“The Honest Woman!” he called out as I stood near his fruit stand. His name is Willo! And he is one of the local farmers who sells his products in Frederiksted. “The Honest Woman” was a name born from the day I was on my way back from the Frederiksted Community Garden. I saw some of the FRESHEST, fattest, seasoning peppers, along with some dried coconuts that were heavy with water just begging me to make coconut milk, perched on his stall! I had forgotten my wallet so I didn’t have any money with me. When he saw the sheer joy on my face for his harvest, he said, “Go ahead and take them. Pay me when you see me.”
I didn’t know what to do with his declaration called an offer. It was made so easily and so carefree. It made me uncomfortable for a moment, because I immediately felt indebted to him. But the seasoning peppers and coconuts overrode my hesitation.
“I work nearby, and I will come by tomorrow to pay you.” I stumbled out.
“Pay me when you see me,” he repeated.
I made it my business to slow down each day to make sure I paid Willo his trusted six dollars. He wasn’t there. I started to feel bad, because I didn’t want him to think I had just taken off with his bag of peppers, coconuts, and generosity!
Sometime the following week, I saw him. It was more like I felt him standing under the large mahogany tree on the corner before Marley Projects. He has a grace and a serenity that welcomes passersby to see what our island bounty provided that day. Peaceful.
I was ecstatic!! And stopped at his stall. I asked if he remembered me and he stared intently before saying, “Of course! You are the honest woman!” We shared a laugh, and I embraced the trust that came with the name. I paid him his six dollars and he asked if I had gotten my lunch yet. I said no. And he offered to show me a huge pot of soup he had boiling away on local coals behind his stall. I told him I would love to take a look at his kitchen creativity!
I pulled off the side of the road and the energy shifted from the low hum of passersby on the nearby street corner to something otherworldly. A large clay pot roiled in retaliation to the fire licking at it from below. The heady scent of some pure deliciousness made from local root vegetables he’d grown competed with the smoke from the fire. He got a styrafom cup, which felt far too mundane for the down to the root kind of earthy vibe at play.
There were a few other people sitting nearby, a young woman reclining on a chair made for spending more than a few minutes in fellowship. And a few men, one older, who welcomed me. My hair instinctively unfurled as it tends to do in rebellious moments (or when I shake it too much in greeting). The food, the fire, and the folks who were gathered all said without words, take note of what we are doing. And then the older man gave voice to the feeling by saying, “Sis, take a picture of that sign right there. That’s us. We doing a lot of good things here!” I looked him in the eye and smiled and said, “Yes, you are.”
Willo filled my cup and described all he had put into the soup. No meat of course, it was Ital/vegan, but well flavored and perfect for a day where nourishment and taste were beyond necessary for my hectic work schedule. I thanked him and told him I would share my experience with him on my blog.
This post is simply intended to share a moment between two people who value food and the creativity it takes to prepare it. Humble food created from what was available on our island blessed with sunshine, fertile earth, and rain. I never take for granted the beauty that surrounds me. I am grateful that I get to spend my days here on this beautiful Rock, where there is nothing everyday about the everyday people I encounter every day.
I hope you are having a wonderful Crucian day wherever you are in the world.
The Crucian Contessa <3