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November 2012

A Taste of Trini: One Day, Ten Sailors, Sixty-Six Foods

Now that we’re back in St. Thomas, I’m once again disdainful of folks on cruise ships. (Of course not our friends and relatives. Or yours. Or you, if you’ve enjoyed a cruise ship.) Some of us sail just because we love to sail, but most of us sail as a way to visit new places, close to home or far away. EW and I have always enjoyed meeting new people and having new experiences – from a hike on a remote, uninhabited Maine island, to snorkeling among the sculptures in Grenada, to taking the Taste of Trini Tour in Trinidad. Only one of those opportunities (snorkeling in the Grenada sculpture park) would be available to people from a Cruise Ship. And we rarely have to stand in line to join a tour.

We had read about the Taste of Trini tour before we visited Trinidad, and we were encouraged to take the tour by the many cruisers who have enjoyed the adventure. Only one seemed a bit put off by it. “If you like sitting on a bus most of the day, eating off paper plates with strangers, I guess it’s OK.”  We were not deterred and delighted with this choice of our one adventure while hauled out in Trinidad. (We know there are many other places to visit and tours to take in Trini and fully intend to do so when we return there.)

The premier cruisers’ tour guide and taxi service of Trinidad is owned by Jesse James. He’s smart, an excellent business man, entertaining, and very proud of his country. About six years ago, one of the cruisers suggested he put together a drive around the island incorporating as many of the different Trinidadian foods as possible. Jesse liked the sound of that, and the idea really took hold when he was on vacation in Canada that year. He, his wife and daughter visited the north in the autumn and one of their stops was at an apple orchard. Jesse had never seen an apple tree, and certainly not one laden with bright red ripe apples. His wife snapped photos as Jesse picked and ate a crisp, juicy, tart apple. “Man, that was something,” said Jesse with a big grin. “I thought of al the wonderful foods we have here in Trinidad that you folks would love to try like that and knew this was a good idea.”

PA300042Jesse picked us up at the entrance to the Peake yard, and we boarded a lovely air conditioned bus to join eight other sailors for the day. It was a marvelous, international group, with folks from the US, Australia, Canada, England, and Scotland. Jesse drove while he talked glowingly of his native country. Trinidad is more multicultural than most other Caribbean islands. According to the Best of Trinidad website,

In 2000, there were approximately 1.3 million people in Trinidad, the majority of whom (80%) had roots that could be traced back to Africa (40%) and India (40%). The remaining 20% was primarily made up of people with roots in England, China, Portugal, Syria, and Lebanon.

Everyone has contributed something to the island’s cuisine. Trinidad’s soil is almost as fertile as Grenada’s so locally grown fruits and vegetables are plentiful and excellent quality, and those plants introduced to Trinidad long ago, such as mangoes, breadfruit, and brazil nuts, have flourished.

Jesse told us that cruise ship passengers never get to do this tour because the folks on the cruise ship won’t book tours with stops. They want the bus drivers to take passengers to one location for fun in the sun and return them to the ship. Of course, cruise ship passengers could arrange for their own tours, but most don’t. This is why we sail.

This day was about eating. We had been told by other cruisers to have no breakfast, but EW and I settled for a tangerine each as we were up and active more than two hours from the start of the trip. Announcements on the cruisers’ net had started an informal competition for each trip regarding the numbers of different foods devoured, so a count was kept by three of us. Jesse’s rules are that every food must have been made in Trinidad and he prefers that the major ingredients are from here. Nutmeg ice cream tops strawberry ice cream even if both are made locally. Peanut juice is allowed, even though the peanuts are imported. OK? Here we go:

1. Salt fish -  2. Smoked Herring –3. Bake   “Fish and Bake” are traditional breakfast foods for many of the islands. Salt fish is a staple here. The bake part is a soft bun, slightly yellow in color.

(By the way, we didn’t eat a whole serving of anything. Jesse purchases generally one serving of each item and portions it out on each plate. While we ate a lot of food, this was manageable for most of us. I certainly ate my share all day long.)PA300048

4. Cane syrup or juice.  Made from sugar cane, of course. Sweet and cold. Delicious.

And then we stopped for “breakfast”, the previous morsels were called “pre-breakfast”.

