buy/eat local- an ode to pigeon peas, ackee, freeness and neighbors

On the days I leave my apartment- the days I have the will and energy to deal with people- I have about an 8 minute walk out to the main road where the buses run. Before I pass the yard with the mechanic guys tinkering on motorcycles and cars- guys who used to trouble me at first but no longer; before I pass the lady sitting under the umbrella selling sweeties and other snacks- a lady whose name I don’t know but who I can’t ever pass without saying hello, who tells me she misses me when I travel; before the old natty who stands at his gate for hours gyaffing- who I miss when he goes away for months; before the old drunk parked in the wrecked ruins of a car- who used to beg me for money and who I sometimes gave to until I saw him staggering and falling off his bicycle almost into the trench and then I stopped giving him any, I pass a house on the corner with a big yard. It’s not as new or brightly painted as the house directly across from it whose shutters are almost always closed. Mangoes, hanging enticingly, were the first thing that caught my eye in the old house’s yard. When they ripe, you must sell me, I said one day to the lady sitting at the top of the stairs. She’s a big woman with busy hands- always working on something. Ok, she smiled at me and sure enough, the next time I passed, she beckoned me to come in. How much you want, she asked me. Wait, I said, let me see how much money I have left. Don’t worry, you can pay me next time you pass. She smiled and I smiled back. Her mangoes weren’t as sweet as the ones from the trees in my uncle’s yard, trees I used to climb and pick from, before that uncle and I quarreled and I moved out, to this new neighborhood. But I continued buying from her as long as mango season lasted, even when the new house guy put a stand by his gate with mangoes for sale. I was tempted to see how his mangoes tasted, but I couldn’t buy from him with her watching, and so I remained loyal.

Somehow though, I missed the pigeon peas getting brown on the tree. But as soon as it was pointed out to me, I said something. Hey, dem pigeon peas just for decoration or what, I said cheekily. If you not eating them, pick them and give to me, please! She smiled. Couple days later, I passed and saw her by the tree, picking. Passed again and saw her hands busy shelling. Today, as I walked by, she called me in. Here’re your pigeon peas, she said. Is because of you I picked them. I smiled a big smile. I grew to love pigeon peas fairly recently- just last year actually. In Grenada, they were $10EC a bag, green and succulent. I ate them every week for as long as I could get them in the market and never grew sick of them. Curried with potatoes, in soup with pumpkin, with quinoa in salad- yes, I ate them every which way and never got sick of them. St. Andrews county, Grenada, was pigeon pea country, with mini pigeon pea forests in almost every yard. Groups of men, women, and children could be seen clustered around baskets, busy shelling, in peak season. There was a tree in the yard here, by the septic tank, but my landlord, a mad man, chopped it down last year and cemented up where it used to grow in preparation for a wedding that never happened. But tomorrow, after I done wash and clean, is pigeon peas cooking up! (maybe with the ackee that i got from the tree in the church yard- they just ripening and falling down; Guyanese people frikken to eat them. But after i tasted it in Kingston, JA, i hunted down ackee trees here in GT. the church man helped me knock some down with a tall stick and i filled my bag. now i have seeds to  plant.) giving thanks

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pigeon peas as far as the eye can see

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ras abdul shelling
ras abdul shelling
pigeon peas and dasheen curry with quinoa
pigeon peas and dasheen curry with quinoa
ackee2
ackee

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