Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Found fruit and hagelslag

I knew that living on St. Elsewhere for a month would offer lots of my favorite kinds of fruit: found and ground. And the island has not disappointed.

We gather mangos from the lawn of the archaeologist and his wife down by the beach, avocados and breadfruit from the trees across the street (the property of a resort manager on a high-end neighboring island), and star fruit from within the confines of the walled yard of McDiver’s absentee neighbor (McDiver is an excellent climber).

McDiver’s own land provides soursop, and our acreage here at House on the Hill features papaya trees dripping with fruit, tiny guava, coconuts, and passion fruit (which, in case you didn’t know, grow on vines not trees). Our overgrown greenhouse also offers up the occasional pepper, and a few spring onions.

McDiver – the most intrepid of eaters and explorers – has also helped me to sample sea grapes, and he lived to tell the tale after snacking on what may or may not have been a lychee that he picked up off the road.

The mangos, in particular, ripen fast, so we eat them daily, and what we don’t finish we put into the blender as the base for our homemade mango ice cream. For a foodie like me, there are few things as satisfying as finding food still connected to its source, not to mention free.

But the real food find since I’ve been here is not the mango ice cream, or the homemade poppy seed bread I make every few days for the guests’ breakfast, or even the $11 plate of goat stew and peas ‘n rice we savored at the local bar/pool hall down by the airport. The happiest surprise was when our across-the-street Dutch neighbor, Sonja, explained hagelslag to me.

Hagelslag (or “sprinkles” as it’s known in the U.S.) has been a mystery since it showed up in our daily breakfast basket at a hotel in Curacao a couple of years ago. Was it meant as a sweetener for the tea? Or to roll up in the ham slices, to compliment the salty flavor? Or maybe just to eat by the spoonful for dessert? We had no idea.

At dinner the other night, Sonja rhapsodized over the glories of a little hagelslag melted onto a warm piece of toast. Ah, so that’s it. It goes on the bread! Sounded plausible, but I was dubious.

A couple of days later, Sonja tracked down a box and gifted it to me. I tried it out, and wow. It’s like Dunkin Donuts in a box, without a trip to the bakery. All you need is a piece of toast, a little butter, and a generous sprinkle of hagelslag.

So now mornings start with a little found fruit, followed by a little found hagelschlag.

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