Banana Ketchup And West Indian Hot Sauce

If you go down to the beachfront restaurant at Ti Kaye, you’ll find three condiments: regular tomato ketchup, banana ketchup, and West Indian hot sauce.

Banana ketchup, you say? I’m not a fan of regular ketchup, but banana ketchup sounded so tantalizing I had to try it. And since I’m always on the prowl for some good hot sauce, the West Indian hot sauce is right up my alley.

The banana ketchup and the hot sauce have almost exactly the same color, as shown in the bottles above and on the plate below, where you can see the banana ketchup on the lower left and the hot sauce on the upper right, bracketing my conch fritters. The banana ketchup is pretty good. It’s very mild and sweeter (and a lot less acidic) than tomato ketchup, and a nice complement to french fries. I’m a bit surprised that banana ketchup hasn’t made inroads in America–at least, not yet.

The West Indian hot sauce is a killer. It’s chunkier than the ketchup–with the chunks no doubt bringing the heat–and it’s got a lot of flavor, with a spice level that creeps up on you, and some of that fine, post-consumption lip burn that hot sauce aficionados crave. I’ve used it on regular french fried, sweet potato fries, conch fritters, and saltfish accras, and it hasn’t disappointed in any combination.

They say that part of the joy of travel is the thrill of discovery. I’m glad I discovered banana ketchup and West Indian hot sauce on this trip.

Night Falls On The Shoreline

When we returned from our sunset cruise earlier this week, night was falling to the east while a glimmer of the vanished sunset still lingered on the western horizon. The Ti Kaye inlet is a popular place for large boats to anchor for the night, and a number of sailboats and catamarans were bobbing on the surface of the waves. Some of the boats stay at anchor for days at a time while the occupants snorkel, swim, and enjoy the other amenities Ti Kaye offers. At night, the boats are lit up like Christmas trees–literally, in the case of the one catamaran shown in the picture above.

The beachfront was incredibly peaceful at twilight as we pulled up to the dock, with the ocean waters gently lapping against the pier, the boats swaying on the swell of the surf, and a gentle whisper of wind through the palm trees. The lights of Ti Kaye, which is built into the hillside above the beach, serve as a kind of night light for the boats and for those, like us, who make the trek up the staircase to the upper level.

I imagine the people who spend the nights on the boats at anchor get a good night’s sleep.

A Wing Thing

I’m pleased to report that JT’s Pizza continues to garner accolades for its food, beer selection, live music, and general ambiance. The latest recognition is an article recognizing JT’s as one of the nine best places for chicken wings in Ohio.

Why nine places, rather than ten? What criteria were used to compile the honorees? Beats me! But I think there is no doubt that JT’s belongs on the list, because its wings really are terrific–meaty, well-seasoned, available in different flavors and heat levels, and the perfect complement to a cold brew while you are cheering on your favorite sports team. The wings are one of the reasons JT’s has become the go-to spot for many foodies and sports fans in the Columbus area.

Mixed Messaging

This message on the rear windshield of one of the local vehicles in St. Lucia stopped us cold for a bit. You could read it as a warning that the car is full of bad energy and you should avoid it like the plague, which is how I first understood it. But later I realized that you also could read it as a heartfelt request that negative energy please not descend on the car’s owner and occupants.

Or, it could be a consciously ambiguous message, meant to convey both meanings at the same time. I kind of like that reading the best–it is well suited to fans of the Cleveland Browns, like me.

Our Sunset Cruise

Yesterday afternoon we took a sunset cruise along the west coast of St. Lucia, heading south to the two peaks–the Pitons–that are a kind of trademark of the island (and that are featured on the label of the local beer which is itself named for the mountains). Visitors can climb the peak on the right in the photo above, following a trail that runs up the western slope and, according to one of the locals, is “two hours heading straight up, then two hours heading straight down.” The eastern peak features a sheer escarpment that can only be tackled by dedicated, and well-equipped, rock climbers. Much of the west coast of the island is similarly rugged, with many cliffs along the oceanfront and small fishing villages located in the sea level areas in between.

The crew plied us with very tasty rum punches and we listened to a great reggae music mix as we sailed along. A school of dorsal-finned sea creatures–the crew said they were small whales that were about the size of porpoises–encircled us as we sailed south, frolicking in the waves before turning west to head toward deeper waters. We also saw many flying fish zipping briefly over the surface of the water before diving back in It was a beautiful evening offering just about perfect sunset cruise conditions with clear skies and the temperature around 80, and other boats were on the water, also enjoying the striking sunset colors and the warm surroundings.

