Of Gold, Bravery and Nobility ~ Discovering Puerto Rico

Most of us who live in the coastal United States are familiar with the planning and preparation involved during hurricane season every year. More than 41% of all hurricanes which make landfall in the Unites States are in the state of Florida. Florida is so prone to hurricanes such that it gets twice as many hurricanes than the next hurricane prone state which is Texas. By sheer numbers, most of us who live in the sunshine state will at some point experience the impact and consequences of a devastating hurricane as we did in the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018 with Hurricane Michael and those living on the island of Puerto Rico a year earlier with Hurricane Maria. Florida panhandle post hurricane MichaelPuerto Rico post hurricane Maria  Six weeks after the hurricane hit Panama City, still in shock from the extent of the devastation around us, we traveled to Puerto Rico for some well needed R & R. We would travel from Panama City, Florida to meet with some family friends, the Jimenez family, who also live in Panama City and were vacationing the same week as we were in Puerto Rico. I was curious to see how much recovery had taken place on the island which experienced a similar event as we did on the Gulf Coast of Florida only 13 months earlier. In addition, I was interested in visiting this island whose name and history conveyed its richness centuries ago when discovered by the Spanish settlers who sought after its gold or in bravery and nobility as demonstrated by its original Taino settlers from which the word “Boriqua” used to describe a person native to Puerto Rico is derived. We took a direct flight to the island from Orlando and our friends were ready to pick us up at the baggage claim section at the airport.  Once we picked up our luggage and cleared customs, we drove west from the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport to the Santurce neighborhood where we were immediately immersed in the artistic…

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The Tamarind: A tree well-traveled

When the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind - African proverb Having spent most of my childhood in Africa and acquired a fair knowledge of African cuisine and culture, I was blown away by what I did not know about the most widely distributed fruit tree of the tropics, the tamarind tree. Indigenous to tropical Africa, Tamarindus indica, has been cultivated for centuries on the Indian subcontinent and is often reported to have originated there. From India, it spread to Persia and Arabia where it is referred to as the “tamar hindi” (Indian date) and it derived its specific name “indica” which further lends to the illusion of Indian origin. It is now understood to be native to Africa and grows wild in sub-Saharan African countries such as Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Malawi. India remains the largest producer of tamarind in the world at present time. The Tamarind - Fruit within shell (Photo credit: Taste of Home) The tamarind fruit hanging from tree (Photo credit: souschef.co.uk) The tamarind has a vast array of uses world over from cooking, baking, juices and drinks, with cultural and spiritual rituals, and beliefs surrounding this peculiar tree, fruit and seed. With a sweet and sour or tangy taste, I learned it is a key ingredient in Worchestershire sauce! I must confess I do not remember seeing a tamarind tree or its fruit used for any of these purposes in Cameroon, but given my Caribbean roots, my curiosity was peaked when I learned the tamarind drink is popular in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. Even though I remember drinking a locally made tamarind drink while in Senegal, I had never seen it made or knew what ingredients were used in making this drink. The tamarind is called "daahar" in wolof, the most commonly spoken language in Senegal, and it has been suggested this word is associated with the origin of the name of Senegal's capital city, Dakar. This tree has long been naturalized in…

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