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Happy-Gourmand

Jamaican green eggs & ham

Life is an adventure. Every day brings new opportunities, even at the kitchen table. 

Do you remember the book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’? Was there ever something that you were afraid to try? If so, I hope you found the courage to give it a try, and, if you did, that you liked it, just as Daniel liked green eggs & ham. It's good to step outside our comfort zone. 

We have just returned from Jamaica, and I had a few new adventures there this year. I'd like to share them with you, so if you'll indulge me, I've made this week's column a bit longer than usual. Maybe you'll get to Jamaica someday, or maybe you prefer the armchair adventure - either way I hope you can feel the magic I experienced. 

Our first adventure was an outing to a place called Zimbali Retreat, a lodge nestled in the hills above Negril, in a place called Canaan Mountain. If you know your biblical stories, you'll remember that Canaan was first seen as the land of milk and honey. I saw only rugged jungle at first, but we would soon learn just how abundant in riches it was. 

On arrival, we sipped a refreshing sorrel ginger drink made in-house, then we were treated to a tour of the farm by Clifford, one of the originals, and the farm manager. With six acres of land and 500 trees planted at this totally organic farm, there was much bounty to see. Not just the usual pineapples, bananas and coconuts, but all kinds of fruits and vegetables including some I'd never seen or heard of - noni fruit, also known as uglifruit, cassava, and June plums, to name just a few. They had herbs and spices too, like turmeric root, and annatto plants that offer seeds used in cooking. 

The retreat operates almost entirely off the grid, using rain water and solar energy, and getting about 70% of their food from the farm. The owners, Mark & Alecia, are dedicated to living in harmony. Alecia grew up in these hills with her extended family, a Rastafarian from birth. 

Alecia has learned many of the secrets of the land. Mark grew up in a naval family and experienced the world at an early age, always with a keen desire to live a simpler life closer to nature. 

Their passion extends to their entire team. This is a place full of people who choose it as a lifestyle, not just a job. The two chefs who entertained and taught us as they fed us a delectable four-course lunch were delightful. Both Raymond and Rudolph have worked elsewhere on the island, but love having no menu, just fresh harvest there to inspire them. 

The intense flavours of green plantain and banana cakes, and veggies sautéed in fresh coconut milk with jerk shrimp, and rum cake with caramelized tropical fruits - these will happily haunt my tastebuds for a long time to come. If I get back to Zimbali, I think I might like to stay overnight and enjoy the hills (and the wonderful food) a bit longer. 

We enjoyed other sensory wonders while on the island, with jerk barbecue being at the top of the list. Both in Negril and Montego Bay we sampled delicious fare. Not for the faint of heart is authentic jerk - it is basically crushed Scotch bonnet chiles in vinegar, with a few other spices added just to liven it up a bit. Your lips will feel as though they are melting off by the time you get to the end of a plate of jerk, but it's a delectable discomfort. It seems directly connected to one's smile muscles, as I know I couldn't stop smiling during our jerk lunches. 

In Negril we were recommended Bourbon Beach by a local, and we were not disappointed. Tuck your feet in the sand, order a Red Stripe beer, and enjoy. Here's a tip: The rice and peas will help cool your tastebuds. If you go at night, you will likely hear local musicians playing on stage as the waves crash on the beach nearby. Not a bad way to end a day. 

In Montego Bay we stopped in at The Pork Pit, at the end of the Hip Strip toward downtown. It's a simple place, with large barbecue racks set up next to a brick chimney that prepares the charcoal. A small building houses the cashier and drink fridges where you order, and there are picnic tables outside. You eat in takeout containers but this is seriously good stuff. 

Be prepared to get right in to gnaw on chicken bones so you don't miss a bite. We liked both the pork and chicken, but most Jamaicans will tell you chicken is their preference. Did you know, the Kentucky Fried Chicken location in Montego Bay is the busiest one in the world?

This last gem comes from my heart. I have a weakness for bakeries wherever we go, so am always on the lookout. While we were spending a day in Negril, we spotted a little place called Hammonds

They serve the same Tastee brand patties that most places offer, but warm from the oven. The treats, though, are the other items like gizzadas (a coconut tart in a short pastry shell), spiced bun (like gingerbread in a bun), and coco bread (made from coconut flour, like a fluffy pita pocket that is just a bit sweet). It is delicious with jerk, or something to wrap a patty in as some Jamaicans do). 

And if you can get their fruitcake, try it, because this stuff is some of the best you'll taste. I know many people think fruitcake is better for throwing than eating, but if you do enjoy the stuff, this is worth the splurge. It's dark and rich, with a molasses overtone but balanced by tangy candied fruit pieces and pungent ginger, nutmeg and allspice.

You might think I'm a weird food addict, and you could be right. Is it strange that I get special delight from discovering a new recipe to cook or food to try? There was fresh soursop on the buffet at breakfast one morning in Jamaica, and I jumped up with joy at the chance to try it. Soursop is a bit like a cross between a pineapple, a lychee and a tangerine maybe? Exotic for sure. I have always been the kid who was looking for Sam-I-Am, hoping for a new adventure. I consider it my responsibility to evangelize on the wonders of good food. I would hate for you to miss out!

You do not like them.

SO you say.

Try them! Try them! 

And you may.

Try them and you may I say.

Sam! 

If you will let me be, 

I will try them.

You will see.

Say! 

I like green eggs and ham! 

I do! I like them, Sam-I-am! 

And I would eat them in a boat! 

And I would eat them with a goat... 

And I will eat them in the rain.

And in the dark. And on a train.

And in a car. And in a tree.

They are so good so good you see! 

       ~Dr. Seuss

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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