Miss Rose appears in my back garden where I am reading in the Sunday morning sunshine, Stella curled up beneath my chair. There is a narrow and steep path leading from Rose’s house to mine, which I have yet to tackle while she easily navigates it almost every day despite being a grandmother.
“Come, I have something to show you!” She announces, going into the kitchen. I follow her and watch as she takes out onion, green pepper, hot pepper, tomato, jerk spices, salted fish and a bowl full of ackee. “Me gonna cook ackee and salt fish for you proper. When you in Jamaica, you must eat the Jamaican food.”
I had been under the impression that jerk chicken was Jamaica’s national dish, but apparently I was mistaken. I am told in no uncertain terms that it is in fact ackee and salt fish, which I have yet to try. The salt fish is dried, salted cod and ackee is a small fruit that is left on the tree until the outer shell turns bright red and opens out to reveal a round black seed. Then it is picked, peeled, de-seeded and boiled. If you ask me each fruit resembles a tiny brain, and has a similar texture, but it tastes surprisingly good – a little like fried potatoes.
Miss Rose cooks up all the ingredients, then produces a slice of bread fruit to be eaten with it, which is similar to a yam or very dense potato. “There, breakfast!”
Stella hovers at the door, smelling the salt fish no doubt. Rose waits expectantly for me to try the first bite, “Well?”
“It’s delicious.” And it is.
She nods knowingly, “Of course.” Then she waves her hand, “Alright, now I be leaving you. More cooking another day.”
“Thankyou, Miss Rose!” She disappears back down the hill and Stella rubs herself hopefully against my leg as I eat, but I’m not sharing today.