5. Sada Roti Skin (one of the many types of roti – an Indian flat bread) – 6. Curry pumpkin – 7. Curry Boti (green beans – very, very long green beans – cut up) – 8. Roast tomato (choka – the Indian word for “roasted vegetables)  - 9. Roast Eggplant  This was delicious and you can see the portions are small. That’s good because there was a lot more food before the real lunch.

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10. Cow Heel Soup. Yep. Other islands call it “cow foot soup” and yes, they mean it. This is one of those foods other cruisers like to warn you about, just because it sounds so disgusting. It’s actually tasty. The “heel” part is that stuff they make gelatin from – and it looks like it. The texture is about what you’d expect. Jesse made sure that everyone got a bit of what one of our team called “the slimy stuff”.

 

11. Beef pies.  The patties from Jamaica have made it to Trini, where they’ve made them their very own and very tasty.PA300057 At right, Jesse is portioning out a large number of beef pies. He hadn’t eaten until this point and had one for breakfast.

12. Sapodilla a fruit

13. Portugal Tangerine – we bought those often while in Trini. Best tangerines I’ve ever had

14. Corali I’m not sure what this is. Sorry.

15. Potato pie – sort of like mac and cheese but with potatoes.

16. I missed this one. Called it Pig Tail in my notes, but know that occurred later. It was meat. Remember, this was all “pre-lunch” and things were running together a bit. Plus we cruisers were all talking a lot and getting to know each other – and asking Jesse questions – and laughing – and generally having an excellent time.

17. Chicken Palau with 18. Rice

19. Chow mein

20. Cassava pie. The Cassava is a starch fruit – they make bread and crackers with it. In St. Thomas I’ve found a gluten free, cracker made of Cassava. The pie had more taste.

PA30007521. Cassava with butter Like a mashed potato

22. Stewed pork

23. Callaloo This is a staple green, particularly in Grenada and Trinidad. It is very tough and must be cooked for a half hour, so it is not like spinach, but it is very nutritious and tasty. We’ve had callaloo fritters, soup, and other treats. In St. Thomas, the one local foods restaurant we’ve found uses spinach, proving St. Thomas is now a Caribbean wannabe. The greens in the middle are raw callaloo.

24 – 25 Two types of bananas. You have no idea how many types of bananas exist – and I’m not talking plantains, but bananas. There are some bananas that are only palatable when cooked. These two were smaller bananas, and very sweet. One was called a “chicatoe” or “small toe”.

PA30009226. Doubles!  I love doubles. There was a roadside stand in Grenada that offered them but we hadn’t been able to get there when she was open this year. Doubles are a true Trini dish, so I looked for them whenever we left the yard in Trini, and we had them twice outside of this tour. Jesse introduced us to the best doubles on the island. Doubles are stewed chick peas, with a spicy/sweet sauce, served in a roti skin, generally served on wax paper. This stand had puffy skins, yellow with “saffron” (That’s what they call the turmeric root in the islands. It is an acceptable substitute.) These doubles were spicy and wonderful, and like all good doubles, very messy. I loved that this stand had a full sink next to the parking lot so we could clean up after indulging. Note, the appropriate way to eat doubles is to stand up and bend over, so less of the juice reaches your person. It’s worth it.

PA300086At the same stand we also ate 27. Calla – a savory treat made with callaloo. EW seemed to enjoy it. I know I did.

 

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28. Eggplant Kitchorie – 29. Peas Kitchorie  both are Trinidad’s answer to Peas ‘n Rice. Every island from the Bahamas on down has a vegetarian beans and rice dish. These were delicious.

30. Brazil nut – More about that in an upcoming post.

And finally – after all that – we stopped for lunch.  We’d had what Jesse charmingly calls a “pee break”, when he had stopped at a local take out restaurant and loaded up for lunch. When we had stopped for the fruit, he had purchased a lovely, fresh pineapple, which will be featured later.  Once he decided we were well-provisioned, he took us to a national park/beach, complete with dogs, families swimming, facilities, and picnic tables. Jesse let us know that, “As of this point we have not been eating, we have been tasting.” Wow. I certainly felt as if I had been eating. For lunch we had:

31. Roti - 32. Bust up – 33. Curried Goat – 34. Curried Chicken – 35. Chicken Gizzards – 36. Curried beef – 37. Curried mango 38. peanut punch – 39. sorrel juice – 40. Passion fruit juice – 41. Black balls (Toolum) – 42. Green balls (Paw Paw Balls ) – 43. Suger Cake with large pieces of coconut.  OK – A “roti skin” is the bread like thing, a “roti” is that skin filled with curried something – from all veg, to chicken, shrimp, fish, beef – whatever. A “Bust up” is when they serve a different kind of flaky roti skin next to the roti filling, instead of wrapped around it. In the Caribbean, locals always prefer “bone in” rotis but most establishments make them without the bone for us picky white folk. It takes practice to eat a bone in chicken roti on the fly. Curried mango is to die for. The balls were basically fruit and sugar, so of course they were delicious. The tart which came later that uses grated coconut.

