Official Publication of the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association

CHILDHOOD TASTES

We hardly ever had sweets when we were young. We did not need them. Our tastes were excited by the danger of raiding fruit trees, usually in other people’s gardens, and getting away with our loot of mangos, cherries, plums and guavas. We knew where the best was to be found. Whose yard had the sweetest, the plumpest, the juiciest. And we knew the seasons by heart. Benevolent neighbours tolerated our forays, others were less appreciative and we always had to be on the lookout for irate owners and worst of all their dogs.
There was an orchard of white guava trees that we were fond of raiding. The guavas, a rarity, were enormous and incredibly sweet. But getting our hands on them was a dangerous operation. The owner did not like the horde of little girls who came to clean out his trees. And he had a dog. A German Shepherd, named Hitler. He was a mean beast. He
was usually tied up in the garage. However, when the trees were raided a few too many times, Hitler was turned loose. But we were brave and this added danger only made the guavas more delicious. There was a real strategy involved in outsmarting the dog and his owner. We posted lookouts while the more nimble among us climbed the trees and snagged
the fruit. Then we ran like hell. Squealing with laughter. At a safe distance we sat down and enjoyed the booty.
We also liked the firm, sweetness of local plums. We called them tot-tot plums as some of them had an additional bump on the end that looked like a nipple. The best ones ripened to a burgundy colour. And they had to be firm. We refused to eat any that were bright red. These were soft, sunburned and sour. There was a constant competition between us and the blackbird population for the plums. We were furious when we reached for a juicy specimen only to find that one side had been bird pecked. Sometimes, in an effort to outsmart the birds, we ate the plums half-ripe. The resulting belly-ache did nothing to curb our appetite.
At times we sought extreme acidity. We made mango chow from sliced, half-ripe mangos soaked in a solution of vinegar, salt, pepper and hot sauce. We’d gorge ourselves until our teeth were so on edge it was impossible to eat another slice. Siwette or local gooseberry were another acidic treat. So was the bread and cheese plant, with its fleshy white petals and yellow pistil. We thought it looked like a cheese sandwich. Luckily, it was edible. We never ate large amounts of this as it was a bit bland. We ate it more for its exotic value and
the fact that the parents forbade from doing so. We’d get worms they said.
Then the craving for something sweet returned. If the fruit trees were between seasons we’d fall back on farine sugar, a mixture of manioc flour, sugar and thick condensed milk. Before adding the milk, we’d fill our mouths with the powdery flour and start a food fight, spraying the farine at each other.
Sometimes the adults would indulge us. We’d get guava cheese, a stewed, set, confit of guava rolled in sugar, or tamarind balls sweetened with sugar and seasoned with pepper.
But the prize, the best treat of all, was the Julie mango. The queen of all mangos. The trees were rare when we were small as they had to be specially grafted. They did not grow from seed. The fruit was sublime with a sugar level so well balanced that we could eat ten of them without feeling sick. Ripened to perfection, the Julie was firm with the colour of an orange sunset. We liked to eat them in the sea, letting the juice run down our chins and over our hands. We’d even dip the mango in the sea to add a little salty element.
It’s a long time ago. Me and girls are long gone from the neighbourhood. But I can still remember the taste of my childhood. I just have to see a guava and I am right back in the white guava patch, heart pounding out of my chest at the thought of being run down by
Hitler the Alsatian yet emboldened by my greedy desire for the sweet, creamy fruit dotted with little crusty seeds.


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