Monday, March 8, 2010

Pillaging the Caribbean

A souvenir is always appreciated. It's nice to know that, even though someone is off having a much better time than you are in some postcard-perfect destination, you still happen to cross their mind. They might wonder blissfully what you're doing out in that ho-hum timezone they left behind, which is most likely working, sleeping, or watching re-runs of Futurama in between the two.

As nice as the sentiment is, there are only so many coconut monkey statues, Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts and plastic snow globes one can tastefully work into their decor. The true love comes when someone knows you so well, that they can walk right past the seashell-glue-and-googly-eyes emporium to dig up local treasures that are relevant (and relished!) in that everyday life you're leading while they're away.

Leave it to my mom and dad to perfect this thoughtful talent. For my mom's 50th birthday, they spent a week and a half on a Caribbean cruise. And there was no question of what I'd savor the most.


Oh yes, and those are cat butts. I told you to be warned.

Most of my island treasures were from St. Marten, from the same market Alton Brown caroused on his 3rd meandering Food Network special, Feasting On Waves. Matt's instant reaction to the whimsical hand-painted bottles and Sharpie labels - "THAT looks sanitary."

Well Mr. Corporate Food Machine, I'm sorry to rob you of your High-Fructose Corn Syrup injection.

*My husband is a notably picky, unadventurous eater. This will be explored later here, and with my therapist.

You can have your cold, soulless labels and "nutrition facts". Give me some local legend's hand-scooped specialty anyway. Grow an immune system, people. In my eyes, it's personality and mystery that's rarer and rarer to find in our shrinking world. The handmade descriptions whisper of so many possibilities - orange blossom cupcakes and gelato, coconut essence summer cocktails and sweet flavored sticky rice, and true vanilla rocketing to the top of the chocolate chip cookie profile.

I was also gifted a bag of yellow gold labeled CURRY. So potent, it makes me sneeze without even breaking the seal. In the dark, sun-shunning corner cabinet, it will wait patiently for cilantro and tomatoes to trump in the heart of summer. Barbecue, you will be blessed.

The hot sauce and Jamaican Jerk seasoning have the aid of a print shop, which might give them enough corporate cred for my husband to partake. As high a horse I can get on about my 'ingredients with soul', I can't resist a bottle that's wearing a hat.

And yes, my parents know that too.

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