So, Midtown Lunch has a great question on their profiled lunch'er page: Dream job location (anywhere in the world), purely for lunch purposes, and why?
I think I'm probably gonna be their profiled lunch'er this week, and I have to admit, I didn't really answer that question honestly. One: because I have SO MANY places I'd rather be working in than midtown (hey man, I've worked in the Lower East Side and in Soho, and neither of them are as annoying as Midtown) and two: because I wanted to use this question for the blog. I know, shameful bait and switch manipulation, but how the hell else am I gonna get people to read my food ramblings!
Also....my lunch spot is kinda...well...sentimental. So, I feel better saying it on my own turf.
My immediate family is originally from Jamaica (the island, not the neighborhood). When I was little, around 4 or 5, my dad went back on his own for a year to deal with family crap (which is quite a while to a little kid), so we flew down there twice to go visit him. I think my mother would have liked to go back down there more, but with being in a new country, working full time, and taking care of two teen girls and a precocious little babe...she got by with her few visits.
When we went down, we stayed at the Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston, where my father's family lived. My mother always liked her privacy and space, so staying with my dad's people wasn't an option. She never wanted to show me how much the visits stressed her out, so staying at a hotel made it more like a vacation. She would order us room service for breakfast, but we fended for ourselves for lunch and dinner.
One afternoon, my mom and dad dropped me off with one of my uncles who lived outside of Kingston while they went to run boring adult errands. This particular uncle wasn't my favorite, but his son, oh, how I loved D. He was all legs and smiles and crinkly brown eyes. He talked so fast that his patois made him sound like he had marbles in his mouth. I understood every word. He was rough with our other cousins, but he was always fun and ready to play; the ocean between us made him appreciate my visits more, and he really liked my parents. His jokes and smiles, he saved for me.
Instead of keeping me in the house to suffer his mother's awful cooking, he swung me upon his study 11 year old back and took me for a walk through town to find some eats. It seemed like we walked forever, and the clapboard houses and the streets gave way to dirt roads and more trees. I remember there being houses, but they were slightly further apart. My tiny tummy was grumbling and he could tell I was getting grumpy, so he started to jog. He would bounce me with every foot fall, and I would laugh so hard! It was a good distraction. Finally, we got to what would be our first stop.
An older gent with white dreads sat on a porch of a tiny house. Kids and teens were gathered around chattering excitedly as he pulled little plastic sandwich bags of colored stuff out of a mini fridge sitting next to him. After the kids would buy their treat, they ripped the corner of the bag with their teeth and proceeded to suck. I knew what ices looked like when I saw them, and I pulled away from D to run and pick one out. I pointed to a bag with dark burgundy ice in it, and D bought two of them.
Sorrel! I knew this taste. My mom made sorrel with white rum (had to be Wray and Nephew!) to drink with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. The ices were made without the alcohol for us kids, but it was still delicious. Sweetened with a little bit of honey and laced with liberal amounts of cinnamon, ginger, and clove, it was super refreshing and needed after the long trek to....wherever the heck we were.
The ices were good....but was that to be our only lunch? I think D could sense my crankiness coming back because as soon as I was finished he put me back on his back and we were off again. We weren't mobile for very long though, because it seemed like we only went a couple of steps before we stopped again.
The house we were standing in front of was robin's egg blue, old, but well taken care of. It was only one level and long, and 3 concrete steps led up to the front door. I wasn't usually in the habit of walking into strangers homes without my mother and father, so I locked my arms around his legs and hid my face. I had no intention of going into this place....even though the most delicious smells were coming out of it.
I felt one of my braids being given a sharp yank, and I looked up. D was laughing at me! And then, he winked, and asked if I was ready to eat. Just that wink was enough to put me at ease, so I took his hand and followed him inside. No knock or anything, just straight through the door and into a very bright kitchen. A friendly looking trio sat at a round table: a man, woman, and a young boy, who looked to be about the same age as D. In front of them, steaming plates piled high with snowy white rice and...CURRY GOAT! My mouth instantly watered. It almost smelled as good as my mom's, which was the standard I held (still do) for pretty much anything that I ate.
I forgot myself and ran to the table, and everyone let out raucous laughter. While D and his friend talked about school, his mother fixed me a plate, taking care not to give me too many bones. The gravy was nice and thick, glistening chunks of gravy studded throughout. It was a little spicy, but just so. There were potatoes too, floury and colored yellow brown because of the curry. My mother usually only put potatoes in curry chicken, so this was a little jarring. The food was delicious and seemed endless upon the plate, and I didn't want to be rude, so I just kept eating and eating.
"Eh, the girl can eat, boy!", the man exclaimed. Well, when it was that good, of course I could!
So, I guess the only way I could have the perfect lunch is if I could travel through time. Back to when I was five, padding through my family's homeland with my favorite cousin on his back and feeling like I could be a kid forever.