Dear Michael,

We could write another book about “My Mother’s Hand” after your 400 plus pages on “Cooked.” I feel the love you have to give. After 416 pages, I knew instantly what you referred to as “hand taste” because I could taste my mother’s hand after I read your words.

As a young girl I would often hear people in rural Jamaica say, “Mek mi taste yuh hand” or “mi wah taste yuh hand.” At the time I understood the statement to be a request; that they wanted to taste my home cooked meals. They heard that I was cooking and probably wanted to experience my food. However, looking back now I remember that the people, who would ask, were people I was somehow related to or connected to. They were also the older folks in the community, especially those from Georgia Road. They wanted to taste my hand.

As I closed your book tonight (which I purchased on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013) unable to see the June 22 super moon from my room, I laughed with appreciation remembering the taste of my mother’s hand – it was distinctly Jamaican hot pepper spicy with braised (scallion, thyme, salt, garlic in coconut oil) pork flavor on everything she prepared. Mama’s meals were strong with thick portions of seasonal yam and fat slices of roasted breadfruit to absorb the “sweet” pork gravy.

I first saw my mother cooking on wood fire (firewood) and then hot coals in the outdoor wooden kitchen. Eventually she started cooking on kerosene oil stoves about the same time I left elementary school. Regardless of the fuel she used, my mother’s meals all had that same flavor. There were many days when the kerosene stove malfunctioned, flooding the burners and filling the entire inside-kitchen she built with toxic black smoke. As powerful as the scent of kerosene, it was not enough to spoil the taste of her hand; the meals kept the same taste. Even after she bought a two-burner gas stove and there was no more smoke, her “hand taste” remained, like a signature on her meals.

The taste of her hand that forced a troublesome rooster under a bamboo basket until she was ready to cut the head off; the same “hand taste” that dipped the bird into boiling water and patiently plucked out every feather before she gutted it, washed it in lime juice and seasoned it for hours with her spices, her time and her sweat in the old makeshift kitchen. This she did at least half a dozen times when I was a child so that dinner was always served.

Michael, you are so right. My mother cooked slowly, very, very slowly. I often wondered how she accomplished so much and yet cooked so much and so slowly. She opened her shop soon after daybreak and closed after midnight; easily eighteen hours daily and still had time to cook three full course meals everyday while she worked in her shop. Her menu favorites were boiled yam and dasheen, fried dumplings, beef soup, stew pork, curried chicken, steam callaloo…Regular drinks were lemonade and soursop sweetened with condensed milk and a shot of white rum.

There were days when she would bake a large cornmeal or sweet potato pudding intending to sell it but always giving most of it away. She gave the warm pudding to the men who helped her unload the sacks of flour and sugar from the trucks to the shop and to the women who helped her with her washing and ironing. Even the young boys, who climbed the breadfruit trees as a pastime, enjoyed the “flushy top” puddings on their descent.

At her funeral ten years ago, there were many testimonies to her cooking. Grown men and women with their children spoke about the hot lunches she prepared for them. She kept the extended community of Brownsville schoolchildren nourished for at least ten years, peaking in the early 1970s before I went off to high school. They never left her shop unsatisfied or embarrassed because she knew how to “season” and slow-cook everything including the cheapest cuts so that the children would chew and swallow the bones. They all tasted her hand.

Michael Pollan, you have allowed me to taste my mother’s hand once again. I suspect it has been over eighteen years since she prepared her last meal because she was disabled for a few years before she died. Still, her hand tastes the same tonight.

I pray now and know that with God’s Hand, thousands more will also taste her hand.

With love,

Ann

PS: On my way over to the Kinko’s at 8:45, I noticed the same black woman in the middle of the Diamond on Ashford Dunwoody Road. She was heading north again and still talking to herself fitting the profile of a homeless woman.

Dear Michael,

We could write another book about “My Mother’s Hand” after your 400 plus pages on “Cooked.”  I feel the love you have to give. After 416 pages, I knew instantly what you referred to as “hand taste” because I could taste my mother’s hand after I read your words.

As a young girl I would often hear people in rural Jamaica say, “Mek mi taste yuh hand” or “mi wah taste yuh hand.” At the time I understood the statement to be a request; that they wanted to taste my home cooked meals. They heard that I was cooking and probably wanted to experience my food. However, looking back now I remember that the people, who would ask, were people I was somehow related to or connected to. They were also the older folks in the community, especially those from Georgia Road. They wanted to taste my hand.

As I closed your book tonight (which I purchased on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013) unable to see the June 22 super moon from my room, I laughed with appreciation remembering the taste of my mother’s hand – it was distinctly Jamaican hot pepper spicy with braised (scallion, thyme, salt, garlic in coconut oil) pork flavor on everything she prepared. Mama’s meals were strong with thick portions of seasonal yam and fat slices of roasted breadfruit to absorb the “sweet” pork gravy.

