering those all evening and I would’ve been quite happy.

Next we visited The Wine Loft. If you’re not a heavy drinker, but enjoy a good-quality white wine, find a bottle of this Cascinetta Vietti Moscato D’Asti: Sierra Club Political Internship - Summer and Fall

I’m new to the whole wine thing, so my description won’t be exceptional by any means, but that drink was fruity, but not overly sweet, and smooth in all the right ways.

Crow’s Nest provided a well needed salad and soup dinner, and I’m ashamed to say this was my first visit. Their ambiance was very college/ young adult friendly, but still somewhat classy. Brick walls, digital photography, a close kitchen and a simple standard menu. It’s hard to beat that combination.

If you’re looking for some place to dine in Kalamazoo, give any one of these places a try, and take pictures!

From there on out, we were definitely paupers 🙂 . Chinese take out and pizza comprised our meals for the rest of the week. Although maybe it’s not so pauper-ish because the pizza was from South Haven?

In the midst of all of this, I tried Laura Vitale’s Baked French Toast recipe (by the way, she was on The Today Show, I love this lady!) and discovered an excellent, easy and delicious breakfast dish. I love crunchy bits so I ate all the corners (yum!) my friend ate the middle parts, and the streusel topping added a sweet and textured layer that you’d be remiss to leave out. I say that specifically because I was about to be lazy and not add the streusel topping, I’m glad my friend convinced me otherwise. Seriously, that would’ve been a mistake.20140321_094902

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So all in all, I had a great spring break. Delicious food and great company is all I could’ve asked for really.