At the back of my St. Elizabeth grandma’s house was an “ole kitchen”. That’s what she called it; so, as children, that’s what we called it too.
It was a simple structure made of red clay and stones. It had a zinc roof, a board window in the wall to the right and a board front door which was kept padlocked whenever the kitchen wasn’t in use. The ground was rough and made of the same red clay and stones.
I remember seeing two irons, the kind you heat up over coals or firewood to press clothes and linen. I also remember the fireplace which was built up against the left wall of the kitchen, about two-feet high. The fireplace was filled with grey ashes, remnants of the firewood used for cooking. My mother reminded me that there were also three large rocks in the fireplace. The firewood would go between the rocks, and the pots would go on top of the rocks.
Inside her house, Grandma had a “new” kitchen equipped with a gas range, sink, shelves and a prep table. There were two windows in that kitchen: one which opened outward by the sink, and a sash window which didn’t open at all by the stove.
Although Grandma was satisfied with the functionality of her new kitchen, every now and then, she would cut across the yard to the ole kitchen to do any major cooking that could potentially smell up the house, like frying fish or boiling lobster.
There was always excitement whenever we children couldn’t find Mama and den hear seh shi in di ole kitchen. Being curious children, it was invitation to go faas an’ look round.
I love old things: old churches, old homes, old utensils, old anything. If it dates back a good century, at least, I’m a happy camper. If it’s early to mid 20th century, wi can still talk.
Years ago, as part of a work field trip, I had visited an artist named Will. He was a middle-aged, Caucasian, Englishman living in a two-storey house in the hills of Manchester, Jamaica. His upstairs studio barely had walking room because of the overflow of paintings, carvings and pottery.
The place had all the trappings of an ancient edifice: creaky, wooden floors; creaky, wooden doors and based on the unexplained movements of the studio door and a desperate cry of “Will!! Will!!” from a little boy in another room, I’m guessing it probably had a ghost or two.
Across Jamaica, there are many physical reminders of the past: of our indigenous Taino people; of the enslaved and free Africans who came to our shores; of the foreign powers that invaded our island; of the ships that docked in our harbours; of the battles fought over island ownership; of the Christian missions that set down roots; and of our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on.
Not all treasures are contained in museums. Some, like my grandmother’s ole kitchen, are within the boundaries of our ancestral homes, while others are scattered openly throughout the length and breadth of Jamaica.
My fellow Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans, take some time, now and then, to explore these old things and allow yourselves to be wowed.
To help stimulate the explorer in you, trigger your own memories and spark your imagination about what Jamaican life may have been like way back when, below are pictures of a few old things. These were found within St. Ann. My hope is to expand my own exploration, add more photos to this album, and, of course, share them with you.
Catch yuh next time!
Peace and love,