I first saw my mother cooking on wood fire (firewood) and then hot coals in the outdoor wooden kitchen. Eventually she started cooking on kerosene oil stoves about the same time I left elementary school.  Regardless of the fuel she used, my mother’s meals all had that same flavor. There were many days when the kerosene stove malfunctioned, flooding the burners and filling the entire inside-kitchen she built with toxic black smoke. As powerful as the scent of kerosene, it was not enough to spoil the taste of her hand; the meals kept the same taste. Even after she bought a two-burner gas stove and there was no more smoke, her “hand taste” remained, like a signature on her meals.

The taste of her hand that forced a troublesome rooster under a bamboo basket until she was ready to cut the head off; the same “hand taste” that dipped the bird into boiling water and patiently plucked out every feather before she gutted it, washed it lime juice and seasoned it for hours with her spices, her time and her sweat in the old makeshift kitchen. This she did at least half a dozen times when I was a child so that dinner was always served.

Michael, you are so right. My mother cooked slowly, very, very slowly. I often wondered how she accomplished so much and yet cooked so much and so slowly. She opened her shop soon after daybreak and closed after midnight; easily eighteen hours daily and still had time to cook three full course meals everyday while she worked in her shop. Her menu favorites were boiled yam and dasheen, fried dumplings, beef soup, stew pork, curried chicken, steam callaloo…Regular drinks were lemonade and soursop sweetened with condensed milk and a shot of white rum.   

There were days when she would bake a large cornmeal or sweet potato pudding intending to sell it but always giving most of it away. She gave the warm pudding to the men who helped her unload the sacks of flour and sugar from the trucks to the shop and to the women who helped her with her washing and ironing. Even the young boys, who climbed the breadfruit trees as a pastime, enjoyed the “flushy top” puddings on their descent.  

At her funeral ten years ago, there were many testimonies to her cooking. Grown men and women with their children spoke about the hot lunches she prepared for them. She kept the extended community of Brownsville schoolchildren nourished for at least ten years, peaking in the early 1970s before I went off to high school. They never left her shop unsatisfied or embarrassed because she knew how to “season” and slow-cook everything including the cheapest cuts so that the children would chew and swallow the bones. They all tasted her hand.     

Michael Pollan, you have allowed me to taste my mother’s hand once again. I suspect it has been over eighteen years since she prepared her last meal because she was disabled for a few years before she died. Still, her hand tastes the same tonight.  

I pray now and know that with God’s Hand, thousands more will also taste her hand.   

With love,

Ann

Cherry could not pass the Caribbean store without stopping to take a look at the products and the produce on the shelves. She had no intentions of purchasing beef patties; not anymore. But she was curious if there were any fresh plantains and she wanted to compare their prices with those in the Farmer’s Market.

She pushed the door and entered the little Guyanese store that was advertised as primarily Jamaican. There were three or four shoppers chatting loudly as they selected their items for the week.

“You have any green mango?” A young man who had completed his shopping was in line at the cash register asked in deep wanting. He knew there were no green mangoes but he had to ask anyway.

Cherry smiled and could not resist the urge to get the young man’s attention.

“You are going to have to go home for that.” She teased.

“Mi get dem right here a’ready man.” The young man was right.

The male cashier lost the opportunity to connect with his loyal customer by not apologizing and showing an interest in the new immigrant’s needs. 

The young black Guyanese man was dying for a green mango and Cherry Brown knew it. She saw his disappointment and his desire left unsatisfied.

As Cherry walked out of the store, she reminisced over the days when she would see her friends eat dozens of green mangoes. She could not understand why the children would put salt and pepper on the green fruit and ate until their salivary juices were just as spicy and their uniforms smelled like spicy green mangoes. While cherry would eat an occasional green mango, she never appreciated the delicacy until she saw how her Trinidadian grandma prepared and preserved it. 

The decision to stop in the Caribbean Market was a good one. Cherry was inspired once again. She would be writing about the green mango again.

The Real Jamaican Cod Fish

As she sat behind the steering wheel ready to turn the key in the ignition, she noticed a large poster in the store window facing the street, proudly announcing to the community and proclaiming the Real Jamaican Cod Fish. Cherry laughed hard before she moved the car.

From green mangoes to cod fish; from Jamaica to Canada and to the world; the story of the Real Jamaican Cod Fish continues to appeal.

All dressed up for church.

Hi there everyone,

My name is Cherry Brown. I am Ann’s baby sister who is helping her to write the story about “Jamaican Cherry Juice.” It is a child’s story.

I was brought up in rural Jamaica by hard working and loving parents but was exposed to sexual abuse; alcohol and drug abuse; and violence in my community from an early age. I also heard the cries of many children as they were beaten by their parents.

