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Sunday, February 22, 2015

5 MINUTES FROM FEASTING ON FISH

Vegetable variety at a produce market There I was, in the middle of downtown Montego Bay, Jamaica with a growling stomach that could rival the loud music and honking cars in the streets.  

Had it really come to this?  

I mean, it felt like all of my options had disappeared like a magician’s rabbit by sun down.  I don’t even eat rabbit though.  But soon, it was looking like I was going to have to feast on fish.  An absolutely dreadful thought for one who enjoys a plant-powered diet.  




Place after place claimed that all of their vegetables were gone for the day.  Not that I didn’t believe them but come on; how can you operate a cook shop with no veggies??  Sometimes I inquired twice or would ask for specific types of vegetables just to be sure I did my part in effective communication.  I should have known.  Friday nights in Jamaica come with fish: fried fish, steamed fish and grilled fish.  All cuts of fish cooked every way imaginable.  

Thoughts of vegetables appearing on the “Endangered Species” list began to fill my head.  The delirium from lack of nutrients will cause one to see strange things. 

The only thing I had eaten earlier was a piece of bread, sky juice with lime, a swig of Pepsi, and a bite of pudding loaf made by a Rasta woman who used coconut milk instead of dairy for extra flavor.  I was so involved with my family and helping out at the market that I wasn’t concerned about food despite being around loads of it.  The lively conversation and my cute baby cousin I picked up to feed and put to sleep, occupied me.  

All of the neglect my belly felt sounded like an angry lion that missed one too many meals.  The quiet desperation that threatened to overwhelm me physically manifested as beads of sweat on my brow just as the fifth cook shop said, 

Sorry, no veg.

Oh my goodness, it was looking pretty bleak.  I was really going to have to eat fish.  It wouldn't be the first time faced with temptation.  There was this one time at my family's annual seafood boil that will power failed.  That was a long time ago.  Now, I am much more fortified in my stance against feeding on flesh.
   
Giving up was not an option.  It would be easy to pretend like some trait involving highly developed tenacity in times like these was what kept me fighting to find food.  But actually, what propelled me was more primal.   I was extremely hungry and had no food at home.  It was a matter of survival.  Grocery shopping would have to wait until tomorrow.  My mission that night was all about nourishment in the now.  

After walking down several windy roads, side streets and alleys, I finally came across something promising.  A station wagon with the back window extended upward, prominently displayed steaming cook pots of what I hoped to be vegetables.  When I asked the head chef of this five star mobile establishment about his options for Rastas (those who don’t eat meat), he boasted about the fish of the day.  You see, some Rastas don’t eat meat but will eat fish.  Flesh is flesh to me, but in my experience from traveling to places like Jamaica, Panama and Ghana, when you say you don’t eat meat, it is assumed you still eat fish.  I was almost too weary by the journey to ask about the precious vegetables that seemed to have gone extinct.  There were just too many pots bellowing aromatic puffs of steam for them not to contain vegetables.  

Do you have any veg?

The chef looked at me quizzically, as if I didn’t hear him talk about the fish.  He reached back a bit into the station wagon and opened a pot of not only stewed vegetables (completely untainted by meat) but also a pot of fluffy coconut rice and peas.

I just wanted to cry some tears of joy as I promptly placed my order.  The chef smiled and packed up my rare find.  Immediately, I began to make the trek home in a taxi.  

I.  Tore.  It.  Up.  That food was so delicious!  In fact, it was so delicious and I was so hungry that I didn’t mind the fish filet that sat on top of my rice and peas.  I just used my fork to flick it over to the top portion of the food container.  I chuckled to myself and recalled the way that chef smiled as he packed my food.  It wasn’t a smile.  It was a smirk.

That sneaky chef!

Well, the closest I got to feasting on fish that night was the filet that sat about five inches from my rice and peas.  Whew!  That was a close one!

A not so close one: ART OF MY SOUL DAY 3: PRESSURE OF SEAFOOD BOIL FORCES VEGETARIAN TO FALL OFF THE WAGON!  I jumped off the wagon that day.  Just take a look at the pictures and you will see why I was of so little faith.  

If you enjoyed this story, share it with a friend or five (wink).  We all could benefit from reminders to maintain The Art of Determination in our lives.  Can you recall a time when your determination levels were on all cylinders?  Share in the comments.

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