Down the road from the beach, we stopped for 44. fresh watermelon. EW and I were delighted with the relaxed salesman. We were even more delighted with the sweet, just off the vine watermelon. I’ve never had better. Let’s take a break in the narrative – just as we did for lunch on the beach.

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This boat was anchored in the surf. It pulled hard on the anchor but stayed off the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  These ladies were fishing for these tiny crustaceans, called Chip Chip. Jesse said they are a delicacy but very labor intensive. “They are never served in restaurants. Only homes. They are a labor of love.”

 

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The real lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Black balls and green balls are aptly named. Paw paw is papaya, of course.

 

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After the watermelon, there was a short break from eating, as Jesse drove us first south and then west back across the island. He stopped where a river emptied into the Atlantic ocean, and told us about Trinidad’s history, agriculture, and  a few policies he didn’t like. He’s dismayed by how rapidly Trinidad has grown, by how many fertile fields lay unused, and by how many of the young people prefer Kentucky Fried Chicken to chicken roti. There seems to be a million Kentucky Fried Chicken locations in Trinidad and that country has the record for the biggest sales day at one of the stores. Ugh.

Seemingly to remind us that we were still in a mostly rural country with ways not like ours, someone pointed out that we had passed an opportunity to purchase armadillo. Jesse backed up to where a few men had killed, skinned, and cleaned a number of armadillos and had hung them on display. It was armadillo season in Trinidad. We did not partake.

Just as we were getting sleepy – Jesse pulled into a bakery for an afternoon sugar boost. From there we had:

45. Bread pudding - 46. Spicy something – 47. pear something – 48. Rock Cake - 49. Sweetbread - 50. Coconut Tart - 51. Bal something, which is Coconut Tart with Food Coloring. Honestly I tried everything but this was a lot of sweets to consume at once. I was flagging, and my already iffy penmanship was even more wobbly.

With that he said, “Time for beer, now! Time to change your flavors to get ready for dinner.”  EW chuckled, and the other men on board perked up. Karal looked a bit stunned. “It’s not like I want a beer. It’s too filling.” I replied, “Sure now you worry about carbs?”  We cracked ourselves up. This stop at a water park with a bar also included a “pee break”. This is the only place we spent money as Jesse doesn’t buy the alcohol. Folks had beers and mixed drinks, did their business, and got back on the bus, ready for pre-dinner.

Jesse’s idea of pre-dinner was more sweets in the form of 52 Goolab Jamoon - 53. milk fudge – 54. Barfi EW proclaimed Barfi, a type of Indian fudge to be a “good thing”, he also liked the coconut tart from above so much that he requested it for his birthday treat.

Now we entered an area of plantations, particularly cocoa plantations. Jesse looked furtive, and said that he’d need some look-outs up ahead as he was going to pull in to the edge of a plantation and “steal” some cocoa pods for us. Jesse is very, very proud of the cocoa grown in Trinidad and considers it to be the best – mainly because the Mr. Mars – of the candy company – once visited on a large yacht. Jesse was tasked with taking his group on a tour and found out that Mr. Mars was thrilled to be in Trinidad. Evidently years ago there was an insect or blight threat to the world’s cocoa plants and the university in Trinidad saved the industry. Mr. Mars believed the cocoa from Trinidad was the best available. No offense to Mr. Mars or Jesse, but if Mr. Ghirardelli were to say that, I’d be more impressed. Having made that slightly snarky comment -- we all know how I feel about Mr. Mars' Dark Chocolate Peanut M & M's.