The after-sunset in St. Lucia is a pretty sight, too. There’s about a half hour period where the sunset glow lines the rim of the western horizon, providing enough light to see clearly as the sky turns purple above and you head back to the dock. It’s a great time to drain the last dregs of your rum punch, tap your feet to the reggae beat, and look forward to the dinner to come.

Hiking Back To The Road

To get to Ti Kaye you take an access road that winds about a mile and a half through the jungle until you reach the resort. This morning Richard and I decided to work off our breakfast and hike to the point where the access road reaches the main road.

I say “hike” because, although the access road is paved, there are many steep hills and sharp turns and it feels like a hiking trail. And the last incline before you reach the road is the mother of them all: straight up a hillside at a constant 45-degree angle in 80-degree heat under bright sunshine until you reach the intersection. By then your heart is hammering, your hamstrings are screaming, you’re gulping air, and your health care app has concluded that a billy goat has run off with its cell phone home.

But when you reach the top you get to experience a strong sense of pointless accomplishment and useful justification for tipping back another Piton when lunchtime rolls around. And the view from up there is pretty good, too, as the photo below reflects. That’s a neighboring fishing village that tumbles down the hillside to the Caribbean.

The Local Caribbean Beer

Every Caribbean island seems to have its own beer. On St. Lucia, the local brew is called Piton, named for the mountains that dominate the landscape on this rugged volcanic island.

Like most of the Caribbean beers I’ve sampled over the years, Piton is a basic lager. The islanders don’t seem to go much for IPAs, which is fine with me, because IPAs are just too bitter for my taste and really wouldn’t work on a vacation when your brain is on island time. Piton is smooth and light, with a nice flavor, and it goes down easy on a hot sunny day with a serving of conch fritters and a side of french fries. Piton is so drinkable, in fact, that it is hard to come away from the lunch table without having quaffed at least two of them.

To my knowledge, you can’t get Piton in Columbus or anywhere in the Midwest. Even if you could, I’m not sure I would want to, because Caribbean beers are very much a sensory experience of the time and place, to be enjoyed when you’re hot and smell faintly of suntan lotion and you’re wearing sandals and looking out over blue water with white boats and swimmers and snorkelers in the distance. I’m not sure how I would react to a Piton if the view out the window was of a gloomy winter scene. I’d rather reserve this fine beer for consumption in its native habitat.

The Stairs At Ti Kaye

At some beach vacation locations, it can be difficult to get some meaningful exercise. You shuffle back and forth between pool and beach and room and, despite your best intentions to go on some strenuous outings, you become an inert, chaise lounge sprawling lump who happily dozes off in the hot sun. As a result, you don’t experience much of that cardiovascular activity your doctor and trainer say is so important.

That isn’t a problem at Ti Kaye in St. Lucia. That’s because Ti Kaye is built into a cliff, and to get from the top of the resort to the beach you need to climb up and down a switchbacking set of stairs that hug the cliffside. There are 152 steps in all (Kish counted them) and they start out as stone steps at the top of the cliff and then turn to wooden stairs as you near the beach level. There are so many steps that you can’t capture all of them in one photo, but the picture above shows a few of the flights near the bottom, and in the upper left you can get a glimpse of the steps farther up the cliffside.

Fortunately, there are landings at each of the switchbacks, so you can plausibly act like you are stopping to admire the views below, rather than needing to gulp down as much air as possible. Going down is a lot easier than coming up, of course, but when you do reach the top you feel a certain sense of accomplishment, and it is easier to justify having the next local beer or rum-based concoction.

Bird, Undeterred

Here’s what I consider to be pretty much conclusive evidence that the behavior of creatures is not solely determined by genetics, and that environment has an impact: Caribbean birds. St. Lucia, the southern Caribbean island we are visiting, has many familiar bird species, but the conduct of the birds is definitely different from the conduct of the birds of the Midwest.

