‘Pone’, pear, and ‘pi­tata’ farm

Jamaica Gleaner - - HOSPITALITY JAMAICA -

IT WAS time again to get away from the drudgery of life in St An­drew, to ab­sorb and em­brace what na­ture has to of­fer on this fair isle. So, to the hills of Lin­coln, Manch­ester, I went for a day, but ended up spend­ing two.

The quiet dis­trict was cool and re­fresh­ing as usual, and the vis­tas of the ver­dant val­ley and the Santa Cruz Moun­tain range were still spec­tac­u­lar. My host, the inim­itable Sharn Robin­son, had not changed his com­i­cal ways ei­ther. He cracked me up all evening.

Af­ter the evening shad­ows were eclipsed by the black shroud of night, it was time to bake the ‘pone’. It con­sisted of sweet potato, cas­sava, whole-wheat flour, peanuts, ‘macka fat’ (the nut of a va­ri­ety of palm), and sugar.

The prepa­ra­tion took a while, and at 3 a.m., af­ter the first round of sleep, it was ready. I couldn’t help bit­ing into a size­able piece as Robin­son struck while it was still hot. Pone and pear it was in the wee hours. And the mil­lions of stars looked down and drooled. The com­pact pone even­tu­ally pulled me back to sleep as it weighed down my stom­ach.

Mon­day morn­ing was very cool, and the fresh moun­tain air go­ing through my nos­trils was what the doc­tor or­dered. I de­cided to ac­com­pany Robin­son to a potato farm. He was go­ing to as­sist some friends in reap­ing pota­toes. So, in san­dals, I fol­lowed. At a cer­tain point, he left to tend to some other busi­ness, say­ing he would not be long.

IN­TER­EST­ING DI­REC­TIONS

He had pointed up a slope, di­rect­ing me as to where I should walk, and off he went. He left a lit­tle bucket of wa­ter with me. I con­tem­plated whether I should re­turn to his place be­cause ru­ral folk have a way of say­ing some­thing is “right up deh so” when it is re­ally miles away.

Now, me and my un­fit self looked up the slope and then re­alised that the grind of life in St An­drew was not so bad af­ter all. With great trep­i­da­tion, I started up the in­cline. The red-dirt path, slightly wind­ing, was wet, and there were rocks jut­ting from it.

As I as­cended, I found that it was steeper than it had looked from be­low. The far­ther up I went, the more doubts I had about con­tin­u­ing, and Robin­son’s re­turn was yet to be. Where were my an­ces­tors in all of this?

I left the dirt path and trod on the grass-like veg­e­ta­tion only to find that it had cov­ered par­tially em­bed­ded stones, which were ev­ery­where. My left foot hit one of them and the bucket of wa­ter shook. Some of the cold liq­uid fell on to my san­dal. I put down the bucket. Robin­son would see it on his way up.

Fi­nally, I reached the top of the slope. Sur­pris­ingly not winded. There was a path on the right lead­ing to an­other slope, with trees on both sides. Straight ahead there was a clear­ing. The ground was flat­ter.

I de­cided not to take the slope, even though I did not know where I was go­ing. Then I heard a voice. Some­body was calling out for Robin­son. That gave me some con­fi­dence, but where was he?

When I reached the mid­dle of the clear­ing, I heard him calling me from above. How did he get up there? I an­swered, and that was it. No more calling. At the edge of the clear­ing a mound pre­sented it­self to me. To get to where Robin­son was calling from I would have to climb over it. I held on to some small trees and pulled my age­ing body up and over.

Breath­less, I found my­self at the

PHOTOS BY PAUL H. WIL­LIAMS

Sharn Robin­son of Lin­coln, Manch­ester is a farmer, nat­u­ral jew­eller and baker of pud­dings and ‘pones’.

‘Hos­pi­tal­ity Ja­maica’ writer Paul H. Wil­liams wipes sweat from his brows af­ter un­earthing sweet pota­toes.

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