PA300236PA300242Jesse, really wasn’t stealing – and that was good because we made lousy look-outs. Jesse’s uncle is the caretaker for the plantation we visited, and Jesse actually gave him an accounting of the items we had “purloined”. On the plantation we ate: 55. Grapefruit – 56. King Oranges – 57. Cocoa Pods Like the watermelon and tangerines, this is the best grapefruit I’ve ever had. EW and I enjoyed them much better than the oranges, which were good. EW tried the orange after having half a grapefruit. “That’s good, but it’s no grapefruit.” Seemed funny at the time. We were gifted with two of the grapefruit in case we ever wanted to eat again after that day.

Jesse stopped a couple of times to show us the view as we headed north back to the city of Chagauramas. There, he stopped at a restaurant to pick up dinner:

58. Barbequed Pig Tail  - Other cruisers had gleefully mentioned cow heel soup and this pig tail, trying to scare us, I guess. It’s pork. Cleaned and cooked, with a bit of bone and gristle. Not my favorite but not disgusting. 59 – Green Fig Salad – 60. Jerk Chicken – 61. Jerk Pork – 62. Grilled Fish – 63. Plantain – 64. Festive Rice

Jesse likes to finish the day with ice cream and prefers one shop that uses only local ingredients. She was closed – too bad because we love nutmeg ice cream – but we enjoyed the locally made 65. 6strawberry ice cream he found to substitute.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where we ate 66. Pineapple a la Jesse  While we had been partaking of the luncheon main course smorgasbord on the beach, Jesse peeled and cut up the pineapple, adding salt, chives, and cut up hot pepper, and lime juice.. He put it in a plastic container, shook it occasionally, and let it sit for a while. At some point, he served it. I loved it. Others thought he had ruined a good pineapple. It was a good reminder that folks learn to make savory and sweet dishes out of most fruits and vegetables down here. I would serve it as a side to a local dish.

And that was it. A previous trip had achieved 67 items, the trip immediately after ours bargained with Jesse to reach over 70. They asked him to purchase smaller portions and more variety. I was delighted with our trip and certainly didn’t feel cheated in any fashion.

So – here’s a question for you. If you had to come up with a Taste of (insert your state/province region here) what would you offer and how many food items could you come up with? Think locally, now.

If you made it all through this incredibly long post, I salute you. I thought about breaking it up into two, or even three posts, but decided that if I had to eat all of that in one day, you had to read it in one day. Now you know why I’m dieting in St. Thomas.

Cheers!

Finally: Books. If you want to cook some of this food for yourself, do what I did. When in Trini we purchased the Naparima Girls' High School Cookbook. My friend, Diana, had told me about it. And remember - if you like this blog and haven't read the book -- it's available on ebay for less than three dollars! Harts at Sea - Sailing to Windward.

 


Thanksgiving Recipes and Dieting. Really.

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Hope you all had a happy turkey day. We did – just as planned. This year Thanksgiving fell nearly two weeks after I had begun a (for lack of a better term) diet.

It’s past time. While I lost some weight traveling down the US coast two years ago, all of those pounds are back and they brought friends. I hate that. I’ve been fretting and complaining and smirking in disdain at every photo and I hate that, too. Here are things I’ve begun to understand about me and food, weight and fitness:

(Don’t worry, we’ll get to two absolutely super recipes, one of which is certainly not suitable for dieting – or you can skip down to the bottom of the post. I won’t mind.)

Back to what I’ve learned:

1. Next to EW, Mo, family, friends, and our two late Labradors, I have love carbs more than anything. They love me, too. Carbs are a beautiful thing: they come in many varieties, go with every meal and with every course, can be savory or sweet, and pretty much always beget more carbs.

2. Exercise is a beautiful thing. I am learning to love exercise again, although we were estranged this season in Grenada. I got lazy. I carried on a love affair with carbs and ignored exercise as if he were a justifiably hated ex-boyfriend.

3. That body I had in my twenties? That one I still wouldn’t have put in a bikini or two piece swim suit? That one that had thighs that never touched, a smallish stomach, breasts not meant to go braless, cheekbones, and one chin? (See the photo of me and my mom from the last post.)  That body? That was the best body I’ll ever have and I didn’t appreciate her. I saw her flaws (short waist, bit of a stomach) and didn’t treat her right. I fed her carbs to alleviate stress, drank too much Chinese Beer at Three Dollar Dewey’s (the old, small, quaint one) in Portland, exercised only sporadically, and contrived to never stand naked in front of a full length mirror. I am sorry, My Twenties Body. You were beautiful. If I could give a gift to every young woman it would be to have her understand how beautiful her body is, right this minute.

