Savor Something New

June 21, 1926 ~ Kingston, Jamaica
Our room is at the back of the hotel facing the inner garden and harbor. The grounds are beautiful with many varieties of palm trees including coconut and banana trees. In the foreground is one of the beautiful Poinciana trees, which has bright red flower clusters.

Our bags hadn’t arrived so we were unable to change for lunch but our room was so cool, there being a very strong breeze blowing, that after washing we felt much refreshed. For lunch, I ate pepper-pot, which is a very spicy vegetable soup, delicious stewed duck with spiced rice, baked yams, cho chos, potatoes, and string beans. For dessert I had sherbet, cakes and fruit. Always a variety of fruit is served, artistically arranged in a bowl with special forks standing up high and proud stuck into skinned oranges with only the top left for a good hold.

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We didn’t care about the oranges, bananas, or pineapple because we get these at home, but we fairly devoured every bit of mango which came our way. Next best to the mango we liked paw-paw, which looks like cantaloupe but tastes like strong cheese or worse, so is eaten with lime juice, which improves it immensely.

Dear Aunt Jean,
I love getting to know the traveler in you. You don’t come across as being timid, I sense an assertiveness and an air of confidence about you. Journeying to the varying landscapes that exist outside of the concrete jungle and trying new foods that you couldn’t get back home are experiences I can admire and appreciate. I wonder, did you have any must do’s when you went somewhere new? Or, perhaps, things you’d try to avoid?

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I’ve come up with a few “rules” for myself along the way when I venture to an unfamiliar destination. They revolve around being open to new experiences and not setting my expectations too high for when things don’t work out as planned. I also try to sneak in as many local foods and drinks as possible, something we have in common! If there’s a market, you can guarantee I’ll be there. It’s a great way to get to know a local culture, through its artisans and foods.

I know very well the pleasure you must have felt upon seeing the selection of native tropical fruits in your travels across Jamaica, Colombia, and Haiti. You mentioned on a few occasions how special it was to have mango! How sweet it was, literally, and in its newness to you. Would you believe that they’re widely available at grocery stores now? So many different types of “foreign” produce and products from around the world are now mainstream. On any given day I can find mango, papaya, coconuts, jackfruit, tamarind, and the like in my local market.

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There is still something to be said for eating a mango, for example, since we’re on the subject, as close to the source as you can. I have a hunch it will always taste better when it’s freshly picked and sun kissed. Tropical ambiance has a lot to do with the tasting experience! I can attest to that personally. I was introduced to guava on my second trip to Kauai and I was elated to buy some from the store when I got home. Much to my dismay, it tasted bitter and sour, sitting alone in my cold, dark kitchen. It was nothing like the sweet fruit picked from the tree that fueled me on a hike into the mountains.

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While I understand the want for comfort food every now and again, especially if one gets a tad homesick, I find it utterly absurd to bother going through the hassle of traveling, perhaps venturing many miles from home, and eating at a chain restaurant or choosing the same foods off of a menu that you might normally eat at home. But that’s me! I, personally, like to know what people eat for their every day meals. I find it comforting in a way. Oftentimes, it can be very similar to what we eat, just with tiny variations. And if it happens to be totally different, say eating crickets, then I relish in the experience anyway. I suppose I may be in the minority in that I haven’t run into many foods that I won’t eat! In fact, many of my tasting experiences have led to new favorites that I look forward to when I’m back on the road again.

Ai pono,
Monster

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