I’m half-Jamaican. The cute half.

Aunt Fay washing carrots at Great Jamaican Cookout

Aunt Fay washing carrots at Great Jamaican Cookout

I returned a few days ago from the Great Jamaican Cookout at an aunt’s house in Chicago. This was the time for my generation to learn from the matriarchs how to cook all the traditional dishes. The Jamaican men, or the men married to Jamaican women did their part too – which is wait on the food to be ready and then wait to be served. Fix their own place? (Sucks teeth and says “chu” – which is Jamaican patois for “please.”)

I wrote about it in my day job here, but the actual two days of cooking lessons exceeded my wildest expectations.

First of all, I love my family. Seriously. I love all of them. They’re unintentionally hilarious, patient, caring, generous, salt-of-the-earth kind of people. Not everyone can say that about their relatives, but I can and I KNOW how blessed I am.

I can’t even go into all the things we learned to cook – I was the scribe, naturally, and had the difficult task of asking my aunts, “Now, exactly how much sugar goes into that?” and having them snap back, “Oh, just a lickle” (Aunt Fay – that’s you!)  and then turn up the whole bag. Trying to get these folks who have been cooking by feel for decades to use measuring spoons was a CHORE.

All sorts of Jamaican sayings came pouring out of folks’ mouths – and I wrote those down too. In the end, we had for breakfast – ackee and saltfish, bami, fried plantain and toasted hard dough bread. For dinner, we had stew peas, rice and peas, brown stew chicken, salad (American), and to drink, sorrel (which for a bunch of super-sanctified, church-going, tongue-talking people, sure had enough liquor in in it). For dessert, we had rum cake, or black cake, as it’s sometimes called. I still have a little piece in foil back here in Memphis – but it is SO not on the diet.

Family and food. I can’t think of much better.

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