What’s Cooking

Remember when we got a grocery store here in Picard last April?  It was AMAZING!  I have to remind myself of this when I go to buy some groceries for dinner and well… I leave with a bag of crackers instead, because I can’t find what I have a hankering for or what I need for something I was hoping to make.

Case in point:

I went to the grocery store today and the produce section looked like this:

  • strange root vegetables covered in bark that look way too difficult to deal with (I know the names of them, but I’m just being dramatic)
  • brown-spotted bananas
  • basket of onions with fruit flies flying around in it
  • soft potatoes
  • tons of cucumbers (I bought 3)
  • 3 bags of local lettuce past its prime
  • 3 Vidalia onions (weird)
  • 1 package of broccoli that was yellow/brown
  • 15EC ($5) bags of month-old carrots

When IGA has just gotten a shipment in, it can be like Christmas it’s so wonderful in there, but when it’s bare in there, oh man, is it bare!  Anyways – you get the drift – the grocery store situation is unpredictable!

This results in Caribbean Hoarding Syndrome.  When the grocery store was fully stocked over Christmas, I bought 3 cans of enchilada sauce because, well, who knows when they’ll have it again?

Last week, like the Caribbean Hoarder that I am, I bought 2 packages of this bacon.  It made me laugh:

“Hotel Brand… Sliced in the Tradition of Fine Hotels.”

What. are. you. talking. about?  So funny.


If you’re a good baker, ignore this next sentence, you’ll be absolutely horrified, but if you’re lazy, can’t bake, and like sweets, read on: yesterday morning, I made this deliciousness for Charlie and I for breakfast and it was the bomb.  Coffee cake, in a mug, that takes less than 5 minutes to throw together, coffee cake that you microwave in a mug.  Oh yes.  My kind of baking!


Today I scavenged and found some chicken and a leek, so I’m planning on making this Chicken and Dumplings recipe from Bon Appetit (minus the homemade gnocchi ricotta – I’m just using some packaged gnocchi)… I’ll let you know the verdict!


What we do all day…

Contrary to popular belief, I do not sit around and pick my nose or eat bon bons all day long (only for a small part of the day).  I am actually really busy most days, as is Charlie, who rarely has a chance to enjoy the beach, or much of anything, for that matter.  After tests and exams, however, we both look forward to a fun afternoon and evening together.  Until then, however, here is what a normal day here is like…

I get up between 8 and 10, put away the dishes that dried overnight, and do whatever dishes were left in the sink from the day before.  Then make coffee or tea and have breakfast (usually fruit, oatmeal, or eggs) outside, if the porch isn’t swarmed with the remains of dead bugs (in which case I avoid going outside for as long as possible so I can put off sweeping them up.  It’s pretty sick.  Currently the porch is covered with the inch-long wings of these crazy rain-fly termite things.  ICK!).  If Charlie is media-siting (watching class lectures online) that day then we’ll have breakfast together, if I’m up early.  If he’s going to class, he’s gone by 8.  After breakfast I do the breakfast dishes.  Then I make the bed, clean up our apartment, put away clothes or laundry.

bug covered porch... good stuff.

If it’s a busy day, I’m up early for an RSO meeting, an assembly at CALLS, a day trip with friends.  If it’s a low-key day,  I will check emails, write a blog post, catch up on news and blogs, read about re-finishing furniture and other how-tos which I will bookmark for use in several years when we have a real home.  I’ll peruse the food blogs and book mark recipes with minimal and/or tropical ingredients for current use, and ones with fancy shmancy ingredients or luxuries not available here like berries, buttermilk, and arugula for later use (again, in several years, when I can also break out those DIY home projects, like making an upholstered headboard!).  If I’m feeling energized (which usually I’m not), I’ll walk to the gym and get in a nice air-conditioned work out, or I’ll visit my friend Brandi and play with her 4 week old kittens.  At noon, Charlie will come home for lunch or I’ll make him lunch and bring it to him at school.  We’ll sit outside under a tree by the library if the weather is nice.  I’ll head home after lunch and do some more dishes.  Then I’ll relax and watch some TV shows on my computer… The Wire, Big Love, Mad Men, Weeds.