4. It is up to me whether I will be seventy years old and look back on my fifties and say, “That body I had in my late fifties? That was a beautiful body. Fit, happy, healthy, It was a body in love with exercise, good food, and moderation. I am proud of that body. I love that body now, and I loved it then.” (Even though I still may have not put a bikini on her.)

5. So, I’ve started a diet plan that I actually paid for. I’m a little embarrassed about the paying-for part, and have started writing a weekly journal post about the diet and the process. I’ll share that at a later date. For now let’s just say that from Monday, November 12 through lunch on November 21, I had  zero sugar, caffeine, white flour, simple carbohydrates, fried foods, cheese, or meat of any kind – and I began to exercise daily. The first two days were a struggle and I’ve had two personality shifts in the process. On day two I acted as if I had the worst case of PMS in the entire world. Both EW and I are thankful that only last 24 hours.  A week into the program, I suddenly realized – and EW has confirmed – that I was a nicer person. Softer. Hmmm. That’s not just from the exercise of walking, swimming, and yoga, because I’ve done that before. It’s either the lack of caffeine, or sugar, or tons o’ carbs, or all three. I’m not sure which, but I want to hold on to that feeling. (Cue the uplifting orchestral music and an exuberant jump in the air.)

6. On day six of the diet I suddenly got a clue that Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday EVER – was literally around the calendar corner. Deep breath, soften, relax, lifestyle change. I went off the diet reservation for one twenty-four hour period, making sure I drank a lot of water, had a healthy snack option on the appetizer table, and chose to eat as much as I wanted of only my favorite Thanksgiving things. I’m not going to tell you that I didn’t eat too much – because I did eat too much. I have a lot of Thanksgiving favorites. But I did eat more vegetables and fruits – and not just in pie – than I have during past turkey days. Now, I’m back on the plan until Monday, when I’ll move to a different phase for a long-term weight loss plan.

If this program doesn’t work for a long term weight loss, I’ll find something else. I’ve learned enough during these two weeks to help me keep weight off  and to give me incentive to be nicer to my lovely body. That’s certainly worth the forty something dollars I spent on the program.

For our turkey day with the St. Thomas Harts, I provided two healthy or healthier dishes, and one flat out decadent pie. Here they are:PB140309

1. My new favorite lunch consists of raw veggies and Tribe's Forty Spices hummus. I don’t feel deprived at all – even when EW is seated across from me, eating a ham and cheese sandwich with corn chips. That’s a very good thing. I took the hummus and veggies to the Harts and ate more of that than the other appetizers – including the wonderful selection of cheeses. Additional Note: While chick peas are easy to purchse -- uncooked or canned -- in the Caribbean. I can't be sure that this spice hummus will always be avaialbe to me. I was delighted to find a recipe on the 28 Cooks blog. Everything there is easily found in the Caribbean.

2. I was asked to take a squash dish with added protein for vegetarians. I found a butternut squash recipe in my beloved The Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl. Here it is:

Ingredients: 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes – 4 cups.  5 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and freshly ground black pepper. 3/4 cup whole almonds with skins, very coarsely chopped. 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice. 1/2 pound spinach, stems discarded.

Method: Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

Toss squash with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet with sides, then spread out in one layer. Season with salt and pepper and roast, stirring once half way through, until squash is tender and pale golden, about 30 minutes.

While squash cools, heat remaining 4 tablespoons of oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet – over moderately low heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, pour almonds and oil through a fine-mess sieve set over a large bowl and cool until warm, about 10 minutes. Whisk lemon juice into cooled oil until well combined and season with salt and pepper. Add squash, spinach, and half of the almonds to the bowl and toss gently to coat. Serve squash and spinach sprinkled with remaining almonds. If you want more flavor crumble Roquefort, Stilton, or Blue Cheese on top.  Serves six.

Barb’s Notes: EW peeled and chopped the squash – the hardest part. I cooked the squash and almonds, and made the dressing on board. On shore, once the turkey was out of the oven, we heated up the squash and I assembled the dish as directed above. It is absolutely delicious cold the next day. The amount of olive oil may not make this a diet dish, but it is certainly a healthy option. I also love it because the ingredients are easy to find on any Caribbean island. NOTE to other Cruisers. This will be my pot luck dish of choice until I’m tired of it. I call dibs.

