C is for the Caribbean

After sticking close to home last week with B is for British Columbia, our family’s global adventure through the alphabet took us to a much more exotic location this week. The Caribbean region is one part of the world that was overlooked last year when we explored one country for each letter of the alphabet. There were many individual countries that would have made great destinations, but each time one came up there was a larger country pulling my attention away. This year I knew that I didn’t want to miss this region, so C for Caribbean it is this week.

We didn’t do a craft this week since my daughter has just finished her first full week of kindergarten and for once in her life she seems a bit crafted out. Instead I went to the store while she was at school and picked up every exotic, tropical fruit I could find, and in the afternoon we put on some calypso music, watched a few video clips about island life and tried cutting up and tasting guavas, starfruit, limes, dragon fruit, papayas, passionfruit, prickly pear fruit and plantains.

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We also tried playing a game that I read about on a Jamaican children’s website called Dandy Shandy. In Jamaica it’s played by older kids with a hard ball or even a juice box stuffed with newspaper. One child stands in the middle while a child on either side throws the ball back and forth, attempting to hit the first child’s legs as he or she jumps around, trying to avoid the ball. We toned it down a bit, playing with a small hollow plastic ball and the kids really enjoyed it, especially when Mom or Dad was the one in the middle and they got to aim at one of us. I don’t know for sure if we played it right, but we had fun and got a bit of exercise.

For our Caribbean dinner I tried to get a sampling of dishes from all around the islands. Rice and beans (or peas) seems to be a staple throughout the region and I chose a simple recipe from Haiti using black turtle beans. For the main course I chose a coconut chicken curry recipe from Barbados, although I have to admit I dialled the heat way down from the original recipe to suit my family’s tastes. I also cooked plantains for the first time in my life, making a type of fritter called tostones, which appears in many Caribbean recipe lists. We also enjoyed the variety of fruit that we had cut up earlier.

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One of the things my husband always wants to know when I chose a new place to explore is whether it’s a wine producing region. Well, the Caribbean is not known for it’s wines of course, but it more than makes up for it in the production of other adult beverages. To accompany our Caribbean meal today we had a lovely pitcher of r-r-r-r-r-r-rum punch. (Sorry, I can’t seem to say it without rolling the r like Mary Poppins!) And the kids got a sort of tropical Shirley Temple with pineapple juice and grenadine. We wrapped up the meal with a dessert of banana bread that we had made together with a recipe from a children’s world cookbook.

The verdict? Well, as usual, the adults enjoyed pretty much everything. My daughter ate quite a bit of the chicken once the skin and almost all of the curry flavour had been removed and she enjoyed the plantains. My son, despite getting into the spirit of the meal by wearing his “Pirates In the Caribbean” bandana from our Disney Cruise, took one look at his plate and declared, “I want other food.” He’s a bit of a tough nut to crack. At least he ate the banana bread.

So that was our tropical interlude for a grey September day. Next week we’ll be heading further north, so we’ll enjoy the leftover exotic fruit while we can!

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