Friday, July 03, 2009

Home From the Cold - A Caribbean Cruise Pt. 7

Hi, peoples. This is where Kal-F's current adventure ends. I'll try and convince to give us some on the remainder of his cruise. Here we go....

Satisfied at last with the quantity of salad accumulated through multiple orders, our attention then turns to the main courses. As a vegetarian, the only one at the table, listening to the options being read from the menus, I quickly realize that there are still sizable challenges ahead.

There are four choices: beef, pork, chicken, (all with fancy names too esoteric to mention here) and for me, a glimmer of hope: cous-cous. No one at the table has any idea of what cous-cous is, so I enlist the help of Pedro, the Barbadian waiter, who happens to be wandering by.

Pedro confidently advises that cous-cous is similar to cou-cou. For the sake of the non-Barbadians reading this: cou-cou is a soft pudding-like substance (vaguely similar to porridge without the lumps), the result of corn-meal being boiled and stirred in water and okras, usually accompanied by any type of fish you like, swimming in a plentiful amount of sauce with onions or tomatoes, etc, regarded as a delicacy by some, including myself. At that assurance from Pedro my enthusiasm surges and I gleefully say, "Yes, Alex, I'll have the cous-cous," not sure whether or not the final 's' is emphasized in the pronunciation.

Soon Alex's cart is back again, and the amount of servings on the massive plates is this time marginally more promising than in the case of the original salads. Everyone else has ordered a meat dish but I am alone with my cous-cous. As we dig in, within minutes, I start to get a feeling akin to the 'loneliness of the long- distance runner.' I take a look around the table; everyone seems to be making good headway with their chosen meal. My cous-cous, however, is as different from cou-cou as night is from day, as different as Monica Lewinsky and Mother Theresa when they are on their knees.

This cous-cous has the consistency of gravel that has been downsized in a blender. Cou-cou is smooth and eases gracefully down your throat. The version of the cous-cous in front of me is, without any accompanying sauce, as dry as a wind across the Sahara and so gritty that it can be used as an effective antidote for bones lodged in the esophagus.

"How do you like the cous-cous , Uncle Kal?" asks Shelley, whose cheerful voice tells me that she has had better luck in her choice than I have in mine.

"Oh, just great, Shelley, just great," I lie, "I think I'll ask Alex to get me the recipe."

And so, my first night in the Universe Dining Room is not a night to remember. The final offering, the desserts, are generally not any more memorable than what has preceded them. Except for the Dutch Apple Cake. Aha! finally something to stimulate the sensories. This time I have lucked out and my order has topped all the others. The Dutch, known all over for putting their fingers in dikes and keeping them there for a long time, seem also to have had a hand in cake-making.

The news that my Dutch Apple Cake is indeed a slice of delight spreads like wildfire all around the table. Immediately, my sister Pam, whom I love most of the time, asks me if she can sample a taste. My love for her is now being severely tested because if there is one thing that I secretly have a big problem with, it is sharing food, especially food that I like. I notice that earlier no one asked to sample the cous-cous, and rightly so.

But while I toy with the idea of telling my sister that my love for her does not extend to sharing my food with her, a loud announcement suddenly pierces the general boisterousness of the room and the Captain announces his presence, welcoming us onto the Carnival and then introducing the movers and shakers on the ship, the people he says whose job is to make sure that we all have a great time.

This little formality lasts for a few minutes at the end of which the ship's entertainment supervisor takes the mike and is soon leading all the crew that has been serving in the dining room in a song which I have never heard before but from the general reaction of the crowd seems to be well-known. The song is also pre-choreographed because the crew are all moving in synchronized body movements.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see that Mamma Smith is up and boy she is right in there jiving with the crew, moving her body in perfect harmony. Where she has learned the moves I'll never know but I am convinced that had she been on the Titanic when the band struck up "Abide with me", she would have cheered up everybody.

This temporary distraction has summed up almost everything that has happened to me during the evening. While my eyes are transfixed on Mamma Smith and the jiving crew, my loving sister has reached over and unbeknownst to me, taken my Dutch Apple Cake. Probably like Eve in the garden, she does not at first intend to eat it all but it is better than anything on the menu this evening. As my apple cake slowly disappears into her mouth, she looks at me with her disarming smile, " Oh, Kal, this is so good."

The next time I see Alex, I say, "Oh, Alex, is it possible to get another piece of Dutch Apple Cake?"

"Sorry, Kal, that was the last one."

My sister still doesn't know how perilously close to dying she came that first night on the Carnival Destiny.

The End

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