PB2203493. As I’ve said before, ever since we went to Austin for a wedding and purchased Texas Home Cooking, by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, I’ve had to make this pie for EW. They call it Perfect Pecan Pie.  EW and I call it Texas Bourbon Pea-CAHN Pie. I can’t find the quote in the cookbook this morning, but I swear I had read a caution that Texans take great exception to the New England pronunciation of their favorite nut, so I’m going to put it in quotes anyway. “A PEE-can is something you keep under your bed. You eat a pea-CAHN.” Well there.

Ingredients: 1 cup dark brown sugar. 2/3 cup cane syrup, preferably, or 1/3 cup light corn syrup and 1/3 cup unsulphured dark molasses. 1/4 cup unsalted butter. 3 Tablespoons Bourbon. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt. 4 eggs. 2 to 3 tablespoons half-and-half. 2 generous cops pecan pieces. Unbaked single pie crust. Whole pecan halves.

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the brown sugar, syrup, and butter together with the bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Continue heating the mixture to the boiling point, stirring frequently. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the half-and-half until they are light and frothy. Add the mixture to the cooled syrup, beating until the mixture is well incorporated. Stir in the pecan pieces. Pour the filling into the pie shell. top with a layer of pecan halves. Bake the pie 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Personally, I believe that whipped cream belongs on strawberry shortcake and not much else, but if you feel differently, by all means have at it.

Barb’s Notes: I once purchased pecans in the shell. Neither EW nor Mo enjoyed the experience. Cane syrup is sometimes easy to find – but not usually in Maine. I wish I had purchased more in Florida on our way south and used the last of it yesterday. I have often purchased pure cane sugar in ethnic stores in Maine and melted it down to get the cane syrup. That works as does the chefs’ options above. I stopped buying half-and-half for recipes while cruising. We just don’t use it up and it’s hard to store in the fridge. I used canned evaporated milk. If I'd had any canned cream on board I’d have used that.  Finally, I made a note in my cookbook about a tip from Cooks Test Kitchen that suggested using vodka for 1/2 the water in a pie crust to make a flakier crust. You have to add a bit more liquid than normal if you do this. I use Bourbon in my crust for this pie. How decadent is that? No way in hell is this a healthy recipe, but is sure is good.

Cheers!

Just in time for Christmas -- I wrote a book. Not really. It's been out for a number of months -- but it would make a lovely Christmas gift. The Kindle edition is only $2.99. Check out The Harts at Sea -- Sailing to Windward.


There’s No Place Like Home *

*For the holidays…

But on the holidays, where is home when you’re a cruising sailor?

We are back in St. Thomas for the season, enjoying having the cell phone again (note to family and friends, we use EW’s number). EW’s cousin Jeff and his wife Barbara – the first Barbara Hart – live here and we are fortunate to spend the Thanksgiving with them. Other cruising sailors will dine at an excellent local restaurant, still others will gather in the beach pavilion on Water Island, sharing a pot luck Thanksgiving with the island residents.

For the meal at the Hart’s, I will make pecan pie; ahem, I will make EW’s favorite, Texas Bourbon Pecan Pie, and a butternut squash dish that contains nuts and cheese protein for the vegetarian guest. In many ways, this Thanksgiving in a lovely home will be similar to the pot luck Thanksgiving on the beach. The ratio of dirt dwellers to live-aboards will be different, but most everyone is a boater, everyone will bring food to share, and both gatherings are of “families” assembled from folks born all over the US and Canada. Far from our siblings, elderly parents, nieces and nephews, and even adult children and grandchildren, we will still have a lovely day filled with traditions.

That’s how it is with cruising sailors, we may be far from home, but we celebrate with our own traditions. EW must have pecan pie for our Thanksgiving. The year our gimbaled stove dumped one pie, turning my favorite boat slippers into a hot, gooey mess, I woke early on Thanksgiving morning to make another. Other folks must have green bean casserole. I can live without it, but respect the tradition. We cruisers also make new traditions with other sailors. This will be our second Thanksgiving of the year as we’ve already shared Canadian Thanksgiving dinner with over 50 other boaters in Grenada. Each year, on that Monday in October, Clark’s Court Bay Marina offers their kitchen and the cruisers gather to prepare turkey and stuffing, bringing their favorite dishes to share.

