Country Living

Shopping Day and the Jamaican Male

I’m heading out. It’s a sunny day, breezy, not terribly hot, pale-blue sky, a scattering of clouds–beach weather.

I’ve already hung out the morning’s laundry. Yes, in JA, we use up the free sun. It doesn’t cost us a buck to dry clothes, except for the initial set-up cost of a clothesline, two iron posts and clothes pins. Then, of course, there’s the integral pole/tree limb needed to hoist the line, so the clothes catch the most of the sun and breeze.

The neighbour’s puppy is barking at me. Not sure why. Perhaps he’s showing off now that the older dog is gone, and he’s the new head of yard protection. I don’t pay him no mind.

On approaching the main road, I observe an adult goat and kids taking it easy near the parking lot of a popular restaurant. For a second, I wonder if they’ve ever apprised themselves of this restaurant’s menu.

I flag down a taxi. As I grip the handle on the left side, the driver asks me to allow him to reverse further on to the layby. He wants me to enter safely from the right side instead. You see, on the left side, there’s an elderly passenger with a sick foot, who the driver doesn’t want to hassle too much.

The cabby calls me “pretty lady” and says he likes dealing with intelligent people like me because I ‘m very considerate. As we drive into town, we have brief dialogue about how simple it is to be considerate.

In the town, I stop at the beauty store to buy a natural shampoo and conditioner for my young afro. My purchases are handed to me in a Minnie Mouse bag. I examine the bag, curious to see if Minnie is now into black haircare. No, she isn’t.

I enter my supermarket, a midsized place, which sells a variety of stuff. If you want Canadian maple syrup, they’ve got it. If you want Turkish dates, knock yourself out. Feeling for corn tortillas? They’re in the refrigerator section opposite the Chinese condiments and noodles. How about some local lemon grass (i.e. fever grass) tea? No problema. Check the aisle across from the wheat-germ-couscous-and-tapioca aisle.

The supermarket is playing my favourite radio station, and I’m singing while examining trays of chilled, Jamaican-bred chicken.

There are a lot of slow-moving seniors in the aisles today. One is hanging on for dear life to a stack of 5-litre Wata bottles, yelling at her grown daughter, who’s in another aisle, to hurry up before shi drop dung because shi can barely stan’ up.

A man picking up roasted coffee beans by the front of the store greets me: “Pretty lady.”

I hold mi head straight and say, “Morning.”

Tropical Kitchens2
Tropical Kitchen’s display. Honestly, I want to eat this picture.

Before heading home, I stop at Tropical Kitchen for a beef patty. I turn my eye away from the sliced cake, sweet potato pudding, bread pudding, toto and similar baked goods. I’m figuring a fruit tart is the lesser of the evils in the display case. The tart has red filling. I’m not sure if it’s strawberry or cherry, but I’m certain it’ll be tasty.

I leave the pastry place and buck up on another pretty-lady greeting.

I’m not surprised by these greetings. After all, I’m in St. Ann, where di man dem mout sweet.

In these country parts, I’m yet to hear the “pssst, ai” Kingston technique, which I’m willing to bet has a 99.999% failure rate. On the contrary, I hear “Good Day, Beautiful”, “Hello, you walk like a queen”, “Hi there, looking lovely today” and other such syrupy salutations. I tell you no lie, I quite enjoy these greetings. They’re very mannersable.

(Men, this is the part where you cork your ears and look away.)

HOWEVER, I am mindful of the fact that, whether it’s Kingston or St. Ann, I am still in Jamaica where our men seem to be genetically programmed to ogle and call to anything in a skirt, and where they’re ever armed with scientific, biblical and pseudo-logical reasons to explain away their roving eyes.

Don’t get me wrong. Roving eyes don’t necessarily equate to promiscuity. But it could provide reasonable indication of a man’s propensity to not want to roost in the same nest for a prolonged period.

Like Tropical Kitchen’s baked goods, our men aren’t stamped with nutrition facts or ingredient lists to advise if dem salt, will spike your blood sugar, give you hives or stop yuh heart altogether. By looking at them, we won’t know if they’ll contribute to heartburn, high blood pressure, or whether they’ll fit right into a balanced diet.

Too many tourist ladies arrive at our airports with starry eyes shaded by rose-coloured glasses, expecting every dread to be Bob, every bald-head to be Asafa and every vacation photo to take on a disturbingly similar appearance to scenes from How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Be wise ladies. Not every slice of sweet potato pudding is the real deal. Just because it has the colour and consistency of a sweet potato pudding, doesn’t mean that it’s genuine sweet potato pudding. It could be potato pudding cousin. In other words, it may not be what it appears to be. So wash Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs from your eyes please, and don’t go blindly picking up pudding that don’t ‘gree (i.e. agree) with yuh system.

Tropical Kitchens
Top shelf: Danish (centre), fruit tarts (right). Middle shelf: toto (left), cornmeal pudding (centre), sweet potato pudding (right). Bottom shelf: gizzada

When selecting Jamaican-made pastry, please exercise the same wisdom that you would in any other nation, including your own.

Now, my Jamaican male readers, I intend no offense. I know there are plenty of you, who don’t need nutrition labels stamped on your forehead. And I know, there’s a case that can be made about Jamaican women too–like poor Bugle in Nuh Compatible. Either way, the moral of the story is to keep your head out of the clouds concerning rose-mantic (i.e. romantic) Caribbean destinations.

Okay, let’s get back to actual food.

So, after my shopping day, I arrive home to relax and have lunch. The fruit tart is light and flaky, has the right amount of filling and isn’t too sweet–my kind of dessert. Next time, I’ll buy a “healthy” slice of sweet potato pudding (yes, I’m still talking about real food here).

Catch yuh next time.

Peace and love.

Interesting notes for you:

1. Asafa Powell is a Jamaican sprinter, who broke the 100M world record in Greece, June 2005 and Italy, September 2007.
2. Wata is the brand name of a local bottled water.
3. Toto is a cake made with shredded coconut.
4. Gizzada is a pastry shell filled with sweetened, shredded coconut.
5. The movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back, released 1998 and adapted from Terry McMillan’s book of the same name, was partially filmed in Montego Bay, Jamaica.


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