Makes you wonder …

Bet you won’t find, in China, mementos of the Great Wall made in the US of A. But in Washington D.C, at the Smithsonian, you can find busts of U.S presidents — Made in China. They don’t miss a beat.

Then there is the blonde teenage girl presiding over a stall at the craft mart near the library in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was reading while awaiting customers. She was reading Frederick Douglass


Even in the midst of mourning and memorials in Tucson, and even as the dead were being buried in that traumatized city, they went ahead with the gun show, anyway.
Of course there was nothing illegal about holding the show — merely a lack of compassion, plus insensitivity and callousness.
It was as if all the shooting, the death toll, the travails of a troubled mind; even the national incomprehension — almost as if it was just a big build-up to the gun show. Is this what we are?

The trip

Leaving here now at the end of summer we’ll see much that is different when we return in a  month’s time.

The escapees from the heat of the Valley will return home and the flow of traffic here will be lessened, the population dwindling to a a third of its current, and customary, number.

The makeshift roadside stands selling Taylor sweet corn will be gone and the glow of yellow blooms honor-guarding the roadsides will disappear with the passing of sun flowers and black-eyed susans.

The feral cats from the abandoned house next door will hopefully no longer be able to enjoy the run of the yard, Corky’s determinati0n, already accounting for five of them, continuing to get at the remnants, with the help of patient municipal functionaries.

And the green summer quilt will be all set to give up its place to the black winter version.

We leave on Wednesday, heading for Page, first night,  and for Seattle by a roundabout way as a final road trip destination,before the Alaska cruise.

Stewed callaloo!

I came upon this shocker in a local food supplement, in a story attributed to someone described as a Miami chef, consultant and food writer. Stewed callaloo, indeed!

True, the opening paragraph may well have exonerated him, since it confessed that, true to its motto “out of Many, One People,” Jamaica’s cooking is an amalgam of many countries’ cuisines.

Well, they have truly amalgamated our callaloo, just as the did with Guyana’s signature pepper pot — if in name only. For what in Jamaica they call pepper pot is, ironically, actually a kind of callaloo masquerading as the Guyanese specialty of various meats cooked, unendingly, in a potent melding ingredient called casareep.

Let’s face it — callaloo is Trinidadian, definitely not a stew, and more of a thick vegetable soup.

And any Trini will tell you, the base for this staple is the plucked leaves of dasheen, which tuber, with green figs — preferably young — is the foundation of our famous blue food. Callaloo is smoothened with ochroes and coconut milk and adorned, if you feel like it, with blue cab, or pigtail or some variation thereof.

The proffered recipe, the Miami expert tells is, is adapted from Smokey Joe’s on Negril Beach, and it requires you to include “4 cups firmly packed chopped callaloo, spinach, or greens.” Now I get it — callalooo is an ingredient, not the heavenly end product.

They’re right about spinach, though, for that is exactly what Janice uses, Show Low being entirely bereft of dasheen. And she’s found a way to make it work.

Just to be fair to these folk, here is what their recipe calls for.

1 tablespoon of olive oil.

1 medium onion, chopped.

2 garlic cloves, minced.

2 sprigs fresh thyme, left on stem.

4 cups firmly packed chopped callaloo, spinach or greens.

1 medium tomato, chopped.

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and coarse ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrot and thyme; saute 2 minutes, until slightly softened. Add callaloo and tomato. Continue to saute, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add salt and pepper. Saute until vegetables are tender. Serve 2.

I much prefer the advice of the Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook. They would have you strip the stalk and midrib from your dasheen leaves, wash and cut the leaves and soft stalk.

Cut salted beef or salted pork in bite-size pieces.

Cut ochroes, chives and thyme in small pieces.

In a large pot or skillet put dasheen leaves, salted meat, ochroes, chive, thyme, onion, garlic, crab, hot pepper, coconut milk and water.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or more until everything is soft and cooked.

Remove hot pepper, swizzle or beat with a hand beater. Add cooking butter and stir well. Adjust salt and pepper.

