The way I see it, thirty-five years of independence as a nation, ought to give us lessons in being more self-reliant as a people.
I was asked to give the feature address at the Gingerland Secondary School’s Independence day program, held recently.
By the way, it was an impressive program. GSS has talent!
I spoke from my heart, in asking the students to seek their guidance from God and strive to live by his ordained principles.
I also asked them about their ability to be able to do certain things to help themselves and focused on the art of cooking.
There was a reason for that.
I grew up in an era when boys cleaned the yard; cultivated the land with their parents and did any kind of outdoor work.
Girls on the other hand, cooked, washed and ironed.
I was already past twenty years old and I did not know how to cook. I did not have any worries either, because I contributed to the welfare of the family home and one of the fringe benefits, was the fact that I expected and received at least one cooked meal per day. By the way, my mother was a great cook.
Then I got the sudden call to go to St. Lucia to pursue a course of study in Public Health- my career choice at the time.
I went on that course with some trepidation. It would be my first time away from my close knit family for such an extended time-two years and I did not know how to cook.
Well I newa!
The first arrangement was fairly okay, because a couple of us were placed with a family and we provided the money and they cooked the meals.
Then one day, bad news! One of the individuals in the house, stole some money in a brazen theft and we decided to pack up and leave.
My former colleague, Carlisle Hobson, spoke to some other guys about allowing us to share an apartment in Castries with them.
Again, I had some trepidation, wondering about the cooking arrangements.
My fears were soon allayed, when I was told that everybody would pool money together to buy food stuff and the girls would cook and the boys would wash the dishes.
Dishes? Oh, I could wash dishes. That I could have done!
For many months, things went really fine.
The Grenada young lady, introduced us to their wonderful OIL DUNG and the Dominican woman, was the first person I see put sugar in soup.
I wish I could have ended the narrative here and say: ‘….and they lived happily ever after….’
No such luck.
One day, as I returned home from the college, I found the Dominican and Grenadian ladies, going at each other like two pit bulls!
I soon found out that the argument was over a man.
At first, I was of the mindset to leave them be, as it really did not affect me but as I retreated to my room, a loud bell went off in my head.
Suppose they fall out……and suppose…….
Well, I hurried back out and you should hear me giving my big speech. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers…we should live in unity. Unity will breed success..’
The plan did not work. As a matter of fact, I think that it backfired.
The Dominican lass suddenly exploded: ‘You know what? From now on every man –jack going to cook for themselves!’
A literal death sentence had been passed. I was out in the cold.
Now remember, in those days, there were no cell phones, computers, internet and the like.
What we had was SNAIL MAIL.
I sat down and wrote an urgent letter to my mom. If I was lucky I may get a response in six weeks’ time.
In the interim, I bought a cooked meal each day at a restaurant in Castries, called THE GREEN PARROT.
As my stipend started to run out, I later resorted to a roti per day, as my big meal.
And then the long awaited letter came.
I remember waiting until all of the others had gone out of the house and I opened that precious letter from my Mom.
I used from the ingredients left from our last general shopping and as I read the letter, I proceeded to cook my first pot of rice. Bit by bit I applied all of the ingredients from salt, to onions, to peas, to the actual rice and lo and behold, the pot actually boiled in. Mind you, the rice was little hard but I figured that that was the way the great cooks did it.
I proceeded then to fry some chicken as per instructions and then worked on making some sauce.
To my chagrin, Hobson came back at the wrong time!
He looked at me in the kitchen for a moment as if he had seen a ghost. ‘Curtis ah cook!’
I was hoping that he would proceed to his room but he came straight into the kitchen. He pretended that he was taking some water from the refrigerator, but I knew that he was only looking RO-RO (St. Lucian slang for news).
He came close to the stove and I put my body to block my precious dish with the chicken and the sauce. He shifted to the other end and then I too shifted to block his view.
What I did not cater for, is the fact that he was much taller than I was and he stood behind me and looked over my head. He then blurted out:
‘Bwoy you don’t put in so much water to make sauce!’
I was so hopping mad, I blurted back: ‘Ah so me like it!’
So, me like it what? I did not have a clue what to do!
Well I newa!
Thankfully, as I was telling the children, since then I have graduated and can now handle myself in the kitchen and I was appealing to them to learn to do things for themselves, so that they could avoid a lot of potential KNOCKBOUT in life.
I urged the boys to learn to cook, wash and iron and I urged the girls to learn to cook and learn to cook cornmeal as well. You know traditionally, it is said that if a woman can’t cook cornmeal, she cannot cook? No debate intended.
I also urged them to work on cultivating their own little backyard gardens because it would not only reduce the money you would normally spend at the market but you can be assured about the quality of what you are eating.
What with all these plastic things that they are passing off as food nowadays?
And so, I urge you dear reader, to think seriously about what I have said. The great God of the universe gave us the wisdom to be able to survive, even in these difficult times and so once we put our trust in him and are willing to work hard and make the necessary sacrifices, he will see us through all of the time.
That’s the way I see it. How do you see it?