Small Plates

Last night the Marquette Warrior and I had dinner at a restaurant called Amada.  It’s one of those tapas places that offers a number of “small plate” options that the diners can share.  (In our case no sharing occurred because the MW is a strict vegetarian and I go for meat options, so we didn’t quite fulfill the restaurant’s intent.)

Tapas restaurants have a good aspect and a bad aspect.  The bad is that there are lots of choices, so you end up carefully scrutinizing the menu and spending a long time thinking through your order.  The good is that you end up with very tasty food that is always well presented and served in moderate portion sizes.  The result is a fine meal where you don’t get plates groaning with food, and after you’ve cleaned your plates — which both the MW and I did, with relish — you rise from the table feeling satisfied but not uncomfortably stuffed.

We’ve got a problem with food waste in this country, and some of it results from unconsumed food left on plates that were overfilled at the outset.  At tapas places, that isn’t an issue, which is another advantage to the tapas model.

Gardening As A Gateway

Russell’s friend Emily Staugaitis is one of those people who seems to be a kind of natural difference-maker.  Where other people see challenges she can identify opportunities, and she’s not afraid to tackle a big project — like trying to set up an urban apple orchard in a depressed part of the Detroit area.

https3a2f2fcdn-evbuc-com2fimages2f223578392f1807581212702f12foriginalOne of Emily’s projects is Bandhu Gardens.  It’s a collective effort that uses gardening to help Bangladeshi immigrants in the Detroit area use the green thumbs they developed while growing up in south Asia to connect with each other, and with local restaurants that are interested in fresh, locally grown foods.  It’s also a way for Bangladeshi women to make some extra money, achieve more autonomy in their households, and get a taste of the business world in our capitalistic society.

Last year, the Bandhu Gardens group collectively sold 120 pounds of greens, beans and peppers and 25 pounds of squash to restaurant accounts.  They’ve also hosted “pop-up” dinners, including some at local restaurants owned or operated by women, have begun to offer cooking classes, and this year will be selling their produce at a large public farmers market in Detroit.

It’s a classic American immigrant story, of how people come to our country and begin to make their way forward, drawing on their traditional experiences and know-how and applying them to realize opportunities in their new home.  Sometimes, though, it helps to have someone who can help to point out the openings and make the potential opportunities into realities.  Congratulations to Emily for helping to serving in that important role for some of the new arrivals to our land of immigrants!

Grape Oasis


Today we cycled back into the heart of San Pedro to a craft bazaar where local artisans sell their own handmade goods from wooden stands. Our mission — to find a matching bracelet at the request of the Lake Artist — was a success when a craftsman said he would make a matching bracelet, then and there.  Thirty minutes later, bracelet in hand, we rolled back out of town.

It was a hot day, with clouds of dust rising from the road as trucks and golf carts rattled past.  Suddenly, as if in answer to a thirsty prayer, a tiny, brightly colored grocery stand appeared on the side of the road.  After ducking inside, Kish emerged triumphant, an ice-cold grape Faygo in hand.  She loves grape Faygo.  What are the odds?

Of course, I hate grape Faygo, but I couldn’t help but marvel at our good fortune as Kish mounted her bike and pedaled away, quaffing the soda as she went.

Not An Afishionado

My doctor has long been after me to eat less meat and more fish.  It’s easy to rationalize ignoring his heartfelt advice — which is what most of us do with doctorly advice, when you think about it — in Columbus, Ohio, which is more than 100 miles from any substantial body of water.  It’s not exactly the fish capital of the world.

In Belize, though, there is no viable excuse or rationalization.  So, I’ve been eating seafood until it’s coming out of my ears.  Ceviche.  Grouper.  The whole red snapper shown above, complete with head, eyes, and little bones that you pick out of your mouth.  And lots of shrimp.

It’s all fine, I guess, and I suppose I’ve added a few minutes to my lifespan by adhering to doctor’s orders.  But to my mind the highlights of my Belizean culinary experience so far were the stewed chicken I attacked on Tuesday and a flavorful jerk chicken sandwich yesterday.  

Nothing satisfies like meat.

The Beer Of Belize

It seems like every place you go in the Caribbean has its own beer.  Why not?  Few things complement blazing sunshine and the smell of salt water and cocoa butter quite like a cold beer in a bottle beaded with condensation, one you can roll in your hands as you feel the tropical breeze and hear the rush of the surfing sand.

I’ve had Carib, Piton, Sands, Kalik, and more Caribbean beers that I’ve forgotten.  Belikin, the Belizean contribution to the brewing arts, fits right in.  Like the rest, it’s a lager, crisp and clean and with a nice finishing tang, well-suited to rinsing that salt water residue off your lips and easing you into the evening.

Authentic Belizean

Today Kish and I cycled to the outskirts of San Pedro Town to meet up with the Fellow Readers for lunch.  With the intrepid Mr. FR at the wheel of their golf cart, we cruised through the bustling streets of San Pedro in search of authentic Belizean cuisine, and found it at a place called El Fogon, where the food is cooked on an old open stove and you sit at wooden picnic tables carefully positioned to maximize your exposure to a large fan.  All of the produce used in the food preparation is kept in baskets and crates right by the stove, next to the kindling.

Mr. FR and I both got the stewed chicken with beans and rice.  It was a wise decision.  The chicken was fall off the bone tender and delicately seasoned and went perfectly with the moist beans and rice, all washed down with the local beer.  You could add to the spice level with a homemade salsa that would burn your lips, but I opted for the basic seasoning — reasoning that hot sauce would only up my beer intake and leave me less capable of navigating past the potholes on our five-mile bike ride home.