IMG_0001As wonderful as this lifestyle is, we’ve given up a lot to live the dream. In our home,we used to host Thanksgiving and I loved that. One year, the old oven gave up the ghost after I had an overflow problem with mom’s raspberry pie. Most of the ten guests had arrived before we realized that the oven wasn’t heating up. No problem, our neighbor had gone to Cape Cod for the holiday, asking us to care for her cats. EW and the men toted the turkey across the street  to Lorraine’s house, happily watching football between basting. When I went over to check the progress, I borrowed a few serving items from Lorraine’s kitchen. The following year, she accepted our yearly invite, saying. “ I decided to join my silver and have Thanksgiving with you.”  IMG_0002

 

Above, seated: EW’s sister, Dale, their Mom, my Mom. Standing: EW, my Dad, Dale’s late husband Charles. This photo was most likely our first Thanksgiving in our home – prior to the much needed renovations. At right, my Mom and me on the same day. It was ‘87. We had perms.

While there are cruising sailors with more disposable income than we have, most of us only fly home once every year or two, or for dire emergencies. We’ve given up the ability to share a glass of wine with girlfriends we’ve known forever, seeing the cutest ever new grand-nieces, lending a shoulder that isn’t attached to a SKYPE headset, taking a meal to a loved one that is going through stuff. Nothing can replace any of that, but the experiences we’re having, the new friends we meet, the time together on the boat, and the challenges of this lifestyle are all important enough for us to make this sacrifice – and to ask our friends and family accept it.

While we miss friends and family, we are so fortunate to have met new friends and  to have found new interests and new traditions.For the past two years, EW and I have been rewarded by our decision to cruise. We have grown closer as a couple, are more loving and more understanding. We laugh a lot. EW has had the opportunity to pursue his music, and I my writing, in ways that would not be possible back “home”. We have made friends that we will have for life. We have learned how strong we are together. We have discovered how alike we are. We love traveling together. We love this life. La Luna is home, and I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

And for your dining pleasure, here are some photos of this year’s Canadian Thanksgiving in Grenada.

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I believe these gentlemen were checking out the side dishes in order to prepare their strategy. No one went hungry.

 

Note the red and white balloons – Canada’s colors, of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carolyn, from P/V Cattitude, was this year’s head Turkey Chef. Check out how she prepared the stuffing. She made up a ginormous batch, gathered them into 65 balls and baked them. Everyone got a stuffing ball. She says she does this at home, too.

When I last heard, Carolyn was home – cleaning up a mess made by Sandy. Go figure. She’s anchored down in the hurricane zone and her home gets damaged in New Jersey. Our hearts go out to her and her neighbors.

 

 

 

 

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One of our dinner partners took the morning net controller’s advice when he suggested we bring “big plates” to the dinner. He opted for a platter.

One of Carolyn’s family traditions is to listen to Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” on Thanksgiving, so she played it over the sound system. This couple had never heard the song. Of course  EW and I knew most of the words. (I could never do it on my own, but we kept up with Arlo.) The American’s sang with gusto, while the Canadians and guests from other countries watched with astounded glee.  EW and I got a kick out of it.

 

 

 

Here are a few photos of the celebrants.

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Below right is Carolyn, Head Chef. Dining with her are Canadian’s Ken and Lynn – Assistant Chefs.

 

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Carolyn’s dog didn’t get to celebrate much. She was thwarted by a small, pink sign.

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Poor baby. Too bad she didn’t know that you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant – excepting Alice.

 

Hope no one puts a sign on your back this Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!


Day 3 "At Sea"

As I write this, EW and I are sailing La Luna to St. Thomas. We are currently at North: 15 36.61 and West 63 12.12 -- which is about twenty miles east of Aves Islands -- a little tiny island owned by Venezuela. It is a beautiful day. In fact we've had nearly perfect weather for the trip. That does not mean I didn't get grouchy yesterday.

We met some incredible sailors in Trinidad -- folks who've completed their circumnavigation; folks who will leave Trini on the last legs of their circumnavigation; and folks who've sailed the rivers and bays of Western Africa, the Med, Europe, South America; and of course folks like us who've sailed down from the States and have been exploring the Caribbean for one, two, or even ten years. Many of the last group have island hopped and never sailed for more than two days at a time. EW and have consistently tried to find routes that would require us to sail for four days or more and sometimes we've been at sea, tacking to windward for four days on a two-day passage. Oh, that's fun.

