Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lessons in Language

Paw Paw
Whole Spice
Sour Sop
Pomme Cythere
I challenge readers to match the photo of my Trini market purchases with the above names. Note: the upper right dark green vegetable is not an avocado. I walked into the blocks-long downtown market area last Saturday at 07:00 and it was already a hive of bartering patrons gathered around mounds of leafy produce, brightly coloured fruits, and fresh meat and fish stands. Derek, our local driver and guide, was my coach as I filled my bags with food I had never seen before. He helped me pick a perfectly ripened prickly soursop that turned out to have a delicious sour-pear flavour and, according to the tiny gramma picking out her soursop, was good against cancer. Derek also explained how to cook my new harvests using various combinations of barks and seeds I bought from the spice man. I also brought home a large bag of delicate crimson sorrel buds and used them to prepare a favourite Trinidad Christmas drink. I peeled the red-leafed sepals off the seed and boiled them with market nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. The spicy flavour and rich red colour reminded me of mulled wine, the exception being Sorrel is served on ice with a splash of good rum if desired. It grows along the roadside and blooms with delicate pink hibiscus flowers. 

On the way to and from the market, Derek gave me a much-needed lesson on speakin Trini. The palette of the Trini language is English; the colours are West African, Spanish, French, and Bhojpuri. English is the language of my family but I am a foreigner to the lilting musical rhythms that I hear in conversations around here. Trini’s seem to sing when they speak and their idioms are filled interesting images. “Don be buyin no cat in bag” is what a mother might say to her son when he is in a serious relationship. In other words, know the person you are with well before you marry. If you want spicy food, ask for your dinner with “mother-in-law”. Really spicy – a “bad mother in law”. Derek and other drivers in the traffic jam around the market yelled back and forth and gestured at one other as they squeezed into spaces more appropriate for bicycles. Trinis need their hands to talk and not just for waving gestures. Hands are another dimension of language with pointing, fists, and circular motions carrying specific meaning. 
Miguel Browne, a local poet, storyteller and teacher, gives a great lesson in speakin Trini at: 
Language is a portal to the sociology and psyche of a culture and thanks to Derek and Miguel, I have humbly found another way into the complexity of Trinidad life and history. Derek laughed hysterically at my feeble attempts to speak Trini. Like my dancing, I will never have da rhythm. I will instead have to settle with being a master at eating which is just fine with me.

The little red things are Sorrel.
Th small purpley brown seed looking things are Nutmeg.
Whole Spice is the peachy one that looks like candy.
The yellow ones at the front are Pomme Cythere.
Paw Paw are the wrinkly cucumbers.
The Sour Sop is the green one under the Pomme Cytheres.
Christophene is the one that looks like a pear.
And the Carailli is the one that looks like an avocado.

Did I get any right? :)
Friday, November 25, 2011 - 12:33 PM
Hi Kate
You have five out of eight. Keep trying!

No comments:

Post a Comment