“Welcome! Come, sit with us.” The dark-skinned woman beams at you from under a bright yellow headscarf as she ushers you toward the table. A dozen friends and family members already crowd around the table, chattering and laughing. Every one of them wears brighter colors and patterns than the last.
You squeeze into the last remaining chair as the hostess returns to the head of the table. She gives her husband a kiss on the forehead in passing before raising her hands over the table. “Our thanks go to the god of the sea who brings the rain, and to the goddess of the earth who brings the bounty spread before us.”
Her husband throws up a hand. “And to the woman of the house who cooked this meal!” The guests laugh and cheer in agreement.
“Well, then, what are you waiting for?” asks the hostess. “The food’s not going to stay warm forever.” She sits down with a swirl of orange and blue skirts, and with that the meal begins.
Some people pass bowls of food, but others simply stand to reach across the table and serve themselves. The man sitting to your right gives you a friendly grin and heaps food onto your plate for you before anyone else can snatch the serving dish away.
In moments, your plate is heaped with fragrant brown rice, pork so tender it falls apart at a touch, and a mixture of stewed fruits and vegetables. The woman at your left passes you a small bowl already filled with sticky sweet-rice, sliced fruit, and creamy sauce. She winks at you. “Best take a serving early, before my boys eat the pot dry.”
You intercept a teapot as it passes around and fill your mug. The aromas of berries and coconut cream rise from the cup. A pitcher comes around the table from the other direction, carrying the sharper scent of rum, lemon, and blueberries. The man beside you fills the squat glass that sits beside your mug, then leans over the table to fill the glass of the woman across from him.
The woman beside you elbows you lightly. “Eat up!” she encourages. With a smile, you pick up your wooden spoon and dig in.
3 pounds pork, cut into pieces
1 white onion, chopped
1 can coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
juice from 1 can of pineapple chunks
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced ginger
2 cups watermelon or honeydew rind, chunked
1 large mango, chopped
1 can pineapple chunks
1 bell pepper, chopped
- Place the pork and onion in the bottom of a crock pot or large stovetop pot.
- In a bowl, mix the chicken stock, coconut milk, and pineapple juice. Add the spices and stir thoroughly.
- Pour the liquid mixture over the pork and onions and set the crock pot to high. Alternately, set your pot to simmer on medium-low. Cook for 3 hours.
- Add the melon rinds and cook for another 30 minutes.
- Add mango, pineapple, and peppers and cook for another 30 minutes.
- Serve with brown rice.
1 cup sweet rice (aka sticky rice or mochi rice)
1 1/2 cups water
1 can coconut milk, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons molasses, to taste
2 ripe mangoes
- Place the rice in a pot with 1 1/2 cups of water, 1/2 can of coconut milk, salt, and 1 tablespoon of molasses. Stir well.
- Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice becomes thick and sticky. Stir frequently to prevent rice from sticking to the pot.
- In a separate pot, warm (do not boil) the other 1/2 can of coconut milk. Add 2-3 tablespoons molassas to taste, stirring to dissolve. Allow the sauce to thicken slightly.
- Prepare the mangos by cutting them into small pieces.
- Serve the rice with mangos on top and sauce poured over it all.
Tea: Brew a pot of herbal fruit tea and allow to steep at least twice as long as the package instructs. Add coconut milk to taste. Do not add sugar.
Fruity Rum: Fill a pitcher 2/3 of the way with water. Add lemon juice and honey to taste. Fill the remaining 1/3 of the pitcher with blueberry juice or another fruit juice of your choice. Mix well. Put a shot of rum in each glass, then fill the rest of the glass with the fruit juice mixture. Add blueberries or other small pieces of fruit.