Updated: Apr 1
I've been planting my garden this last week...
The tomatoes and bell peppers are for a lady clear at the Cazeau side of Damien market. She always yelled at me the minute I opened my car door, "Good afternoon my client! You will make me sell today!"
A lot of times I did make her sell... Even tho I sometimes drove on past and parked by the covered section, where the tomatoes were plumper and rounder and the bell peppers hadn't shriveled from the heat. But when I avoided my friend for the sake of better produce, I always felt a twinge of guilt. And next time she made sure I knew how she had seen me walking thru the market and waited for me to come, and why had I forgotten about her?
The okra is for my neighbor, the one that dug out all the thorns and weeds in our yard with a machete. His gardens always grew better than mine, but thanks to his digging, I did grow a few kalalou. He also let me pick the cherries from his bush that spilled over on our side of the wall, and some weeks when there was shooting in the zone, he would come and work in my yard until Zèzè came home. He sang while he worked sometimes, or listened to his radio. And I gave him pitchers of ice water with a cup on the porch. His presence was comforting.
The eggplant is for the cook at Blue Ridge, another dear friend of mine. I gave her a ride to the station at Chada every day for nine months, and she made sure I stayed well fed. She always made berejèn a la princess, the best fried eggplant ever. Mom-in-law say she's actually the one that taught her how to make it. And I've followed the instructions they gave me but mine are always soggy.
The hot peppers are for the owner of a tiny restaurant across from the police station by Carrefour Clercine. She makes the best mayi kole, or ground corn and beans, I've ever had. But you never know when it will be break-a-sweat-spicy.
I already have loads of mint. I wish I could share with the fried chicken vendor on Rue Germain. She told me one of her secret ingredients was putting a bit of mint in her chicken marinade. I'd like to know how she got her chicken legs so tender on the inside and perfectly crusty on the outside.
And then there's the mirliton, a funny looking waxy chayote squash I let sprout in my kitchen window. It needs a trellis to climb and I found an old hay ring in the junk pile. My mirliton, if it survives, is dedicated to a lady in an Oriani Sunday school class. She said if the
Spirit moves you to give a gift, you shouldn't second guess it, even if all you have to give is a mirliton.
The days are beautiful and warm now, and I've never in my life been so glad to leave winter behind. We got a set of reclining lawn chairs, even tho they aren't as nice as the beach chairs we had in Haiti. We haven't spent as many hours sitting on them either. Maybe it's because there's no neighbor church singing the sweet French hymns until 11 every night. Or maybe it's because we have a baby and there seems to be more mosquitoes here.
Some days tho, if I open all my doors wide, if I make grenadia juice and forget about how I'm actually using frozen cubes of passionfruit that I bought at Walmart, I can almost recreate the island vibe.
My sister cooks big pots of rice that taste way better than mine and wears a beautiful bright headscarf in the kitchen. The guys ride back and forth on bikes from our house to mom's (they call it kay grann, or grandma's house), cut hair on the front porch of Etson's cabin, and shoot baskets with the neighbor boys. Saturday morning we make spaghetti and here in America there's always plenty of meat to throw in AND boiled eggs AND bananas to go with it. And Coke or fresh juice. So there are benefits.
Some days, I think about Haiti and wonder if I'm slowly forgetting about all those dear people and what that life is like. Somehow, planting my garden has brought it all closer again. Because being in a country without enough food changes you.
It's hard to think about children who walk to school every morning in the hot sun with no brain food, maybe just a lollipop or a pack of crackers to tide them over till school lets out at 1 or 2 in the afternoon.
It's hard to talk about a food economy that has been taken over by other countries and USA factory farming. Where rice and cases of chicken are shipped over from Miami or the Dominican Republic and the small Haitian farmers have to charge so much more for their rice or chickens raised in the country that no one can afford them. Everyone agrees local grown food tastes better, but it has to be saved for special occasions.
It's hard to live where food is scarce.
And I think that's why I'll always plant a fruit tree instead of a shade tree and why cooking will probably always be my favorite household chore.
May God bless your gardens this year with abundance. Stop by and see me some afternoon! If the Spirit moves me, maybe I'll give you a mirliton!