Serve as a soup or accompanied with rice and ground provision.

And there you have it, Smokey Joe’s, of Negril: real  callaloo from Trinidad and Tobago.


I posted a photo of a humming bird on my photo blog on Sunday. The bird was at rest in the palm of a thrilled visitor at the Sipes Nature Center, not far from home. This presumably is a natural enough condition after being banded, giving the tiny creature a bit of a breathing space before taking off again.

Within hours I got an admiring comment from another enthusiast — from Zagreb in Croatia!

Next day I posted another photo, this time of a fellow, arms folded, some distance from a feeder, patiently awaiting the arrival of some hummers, at the same venue.

And got a hail from the Punjab in India from a fellow-shutterbug asking that we contact each other.

Yet none of this was as surprising as getting a comment, from Iran, about a landscape I had shot in Moab, Utah, some time back.

Helps, I imagine, to understand how Janice was able to get a charge on her credit card the other day — from Cyprus.

Backward glance?

One thing, as they say, leads to another and in this regard, the Internet is truly a master. The Guardian Unlimited Books posted a review of Tahir Shah’s “The Caliph’s House,” and this so intrigued me that I sought to find out more about him, surprising myself  he is the son of Idries Shah, with whose books on Sufi lore I had spent much time in my Arima youth.

The younger Shah had written a number of travel books and was fairly well known when he decided, mostly on the spur of the moment, that a small flat in London was not the right place for him; that he wanted space and sunlight and perhaps a more throbbing life, so he decided to move with his young family to Morocco.

As a boy his father had taken him to Morocco on holidays, the place echoing, according to his father, well-loved aspects of Afghanistan, ancestral home of the Shahs, but a place to which they could no longer travel because of the raging war with the Russians.

Looking for Shah led me to travel-writer sites and many a name long familiar to me came up, amazing me that even in Trinidad, long ago, we had available to us books by Freya Stark,William Dalrymple, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Lawrence Durrell, Laurens van der Post, among others.

I read reviews of Fermor’s “A Time of Gifts” and “Between the Woods and the Water,” his unbelievable walk across Europe as a young man before World War II, happy to be reacquainted with his wit and style. (Strange, but I happen to be reading “The Places in Between” by Rory Steward, detailing his walk across Afghanistan in 2002)

All heady stuff. I printed WorldHUM’s top 30 travel books, surprised to see two Naipauls mentioned: “North of South,” by Shiva, Vidia’s late younger brother, and “A Turn in the South,” by Sir Vidia himself.

Happy to see some home-grown representation there, but surprised to see they’d left out Laurie Lee’s “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning,” worn, but still in my possession: the story of how he left his village with a bundle and a fiddle, walked to London, took ship to Spain, walked through the civil war, was lined up to be shot —  his executioners got bored and he simply wandered off.

And they had nothing of Alexandra David-Neel, the first European woman to find her way into the heart of Tibet, recounted in the unbelievable “My Journey to Lhasa.”

Both of these books happen to be superior, if you ask me, to Naipaul’s turn in the South.

Anyway I ended up committed to a umber of titles, most of which I have already owned. On the face of it I am supposedly reprising adventure and lovely prose: though it occurred to me that perhaps what I am trying to do is recapture an echo of my my younger days through this understandable subterfuge. And maybe that’s part of it…

Shah’s “The Caliph’s House” is first on the list. Followed by Fermor’s two walking books, and perhaps his “Mani” and “Koumeli,” about his love affair with parts of Greece, and names you wouldn’t find on any map today.

And Freya Stark’s “Journey’s Echo,” drawn from other books she’d written. Still surprised that I had her for company in Arima.

Civic pride

It seems we are going to have to accept this sight as fairly common these days.

There was this fellow, his wife and children in tow, in the unthreatening confines of our neighborhood super store, with a gun — loaded or not — strapped to his thigh. Never mind the other families peacefully going about the business of stocking up their larders.

I suppose his was an expression of civic pride.