lunch with Charlie at Pagua Bay after exams

If I’m feeling brave, I’ll do some laundry.  Here’s how this goes down without a washer or dryer: I’ll turn on our hot water heater (which we rarely do these days, as cold showers are the only way to go when it’s just as hot or often hotter inside our apartment than it is outside), put a bucket in the shower, add a scoop of detergent to the bucket, fill it up with hot water, throw in some clothes, and swish them around for a little while with a clean plunger.  Then I’ll rinse the clothes and wring them out in the shower.  Then I’ll go on the porch and rig up a clothes line and hang up the clothes to dry.  I’ll do this for about an hour and if I’m lucky, the clothes will smell nice when they’re dry.  Sometimes, they still smell sweaty once they’re dry, and I lose my gumption and send my stiff, sweaty, horribly hand washed and line dried clothes out and pay someone and deal with them effectively.

After the laundry nightmare I’ll read for a little while and figure out and google some recipes to help figure out what to make for dinner.  I give myself extra gold stars if the meal requires little to-no oven time.  Here’s why: 1. Our oven sucks.  When you bake anything, the oven handle gets so hot that when you touch it your burn your hand.  2.  Our oven really sucks.  In our last apartment, the baking temperatures were in degrees Celsius.  That I could handle, I just made a conversion chart on a post-it and stuck it to the fridge.  Boom.  In our new apartment, however, our oven is the worst.  Seriously, THE ABSOLUTE WORST.  There are no temperatures.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No temperatures.  Just a knob that says “1 2 3 4 5.”  (I really wish I were making that up.)  So, I just guess on baking temperatures.  You can imagine how that turns out… burnt everything, all the time.

every baker's dream

Good stuff.  Anyways, I figure out what to make for dinner.  Usually it’s something vegetarian because sometimes the meat here is scary and/or hard to find, or just really expensive.  I wish I could say that I bought and cooked fish all the time, but I don’t.  I’ve bought it once.  Buying fish requires walking for 20 minutes down to the waterfront when you hear someone blow a conch shell.  The problem is that where I live, you can’t hear anyone blow a conch shell, so then you trek down to the water and loiter and act sketchy and wait for several hours until you actually see someone blow a conch shell, and well, that is really not my idea of fun.  Then you trek 20 minutes home with a plastic grocery bag full of fresh fish.  I need to figure out a better system for this, because the fish is amazing.  It’s literally fresh out of the ocean, and is usually tuna or mahi mahi, for $7 a pound.  I made the best fish tacos with the tuna I bought last semester.  Note to self: figure out the fish situation, ASAP.

If it’s a Tuesday, I help my friend Emily teach a sewing class at a local Women’s Center.  (Actually, I provide moral support and do a kid-friendly fabric project with the women’s children, while Emily teaches the sewing class, since I literally cannot sew a stitch).

me with my little friends at the women's club... aren't they precious?

If it’s a Thursday, I tutor at CALLS, the local alternative high school that gives at-risk students a second chance.

me with some of the amazing girls I've gotten to know at CALLS

If it’s a Friday, I spend the afternoon at the park in Portsmouth with friends and local children at In.Light.In, an after school program and ministry, where we play with the kids, do a craft project, and then feed them a meal.

some of my favorite sassy ladies at in.light.in

Some days I’ll spend a few hours at the pool with friends, read a book on our porch or in the hammock if it’s not excruciatingly hot out, go to yoga in the early evenings, walk to the grocery story (not an option until a few months ago!), go on a hike or take a trip with friends, or meet friends for coffee at Rituals, the fabulously air-conditioned coffee shop.

after a hike and swim at Bense Pool

Charlie and I have dinner together almost every night around 7.  Usually I cook and he either comes home for dinner on the porch or I bring him a meal at school.  Then, he hits the book again until midnight.  After dinner, I do some more dishes, tidy up the apartment, and either enjoy a cold shower and some TV or a movie in our air-conditioned bed room (we have AC in our bedroom only and only turn it on for a little while before we go to bed since electricity is pricey here.  We have don’t have AC in living room/kitchen (they are the same room) which is brutal this time of year!), or a meet friends for game night, drinks, a night swim at the pool, a cookout, or a Friday night movie on campus.

