The weather forecaster foretold of impending rain. She, Mother Nature, refused to cooperate; hinting, promising, remaining cloistered, refusing – for three days – she did. Scanning the horizon, searching for rain gear, guessing – I did – visiting the recesses, seeing how things have changed. No more standing in the wind, smelling nature’s musk predicting the arrival of the first drop. Habits adopted as a motorcyclist, during my youth, playing little attention to the suited visitors smiling outward from the screen. Seeing Daddy Louis stand among the freshly plowed furrows, anchored in history, relying on Farmer’s Almanacs, the moon’s path, a trained and acute sense of smell, me not then understanding fully, appreciating later, as if gifted his wont – by osmosis, perhaps, by his God, maybe? Mimicking, standing, turning, turning, turning, pointing outward, upward, predicting her behavior, the first drop, accurately on most occasions. No smart phone, no strange voice providing directions, no weather gauge hanging in the corner, the total absence of a weather forecaster auditing for a different position in the newsroom hierarchy – smiling, joking – engaging, before providing the forecast. Louis Wright’s stance and movement was a common practice, relying on the land, recognizing the life-sustaining nature of her gifts – the words “climate change” were never part of the vocabulary – praying, dancing, pleading, sensing droughts, predicting rain, studying her contours – the wind, sun, moon, wafting – wafting – musk – tell-tale signs of dependency – of her gifts.
Page forward, page back, flipping, bending, sorting through mental and the physical, admiring pictures, design, images stored from past lives, passing time – in a wasteful manner – in a purposeful manner – wandering, predicting, anticipating, studying recipes, visiting other terrains, worlds, taste, textures, before deciding on one. Frying, sautéing, grilling, smoking, smothering, dividing food into regions, countries, peoples; isolating ingredients, seeing commonalities – dependence on the land, feedings one’s family, ourselves; standing in the middle of fields, in the center of supermarket aisles, mingling among local vendor questioning, pulling food from the ground, above, from the rivers; anticipating, predicting, allowing the future to unfold.
Picking one, the one was of Mozambique origin. “Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest, situated on Africa’s southeastern coast,” with the Indian Ocean lapping its eastern border. A recipe which borrowed from the sea, the inhabitants of the land, her colonizers (Mozambique was a former colony of Portugal, for some five centuries), the rhythms of the continent. Unsweetened coconut, medium size white onions, crushed tomatoes, garlic, Mozambican or Alaskan king crabs recommended, blended ingredients, providing balance, telling a story – a crab curry (Caranguejo e Coco), coconut crab curry.
Digging, draining, scraping, tasting, watching time pass – to achieve eight cups of unsweetened coconut – violently opening another, draining, digging, scraping, tasting; no longer a diversion, now goal specific labor, wondering why I picked the recipe and not another. Seeing a vision – canned coconut milk peacefully sitting on the store’s shelf – contemplating going back, instead remaining in place, picking, scrapping, retrieving flying pieces, landing ten feet away, hearing Harry Belafonte sing his Cocoanut Woman song, repeating “cocoanut, cocoanut, cocoanut”, over, over, over again. Escaping from life’s challenges, discarding worries with the hardened, shattered outer shell, refusing to write, making a choice, staying on task; visiting other lands, in my eyes – in the recesses of my brain – tasting, chopping, marveling at the universality of choices, seeing a muscular figure climb the tree to retrieve “the cocoanut”, tossing, one – two – three – down, to prepare the curry.
Crying not because of sadness, not because of worry; stopping, rushing to the sink to wiping with the smallest finger’s tip, tilting to the right, as if tilting was going to control the sting or stop the tears; tilting anyway. Seeing in my eyes/memory the words, “mince the onions”, getting back on task, scraping with the blade of the knife – up – down – up – down – measuring by sight – into a collective heap – seeing the pieces were still a little too large – up – down – up – down – crying as if remembering, as if reminded.
Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations publishes a list of the producers of coconuts. Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Vietnam top the list. Mozambique shows up as the twentieth largest producer. The continental United States fails to make the list (the territory of Puerto Rico shows up number sixty-eighth on the list). Dark hair women colored my vision; coconuts slipped safely into bags to refrigerated containers – to rail, to ships, by air – to world markets, complimented by sun, enhanced by dance. Day-o, day-ay-ay-o.
Okay, okay, okay… Day-O is a banana song, “collected in six, seven, eight foot bunches”. Day-o, day-ay-ay-o. I digressed, but I hope you get my point. The imagination of mind controlling actions, visiting other countries, remaining in place, taste buds and dreams intermingled with others of different hues and tongues … crying … cropping … dreaming.
China, Norway, Vietnam, United States, India, and Canada are the six largest exporters of seafood. Holding crab purporting of to be Alaskan King Crabs, if so, harvested by men and women under circumstances, in environments, causing the profession to remain “one of the most dangerous jobs” in the United States. The onions which caused me to lament may have come from the United States. Perhaps, likely, in the United States remains one of the world’s largest dry onion producers, behind China, and India, ahead of Brazil, Japan and Iran.
Passing time, believing the recipe’s preparation time, overshooting the time, never minding time lost, enjoying the diversion, the stops along the way, the visits, travel, smells, sharing of cultures. Stopping, remembering I forgot to cook the rice, pulling the package down from the shelf, reading the package, “Product of Thailand”, smiling, singing, dancing, cooking, tasting…Day-o, day-ay-ay-o.