Hearn's "West Indies" (1890)

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Tue Sep 30 04:00:21 UTC 2003

by Lafcadio Hearn
New York: Harper & Brothers
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Literature House
1970 reprint  ("Lafacadio" is on the title page--ed.)

   See also:
Hearn, Lafcadio. La Cuisine Creole, A Collection of Culinary Recipes from Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous for its Cuisine. New Orleans: F.F. Hansell & Bro., Ltd., c1885
   This is the "Feeding America" project of MSU...Is this book online somewhere, such as Project Gutenberg?

Pg. 41:  ...--those are "akras,"--flat yellow-brown cakes, made of pounded codfish, or beans, or both, seasoned with pepper and fried in butter.

Pg. 116:  Here are _christophines_,--great pear-shaped things, white and green, according to kind, with a peel prickly and knobby as the skin of a horned toad; but they stew exquisitely.  And _melongenes_, or egg-plants; and palmiste-pith, and _chadeques_, and _pommes-d'Haiti_,--and roots that at first sight look all alike, but they are not: there are _camanoic_, and _couscous_, and _choux-caraibes_, and _zignames_, and various kinds of _patates_ among them.
   (The earlier OED had 1939 for "melongene."  The OED revision has 1855, then 1907.  I'm the only person to read Lafcadio Hearn in 110 years?  No one ever heard of this book?--ed.)

Pg. 247:  Her strongest refreshment is _mabi,_--a mild, effervescent, and, I think, rather disagreeable, beer made from molasses.
   (OED lists "mabi" in the etymology for "mobbie," but doesn't give a single "mabi" citation--ed.)

Pg. 283:  And at all the river-mouths, during July and August, are caught vast numbers of _titiri_*,--tiny white fish, of which a thousand might be put into one teacup.  They are delicious when served in oil,--infinitely more delicate than the sardine.  Some regard them as a particular species: others believe them to be only the fry of larger fish,--as their periodical appearance and disappearance would seem to indicate.
   (Not in OED.  Titiri is the Goby fish (Sicydium punctatum), according to one Google site--ed.)

Pg. 332:  Said a creole once, in my hearing:--"The gens-de-couleur are just like the _tourouroux_:* one must pick out the females and leave the males alone."
*A sort of land-crab;--the female is selected for food, and, properly cooked, makes a delicious dish;--the male is almost worthless.
   (Not in OED?--ed.)

Pg. 348:
   Cyrillia always prepares something for me on my return from the beach,--either a little pot of fresh cocoa-water, or a _cocoyage_, or a _mabiyage_, or a _bavaroise_.
   The _cocoyage_ I like the best of all.  Cyrillia takes a green cocoa-nut, slices off one side of it so as to open a (Pg. 349--ed.) hole, then pours the opalescent water into a bowl, adds to it a fresh egg, a little Holland gin, and some grated nutmeg and plenty of sugar.  Then she whips up the mixture into effervescence with her _baton-lele_.  The _baton-lele_ is an indispensable article in every creole home: it is a thin stick which is cut from a young tree so as to leave at one end a whorl of branch-stumps sticking out at right angles like spokes;--by twirling the stem betweenthe hands, the stumps whip up the drink in a moment.
   THe _mabiyage_ is less agreeable, but is a popular morning drink among the poorer classes.  It is made with a little white rum and a bottle of the bitter native root-beer called _mabi_.  The taste of _mabi_ I can only describe as that of molasses and water flavored with a little cinchona bark.
   The _bavaroise_ is fresh milk, sugar, and a little Holland gin or rum,--mixed with the _baton-lele_ until a fine thick foam is formed.  After the _cocoyage_, I think it is the best drink one can take in the morning; but very little spirit must be used for any of these mixtures.  It is not intil just before the mid-day meal that one can venture to take a serious stimulant,--_yon to ponch,_--rum and water, sweetened with plenty of sugar or sugar syrup.
   The word _sucre_ is rarely used in Martinique,--considering that sugar is still the chief product;--the word _doux_, "sweet," is commonly substituted for it.  _Doux_ has, however, a larger range of meaning: it may signify syrup, or any sort of sweets,--duplicated into _doudoux_, it means the corossole fruit as well as a sweetheart.

Pg. 350:  When fresh meat is purchased, it is usually to make a stew or _daube_;--(Pg. 351--ed.) probably salt meats are more popular; and native vegetables and manioc flour are preferred to bread.  There are only two popular soups which are peculiar to the creole cuisine,--_calalou_, a gombo soup, almost precisely similar to that of Louisiana; and the _soupe-d'habitant_, or "country soup."  It is made of yams, carrots, bananas, turnips, _choux-caraibes_, pumpkins, salt pork, and pimento, all boiled together;--the salt meat being left out of the composition on Fridays.
   The great staple, the true meat of the population, is salt codfish, which is prepared in a great number of ways.  The most popular and rudest preparation of it is called "Ferocious" (_feroce_); and it is not at all unpalatable.  The codfish is simply fried, and serve3d with vinegar, oil, pimento;--manioc flour and avocados being considered indispensable adjuncts.  As manioc flour forms a part of almost every creole meal, a word of information regarding it will not be out of place here.
   (It's worth reading all of the next 15 pages--ed.)