This pigeon-like bird rested on the guardrail of our cottage, about a foot away from me, for a long time this morning. Unlike jumpy central Ohio birds, he didn’t flutter off at any movement on my part. Instead, he confidently strutted up and down the railing, eyeing me with apparent disdain because I wasn’t eating anything that would yield a crumb or two for him to seize. His pugnacious attitude reminded me of the tough-guy pigeon gangs you see in New York City, or Paris.

The pigeon’s haughty ‘tude, however, was nothing compared to the sparrow-like birds that hang around the breakfast patio. Those little guys hop closer and closer to the food on the plate, undeterred by repeated shooing, until they finally dare to perch on the side of the plate and take a nibble of a half-eaten pastry. And when guest rise from their table, the birds descend in force and tear away every scrap of food they can get in their beaks like they own the place.

In the Midwest, birds are timid creatures who don’t want any part of interaction with humans. In the Caribbean, birds are aggressive in taking what they want, whether humans are nearby or not. And I have no doubt that if you transported Columbus birds to St. Lucia, they’d get roughed up a bit by the natives at first, but then would quickly learn that if they want to rule the roost, they’d better adopt the Caribbean approach and take what they want.

Sound Effects

How much do sound effects add to movies? Consider the Three Stooges shorts. Those of us who had our sense of humor shaped (our mothers might say “warped”) by the antics of Larry, Moe, Curly, and Shemp understand the deft comedic impact of an apt sound effect. Whether it’s a horn beep sounding when a nose gets bonked, the coconut sound of two heads colliding thanks to Moe, ripped fabric when Larry’s hair gets pulled out, or one of many other sound effects used in the shorts (many of which are found in the video clips above), the sound effects unquestionably add to the hilarity.

My favorite Stooges sound effect is the violin string pluck used when eyes get gouged by Moe, which you can hear in the clip below. Why do plucked violin strings work as a sound effect for an eye gouge? I don’t know–they just do.

The Three Stooges never won an Academy Award, although one of their early shorts (Men in Black, in 193) was nominated for Best Short Subject–Comedy. There wasn’t an award for best sound effect or best sound editing in those days. It’s too bad, because the Stooges deserved one. The sound effects were a key part of the whole Stooges experience.

Our Neighborhood Book Nook

One of the best things about our German Village neighborhood is our nearby bookstore, the Book Loft of German Village. It’s just about the perfect bookstore: a multi-floor maze of 32 rooms of books, jigsaw puzzles, calendars, book bags, posters, book-themed refrigerator magnets, and pretty much anything else you would hope to find in a bookstore. It’s got a wide selection of books and the kind of rambling organization that makes a bookstore comfortable, and great. With an odd chair here and there, you can plop down and give a potential purchase some careful study before you commit.

It’s a tradition for me to hit the Loft for some Christmas shopping every holiday season. It’s always a fun visit that yields some impulse purchases, too.

Cursed COVID

The Wall Street Journal reports that Americans are cursing more, thanks to COVID. The article notes that the use of “bad words” on social media and in general conversation has increased, and suggests that the epidemic of cussing is just another way in which the pandemic has changed our lives and our culture.

Why has this happened? Clearly, there is a lot of frustration out there–frustration about masks, restrictions, cancelled trips, an inability to lick this virus and get back to anything approaching the “old normal,” and countless other things–and that frustration finds its expression in increased use of obscenities. And according to the Journal article, the shift to more videoconferencing and remote work is part of the reason, too: “Pandemic stress, the melding of personal and professional spheres, and an exhausted slide toward casualness are making many of us swear more. It is “a perfect swearing storm,” says Michael Adams, a linguist at Indiana University Bloomington.” Another person quoted, memorably, by the Journal contends that cursing “is the yoga pants and Uggs of language”–which should cause anyone with even an ounce of self-respect to picture that image and pause before launching into their next profanity-laden tirade.

I have no doubt that, if you could somehow precisely measure it, you would find out that cursing has in fact increased, and that the Queen Mother of curses is often used to modify “COVID” and “pandemic.” The big issue with this linguistic impact, as with so many COVID-caused changes in society, is whether it is permanent or will end when the pandemic finally rides off into the sunset.

I’m hoping for the latter. I will certainly give everyone the benefit of the doubt during this unfortunate period in our lives, but I’m hoping that the end of the pandemic brings a return to more civility. I’ve seen and heard quite enough of yoga pants, sweat pants, Uggs and Crocs–of the actual or the verbal variety–over the last two years to last a lifetime.