Friday, June 27, 2014

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thin Crust

This weekend Andy and I had a rare occurrence: a break in the middle of a semester. We took full advantage and went away to the south of Dominica. Driving away in the little matchbox car we rented began a feeling of freedom we hadn't had in a long while. As we sped along the curvy coast of Dominica, our shoulders relaxed, our conversation deepened, and our faces lightened. The stress of accelerated medical school in a foreign and developing country during our first months of marriage would consume us if we let it.

This semester in particular has been a doozy. On my part, after a few blind spots, some failures, some not so great surprises, and loneliness, I had started to let it consume me. It takes real proactivity, honesty, and community to pull up and out of a pit like that. And not just that once. Life takes continued proactivity, honesty, and community. The last few weeks felt like swimming through mud. I had just started swimming though water again when this weekend came, like a current going my direction.

On Saturday evening Andy and I ventured out into the darkness with foggy directions and an appetite. We made our way to the best meal we've had in Dominica to date. Sunshine Cottages and Restaurant is owned and operated by a delightful couple, Sabina and Marco. Their friendly hospitality, the space's warmth, and the simple, genuine food completed that novel feeling of freedom that started with the drive. Sabina's smile made me feel like I was eating at an old friends' home. Marco, in his Crocodile Dundee hat, described building the cottages, making the brick oven, and mentioned that his tomato sauce was a secret family recipe over 150 years old. Sabina told us about using locally sourced ingredients for all of their pizza and dishes. They mentioned farmers, markets, and food grown right on their own land. The vegetarian thin crust pizzas burst with flavor and depth. Italy met Dominica and the result blew us away in a beautifully simple and understated way.

While Sabina and Marco will close for the too hot summer here, we plan to venture their way again when they reopen in September. And hopefully again before we leave in December. The weekend was completed by a stay at Fort Young hotel and snorkeling in the bubbles at Champagne reef. I don't think we'll ever forget this gift.

Amazing pizza. Food done well and shared can restore sanity, simplicity, and contentedness. What a gift.
View of Dominica, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic from Scott's Head. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dominica: The Fountain of Youth ... Or at least a long life.

"How do you eat it?"

"You just eat it. First you cut it open, then you suck it out."

Ask a Dominica how to eat some local fruit and thats the answer. Most Dominicans are wonderful about telling you how to eat something. Because they want to sell it to you, yes, but also because they are proud of their land. They work hard to help it produce all of these wonderful juicy, and many times strange, edible things.

I took a taxi from the airport last week, a long snake-like drive across the northern tip of the country, and my taxi driver turned out to be quite talkative. This was not a surprise to me since many of the Dominicans are very talkative, especially if you ask them about Dominica, politics, food, or how to do something. My taxi driver's name was Bennet but everyone calls him Ben.

After a bit I asked him why there are so many centenarians here. He proudly told me of his friends and relatives' ages who recently died - 99, 101, 100. And he declared, "It is a secret of Dominica and I will only tell you when you move here." He cracked himself up at that!

But then he got serious and began to talk about the food and drink of Dominica. They have so many beautiful fruits and veggies, so much fish and natural springs of water, he said, and this is why people live so long. The chickens that run around are the best chickens you can eat. They grow up naturally. He said how strange it is to see a chicken ready to eat in just weeks of being a chick; how strange it is that little girls are getting their periods and developing at such early ages; that kids don't eat the fruit off the trees in their back yard for a school snack but instead have Cheetos. "What are those??" he asked, and added, "Thats not natural." Ben lamented that Dominica is soon going to lose these centenarians because of the unnatural processed foods coming in. He went to the grocery store the other day and his friend bought cherries from Thailand even though he has a cherry tree in his own yard. "It just doesn't seem natural."

Food for thought....

And with that, here are some of my recent Dominican edible findings...

(if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some of these already)
A Dominican Apricot 

Not my favorite... 

One of the many "provisions" here on Dominica. This root veggie is called a Dasheen. It tastes like a sweeter, more condensed version of a potato. 

A Bottle Gourd at the market in Roseau. Never found the need one... at least not yet. 

One of the many pumpkins here... I love pumpkin now! Its not just a thanksgiving sweet food. We eat it a lot and its super good for you. 

Hand picked mango and guava from the local trees. "Tree to Face" food. 

Plum Rose Apple 

The Cashew and Cashew Apple. The nut must be roasted and cracked open. Some part of this is poisonous. The cashew apple was ... flesh like and bitter. I might try another. Then again maybe not. 

The Dominican "Yam" ... although it tastes nothing like our yams. 

 It comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.... 

The Dominican Cherry. They are sour but sweet and have a slightly crunchier flesh than the cherries I'm used to. I love them!

Each cherry has 3 pits in it. Needless to say, it took a while to take all of the pits out to make juice. 

Ready to strain and drink! 

Preparation for making Cacao Tea!
(See sjdalessandro on Instagram for more info)

 The Christophine or Chayote. Can be eaten raw or cooked. Its crispy and mild.