Over time, I have learned how to transform negative energy, think positively, dream, and enjoy the sweet scents just before dawn.

I hate to see children suffer and fail to realise their full potential. That is why I am here to tell you the story of “Jamaican Cherry Juice” and provide you with information on my blog so that you can make better choices.

I hope that when the “book” is published, good women will read it and then help me to nourish the men of Jamaica because we need them now more than ever.

Blessings,

Cherry Brown.

As resilient as a Jamaican girl.

As resilient as a Jamaican girl.

We arrived on time for the show and walked towards the main entrance of the library but soon noticed that the double-glass doors were closed. A young man waved his hand to get our attention and walked briskly over to us almost apologizing for the inconvenience. He pointed to another door on the right of the main entrance that I was noticing for the first time.

“You can use this door.”

I thought I heard him explaining that the side door led to the stage and would save some time instead of walking out onto the temporary entrance facing Tom Redcam Drive. We entered the reading room and found the waiting audience ready for another night of good theatre. 

The good seats were all taken so we moved towards the rear of the room with me ahead of my husband hoping to find two vacant and adjoining chairs. The room was quieter tonight with fewer pre-teens and while the scent of popcorn filled the air, I did not notice the usual line of excited children waiting for their treats. I removed a chair from its original space in the rear and placed it in our favourite spot just about six rows from the screen and away from the lights. 

As we settled into our seats, I was drawn to a group of teenage girls dressed in blue skirts, white blouses and blue neck ties. The uniform was familiar but I was not sure of the school. Then I saw a slim girl (maybe a 4th former) wearing the school crest on her left bust. I could not mistake that crest, not even in my sleep. They were from my high school! Rusea’s! All the way from Hanover! I turned to my husband and asked.

“Can you imagine they came all the way from Hanover to watch this movie?” I was elated. Just two days ago I thought about the need for these movies to be shown across Jamaica and actually posted a comment on the United States Embassy’s (Jamaica) Facebook page in reaction to last week’s American Movie Classic, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Please do not stop now. Every library in Jamaica should have access to these and other classic films…How many of these children know that movies were only available in black and white? As a child, I remember placing colored plastic over our TV in Cascade, Hanover. That was about 1974 when my sister migrated to the United States and left the TV with us.”

As soon as I was sure that the students were from my alma mater, I drew my chair closer to the group and to a young woman whom I suspected was their literature teacher. 

“Are you from Rusea’s?” I asked knowingly.

She replied, “Yes, we are.”

“And you came all the way to Kingston to watch this movie tonight?”

“Oh, yes! When I heard that the movie would be showing in town, I said I had to take my students to see it. I watched it when I was ten years old and I have never forgotten it.”

It is a long way back to Hanover.

It is a long way back to Hanover.

My heart started to melt as my mind went back to the early 1980s when I was a 5th form student at Rusea’s. I was preparing for my Caribbean Examinations Certificate (CXCs) amidst all the confusion in the school and in my personal life. Sixth form was already defunct, a major indicator of the school’s general poor performance (in my view) at the time. Literature was one of the nine subjects I took that year, a decision made primarily by me. I do not recall getting any useful guidance in selecting my CXC subjects that year. 

I decided then and there that I was going to connect with the teacher sitting next to me in the Tom Redcam Reading Room. I wanted to let her know that she was special. After all, I did not notice any other “country” school represented in the audience.

“That is just so good that you took these students all the way from Hanover to see this movie!”

“Really? You think so?”

“Yes, of course. That is a long journey for you to take.”

“Well I am so glad to hear you say that. You are the only one who thinks that this is good.”

I leaned my head over to the teacher and whispered. “I need to get your contact information…you are special.”

“So, did the school sponsor the trip?” I asked, being fully aware of the high cost of transportation and the meager budgets of high schools in Jamaica.

“No, the students had to pay out of their pockets.”  

We exchanged telephone numbers and e-mail addresses while we waited for the second part of the movie to start. 

Oh, how I wished there were more teachers like this one!  Her students will never forget this movie because she placed such a high value on it. They had to drive over one hundred miles over a typical four-hour trip to see “Gone with the Wind.”

As I drove home, I thought about the discussions they must have had in their mini-bus on their way back to Hanover. I am sure they talked about Scarlett because I heard how they reacted in the “theatre” whenever she cried for what she wanted. I hope they talked about Scarlett’s resilience too, and “her choice of power over sex and romantic love.”  I pray that they had the chance to review every violent scene and make the connections between the old Atlanta and the new; the old Scarlett and the new. But most of all, I ask God to help those girls to love their fathers in spite of all their shortcomings.  

You are indeed special Miss Dawn Dawes. We are now connected! My husband says you are a blessed woman.