Friday, 30 September 2011

Small victories and hot peppers

This week’s accomplishment was buying lunch all by myself.  Now that may seem insignificant, but let me tell you a bit about what goes on to get lunch.  First, I may have already mentioned this, but I usually workout of a community centre in a community called Flankers.  It doesn’t have the greatest reputation, some of it deservedly, and some of it based in media hype.  In the last several years, several of the Kingston ‘dons’ or gang leaders, who find themselves on a high priority list for the police have hidden out in Flankers, resulting in a showdown in the community once they are found. Like the rest of Canada blames Toronto, the folks here blame Kingston for the trouble in the first place.

All of this, of course, is not going on when I go to lunch.  Usually it’s just all kinds of people hanging around, because the unemployment rate here is very high. (General statistics I remember are that three out of four young men are unemployed.) So I walk down the street and around the corner and try not to attract too much attention from the men sitting at the corner and their cat-calls, or to get splashed when a car goes through a pothole full of water.  Not too bad, but up until this week, I always went with a staff member who was well known in the community.

Once I get to the cookshop, I have to get close enough to the counter to make my order heard.  This is easier said than done, since there are usually several customers already there.  If the woman who serves us is out front and not in the kitchen, it is loud clamouring from people shouting out their orders and the specifics – like they want dark meat or light, or whatever else.  It is all in patwa, of course, and I was trying to write some down for you, but I can’t remember it properly.  I’ll take notes next time. 

So once my order is heard, I have to stand around waiting with everyone else until she brings out the food and then get through the crowd close enough to get my food across the counter and pay for it.  Then I make my way back to the office and eat it there.  I usually get “baked chicken, leg and thigh”.  This is chicken that has a nice bar-b-que sauce on it and is served with ‘rice and peas’ (actually rice cooked with kidney beans) and some vegetables, which look like cooked coleslaw. I’ve also had the fried chicken and french fries, which is cheaper, but not as good.  All this costs me $350 Jamaican, or about $4 Cnd.

Ok, now that I read this over, it doesn’t sound like such a big deal to get lunch by myself.  It’s not really, but just one more hurdle to overcome in a strange country. Any one in particular is not so bad, but add them all up and sometimes the most basic tasks like getting food can be kind of stressful. 

Sticking with the topic of eating, I had another exciting moment this week when I accidentally bit into a scotch bonnet pepper. So far, I’ve not found Jamaican food to be too spicy.  Usually people just add hot sauce from a bottle on their own so I can avoid it easily.  However, Jamaicans do throw a pepper or two in the pot when they are cooking something to add a bit of flavour. A friend cooked my dinner - thanks again, Alydia, for lending me your family down here J - the meal was excellent, but when I spit out the pepper frantically, he said, “Oh, I was looking for that pepper before you came, but couldn’t find it in the pot.”  Then he very nicely went and got me some bread.  After I got through the initial mouth –on-fire stage, my head actually felt sort of nice, my sinuses and nasal cavities were all tingly and clear.

Off to Kingston again for a week tomorrow.  I tried to upload pictures today, but my connection was too slow.  Another time...


  1. Oh Julia....too funny. The Julia I know likes her food to quick and easily. Sorry that there is too much spice there for you, but remember anything hot and spicy is a natural fat burner! lol

  2. What? Eating out? I'm surprised you're not doing all your own cooking . . .