Pg. 352:  ...---_dleau passe farine_ (more water than manioc flour) is a saying which describes the condition of a very destitute person.  When not served with fish, the flour is occasionally mixed with water and refined molasses (_sirop-battrie_): this preparation, which is very nice, is called _cousscaye_.  There is also a way of boiling it with molasses and milk into a kind of pudding.  This is called _matete_; children are very fond of it.  Both of these names, _cousscaye_ and _matete_, are alleged to be of Carib origin: the art of preparing the flour itself from the manioc root is certainly an inheritance from the Caribs, who bequeathed many singular words to the creole patois of the French West Indies.
   (Neither "cousscaye" nor "matete" is in the OED--ed.)

Pg. 352:  Of all the preparations of codfish with which manioc flour is eaten, I preferred the _lamori-bouilli_,--the fish boiled plain, after having been steeped long enough to remove the excess of salt; and then served with plenty of olive-oil and pimento.  The people who have no home of their own, or at least no place to cook, can buy their foood already prepared from the _machanees lapacotte_, who seem to make a specialty of _macadam_ (codfish stewed with rice) and the other two dishes already referred to.  But in every colored family there are occasional feasts of _lamori-au-laitt_, codfish stewed with milk and potatoes; _lamori-au-grattin_, codfish boned, pounded with toast crumbs, and boiled with butter, onions, and pepper into a mush;--_coubouyon-lamori_, codfish stewed with butter and oil;--_bachamelle_, codfish boned and stewed with potatoes, pimentos, oil, garlic, and butter.
   _Pimento_ is an essential accompaniment to tall these dishes, whether it be cooked or raw: everything is served with plenty of pimento,--_en pile, en pile piment_.
   (The revised OED does not have this "macadam"--ed.)

Pg. 356:  Of all fresh fish, the most popular is the _tonne_, a great blue-gray creature whose flesh is solid as beef; next come in order or preferment the flying-fish (_volants_), which often sell as low as four for a cent;--then the _lambi_, or sea-snail, which has a very dense and nutritious flesh;--then the small whitish fish classed as _sadines_;--then the blue-colored fishes according to price, _couliou_, _balaou_, etc.; lastly, the shark, which sells commonly at two cents a pound.
   (OED does not have "lambi," also called "conch"--ed.)

Pg. 357:  To make a _blaffe_ the fish are cooked in water, and served with pimento, lemon, spices, onions, and garlic; but without oil or butter.  Experience has demonstrated that _coulious_ make the best _blaffe_; and a _blaffe_ is seldom prepared with other fish.

Pg. 357:  THERE are four dishes which are the holiday luxuries of the poor:--_manicou_, _ver-palmiste_, _zandouille_, and _poule-epi-diri_.

Pg. 358:  The _zandouilles_ are delicious sausages made with pig-buff,--and only seen in the market on Sundays.  They cost a franc and a half each; and there are several women who have an established reputation throughout Martinique for their skill in making them.  I have tasted some not less palatable than the famous London "pork-pies."  Those of Lamentin are reputed the best in the island.
   But _poule-epi-diri_ is certainly the most popular dish of all: it is the dearest, as well, and poor people can rarely afford it.  In Louisiana an almost similar dish is called _jimbalaya_: chicken cooked with rice.  The Martiniquais think it such a delicacy that an over-exacting person, or one difficult to satisfy, is reproved with the simple question:--"_Ca ou le nco--poule-epi-diri_?"  (What more do you want, great heavens!--chicken-and-rice?)

Pg. 359:  _Diri-doux_, rice boiled with sugar, is sold in prodigious quantities daily,--especially at the markets, where little heaps of it, rolled in pieces of banana or _cachibou_ leaves, are retailed at a cent each.  _Diri-aulaitt_, a veritable rice-pudding, is also very popular; but it would weary the reader to mention one-tenth of the creole preparations into which rice enters.

Pg. 359:  EVERYBODY eats _akras_; they sell at a cent apiece.  The akra is a small fritter or pancake, which may be made of fifty different things,--among others codfish, titiri, beans, brains, _choux-caraibes_, little black peas (_poix-zie-noue_, "black-eyed peas"), or of crawfish (_akra-crabiche_).  When made of carrots, bananas, chicken, palm-cabbage, etc., and sweetened, they are called _marinades_.

(Gotta go.  NYU is kicking me out at midnight.  Typing mistakes are yours.  More dreary parking tickets all this week--ed.)

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