Last winter, a conversation with Ted and Marita on s/v Aurora led us to try a new watch schedule. In good weather, we take six hour watches at night and four hour shifts during the day. This creates five shifts, so each day we are on a different schedule. The person with the six to midnight watch on one day gets two four-hour off watches the following day, allowing us to get a bit extra sleep and still get stuff done. I prepare a few meals before leaving, then can make a fresh meal on my day "off". If I do it right, I only cook on my light watch day and just heat and assemble on the other days. As I've said before, I like to take the midnight to six watch on the first night, as I'm more likely to sleep a bit better. Still, neither of us get a full 6 hours on our off watch the first night.

Evidently I need a day to acclimate to overnight passages. We left Trinidad at eleven on Sunday -- about 18 hours after we were supposed to leave. Shhhh -- don't tell them. We were rested and the boat was ready to go. We tried to keep to the watch schedule once the sails were set, but it was difficult to nap. On Monday we -- particularly I -- was grouchy. I believe I said, "Where is this reaching and downwind you spoke of?" EW was surprised. "We are reaching. This is a close reach." I snorted. "The boat is heeling and things are rolling. That's not a reach. A reach is when we can use that whisker pole you were so excited to rig. The one we've NEVER used." He didn't know quite what to make of this. We have had 10-18 knots of wind for the entire sail. We have been able to sail the rhumb line. Except for one small rain shower, we have had clear skies with sun, stars, and a large waning moon. I have nothing to complain about. I just needed a little more sleep, and the chance to get used to life on board at sea.

I was so grouchy and out of sorts that I worried about our plans to sail across the Atlantic next spring. EW had no idea exactly how pissy I felt - at least I didn't infect him. This morning, over home-made muffins and portugals -- tangerines from Trinidad -- I told him what I'd been going through. We'll just have to remember that it takes a day or two for me to get into the swim, if you will. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the rest of this particular passage. We showered on deck while the muffins were baking. So we're safe, well-fed, clean, and enjoying a great sail. What's not to like?

NEWS FLASH! As I was writing this, at approximately quarter to ten on November 6 - EW's birthday - he caught a mahi-mahi or dolphin fish off of our boat! This is the first fish he's caught off our boat. I'm so excited. Photos were taken - once fish was safely on board this time. See the EW is NOT a Hunter Gatherer post to find out what that means. Guess it's fresh fish for EW's birthday dinner. Good thing it's my day with more time off watch.

Stone Soup Fish

We checked out of Trinidad on Friday with the intention of leaving within the 24 hour legal time limit. Sort of. Friday night someone on shore had a major "lime" or party, playing bad music very loudly until 4AM. In an unusual occurrence, EW slept through the cacophony to the point that he questioned how bad it could have been when I told him about it in the morning. I was not amused, but was vindicated when folks on the cruisers' net also complained. The result was that we decided to leave the dock and "sneak" into Scotland Bay for a good night's sleep before this planned 5 - 7 day sail.

Scotland Bay is Trini's "Jewel Harbor", the primary weekend destination for local boaters. A few local sailboats and a number of local power boats were anchored before we arrived, and one of the larger power boats had a lively party with loud music. They, however, turned the music off before ten and we all had a good night's sleep. In addition to sleek cabin cruisers, a few smaller local vessels are anchored or pulled up on shore and folks are camping out in tents.

This morning, shortly after 6, EW was on deck when three local men pulled up in a small open boat. We both assumed they wanted to sell us something -- which would have been hard to do as we have rid ourselves of all TT money. That didn't matter, because after wishing us a good morning, they asked if we had any limes as they wanted to make a fish broth. I have a very few limes on board, but quickly decided to give the three whole limes to the fishermen. Then, one of them mentioned garlic and I handed up a whole head. Another fisherman smiled and asked EW if we had any peppers. I laughed and asked, hot? Of course hot. I provided a small bag with one hot and two seasoning peppers. While I was bagging the peppers, I heard EW say, "Oh thank you, but we're leaving this morning. We're sailing to St. Thomas." Evidently we had been invited to have fish on shore. So these lovely men gifted us with two fish - one a nice red snapper big enough for two.

I love the Caribbean. This was a perfect start to our journey, and the perfect good-by from Trinidad.

This post was sent via Sailmail on the SSB radio. No photos allowed.