Process and Progress

Greetings from this little slice of St Croix’s rainforest! It’s been a while.

Some things have changed over the past couple of years, some haven’t. The road leading to Nidulari is still…an adventure in and of itself. The food is still scrumptious, by all accounts; I’m just the cook, so who am I to say? And we still have the same “strange and unreasonable” (to quote a disgruntled would-have-been customer who came on the wrong day) hours. That’s Wednesday 12-3, Saturday & Sunday 11-3, while I still have your full attention. It’s currently our summer break though, so we’ll be closed until September 28th. While you wait for us to open back up, check out this foodie video tour featuring Nidulari (and, uh, the road) as the final stop. Mahogany Road Chocolate is closed until further notice due to the pandemic.

Everything else is an ever-evolving experience. A couple of years ago we had to, for logistical reasons, move the kitchen about a hundred yards. That was a daunting operation involving a very large crane truck, flatbed truck, and plenty of hard work at both ends. At least we’re no longer bombarded with mangoes from a hundred feet in the air for three months of the year! Other improvements in the move included a fenced yard (crucial with a small child underfoot), more open space to garden, and a larger space for tables out back.

Moving the kitchen!

Unfortunately the move meant leaving the homebuilt wood-fired oven, the center of my original baking enterprise, behind. It had proven to be a little too impractical as I diversified my offerings, and with much of my time and energy spent on motherhood rather than out chopping wood for the oven. Life, and baking, goes on, now with two gas ranges pumping out a wide variety of tantalizing treats: from crusty artisanal loaves to soft and sliceable sourdough sandwich bread, chewy chocolate chip cookies to highly addictive nutmeg cake, tender rolls for our popular grilled chicken or falafel sandwiches…you name it.

Our popular Egg & Cheese Biscuit.

Last summer I finally caved and bought a 15 quart orbital mixer. Six years of mixing and kneading large batches of dough entirely by hand was starting to damage my wrists, and with a certain amount of sadness I accepted mechanical assistance. Sometimes I still make a batch by hand just to feel the miracle of dry and wet ingredients come together, first roughly, then stickily, then into a wonderfully smooth, stretchy, satisfying dough-just for old time’s sake. This summer I scheduled an extended break, partly due to pandemic fatigue,  and partly to have enough time to repaint the kitchen and storefront top to bottom single-handedly. If your kitchen is getting you down, try a fresh coat of paint-it’s truly miraculous.

Kitchen and garden maintenance has been a productive respite from the usual cooking and cleaning routine, and has left a little time to relax as well. A dear friend–who I much admired during my teenage years, in part for her ability to make a delectable brownie with no chocolate, eggs, or sugar (as I recall)–sent me the timely gift of a fabulous book: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. Reading it has been a great inspiration to get back to cooking, perhaps with a few new tricks up my sleeve, and a great review of some of the fundamentals of cooking–things that have become so automatic that I neglect to think how they might be applied differently, or tweaked just a little bit. If you’re looking for an enjoyable read that may also boost your skills and confidence in the kitchen, I highly recommend adding this to your list.

Heleconia blooming in the new garden.

Summertime has been a good excuse to slow down and make easy meals. A post from Attainable Sustainable a while back inspired me with a “new” way to make oatmeal, directly in a mason jar (I’ve used an insulated mug too, for piping-hot porridge). My favorite ways to spruce it up are a sprinkle of cardamom and a few diced dried apricots, or a small spoonful of peanut butter and a diced apple. Just fill your jar to the 1/2C mark with rolled oats, add boiling water to the 1C mark, stir in your add-ons, cover and leave for 10-15min.

Oats in a jar, such an easy and satisfying breakfast.

Another summer favorite has been to use any herb/s to hand–in my case mostly basil, cilantro, parsley, arugula, and mint–to blend up a quick green sauce with garlic, lime juice, olive oil and a thickener of choice (nuts/nut flour/breadcrumbs). This is simply scrumptious on avocado, eggs, veggies, chicken…you really can’t go wrong.

Green sauce accompanying eggs cooked in a nest of spaghetti squash.

Or maybe, while you wait for us to reopen on the 28th, hit the Saturday market and grab yourself some locally grown egg fruit, to make a fabulously orange-hued and delicious egg fruit-peanut smoothie that’ll keep you going through many hours of hard labour, such as painting a kitchen!

2 thoughts on “Process and Progress

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  1. Simply can’t wait to be back on island eating your food. Also I’ve had salt acid fat heat on the bookshelf for a while—you remind me I should read it. Alicia

  2. Lovely overview. Thanks for the virtual visit west. You are such an evocative and hilarious writer. We too are in the summer incubation period, getting prepped for season. And we too have inconvenient, impossible hours. ;-) Keep up the good work!

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