By the time the day is over, I’m usually exhausted.  Between the heat, the walking/carrying everything everywhere all the time, and all the cooking and dish washing (I am the dishwasher), I am out like a light by bed time.  Charlie conks out, too, exhausted from the heat, the walking, and mostly the studying.  That, my friends, is how we spend out days!

Charlie, victoriously posing with 7 weeks of material, after Mini 2

Real Housewives & Merrie-Woode Girls

The Real Housewives of Dominica

Kristen, Rebecca, me, Brandi, Tanya, Katie, Nicole, Meagan, Taylor, Emily, Heidi, Megan

My friends here on the island are pretty amazing.  Not only are they beautiful women, but they are also all extremely talented.  Sometimes we call ourselves The Real Housewives of Dominica.  That makes me laugh.  It has been so much fun getting to know all the girls here.  For example, check out our cooking blog, Spouses’ Kitchen.  We all contribute, and the computer/design savvy girls make it look good, and we all use it as inspiration for deliciousness.  Love it!  We all come from so many different backgrounds, states (Alaska, Kentucky, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, California, Florida, Kansas, Arkansas, New York), and are talented in so many ways.  We are teachers, artists, nurses, yogis, spinners, cooks, bakers, counselors, fundraisers, hair stylists, designers, sewers, athletes, dancers, decorators… the list goes on and on!

Katie, Tracy, Emily, Heidi, Meagan, Taylor, Brandi, Casey, Jen, me, Megan

Sometimes this island reminds me a lot of Merrie-Woode (my summer camp growing up!), but with wine!  Here are some reasons why: wonderful girls who you get to know better and better each day… learning so much about each other quickly, because you spend so much time together…  signing up for trips and taking long rides in vans, with windy, bumpy roads, carsickness, and Dramamine… cool mountain mornings and evenings…  costume parties…  game nights… snakes and bugs, often in your apartment… refreshing afternoon and evening rainstorms… swimming in waterfalls, rivers, and swimming holes… saying goodbye to close friends leaving the island at the end of the semester…

On our girls' trip to Barbados! Me, Tanya, Megan, Kristen

While I miss my family and friends from home, I have loved getting to know all the new friends I have made here in I cannot imagine what this experience would be like without all of the wonderful friends I’ve made here.  Thanks to all of you for making my first semester such a great one!

At Cabrits! Kristen, Heidi, Mary, me, Tanya, Emily, Taylor, Rebecca

Barbados! Megan, Tanya, Kristen, me

Afternoon on the dock! Rebecca, Tracy, me, Katie

At Red Rock at the beginning of the semester: Katie, Emily, Megan, Taylor, Heidi, Tracy, Brandi, me, Meagan

Sunset at Cabrits! Emily, Brandi, Nicole, Megan, Francis (aka "the black Michael Jackson"), Meagan, Heidi, me, Katie, Tracy

An afternoon in Glanvillia: Katie, me, Tracy

Trying to…

I am pretty good at keeping calm — this is often a challenge on this crazy island — but sometimes (like right now) I just want to scream!  Why? I’ll tell you why.

I decide I want to make a recipe a friend told me about: Shrimp Lasagna Rolls.  So, I spend a few days looking for ricotta cheese, but can only find it for 3o EC at Dee’s, the most expensive store in town.  I hold off for a few days to see if it will appear in any of the other grocery stores at half the price, I know it will if I can just wait it out.  Mean while, I check around town for the lasagna noodles I also need to make the recipe — can’t find in any stores in the area, so I’m thinking I’ll have to wait and buy them the next time I take the bus to Roseau.  Then, a spouse who is leaving the island soon sells me a box of lasagna noodles (score!), and a friend spots ricotta cheese at Picard grocery (double score!).  I also find the frozen shrimp I need and head home, feeling like a champion after several days of scavenging for all my ingredients.

I take the shrimp out of the freezer and place them in a colander in the sink under running water to thaw them and am stirring them around with my hands when… the water cuts off.  Leaving me with shrimpy hands, no water, no paper towels, no thawed shrimp, and no cooked lasagna noodles. (This is the part where I want to scream.)

So, I guess my dinner will have to wait another day…  And my hands?  Luckily, I managed to get those cleaned up, courtesy of the clorox wipes and hand sanitizer sent by Lesley and Charles & Elizabeth.  Now, off to study the takeout menus…