Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Organic and I-tal Living in St. Lucia


Connecting with the landscape and native plants of a destination is one of my favorite activities when I travel so I was excited to have a personalized farm-to table experience in St.Lucia. But I had no idea just how pivotal the visit would be.  The I-tal , organic farm-to-table experience  at The Body Holiday is an absolute must.


St. Lucia is an especially lush, verdant island so wandering through the restaurant's garden with Chef Damien would have been fun even if we weren't gathering food to eat. He pointed out essential plants like callaloo, breadfruit and papaya and explained local uses for herbs like peppermint, basil and rosemary.


I picked a big basket of callaloo, which is one of my beloved island veggies. The sun was so intense that the plants buoyant leaves started wilting as soon as I cut them. Our group picked baskets and baskets of produce for our vegan meal.


And that's not where the participation ended. We diced tomatoes, eggplants, carrots and onions. Since I'm super clumsy, I avoided using the big knives and snapped the green beans for what turned out to be a five course meal using only ingredients from the restaurant's garden. Enjoying the different flavors and learning about Damien and his wife Ratanya was a major highlight. The chefs even made a special tea for me to drink for my cold. The open walled restaurant sits atop a hill so that you can take in a full view of the island's beauty. Eating at I-Tal restaurant and connecting with St. Lucia's landscape and people is the ultimate  sustainable travel excursion.


Photos by R. Cummings-Yeates

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Next Stop: St. Lucia


This week, I'm off to my beloved St. Lucia. It's been a few years but there's always something new  or requiring another turn on this gorgeous island. I'll be reviewing St. Lucia Jazz Fest,  which I haven't visited since Amy Winehouse performed her last show there in 2009.  That was a sad and unforgettable experience so I hope to create new, more positive memories at the rebooted fest, which actually focuses on jazz music this time. The line up  features  mostly Caribbean jazz artists so I'm excited to hear the shows. I'll also make a necessary stop to Soufriere volcano and sulphur springs as well as my first visit to the legendary St. Kitts Caribelle Batik at their St. Lucia location.  Videos, pix and reviews coming soon so please stay tuned!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

St. Thomas Carnival and African Heritage


Everybody loves Carnival. A lot of people think that it's just a big, colorful excuse to party but there is so much historical significance to the practice. Carnival literally translates to "farewell to meat" in Latin. It represents the Lenten tradition of the Catholic church to sacrifice during the month leading up to the resurrection of Jesus. A big party preceded the month of sacrifice. Spanish and Portuguese colonizers brought the tradition to North and South America. But as I watched St. Thomas Carnival, I was excited to see the Shaka Zulu troupe above, because so much of contemporary Carnival culture incorporates African culture. Enslaved Africans weren't allowed to join the Carnival celebrations so they created there own. All the feathers and masks used for costumes directly relate to African ceremonial style. The masks and feathers were used to invoke spirits.


And the Mocko Jumbies or Stilt walkers?  Most Virgin Islanders recognize them as a direct link to their West African heritage. These costumed figures are an important part of African religious ceremonies and rites of passages, adding spiritual protection to the events. Usually, they wear masks or a face covering but that St. Thomas sun was blazing so I don't blame this Mocko Jumbie for leaving off her mask!


The music, the dancing, the costumes of Carnival all display African traditions.  So the next time you jump up or watch a colorful carnival procession, please don't forget to thank Mama Africa!

Photos by R. Cummings-Yeates