I was watching the premier of Duck Dynasty several months ago when I heard something that I could relate to: “I don’t buy meat at the grocery store. I don’t trust it.” Although this camo-clad, ZZ-top look-alike was being offered up as slapstick, the gist of his statement is tantamount to what most people have come to realize: what you put in your body is important so you need to pay attention to where your food comes from. More sophisticated folks use words like “organic”, “free range”, and “free trade” to describe their food… and they still buy it in the grocery store. Why do southerners get a bad rap for being resourceful?
I get a lot of flack for my obsession with what I will (and, more specifically, won’t) allow my kids to eat. Basically I treat fruits and vegetables as if they were the base of the food pyramid and we steer clear of anything that has been processed to the point that it no longer resembles itself. Obviously, good health is related to a healthy diet but my real ambition is for my children to be adventurous with their diet. Taste is one of the senses we were given to experience the world- and God has blessed us with an abundance of things to sample.
And Alliene and Nora Ruth are a veritable Lewis & Clark when it comes to exploring what’s on their plates. We eat lots of wild game (we could probably buy beef tenderloin for a year with what Clif spends on shells during dove season) and we love to plant a vegetable garden and pick our own okra, green beans, tomatoes, and squash. Something about “picking” enchants my girls. They want to eat it, whatever it is, as soon as they pick it. They love to pick and eat figs and blueberries at the grandparents’ and I thought they would never tire of picking and shelling pecans last Fall.
Here in Grand Cayman the food adventure continues! Nora Ruth enjoys searching the
beach for the biggest and best conch shell but its not long before she’s wheedling Clif about getting their snorkels and fins so that they can swim out to the grass beds to catch some conch for supper. We were on a walk yesterday when Allie pointed out some coconuts that looked “ready”. I told her we should show them to daddy when he got home and she said, “but you can just climb it [the tree].”
One of the first places we hit was the fish market in Georgetown; there’s lots to choose from but I am disappointed that the prices aren’t any better than the grocery store prices. One of the first weeks after we arrived, Mom took us to lunch at the Cracked Conch where we all shared a delicious conch ceviche.
There is a prolific banana tree in our back yard and last Wednesday we arrived home to find that the gardener had left a large bunch on our doorstep. All but a few of them were overripe so I made some banana muffins. The last bananas served as the natural sweetener in our breakfast smoothies.
A few months ago our friend, Brenda White, introduced the girls to coconut water. When we arrived at our new house and found it surrounded by coconut trees, it wasn’t long before the girls had Clif cutting down some coconuts. He sawed off the top, corkscrewed through the fleshy part, and poured them both a glass of the real deal! He collects several at a time and fills up
an unused Brita pitcher with coconut water. We also tried our hand at getting the nut out of some ripe coconuts. The first one was difficult. I sat on the back porch working on that sucker so long that I was sunburned! Eventually, we both got the hang of it and the girls have enjoyed the fresh coconut meat. We had so much that mom and I grated it and made a large batch of cookies.
Plantains are pretty cheap around here so we’ve tried them fried and also in a great soup that I recommend. My mom made Callaloo based on cooking suggestions from the grocery store checkout lady. They are wonderfully tender greens with lots of flavor.
Next on the menu is this. There is a big prickly pear cactus in the back yard that I plan to have my way with soon. Our new neighbors came by one day- an older, English couple- and Nora Ruth was giving them the hard sell on the house across the street, telling them about all of the “edibles” in their back yard. She told this woman that “Mom is going to cook that cactus” and I about died. Rest assured that,
before we leave Grand Cayman, all of the stereotypes of Americans from the South will have been substantiated.
Lizards are plentiful on the island in all sizes, shapes, and colors. We see Geckos, Curly-tailed lizards, and Iguanas every day. Sadly, many of the lizard-sightings occur as we are driving down the main road. Here it is just as common to see lizard road-kill as it is at home to see deer or armadillo. I have not, however, seen anyone pull over to salvage a run-over lizard nor have I seen any lizard in the grocery store or local farmers market. My Canadian neighbor throws rotten coconuts at the huge
Iguanas in her backyard because she says their poo stinks worse than cat poo but I’m pretty sure she would petition my landlord to evict us if she ever caught us with an Iguana on the grill. Lizard-on-a-stick: Nora Ruth and Alliene would be in hog-heaven!!
So, what won’t we try? Well, there’s another neighbor, Ernesto, who has promised Clif some chicken eggs. Clif and I think it is dubious that the chickens even belong to Ernesto or
that they reside in a coop and I am not about to eat a chicken egg with a questionable incubation status. No thank you, Ernesto. Speaking of chickens, there are about a BILLION chickens on this island and I am not exaggerating; half of them are crowing outside my kids’ bedroom at 4 am. Our rise and shine got bumped from 6:30 am to about 5:30 am. So as much as I’d like to rid my neighborhood of these “yard birds” I won’t because Clif says he’s seen them eating all kinds of trash. They may be free-range, but their diet doesn’t qualify them as “organic”.